Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You: Book Society’s Summer Exploration of Racism in Ourselves and Our Communities

With the quick closing of school last March, students and staff were drawn into seclusion, limiting resources for students and faculty to learn. Online learning became the center of attention, without the means for extracurricular activities like sports and in-person clubs. One of these clubs was the Book Society. The usual “One School One Book” summer assignment was not going to happen with the shelter-in-place status, so the Book Society leaders, ushered by Ms. Tapia and Ms. Apschinkat, took it upon themselves to choose and read a book together, along with anyone else who was interested. 

The club met every Monday at 5 p.m. through Zoom. The student leaders took initiative to help with organization, prayer, and action to take from the reading. Olivia Flores ‘22 led the meetings while Cyrus Carino ‘22 provided prayers. Katie Caceres ‘21 outlined important meetings and subjects with infographics on Instagram (see the account: @booksociety_shc). As for further action and exploration surrounding the book and topic, Chloe Deacon ‘21 was put in charge of potential action SHC and the Book Society could take from this reading. Furthermore, 10-11 SHC faculty and staff members joined the group each week to read and participate in student-led discussion.

The book of choice was Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You, by Ibram X. Kendi and Jason Reynolds, an exploration of racism ingrained in the U.S., both structurally and personally. This subject was rampant in the media after much attention was drawn to the unjust police brutality towards black citizens in the U.S. The killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor specifically gained awareness, but the murders of innocent black citizens at the hands of the police have been going on for years and there are many more victims to name. With the Black Lives Matter movement gaining more and more attention, there was much more focus put in place towards education on racism, specifically “Anti-Racist” education. Anti-Racist education seeks to explore the implicit bias we have as citizens brought up in a country with such a race-fueled history and obvious structural inequality.

Before we can examine and fix the larger systems of racism, classism, sexism, we need to look internally, within ourselves, to uncover our prejudices and how we have been programmed to think and accept that this is the way society functions.”

— Ms. Alicia Tapia

When asked how this exploration could be applied to the community at SHC, Ms. Tapia explained, “It’s no secret that we have had racial incidents occur in our family.  There was harm done, whether intentional or not, and we must acknowledge the harm that has been caused in our community. There must be apologies given through speech and/or action, and most of all our community must heal in order to truly move forward”. Just like at SHC, major racial disparities can still be seen in our country. The sooner we acknowledge these and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions, the sooner we can grow and further integrate communities. Of course, these disparities are a part of the larger American government, but they also can be found in smaller communities like that of SHC. Ms. Tapia notes “We need to look out for each other. if one part of us is hurting, we are all hurting, as the Church hymn goes… ‘We are one body…’ If we can’t see that, or choose not to see that, parts of our community are hurting, then it’s like we’re hiding behind our walls of privilege and choosing not to see suffering.”

This accountability not only lies in our communities but in our own bodies and minds. Everything we grow up seeing in the news, media, and in our communities has an effect on our perspective and intuition. As further noted by Ms. Tapia, “Before we can examine and fix the larger systems of racism, classism, sexism, we need to look internally, within ourselves, to uncover our prejudices and how we have been programmed to think and accept that this is the way society functions”. Personal action and exploration are key to changing how you think and perceive different people. If you believe it’s important to make a change in how America views different races, start with yourself. Structural change is important, but personal education is a significant step towards challenging racism in your community. 

The Book Society can guide you to those important steps of education if you choose to follow along with them in their next reading. The Book Society will be reading 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives by Dashka Slater, a true story exploring crime and racism in Oakland. With a direct connection to the Bay Area, Ms. Tapia, Ms. Apschinkat, the student leaders, and all of the Book Society invites you to join them in their reading and discussion this school year!