Asian Students Boycott South Philly High
Well, after the school officials ignorantly claimed that targeted assaults on 26 Asian students were not racially motivated assaults but were rather fights… And after those same officials stated that the learning environment continues to be positive, the targeted group of immigrant Asian students have begun a boycott of South Philly High School.
South Philly High is nearly entirely populated by students who are people of color*. And it seems that rather than delve into the difficulties in dealing with the racial nuances of group violence and oppression between two different groups of people of color – the district continues to attempt white wash the entire matter and continues to call the ongoing situation “fighting.”
Yet the advantages of one minority community over the other in this supposed fighting would suggest a limited English-speaking Asian student who is outnumbered 5 to 1 by black students would not seek out a race based – “black kid” to fight in this context.
Conversely, there is article after article quoting black students openly talking about looking for an Asian kid to fight. So it would seem that racial terrorizing of a small minority group is a fundamental element of this situation. It is simply not safe to have an Asian face at South Philly High.
*South Philadelphia High, a school of some 900 students, educates many immigrant students. About 70 percent of its students are African-American, 18 percent are Asian, 6 percent are white, and 5 percent are Latino. Those who are boycotting say immigrants are often targeted at the school.
The second overt marker for getting your a** kicked at South Philly High seems to be a foreign accent. There is an anti-immigrant sentiment expressed over and over in interviews about the school community:
“Our English is limited. We can’t speak English fluently like them. They don’t like us because we are Asian,” said Ly.
“They say, ‘Go back to your country,’ ” said Wei Chen, president of the South Philadelphia High Chinese American Student Association, a group he organized last year in response to the school’s violence.
And while the district suggests they are taking the concerns of Asian families to heart, administrators continues up to today to repeat their claim that this situation is improving:
Michael Silverman, the regional superintendent who oversees South Philadelphia, acknowledged long-standing racial tensions, but he said that since summer the efforts of a new administration at the school had calmed things somewhat.
This is the current position of this school district administrator, even as Asian students state that they hide in classrooms between periods in order to be safe. Even as students are telling district officials right at this moment that they are terrified to come to school:
Liu emphasized that there has been a continuing racial problem at school. In the past, she said, Asian students were allowed to stay in classrooms if they were too scared to leave. But now many don’t feel the school itself is safe.
Asian students routinely are attacked and their money is stolen, others said. Some don’t report the violence for fear of reprisal or because they don’t trust staff.
And through all of this the district official appear to be wringing their hands with a what more can we do attitude.
In meetings, the district has promised action against offenders, plus more security cameras and more police protection. There will be meetings with parents and community members – some of which were scheduled before the violence last week – and a U.S. Department of Justice mediation program.
Yesterday, Silverman said, the school’s five counselors went from room to room talking about students’ fears. A weekly program where students from all groups meet with administrators to discuss safety concerns will continue, he said.
“We have also talked about diversity training for the adults in the building and the kids,” Silverman said.
Well, one step there makes some sense – taking action against the offenders would be a good and totally assumed first step if all of this violence had been targeted at a small group of white students in a racially diverse school. Get on it right now!
But if administrators are going to continue to suggest that they will be treating this as school fighting and if they refuse to consider the racial inequality and therefore necessary self-defense on the part of the targeted group then that work be counterproductive.
According to representatives from the Asian community, victims of the violence have yet to be interviewed by district officials. Exactly how the administration plans to take action against offenders without a grasp of the problem is beyond me.
As far as the remainder of the districts efforts go, they are window dressing as far as I am concerned. As long as officials are planning to continue to view this as a minor problem in a school that is continuing to improve as far as racial tensions are concerned they can do all the counseling about ‘student fears’ they want. I am not sure what school counselors offering to listen to the terrified does to reduce the terrorism.
And if administrators are planning to continue to consider the public terrorizing and inability to learn on the part of 18% of the school’s students unrelated to the overall ‘positive learning environment’ at South Philly – what exactly is diversity training going to do for the community.
This district administration needs to have a major perspective shift as to who they are referring to when they use the word student. Each Asian student’s individual experiences, feelings, and concerns must be taken into account and represented as a significant part of South Philly High learning environment, measurement of safety, or any other community data about the school that the officials throw around.
It is time to recognize the full humanity of these students and to accept their experiences at the school as real, truthful, and accurate. This is a big and necessary step for any forward action to take place.
And one I do not see happening at this point. Unfortunately the alternative reality, the present reality, is one in which district officials hide behind their bureaucratic language and window dressing solutions, while their wall of cultural ignorance and willful dismissal of students experiences continue to be the largest enactment of racial violence within this community.
Members of Asian Americans United continue to represent the students and offer them support. And Angry Asian Man has taken the time to provide you with contact information for district officials. I believe they still may need some educating on this subject – make use of the contact information to share your thoughts with them.