It was the 1960’s, and the world was racist. Schools were segregated, interracial dating was frowned upon, and the political and business stratospheres, as well as the upper class, were dominated by white males. But a revolution was underway, a revolution that aimed to make life better for those born into our generation. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in his legendary “I have a dream” speech, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” The year was 1963, and the world was changing so that we may be born to see beyond race, into the soul and into the heart.
The year is now 2007. Black and white children play together at the park without fear of scolding from their mothers. Asian teenagers date Hispanic teenagers without raising an eyebrow. The world is getting smaller and the lines between ethnicities are fading fast. Children are being born into multi-cultural families every day. Children are being raised to acknowledge, but see far beyond, the meaning of skin color and eye shape. We are these children. We are the children born into the world post-revolution, the world produced by the civil rights movement. We enjoy the freedom that past generations have worked to ensure for us.
Yet Phillips Academy continues to feed its students antiquated beliefs in the form of ASM, PACE seminars and guest speaker events. Just last week, Paula Crisostomo visited our campus to speak about the poor conditions of her high school in Los Angeles and the walk-out she staged alongside 10,000 of her peers 40 years ago. While Crisostomo’s courage is certainly admirable, I fail to see how the segregation of public schools in the 60’s has much to do with Andover in the 21st century. Yes, there was racial inequality and great injustice in America… but the times, they are a-changin’. While equality is not yet entirely prevalent, our generation strives for balance every day, tiptoeing across the tightrope of political correctness as we gradually near the end of a four-score-long battle against racism. Step-by-step we hope to right the wrongs of our parents’ generation, leading a new era by example, choosing whom we will befriend and love without consideration of skin color or fear of public disapproval. Does Phillips Academy not see that we are moving forward? Phillips Academy cannot forget the racial inequality of its administrators’ era, yet it is oh-so-very easy for Andover to forget 9/11, an issue whose consequences continue to permeate through the short six years since its occurrence; the contradiction is almost unbearable.
It is not as if these ASM speakers are a cheap proposition, either. CAMD is granted tens of thousands of dollars to bring speakers to our campus, and sadly that money is wasted on repetitive history lessons rather than inspiration for the future. History can be our greatest teacher, but PA is nearing the point of obsession with past racial conflict. We hear so often that we are next in line to lead the world. While racial injustice is certainly a worthy topic, it is far from being the only topic. Let’s play back history but not remain stuck in rewind, or we will never have the chance to hear the melody of our own future drawing near, only the sad songs of an era past. I beseech you, CAMD, to please use the generous grants you have received toward bringing more speakers who can address issues relevant to our generation, preparing us for our positions as world leaders, rather than reminding us of your generation’s racism and hatred.
Nearly all students come to Andover with a fairly clean slate of prejudices. We are all prone to make assumptions based upon appearance, but the intelligence and integrity of the Phillips Academy community mandates that most stereotypes will be based upon actions and interactions rather than something as ambiguous and shallow as skin color or eye shape. Before I came to Phillips Academy, I didn’t think twice about being best friends with a white boy or a black girl. My eyes didn’t widen when I saw interracial couples. Now that I’m here, however, I find myself fighting to maintain my previously empty plate of racial judgments as I continue to hear sob story after sob story about past inequalities.
I have grown tired of the same ASM being replayed every Wednesday; though the faces of the speakers change, their message does not. Phillips Academy has affirmed fears that the school will continue to deplete its ASM budget on speakers largely focusing on race and ethnicity, stating at last week’s All-School Meeting that Phillips Academy will “continue to address these complex issues,” despite alumni, faculty and students pleas for a more diverse line-up.
I love Andover; my aim is not to criticize but to improve. Let us write our own stories. Let us lead our own revolutions. Let us be inspired by the issues of today, the issues that pertain to our generation. Let us be grateful for the world your generation has given us. We acknowledge the horrors of past generations’ racism- we respect you for the world you have lived through, and we thank you for what you have done to improve our own.
But I have a dream that my own little children will one day live in a nation where they will be free from the constant reminder that their race was once considered inferior, attend a school where they will be free to turn a corner without bumping into a mention of ethnicity and attend an All-School Meeting where they will learn from history but also hear much more about the bright and beautiful future that belongs to the next generation of children born free of prejudice.
Phillips Academy, please do not deny Martin Luther King his dream, and please do not continue to discourage my own.