America To Me: A STARZ Feature

McKenna Fellows Recently, the high school’s Black Voices in America class watched the first two episodes of the STARZ feature series America to Me. The documentary spotlights Chicagoland’s very own Oak Park and River Forest High, as it follows the everyday school lives of several African-American and biracial students over the span of one academic year. With ostensibly rooted principles of diversity and inclusiveness, it was uncovered that the school neglected to confront the overlooked issues faced by minorities on a daily basis. Whether the injustice be targeted or unintentional, students didn’t miss a beat when given the opportunity to speak out about their experiences. Once informed of what really goes on beyond the eyes of faculty and administration, many teachers were not surprised. Having attempted to fight the inequity within the school and met with dismissal, many teachers felt defeated. Not only does the show focus on the struggles of students of color at OPRF, but also the struggles of the faculty who try to advocate for them. Some might ask how this specifically relates to a community like Latin. Like OPRF, Latin too is an environment dedicated to nurturing the minds and characters of all students, regardless of racial and ethnic background. However, there appears to be a disconnect between the alleged message of equity shared by schools, and the reception of the message. Imparting his thoughts after viewing the docuseries in class, Anwar Mohammed suggests that “oppression faced by students of color could be detrimental to their advancement, not just specifically in OPRF, but other primarily white institutions as well.” In cases such as the one in OPRF, many would be quick to place blame on either or both parties, but, at the end of the day,  it’s hard to condemn those who have been raised with unintentional racial entitlement. Aside from the detriment this prejudice has on its victims, many forget to address its potential effect on schools that fuel the fire. Without proper counteraction, unhealthy patterns are destined to accumulate, and it is only a matter of time until negative reputations are formed. Once students of color decide that their educations are not worth discrimination, any hope for forward progress is lost. This has an huge impact on predominantly white schools looking to expand their diversity, which is why it is so important for this issue to be tackled promptly to extinguish the “surrounding stigma of people of color,” says Anwar. As for the effects this television feature had on Oak Park and River Forest High, the school has since devoted an incredible amount of time to the promotion of awareness both as individuals, and a community. Ultimately, it’s inevitable that not every student will genuinely take the message to heart and act upon it, but America To Me was a pivotal stepping stone in sharing the message’s nation-wide significance. With more high schools taking strides to make their environments more ethnically and racially accepting, students of color are finally beginning to receive the equal treatment that has been rightfully theirs since the start, as opposed to being “seen as something other than civil human beings,” Anwar said.]]>