An Interview with the Survivors of Latin

The+Survivors+of+Latin+Logo%2C+as+used+on+Facebook+and+Instagram

The Survivors of Latin Logo, as used on Facebook and Instagram

Ashna Satpathy

Recent allegations of racial injustice at Latin have garnered traction following the death of George Floyd. On June 20, an Instagram account called @survivorsoflatin came forth to provide a space for students, alumni, parents, and faculty to express their experiences with anti-blackness, racism, and xenophobia at Latin. The people behind the coalition have remained anonymous and all but two posts have kept the alleged victims and oppressors anonymous too. On June 22, The Forum reached out to The Survivors of Latin asking for them to be featured in an article. Due to their commitment to anonymity, a live interview was not possible and they responded to The Forum’s questions via email. 

 

How would you describe the purpose of your group? What impact do you want to have on our community?

The purpose of this group is to shed light on the horrific experiences of Latin’s BIPOC and LGBTQ+ students, alumni, parents, and faculty. We hope to empower marginalized members of Latin’s community to share their truths in solidarity with the other victims of Latin’s historic and unchecked culture of identity-based violence, specifically anti-blackness, racism, xenophobia, and islamophobia. As much as we would hope that Latin would act in the interest of its community, we know that Latin won’t make any structural changes until the school’s reputation and image are at stake. 

We have exhausted our tolerance for Latin’s open secret and refuse to remain complicit in keeping it for any longer. We have taken matters into our own hands and hope to encourage and support anyone who has been silenced to speak their truths aloud. 

Our primary, elementary, middle, and high school years are some of the most formative years of our lives, and while they are not expected to be free of hardship, the violence and marginalization that we are forced to endure because of our held identities is insidious, vile, and wrong. It has had long-lasting, detrimental effects on those of us that have forcefully endured it. Latin should have protected us. They should have nurtured and taken care of us. But instead, they prioritized and accommodated Latin’s white and affluent abusers for the sake of their donations and payroll. 

We will no longer allow this culture to be normalized. Latin is a microcosm of our larger society–one in which marginalized voices have found solidarity in their collective trauma and have begun demanding a society that respects and values their humanity. Survivors of Latin seeks to provide a platform for these very voices at Latin to demand justice and structural reform in front of an international audience and from an institution that continues to protect and coddle wealthy, white students as they leverage their power to wreak havoc on marginalized students from the time that they are infants. We are just a part of the revolution that is taking place; the culmination of lifetimes of trauma and the survivors who have created a community of healing. 

Black and brown students, especially low income students of color experience so much harm at Latin while simultaneously being told to feel grateful for the opportunity as though we did not rightfully earn our place here and are not deserving of having our humanity recognized. 

Ultimately, this is done in an attempt to guilt us into silence; however, we are no longer accepting the things we cannot change. We are changing the things we cannot accept. Low income students of color specifically make Latin great. We bring our lived experiences to the classroom. We are the leaders, artists, athletes, and innovators. Latin’s sheltered, wealthy white students learn more from us than we will ever learn from them. We are not simply additions to your diversity quota. Support us. Protect us.

 

Why the anonymity?

We maintain our anonymity because we recognize that Latin has an immensely powerful network of associates that have the ability to damage our livelihoods. Our main intention is to protect our identities, whether that is for us, our families, or for the people brave enough to come forward with their stories. 

The harsh reality is that many of these stories are common knowledge to both Latin’s administration and the larger community. Latin has routinely refused to hold the perpetrators of these acts of violence–both students and faculty– accountable for their actions. Obscuring the names and faces of perpetrators of this ongoing violence serves a dual purpose of preserving our Instagram and Facebook account while emphasizing the structural conditions that have contributed to the current social hierarchies that are further perpetuated by the administration’s reluctance to implement meaningful solutions to the challenges faced by Latin’s BIPOC and LGBTQ+ community. 

Complete anonymity is not a priority of our mission. If you have ever attended the Latin School, you know exactly who these people are. We are pursuing direct action and will be bringing these perpetrators to justice in due time.

 

Why, unlike most other similar accounts, are comments turned off on all your posts?

Our page and posts are a space for the victims of Latin’s culture of prejudice and bigotry to find solidarity and healing in our collective trauma. Removing comments gives these stories the attention and respect that they deserve while granting viewers an opportunity for self reflection. For those that wish to create dialogue and discourse, you may share these stories to your own page to start that conversation. The Survivors of Latin platform is not a space for white fragility, gaslighting, or hostility. Our community is not responsible for your atonement.

Do you support the methods used by @SurvivorsofLatin to shed light on discrimination within the Latin community?

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What is your reaction to the reports that many recent graduates of Latin and other schools have received threats after your posts?

Actions have consequences. One of the primary catalysts of Latin’s culture of marginalization and bigotry is the lack of repercussions for the perpetrators. Latin allows perpetrators of identity-based violence to continue thriving within their social lives, excel within their courses, and matriculate into reputable universities that further enable them to continue this cycle of violence throughout their personal and professional careers. The only people who should be responsible for the consequences of this identity-based violence are those who commit them and the institution that perpetuates and continues to enable this behavior. These incidents have been excused as “ignorance,” when in reality, they are the result of an informed, malicious, and violent system that subjugates anyone that exists outside the parameters of cis-hetero patriarchal white supremacy.

 

In Mr. Greer’s most recent email to students titled “Confronting Bias at Latin,” he wrote, “While we understand the urgency to share experiences, anonymous social media posts do not give us sufficient information to act in response and begin a process to make needed change.” Do you believe that the anonymous nature of this account diminishes its credibility? 

There is a plan of direct action in place to divulge the names of individuals to the Latin administration. The sheer number of stories that we have received should be sufficient enough to warrant an investigation. We would also like to emphasize, once again, the fact that even when students have brought their grievances to administration, they were dismissed or ignored, which is why those same students have turned to our platform to bring these truths to light.

 

What are your thoughts on the administration’s new Bias Report Form and revised Sexual Misconduct Policy? Do you see them one day replacing your current method of reporting discrimination and harassment? Why or why not?

Unfortunately our stories–no matter how severe– have never been enough to push the institution towards any sort of substantive, meaningful structural action. Many of these stories have been brought before the administration, and they have repeatedly chosen to silence the survivors rather than holding the perpetrators accountable and committing to structural reform. As a collective we understand that Latin will never willingly act in support of its marginalized students until its reputation is severely affected and its facade of diversity and inclusion destroyed. 

Our current method of reporting only exists because previous formal reports made within the school have never been adequately resolved. The school may have finally created a formal process to report these particular kinds of incidents, but if they fail to commit to adequate structural reform that creates a Latin that actually “affirms and values each individual,” then the problem will persist, and thus, we will remain. 

As for the Sexual Misconduct Policy, no matter how the school chooses to handle discipline, those incidents should first and foremost be prevented. Latin needs to commit, especially as an educational institution, to create an environment and culture where every single student and faculty member understands the nuances of consent and the severity of sexual abuse. We urge the school to consider a restorative justice approach, where the needs of the victims are the highest priority. The school needs to ask what the victims want to happen, what they need in order to heal, and also subsidize/provide therapists that specifically deal with sexual trauma. The school needs to implement a comprehensive curriculum that develops an understanding of consent, which can be altered to be age-appropriate, but is necessary to introduce starting all the way from Junior Kindergarten. 

We genuinely hope that one day, there won’t be a need for our page anymore because the school has indeed changed for the better.

 

Has the administration tried to contact you?

They have not made an official attempt to contact us, however, we have received inquiries from faculty through private accounts.

 

What do you believe the future holds for both your group and the school at large in terms of diversity, inclusion, and justice?

We will continue our work as long as Latin continues to fail their marginalized students. We hope that this project incites a significant commitment to improve the conditions at the Latin School and that administration will establish tangible methods and practices of structural change. We have been working with current and former students and faculty to craft a set of demands that draws from our collective experiences and will begin addressing many of Latin’s structural issues. The school needs to make a commitment to equity just as much as the other tenets they claim to uphold.

 

Is there anything else you would like included in the piece?

To our peers and colleagues who have suffered because of Latin’s inadequacy and inability to see our humanity– know that we stand in solidarity with you. We have been devastated and we do not endure this alone. Our pursuit for justice and structural reform, at its core, is not driven solely by vengeance, but in fact, love. Love for our community, love for our friends, for our mentors, and for every single person that has made and continues to make our survival at Latin possible. It is because we love you that we will fight for you. Because we love you, we are angry. Because Latin made it known to us that we have no one else, but each other. We never deserved to be made to feel like we didn’t matter. We have always mattered. Though nothing will change what has already happened, we hope that survivors may find solace in knowing that they have been heard. We pray that you may heal and that your lives are abundant with joy, triumph, prosperity, and pride in who you are and have yet to become.