Growing up in Philadelphia, I was not familiar with discrimination and racism. Being raised with African-Americans, sticking together as a culture and community was a normal thing. Suddenly, I was forced to move to an unfamiliar town where my accent, my demeanor, my race, was demeaned by the label “ghetto.” I was definitely an outcast and did not fit in whatsoever. Throughout the years in State College, while trying to find myself, I have been asked disrespectful questions and mischaracterized. “Why does your hair look like that? Why do you talk like that? Did you come from the hood? Are other black people scary? Are you smart like us? Why are you black?” Being fairly young, I often cried at the amount of questions and hatred I was getting just for being a minority.
The incident that happened at State High with the two white boys writing “ n----- 1” and “ n----- 2” on their shirts is not resolved. We had a forum outside of school hours that was not mandatory. If our school board can put pep rallies during the school schedule, why can’t we place a race forum during school hours? This suggests that race isn’t a concerning issue at our school, which I think is a major problem.
I’ve heard numerous race stories that friends/associates told me about. What all of those stories had in common were that none of them were resolved in meaningful ways. In State High, bullying, fighting, explicit language, leaving school grounds are all handled with disciplinary action. But race is not taken seriously enough. In my case, as an African-American girl, I’ve encountered racist situations that have never been dealt with because it was considered “an accident” and, “Johnny will never say that remark again.” Why do we as black people have to fight for acknowledgment? When will we have the ability to be legitimized in our experiences with ignorance?
Now, we ask, “Why do we need a forum on race in State College?” My answer to that would be because offensive uneducated minds are still present in this town. I feel as though people need to be more educated on this topic. The topic of “race” gets avoided a lot. Why? Perhaps white people don’t want to be seen as racists, or feel that minorities might blame them for some of the racial tensions and want to avoid the “obligatory” white guilt. Maybe they just don’t care because they’re not the victims of systematic racism. Whatever the case may be, something needs to change.
Takiya Nastasi is a senior at State College Area High School.
IF YOU GO
What: Let’s Talk About Race — For a Change
When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Feb. 27
Where: Easterly Parkway Elementary School, 234 Easterly Parkway, State College
More info: Preregister at www.scasd.org/Page/401