Confronting race and stereotypes in Wake schools
Enloe High School students are talking about being in a nation divided by incarceration and prejudice where people are stereotyped based on their race and ethnicity and where white people abuse their privilege.
The messages in the student-written “We the People” play were shared Tuesday with Wake County school board members who praised the Enloe students for both their performance and their courage. The play comes at a time when the school system has been having tough discussions about race in school and society.
“You now see why I’m such a passionate advocate for theater,” school board member Jim Martin said after students performed excerpts of their play. “These kids can lead us in courageous conversations that we don’t know how to have.”
The play, which was originally performed at the Raleigh magnet school in October, opened with one group of students reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Another group stood behind them reciting their own version.
“I will not pledge allegiance to the flag of the shattered states of America and to the corruption where the wicked stand, a divided nation built over blood divisible with incarceration and prejudice for the oppressed,” said students Rishi Desai, Jordan King and Kwani Taylor.
The play shifted to a “classroom” where students talked about being stereotyped as smart because they’re Indian, or not smart because they’re female or not planning to go to college because they’re black.
The play also shifted to a scene in a “cafeteria” where racial tension broke out between groups of white and black students. Black students talked about challenges of interacting with white and black classmates.
“I can’t be too white or too black,” said student Ricky Hall. “I have to know about my black culture, but I can’t bring it up too much or I alienate the people around me.
“If I speak with perfect grammar I’m talking too white. But if I say ‘yo’ or ‘bro,’ I’m talking too black.”
White students talked about how they benefited from white privilege.
“We are, I am, privileged and we benefit from that everyday unfairly,” said students Caroline Farley and Ryan Gee. “We never have to feel underestimated, undermined, ridiculed, laughed at, ignored, trampled, stepped on or pushed around because of our race.”
The play ended with the students talking to board members and school administrators about racial issues in schools, including a recent string of racially charged incidents on social media.