Invisible and Unheard: Black Representation at Lexington High School

Athena Li & Sarah Liu, Online Editor & Features Editor

While the official Lexington Public Schools’ mission statement declares “We All Belong” as its first priority on a list of eight, many students feel that its faculty and administration can do better to support their Black and Latinx students.

In June 2020, a survey titled “Invisible and Unheard: The Black Experience at Lexington High School” was published by Adrian Ayala, a Lexington High School alum. The paper surveyed Black and Latinx LHS students regarding the impact of their race on their educational experience. The survey highlighted the microaggressions, discrimination, and harassment students have faced within the LPS system. Students reported being fetishized, verbally assaulted with racial slurs and stereotypes, and falsely accused of crimes.

A lack of Black representation within the faculty and student mistreatment based on racial differences were two of the many concerns reported: 72% of Black students surveyed reported that they had never had a Black teacher at LHS and 62% felt that teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators treated them differently from their white counterparts. In addition, 62% of Black students surveyed believed that the LHS curriculum was not inclusive of racial diversity.

Andrew Baker, associate principal at LHS, acknowledges the challenge of properly addressing racial issues through education. 

“It’s difficult work because you’re unpacking hundreds of years of things that are structural…Our largest society has racism built inside it, so does every institution within it,” Baker said.

 Baker recognizes the need for increased cultural awareness at LHS. 

“Our curriculum should be reflective of our student body…We need to use [reports of racial discrimination in LHS]  to educate and grow. I am sure that there are daily microaggressions …that the school administration is unaware of, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t happening,” Baker said.

Marielsa McBride, a junior and community organizer for racial justice, believes students should be aware of the struggles their Black classmates face on a daily basis. 

“I don’t think it’s right for us to brag about our diversity if we don’t create equitable spaces for those students of color here,” McBride said.

McBride has been organizing a series of protests and discussion-based video calls to bring awareness not only to the Black Lives Matter movement but also to the overall issue of racial inequity and ignorance within Lexington.

While many people in Lexington have come out to support these endeavors, not all of her experiences have been positive. 

“People view Lexington as a very liberal progressive town, and it definitely is in a lot of ways, but the amount of middle fingers and rude comments I’ve gotten while protesting in Lexington center is astonishing. That’s why I continue to protest, so they have to see me when they’re driving home from work. So it can’t be out of sight, out of mind,” McBride said.

McBride herself has also directly experienced racism at LHS. 

When asked about her personal experiences with race at LHS, McBride said, “…people talk about Black people in general as if they’re just less than them. People say the n-word around me all the time, which is completely unacceptable, not because they’re saying it around a Black person but because they’re saying it at all.” McBride also said that “… I know there are students at LHS who have done blackface, or said really hateful things, or done really hateful things.”

To raise awareness about Black experiences as a whole, several LHS students petitioned to create an African American literature course as a senior English class elective.

“It was a joy to be given the opportunity to work on the course and for the school district to be so amazing in its support of the creation of it. We hope everyone enjoys the celebration of Black thought and we hope as many people as possible take the class, regardless of background,” Mary Gretchen Segars, a METCO administrator and developer of the course, wrote in an email statement.

McBride urges her fellow students to educate themselves and those around them about Black Lives Matter and the history of systemic racism in the United States, as well as to do their part in rectifying systemic racism.

“There is nothing more harmful you can do than staying silent. It doesn’t matter if you’re uncomfortable with this, or if your family is uncomfortable with this. That is the biggest reason why you need to talk about it. Educate yourself, educate the people around you, come out and protest with me at the Minuteman statue from 5-6 every day other than Sunday,” McBride said.