Lehigh Valley students address microaggressions in virtual forum about racism in schools

Written by on August 18, 2020

Lehigh Valley students address microaggressions in virtual forum about racism in schools

By Genesis Ortega

August 18, 2020

Students across the Lehigh Valley have been speaking out about racial inequalities in schools. The latest virtual forum in the “Our Voices Matter” series was hosted by William Allen High School’s Black Student Union and Lehigh Valley Stands Up, and focused on microaggressions.

Allen graduate Disley Mendez said he’s experienced microaggressions – subtle but offensive racist comments or actions – in the school system – as early as middle school. He says his time on the basketball team shed light on how black students are perceived in neighboring districts – and why his coach was adamant about what they wore when traveling for games.

“He used to tell us we cannot wear do-rags because we’re already perceived as ghetto. We’re already looked at as hoodlums. We’re already looked at like thugs. And I feel it too when we walk into these schools, when we walk into Parkland or Emmaus and we come from Allen,” said Mendez.

Other students sounded off on similar experiences — like Melanie Lowe, who goes to Parkland.

“Personally being a black girl, people have commented on how fast my hair styles change and touching it without permission and making comments about it. Teachers have made comments to me in front of the class about my hair.”

Several students said they’d like white students and teachers to be more aware of how certain comments can be disrespectful and offensive. 

Participants from Allen, Parkland, Emmaus, and Easton also discussed inequality in education between districts and the importance of voting at the “Our Voices Matter” forum. A third event is being planned for the near future.

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