Several months ago a group of white students attempted to attend the Students of Color meeting at lunch. They were abruptly turned away by the meeting’s leader, 8th grade history teacher Aaron Preetam. This event brought up several questions about the nature of the Students of Color meeting: What’s the purpose of the Students of Color meeting, and why aren’t white students allowed into the Students of Color meeting?
The Students of Color meeting differentiates itself from other affinity groups, such as the Jewish affinity group, which is only open to those who belong to the religion of Judaism. The Students of Color meeting includes a mixture of different races. However, there is one difference between the Students of Color and a group such as SAGA, which is open to any sexual orientation: Implicit in its name, you cannot attend the Students of Color affinity group if you’re white.
In some respects, this is an obvious and fair distinction: In the United States, white people are far from being the minority. The Students of Color lunch gives students a chance to discuss the issues they face as a member of a minority. Yet, at the same time, this did seem an odd choice, seeing as it prevents white students from having a space to discuss race with their fellow students.
Now, we, as an editorial board, realize that as a group of four white kids, we don’t have a particularly diverse perspective. So we decided to interview Aaron Preetam.
Aaron defined the Students of Color meeting as a “safe space for students to freely discuss issues facing minorities in the GFS Middle School without having to put up any defenses.”
When asked what he meant by defenses, Aaron responded by giving the example of a shy minority sixth grader feeling as though he couldn’t say what he wanted to because a ‘scary’ white eighth grader was in the room.
It’s not that white allies are useless, or that they shouldn’t be given an opportunity to discuss race. It’s simply that they don’t help to “foster the safe space,” as Aaron put it.
One solution may be to create a White Allies Group for Middles, similar to the one for faculty.
Overall, we as the editorial board believe that the Students of Color lunch is vital to giving minorities a chance to freely discuss racial issues; it may be worthwhile to also provide a separate opportunity for white people, or perhaps an opportunity for people of all races, to get together and discuss such issues as well.
The Corner Editorial Board
Illustration by Cassie Coale