The Progression to a Racially Equitable Community

Michael Gordon and Sreenidhi Dharmaraj

Over the past year, the decades of racial tension and injustice in the United States of America has become a larger part of a national conversation. Increased awareness surrounding systemic racism embedded within America’s institutions has fostered national movement calling for racial equity and justice. In the Lexington Public Schools system, steps are being taken to ensure that the town is involved in this discussion. 

Although the community has made significant strides to facilitate conversations about racial diversity, still more must be done to combat the faceless enemy of racial prejudice to create a climate of true equity.

 Habiba Davis, a social worker in the LPS system, recognizes our Lexington’s efforts to promote diversity, but also acknowledges that the work towards racial equity has only just begun. 

“We are one of the few districts in Massachusetts that has a Diversity Equity and Inclusion director for our district,” Davis said. 

Although she appreciates the existing infrastructure, she feels a sense of urgency to quickly expand on the inroads already made.

On the matter of institutional racism, Davis believes it penetrates all aspects of our social experiences.

“It’s embedded in everything that we do. Even in police practices, redlining, social economics… it’s embedded because the system was set up to not allow for others to get the power that is built into our institutions,” Davis said.

Encouraging discussions around inclusivity and racial equity is perhaps the most effective way to combat deeply-rooted systemic prejudice on a local scale. For all members of the diverse student body to feel accounted for by the administration, members of the Lexington High School community should focus on eliminating the most apparent barrier that excludes people of different cultures and races from these discussions. 

“Very often we tackle race in history, in literature, and conversation. It can be easy for people to feel like it’s a black and white issue, and I think that might be alienating to people who don’t identify as one or the other of those,” Sophie Blum, an English teacher and facilitator at LHS Chat, a club where students and teachers meet virtually to participate in a facilitated discussion, said. She adds that understanding intersectionality and the effects of this past year’s developments on community members should be a priority.

How can the Lexington community aim to hold proper conversations about racial equity while so many key concepts are absent from our educational curriculum? Although the LPS curriculum has made admirable progress from the whitewashed history seen in textbooks across the country, issues of social justice and multiculturality are still not adequately addressed. 

Institutional racism is so difficult to deconstruct because people live their entire lives without recognizing their own implicit biases. Since academic establishments exist to develop students into virtuous citizens with the skills to succeed in life, schools should be including dismantling implicit bias and recognizing multiculturality as part of their instruction. Our increasingly globalized modern world favors those who can work most effectively with others, regardless of differences in race and ethnicity. To properly educate the next generation of Americans, Lexington must further develop their curriculum to promote social equity.

It is also incumbent upon the school administration to be more transparent in their work towards racial equity and social justice since many students, parents, and staff are left unaware of the progress made towards these goals. Blum emphasized the need for increased outreach from the administration and referenced the website, Equity at LPS, as an example of attempts to keep the community updated. Although it holds numerous documents on demographics at LPS and measures being taken towards inclusivity, this website is scarcely known among LHS students, accentuating the lack of thoroughly established communication from the administration. 

Though it is important to recognize efforts like LHS Chat and other established programs  here at LPS, there always exists a need for progress on the long road to racial equity. Mari McBride, a junior and student leader at LHS Chat, echoes the same sentiments. 

“There’s just still a lot of work to be done, and I’m glad that we’re kind of on the first steps of recognizing that and putting some change into play, but I still think there’s a long way to go,” McBride said.