Letters to the Editor

Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:

As a supposed pillar of Andover, “equity and inclusion” is often advertised in promotional materials as a value that is woven into the fabric of our community. But as underrepresented minorities, this has not been our reality. Looking back at our time at Andover, we have been reminded time and time again that this community is not truly one built to support black and Latinx students. Although Andover prides itself on its commitment to cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity, the inclusion of underrepresented identities does not seem to be a priority amongst community members. Even with strides towards social consciousness by way of forums, speakers, and conversations, there is a gap between being aware of and having genuine empathy for the experiences of underrepresented minorities on this campus. It often feels as though we are incidental members of the community, and that our presence on campus is for the edification of our white peers. How can we thrive at Andover if we are treated as nothing more than an amendment to “youth from every quarter”?

We write this letter in observation of the various times in which Andover’s underrepresented minority community has felt ostracized. As students of underrepresented racial minorities make up less than 15 percent of the school population, according to The Phillipian’s 2016 “State of the Academy,” it is extremely difficult to lose those with whom we have shared our experiences. This letter is not an attempt to justify or oversimplify circumstances surrounding any student’s departure, but rather an observation of variations in both the institutional and community response. We have witnessed, on many occasions, uproar over similar situations in which the only difference is that the student in question is white. The narrative is often that when a white person breaks the rules, they are not at fault and their actions do not warrant any severe repercussions. Yet, when black and Latinx students are faced with the decision to leave, it feels commonplace for the community to place blame on them, to see them as the perpetrators who are undeniably in the wrong. It is easy to criminalize them. There is little sympathy for these students when they have broken rules. The feelings of loss that usually accompany the withdrawal or dismissal of a white peer appear to be absent, which is likely related to the fact that the experiences of underrepresented students are so distant to our peers. We wish that the support Andover students offer to our white peers would be extended to black and Latinx students.

These feelings of alienation are applicable even outside the realm of disciplinary action. We often feel the need to validate our places at Andover. We are constantly forced to be hyper aware of our race, while our peers do not face the same obligation. In situations where race is discussed, the responsibility falls upon underrepresented minorities to educate others. It is not our job, as students ourselves, to be the lone standard bearers of entire movements or identities on campus. Furthermore, the times when we do want to talk about our race, it feels as though we are making others uncomfortable. As members of the Andover community, we should have the opportunity to speak out about our experiences here without feeling invalidated.

Every year, the same grievances are being repeated, but with an ever-changing student body, it takes more than a small group of people to make any difference. As a community that claims to live up to an ethos of inclusion and empathy, there must, at the very least, be a genuine interest in the complete experiences of black and Latinx students beyond the academic setting. Cultural competency means being conscious of the ways in which different cultures interact and adapting our interactions to reflect our comprehension, which in turn allows us to appreciate Andover’s diversity. We, as a school, need to begin actively practicing cultural competency as it is necessary to prosper in cross-cultural situations.

This letter is about the mindset of Andover as a whole, a place where inclusion often feels superficial. Minorities at Andover have often felt a disconnect between themselves and the rest of the community, sometimes leading to overwhelming feelings of exclusion and eventually the decision to depart. Many students here have, at some point, felt that they that they do not belong. The empathy that Andover has previously proven itself so capable of expressing must be fully extended to the black and Latinx communities as well.

Sincerely,

Amadi Essoka-Lasenberry ’17

Nicole Rodriguez ’17

Zoe Sylvester-Chin ’19

Signatories:

Aisha Akoshile ’17

Mahlet Ayana ’17

Paloma Blandon ’17

Rahmel Dixon ’17

Lydia Fikru ’17

Wilbert Garcia ’17

Kiarah Hortance ’17

Isabel Jauregui ’17

Eudy Lopez ’17

Soleil Miller ’17

Daphnie Ordonez ’17

Rosie Poku ’17

Jair Suazo ’17

Myioshi Williams ’17

Michael Codrington ’18

Cindy Espinosa ’18

Eastlyn Frankel ’18

Natalie Landaverde ’18

Sarah Langr ’18

Emily Ndiokho ’18

Emily Sanchez ’18

Teagan Thompson ’18

Amiri Tulloch ’18

Keely Aouga ’19

Tiffany Chang ’19

Angel Cleare ’19

Aliesha Jordan ’19

Anna Lopez ’19

Trinity Sazo ’19

Jamille Taveras ’19

Erin Vasquez ’19

Nov 4, 2016