I swear the white moms working in the PX eagle store are racist. I remember going to store multiple times during my 8 years of experience in SAS. They tend to treat every white student significantly better, it was so obvious. They would smile and even make small talk with only the white kids who walked into the store and their faces would change when they would have to interact with a POC student. Kind of ridiculous as majority of the school population was asian and these moms still had the audacity to behave that way.
The experience that stands out the most to me is a photographer from the marketing team coming into our classroom to pull students out for staged photos and picking and choosing students to create a false narrative of a majority-white school with token diversity. My teachers were almost universally white (never had a Black teacher in my 5 years at SAS and I can’t name a single one at SAS), the curriculum was Eurocentric (I cannot name one Black person we learned about in any humanities class at SAS, including US history in 8th grade) and race jokes were thrown around in classrooms. The assumption seemed to be international schools were “above” racism, because students had lived all over the world.
There are good teachers at SAS, many of whom addressed important topics like classism/racism. But the system and culture is classist and racist and rotten to the core.
There have been a lot of testimonies about casual use of the n-word–I saw that too, but I can’t place 100% of the blame on ignorant students. Part of the blame has to go to SAS for refusing to teach Black history and the racist history of the n-word, for refusing to address casual usage of the n-word and other casual acts of racism at SAS, and for being complicit in a culture of anti-Blackness.
We were all complicit. To Black students at SAS: I apologize. You deserved better and you still deserve better.
I’m lucky, being Asian American, to have never been singled out as a minority as I grew up at SAS. However, I internalized a lot of microaggressions from white teachers that I thought was completely normal until I graduated. I’m pretty sure every Asian American kid has gotten the same comment, where teachers say “the Asian kids are always the quietest in class, I can never tell any of you apart.” Well, it’s hard to speak up when your teacher keeps calling you the wrong name. Senior year, I asked an English teacher to review my common app essay and, after being in his class for over half a year, he STILL didn’t know my name. He thought English was my second language based on my face and didn’t even bother to read the essay before telling me it was terrible and needed to be rewritten. After making “revisions,” I gave it to him again and he told me it was too good for me to have written it, and thought a college essay tutor had written it for me. It was the SAME ESSAY. I was so angry and I regret not speaking up to administration about him.
Being one of the few black kids that actually went to sas I found it as a surprisingly accepting community. Sure there were moments where a friend would make a comment or joke that had racist undertones or was racial stereotyping, but ultimately you have to acknowledge that we were teenagers at the time trying to figure out our place in the world. I don’t hold a few dumb comments against someone that I have come to know on a personal level. I think sas can and should improve in their education regarding black history and the hiring of a more diverse staff. It is definitely hard to preach a diverse atmosphere when most of the teachers are white Americans. With that being said, I went to public school in the US before and after my time at sas and to say that it was significantly worse is a understatement. We all can realize that sas has room for growth, but I also want to thank sas for making me feel the most inclusive in all my years in school.
One experience I remember very distinctly was something hosted by the Puxi Athletic Council. I don’t remember the exact name they called the event, but it was an “black people foods” eating competition – and I put this in quotations because that was what it was sold to students as. The competition involved eating watermelon, drinking grape juice, and eating fried chicken, and I remember there were four participants, one from each year at the time, who took part. It is disgusting that the athletic council found this hilarious, and made it a school wide event. Events like this should not be allowed to happen.
There was a time when I was almost (emphasis on almost) desensitized to classmates throwing around the n word casually. A couple years ago, a close friend of mine was one such person, but I confronted them on their use of the word, and they have since recognized that this sort of behavior is harmful and unacceptable. I think I helped them get there, but either way I’m glad that they were able to rectify their behavior. In general, I think that the class of ’21 has gotten much better between freshman year (when it was at its worst) and now, but it’s still a pretty huge problem in the class of ’22 and I still hear or see it used by people in my class. Occasionally it’s even used to speak about Black people (though I’ve never seen it used directly *at* a Black student), as opposed to being applied “jokingly” to an Asian or White student, which really makes it even worse.
Besides the very blatant use of slurs, I’ve seen quite a few classmates parrot racist stereotypes about Black people. Sometimes it’s just to be provocative, like when they bring up “funny” aspects of “Black culture” like watermelons or fried chicken (just writing that makes me want to cringe), but a lot of people sincerely hold views about how Black people are “on average” supposedly lazier or more violent than say White or Asian people.
Finally, (and this isn’t entirely about anti-Black racism) I’ve always found it somewhat weird and vaguely racist (in an institutional manner I suppose) that the faculty PDHS (and PDMS too, as far as I know) is almost completely White outside of the Chinese department, despite White students being a minority – of course, the Whiteness of the faculty is supposedly a “selling point” of the school.The Whiteness of individual teachers has never made me feel uncomfortable, but at times I have felt that way about the racial makeup of the faculty as a whole, and I’m sure that this has been subtly influencing my unconscious perceptions of race in ways that I’m not yet aware of.
Anonymous, PD ’21
My white teacher was talking about how his black students used to call each other the N-word in New York. He proceeded to say the full word. Twice no one, including myself, said anything.
When I was in elementary school, one of my (white) classmates was acting rowdy during PE. My (white) teacher decided to yell at them, “Why are you being so rude? It might be okay to act rude in China but it is not okay where I’m from!” Many of the students in that class were Chinese or Chinese American. None of us spoke up that day, perhaps we didn’t even have the words for why it was wrong. But I know now that it was the insinuation from that PE teacher of an inherent savageness of Chinese people, the same notion that has been used to other and oppress Chinese immigrants throughout history. There has always been an invisible racial hierarchy among students and faculty in SAS, not so invisible now that I have left SAS.
I remember in middle school when I first came to SAS feeling incredibly ashamed of being Asian. Teachers actively made comments about the “real” American students who were always the White kids in our class. Even though I lived in the US longer than a lot of them did, I felt like my identify was erased into simply another Asian kid. I remember teachers throughout middle school and even high school seeking out and becoming closer disproportionately to the White kids in our class, as if they had some sort of bond that I didn’t or couldn’t be a part of. I hate that sometimes I felt my Asianness at SAS made me feel invisible, as if I was just another Asian stereotype who was trying to get into a good school. I looked at the diversity @ SAS video recently, and recalled the sentiments at SAS which felt as if somehow SAS was becoming “less American” now that the majority of students are Asian instead of White, and somehow this was a bad thing. That video was essentially to showcase that “we haven’t lost all the White kids yet”. It perpetrates the narrative of equating Americanness as Whiteness, and that sort of Whiteness to be preferable. If you think it’s just a preference to non-Asianness and to increase racial and ethnic plurality, that’s not true either. For the most part, many hiring processes in intl schools in China target White applicants over Black and Asian Applicants. We’re all seen as less than preferable. We aren’t taught to understand that this isn’t an independent event happening in our school. Rather, the narrative of Asians “taking over” certain communities or institutions is subtly implied into many parts of American culture—comparing Asian culture and community almost to a disease. SAS has become more than just an American school, and I hope that is something it can learn to be proud of.
There was a running joke within my club among guys, “If I am a Cherokee woman I can get into any Ivy Leagues easily with my grades.”
Though it was clear that the stress of the college application during high school led them to make this sexist and racist joke, it was offensive and ignorant.
I am sickened by the narrative some parents and students throw around that increasing representation in colleges is harming some kind of collective Asian interest. We need to have historical perspectives that educate people against this type of entitlement and feeling of superiority. We need to stand in solidarity instead mocking the pain of others.
Native Americans face intense challenges in the United States. We shouldn’t take offense when they finally get a better chance.