Q&A with Ms. Thomson of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Group preceding the walkout

ETHAN HIBBARD, RILEY WALSH, AND ETHAN NOVICK

VIKING SAGA: Do you think the assembly was meaningful to have for the student body?

VICTORIA THOMSON: I guess that really depends on each student. Because I feel like the experience of being a student of color is very different from the experience of students not of color in this school. So I think it depends on individual experience and whether or not it comes across like, “OK, Mr. Kydd is creating this personal to him so now I can see that there is someone on my side.” That’s one takeaway. I also think that some students also went away feeling like, “they thought they could quiet us just by having this assembly and then we wouldn’t walk out tomorrow.” That was some students’ perspectives when I talked to my class afterwards. So I think it depends on who the person is. And, when I went to talk to my students afterwards, some didn’t even know what the whole thing was about. So with that in mind, I think it’s helpful to get everyone on the same page. 

I also heard some people behind me saying, “Well they’re still not gonna do anything. So, from just the voices I heard around me too, some people weren’t satisfied with that and feel like there aren’t changes that are made. But like I said, that really all comes from perspective because if you look at it from Mr. Kydd or Ms. Kelly, all they are doing is running around trying to put out these fires which doesn’t give them time to make all these systemic changes that we want to.

I’m on the district’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee and we meet every other month with Mr. Newton and try to meet monthly with Mr. Kydd and he’s so bogged down by these tiny little minutiae things that we can’t make the bigger changes that we all want to make. 

VS: So we talked a bit about the assembly and the different perspectives of our current situation. Next block the walk out is supposed to be happening. What are your thoughts for that?

VT: So, one of the organizers for the walkout was in my freshman class and they brought up their reasons for why there was going to be a walkout for the class. And I said, “Okay that’s great, but what is your plan?” And there wasn’t one. The plan was to go out to the football field at this particular time and I said, “And do what?” Because if you don’t have a plan or an agenda, then you’re not going to meet goal. You want change? Then you need to say what you want. If you don’t know what you’re asking for than what’s the point. And then, if you don’t know what you’re asking for and don’t have a plan, then you’re gonna have unintended side effects. And how are you going to deal with those side effects? So that’s basically what I told them. Because at that point they have less than 24 hours to plan this and answer those questions. Who is the leader? Who is everyone turning to for direction? 

VS: Where do you think we go from here? What are the next steps?

VT: People have this sort of perspective like they want to see change and see something happen. Like, you’re gonna grow up and meet all different kinds of people that have a lower tolerance for other humans. How do you create unity and not division in situations with those people? How do you then sit in a class with that person and deal? Because, you might have a job one day where you work with a person like that and it’s going to to be hard to deal. And you can’t just go beat them up in the bathroom. And that won’t make them unlearn being a racist anyway. So, I think the biggest thing we need to do is think about, how do we have healthy conflict? Conflict happens everywhere, in all of your relationships. 

I sat in on the forum yesterday in the auditorium for the entire time except 20 minutes for lunch and maybe only 12 kids came the entire time. So, show up, when given the opportunity. Instead of hiding behind all these Instagram posts, show up and let you voice be heard if administration is going to give you an opportunity to. I think two things we need to learn is how to actually show up and not hide, and to coexist. We also need to be really open and honest and say that racism is not tolerated here. We should have as many signs in this school that say, “we don’t tolerate racism” as, “we don’t tolerate vaping.” I think that students of color want to know that we support them and that we are on their side and I don’t think that that’s visible enough for them to see.

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