On the heels of several violent acts—either on or near campus—and an emotional parent forum, a second installment of 's "Dialogue on Race" was held over the weekend.
By the end of the gathering on Saturday morning, participants had come up with a few ways to better relations among the student population's many ethnic groups.
They said want to see diversity training and dialogue sessions held in kindergarten through high school, among other solutions.
"More people should be here,'' said Samohi junior Davon Stallworth, who mentioned several recent fights at or near the school. "We all could learn a lot from this."
Some of the 85 in attendance shared life stories that offered a quick course in the pervasiveness of race-based problems. (Participants asked that their names not be published with statements made in breakout sessions).
Among the most poignant stories were those from people of multi-racial or multi-cultural backgrounds.
Several black and mixed-race students and adults told of being derogatorily called "white people" by friends and even some relatives after developing a love of learning.
Two mothers from extended families—one black, one Latina—told of working hard to make their families' lives label-free. The black mother said she'd been disowned by her Protestant parents, both clergy members, when she converted to Islam at age 20. The father of one of her children is Nigerian and she is married to a Jew.
"This is who we are," she said of her family, declaring that labels are wrong, individually or collectively.
The Latina mother, whose son had a black father, said she is involved in the community and school, but avoids membership in racially-identified groups, fearing they foster separateness.
A light-skinned female student of Ethiopian heritage was annoyed when she found herself categorized as "other" on some forms listing her racial/cultural background. But she also beliieves that, at the high school level, racially-identified groups such as the Black Student Union can provide support to newcomers on a large campus.
The group agreed young people usually have less rigid racial attitudes than adults, but need guidance on how to organize the fight against stereotypes that can take hold as children get older.
At the closing general session, leaders listed priorities for action. In addition to holding diversity training, they suggested:
- Using proven programs such as Village Nation and Racial Harmony, which feature workshops and retreats to teach small groups from diverse backgrounds how to move away from racial stereotypes and negative expectations.
- In middle school, organize visits by groups of students to other schools, and sponsor special events produced by groups from two or more schools, helping students realize how much they have in common.
Another area of concern is the outreach process that brings people to Dialogue on Race sessions in the first place.
Mercey Rodriguez, parent of a Samohi senior, said she'd like the kids who caused some of the recent problems to be required to attend Dialogue on Race as part of their community service.
, police said they had responded to five recent scuffles, including the initial off-campus fight, one on-campus fight, and three other off-campus confrontations, including a student being threatened with a gun.
Problems began Jan. 5, when students walking home from track practice were confronted near the campus by other young people, including some apparent gang members. Racial insults were hurled, a fight broke out, police arrived and the crowd scattered.
PTA President Debbie Mulvaney agreed with Rodriguez that outreach is a challenge.
"The people you want to reach are not necessarily the people who show up," she said, adding that she's optimistic those who came would spread the word in the community.