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[ELHS Grad Sade Barber] Confronting ELHS’ Racism

Sade Barber, a 2019 alumna of East Lyme High School.

Noelle Avena

Alumna Sade Barber revisits her experiences at ELHS (Part One of ‘Perspectives on Doing Better with Race/Equity’)

During 2015 Spirit Week, a group of students orchestrated a fake lynching of a black student in the student parking lot. In the fall of 2019, the Confederate flag and racial slurs were posted online by a student. Along with these overt acts of racism, countless acts of microaggressions build and contribute to the school climate. In this series, The Viking Saga will share perspectives of students and community members of color with a goal of creating a more empathetic environment and  experience.
Alumna Sade Barber, who graduated in the Class of 2019, spoke out on her Instagram this June about how she was impacted by the image of the Confederate flag and slur that was posted by a student on social media during her senior year.
In a post made June 1, she wrote, “Words hurt and I will never forget these instances. Spreading love instead of hate and stereotypes is so important, and I cannot stress that  enough.” It’s been over a year since the incident which affected her deeply, and Sade is still impacted enough to share her story again.
“I did not feel safe at school. Knowing that some of the students who attended were full of such hate scared me to a point where I had to go to guidance often. The student never spoke to me, but I was afraid she would come up to me randomly and say terrible things. I lived in fear my senior year,” Sade said. Instead of being comfortable and able to celebrate her senior year fully, Sade struggled to feel safe in her daily life.
“I had many supportive teachers, especially guidance, to help me get through the school day without being scared,” she said. “On the other hand, I had teachers who shrank me down to feel small and singled out,” Barber said. She felt her opinions and feelings dismissed by those who were supposed to give her support, adding to her stress.
Many students and teachers want to create deep and meaningful change so these incidents never happen again, but even the most motivated students need administration to change the framework.
“A start would be having more teachers of different races and ethnicities around. It would easily make the school more inclusive,” Sade said. “I do not like telling people that I come from a racist school when I’m a  minority.” Sade hopes the conversation about racism is just beginning.
“When addressed, these incidents should be talked about openly and not swept under the rug like East Lyme has done with this incident and many more,” Sade said.

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