by Rachel Bossuk, Junior
On January 21st, 2013 (Martin Luther King Day), the Waldorf School of Garden City hosted the fourth annual Erase Racism Student Leadership Forum. Over 50 students from various Long Island high schools gathered to learn about the racial injustices that have been present in our own communities and backyards for years. The lively and empowering speech given by keynote speaker Sergio Argueta (the former executive director of STRONG Youth Inc. and the current director of undergraduate social work at Adelphi University) awakened our minds on that cold Monday morning. He passionately spoke to us about what it was like to grow up as a Latin-American in Hempstead, New York, and how we, as young people, not only have the ability but the responsibility to recognize racism and help prevent it. He inspired attendees to be more active in their communities.
Afterwards, we watched a short film entitled “The Difference Between Us” – an historical documentary about how scientists have tried to categorize people by race and use race as a way to prove the strengths and faults of human beings in areas ranging from running speed to mental intellect. In the film, we also learned how race was used to justify slavery and other social injustices. After lunch, we continued to my personal favorite activity; breaking into small discussion groups that mixed all of our schools. Within these groups, we were asked whether we agreed, disagreed or “were-on-the-fence” with various statements about race. This activity encouraged everyone to voice and to explain their own opinions as well as debate and understand opposing views with other students.
Erase Racism is a wonderful civil rights organization that strives to make young people aware of the social injustices that are often overlooked by today’s society. The students who participated in the Student Leadership Forum are better able to recognize racism in all its forms and are inspired to make a difference. We discussed issues that are pertinent to our lives today such as affirmative action, the impact of having a black president, whether it is better to be “colorblind” or to recognize race and gay marriage rights. We also discussed what each of us would do if we experienced racism directly or indirectly. Personally, I hope I can stand against any type of racial prejudice in the future. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the racial discrimination that goes on all around us. We will strive to be the voice that speaks words of equality and change!