On Mar. 8, members from affinity unions, students and teachers came together in Room 306 for South’s first diversity symposium, hosted by the Asian Student Union and the Black Student Union. The conference was led by Dr. Johnny Lake, a nationally recognized speaker, on community building, leadership and cross-cultural communication.
During the event, students participated in workshops such as role-playing discrimination by using smaller-scale situations and comparing them to broader issues.
“I felt that it was necessary, considering that we don’t have any classes that discuss diversity even though it is legally required,” junior Connor Gabor said. “It is a state law that every school has one semi-ethnic class, and we [might be] the only school in 4j or high school, to my knowledge, that doesn’t have that [kind of] class.”
In order to demonstrate discrimination, students wearing glasses were not allowed to speak. Students without glasses tried to individually speak up for the discrimination against the glasses-wearing students. However, only when the whole class stood up to this unfair treatment did the policy change. This was one of the many powerful demonstrations Dr. Lake taught to South students.
“One of the lessons I learned from Dr. Lake’s presentation was from the story of the fish in its lane and how that’s relevant with race and being black in Oregon where we are predominantly white, and our culture is very very white and liberal,” Gabor said. “If they never have anyone else that is like them, then they will jump to another person’s lane or jump out of the water, and they’ll suffocate because that’s not that’s not their culture or environment. Then he [Dr. Lake] was saying that’s why we need more diversity, so that was just something that stood out to me.”
The symposium was one of the first steps taken by unions as part of the broader “Step Towards Change” program the administration started this year to not only increase affinity union club participation, but also raise more awareness about cultural diversity. At the end of the conference, participants wrote changes they want at our school on sticky notes. Dr. Lake will present these ideas to the 4J district superintendent.