The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

The Student News Site of Rock Bridge High School

Bearing News

Oluwafunminiyi Ogungbade, senior

Oluwafunminiyi+Ogungbade%2C+senior

Since 1976, a half a century after the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in the United States, every American president has designated the month of February as Black History Month, a celebration and remembrance of the accomplishments and lives of black Americans. This year’s theme is “African Americans and the Vote,” in honor of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870 and the Nineteenth Amendment in 1920. Although America has long hailed itself to be the land of the free and the home of the brave, it was not until 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery, that black people in America shared such freedom. Although they were legally free following the volatility of the Civil War, they continued to suffer during the Reconstruction period and the establishment of the Jim Crow South.

While the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s brought with it an increase in the equal protection of rights, activist movements have continued into the present day pushing for an expansion of true equality. It seems, however, we are once again experiencing an upsurge of prejudice in mainstream society. For this reason, it is imperative to have open, honest conversations about race relations in America with today’s youth, bringing attention to the role race plays in life and education.

What does it mean to you, to be a black person in America today?

“Well to really be an African American in today’s society still has its challenges. We still have a lot of opportunities and a lot of stuff we can do now compared to 10, 20, 30 years down the line, but I still see it as I don’t have that level of equality as the average privileged of a white male.”

In what ways do you see black culture embraced in the world around you, and in what ways is it rejected?

“I see it all the time through actors, comedians, athletes, everywhere. You really see black culture in its own specific way flourishing. There’s this line from a rapper I listen to and he said black people always make the best actors and it’s kind of true. Whenever you have high sales or high marketing in something its in general off of a black or African American person. Not even that its off of race in general. You don’t see a standard Caucasian, you see Asian, Mexican all types of races, but mostly where it’s rejected I would say in inequality in opportunity. So, on the bases of coming up like in education and stuff like that. I may not have to be able to get certain jobs or something like that because of the color of my skin or I may not be able to work with most organizations or companies because the color of my skin and yeah that does affect me and it affects who I am trying to provide for, whether it’s my family or just trying to make a roof over my head so.”

What do you think are the biggest us in overcoming racial biases and systemic racism?

“Biggest challenges would be just accepting that we are all human. I think people kind of skip that we are not property any more. Sorry I say that, but we are all humans, we all make mistakes, we all have different values and beliefs, and we should all treat each other with respect to those beliefs, because you never know what someone could say could impact your life in a good way or a bad way either way.”

How can or should governmental organizations take action to address racial tensions?

“Making it more available for the average common black man to be successful in America and if that’s by giving more opportunities through government or in companies, stuff like that, they should make that ready and available.”

What is the role of education in eliminating racism for you, and what do you think schools could be doing to improve that?

“Well, I am happy that Rock Bridge has MAC Scholars. I am happy that we at least have a black program that we are able to shine in our own way. So, I feel like they’re kind of eliminating the gap and I really applaud our principal, principal Sirna, because he’s really active. He comes to our meetings and he like talks with us and he’s about making it better for us. For it to improve the students have to be behind it as well. It’s like a group effort, we’re all in school so, even though we come from different places, we all come here to learn and do the same things so, all students should be on the same page.”

Do you feel African American and black history received fair and equal representation in the classroom?

“Yes and no depending on the class. So, there are a lot of stereotypes out there and because it can be, well let’s say P.E. for example, because I am black I am athletic and I can run, when really that might not be the case. Or if I am African American and I am fat I am just the greatest singer in the world for some reason. I feel like everyone should, there should be a filter that should be taken away. Everyone should stop seeing people through their own standard.”

What do you wish could change about Rock Bridge in that regard? As in addressing representation in the classroom?

“Getting more diversity in student council and stuff like that. Which, I know there is, but I would propose getting MAC Scholars more involved in like going to the meetings and seeing what they can do to like the black community. Not even just blacks in general, but getting it more diverse.”

What does the school and students do well when addressing and discussing race here? Do you think there are things that still need to be improved?

“Well, in discussing race they do a great job by, I have never been to a meeting where student council has not addressed or been out of the gap, but I would like to see more involvement from them, because if you don’t go up to them they’re not going to come to you, so you have to make yourself ready and available, and they’ll be more then willing to work with you.”

Onto your personal history. When in your life have you experienced racism either minutely or just straight forward? Has there ever been an incident where you were like that was the shocking moment for you?

“Being African, and African American I do have an African background. I have African parents and stuff like that. I have always experienced racism, because like I still have friends to this day who think Africans live in huts and they don’t have buildings and all that. I take it with a grain of salt. I just try to focus on the future and I understand that those people their parents taught them that and that’s how they learned it. That’s their background and I can’t judge them on that. The only thing I can do is lead them in the right way. How I respond is, I am very religious, so I have always been taught to pray for my enemies. [I] just try to show them the rights from wrongs like I said before we’re all human and we can all improve and be better people.”

How have race relations in America affected you and your family now or in the past?

“Well, just right now my parents are Nigerian and Donald Trump just passed this rule that he added more countries to the travel ban and Nigeria was one of them. So that was kind of effected me, because some of my family members and friends are trying to get visas and trying to get green cards and now they can’t really come here unless it’s under school. So, that kind of limits them and their success in life, so that’s really how I see it, but there’s so much we can do right now to affect that.”

How do implicit and explicit biases and stereotypes impact your sense of self and life in general? I know you already talked about it a little bit at school, but is there any outside of just strictly here?

“I have been called the whitest black person ever, and that’s like well ya. I have heard terms like white washing and stuff like that, so because I live civilized and because I do the things that a normal human should, but not in the ways of a black ghetto African American, yeah that stereotype hovers around me everyday. You know, I just try to live the life I can to the best of my ability knowing, that, ‘Okay, people are going to say that,’ but I want to do what’s best for me, and if acting this way is what’s best for me and keep me successful in this society then I am more than willing to do it. Let alone living the stereotype of being black and sagging and trapping and all that.”

As a young person in today’s society what steps still need to be taken in regard to the way people of different races and ethnicities interact?

“You’re talking about communication here right?”

Yeah.

“So, that’s why I really like Global Village. Global Village is really where all those different races and stuff, their barriers are broken, and everyone sees the good like, ‘Oh I never even knew this about this country’ besides, like, ‘Oh yeah, Asians make good noodles,’ or something. You get to see more about that culture like the dresses they wear and the stuff they make and like it’s just really cool. It takes that stuff you’ve learned as a kid, the stereotypes, and it kind of broadens them and kind of removes them almost because you learn about them. When you gain greater information you’re able to process it more, and you just won’t just people the way you do. So, in our society we really just need to focus on that, because most of the people who do judge don’t know. They’re ignorant, and they don’t know, so if they knew and they were informed it would make the society a lot better as a whole.”

Where do you see racism at RBHS, and what steps must happen to correct it? Let us know in the comments below.

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