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On the need for respect

Flint+Hill%27s+BSU+and+environmental+club+set+up+a+Husky+Dress+for+the+Flint%2C+Michigan+water+crisis.
Flint Hill's BSU and environmental club set up a Husky Dress for the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

Flint Hill's BSU and environmental club set up a Husky Dress for the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

Photo Credit: Brett Carlsen, Getty Images

Photo Credit: Brett Carlsen, Getty Images

Flint Hill's BSU and environmental club set up a Husky Dress for the Flint, Michigan water crisis.

By Andrew Hamilton, Staff Writer

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When it comes to the rules and guidelines of Flint Hill, the four core values have always been a cornerstone of the community. However, there have been several situations where these values have not been given the attention they deserve. In a recent town meeting, the Black Student Union (BSU), in collaboration with the Environmental Club, gave a presentation on Environmental Racism. Although some ridiculed it for its name, Environmental Racism is a very important issue, as it deals with the fact that many people of color and of low-income communities typically live in terrible conditions, with landfills, trash incinerators, coal plants, and toxic-waste dumps. During this presentation, many people were being disrespectful, and this could be noticed through evident bursts of laughter following certain slides of the presentation.

Much of the disrespect to the presentation is likely credited to the fact that it discussed race in the context of environmental adversity.

“I would imagine [the disrespect] would be because of the aggressive delivery and the rhetoric of the lexicons and references used,” said Rohan Sindhwani of the Young Republicans Club. “We all want to see fellow Americans lead a healthy life, and the Husky Dress proposal of collecting donations for water is noble, unifying, and uplifting. Yet the way the message was conveyed came off inconsiderately, one-minded, and too accusatory to some individuals in the community.”

Yet, many of those who disliked the presentation for this reason likely failed to understand that the issue, itself, completely revolves around race.

I was asked at one point why we ‘included’ race in our presentation,” said Alimatou Demba, co-president of the BSU, “because more people—particularly those who were being disrespectful—would be on board if we didn’t. The fact is that it is about race. Environmental Racism is about race, and to take that out of the presentation is to convolute and disrespect the cause. People should be able to hear about issues regarding race without losing their minds, and if they can’t, it is not my problem. If the only way for me to get your respect is to take race—the reality of my people and people like me—out of it, then it is not respect: it’s a lie. And that’s where the disrespect comes in: people do not want to deal with the fact that racism exists in this country.”

However, this is not the only problem. While one can choose to disagree with someone else’s opinions, outright ignoring them is the worst option to take in this type of situation, as all you’re doing is ignoring information that someone else took time and effort to collect.

“Black students—including those who don’t contribute to BSU presentations or aren’t even members of BSU—will often be barraged with questions and derogatory comments regarding the content we put out,” said Nala Duma, co-president of BSU. “The goal in these interactions [for the disrespectful students] is often not to gain deeper understanding or learn more about how to use the information they receive to affect change. The goal is to make black students feel uncomfortable sharing black experiences in American society and around the world within the space that is the Flint Hill community.”

The disrespect shown by multiple students during and after the presentation on environmental racism are clear signs that there is a serious lack of respect within the community itself, and to continue to allow it happen would be the same as removing respect from the four core values of Flint Hill.

So, how do we deal with this problem? Well, the first step is to become a more mature and empathic community. People need to be able to listen to others, even if they don’t agree with them on a more personal level, and there should be no instances where someone goes out of their way to silence another human being.

“Let’s say you don’t agree with anything we’ve produced, that it introduced things you did not understand or are not familiar with.” said Alimatou. “One should be able to disagree with something without disrespecting it.”

The creation of more public forums where a class of students are required to attend with specific themes could help students speak about important topics, similar to the Community of Concern talk that is held for Freshmen and Sophomores. This could allow students to become more comfortable with a wide of topics, and therefore be able to discuss on many.

While these are only my idea of solutions, the truth is that this is an issue that must be resolved for Flint Hill to become a more inclusive and diverse community.

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1 Comment

One Response to “On the need for respect”

  1. ABroche on April 29th, 2017 8:41 am

    I think it is great article.Yes unfortunately, there was a lack of respect during the presentation and as it is mentioned it is unacceptable in a community who claims Respect as one of his core value. Personally I think it is important to be aware of other ethnic groups, to understand their struggles, their culture and their perspectives. Fear of the unknown and fear of the unfamiliar are reasons for racism to occur and lead to abuse, discrimination and marginalization.
    We will be better human beings once we are willing to listen to other viewpoints we might not agree with, with respect. We all belong to the human race, we have the same skeleton, what differentiates us is the color of our hair, eyes, skin, size, height. So show respect and let’s agree to disagree. Dialogue is the only way to move forward with each other.

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On the need for respect