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Association of California School Administrators
Association of California School Administrators

A POC’s perspective on the public education system

By Ana Vazquez-Gonzales, Las Lomas High School | May | June 2021
Last year, I had the opportunity to go to my district’s black student summit. My district had invited every black kid to it to talk about their experiences in our mostly white schools. I was overjoyed because I would get to meet other black people in my school district (since at the time I knew basically none). So as soon as I found out, I cheerfully went to the office where they would give us more information. I skipped along the hallways excited to see a room full of people that looked like me. However, as I entered, the reality of the situation set in.
There were only 10, maybe 15 of us. Accounting for a generous estimate of 10 other black kids not coming, that’s still an astoundingly low number. And a lot of people didn’t seem to know or talk to each other. They got to talking soon enough, although I was never invited into the conversation. The summit in the following weeks was great. However, what happened in that room stuck with me. It’s not like it was a bad experience, but it definitely was a shocking one.
Why do I tell you this? Well, mostly to show you what my perspective is on the school system as a person of color. Because if you are white, you have had a totally different experience and therefore a totally different perspective on the public school system. While white students fight about partners and breakups and homework, POC students fight to have an education system that is equitable for ourselves. We have an extra burden that changes our reality of school.
And that is one of the problems of the California public education system. It puts the burden of change on the students, particularly students of color. But our alternatives are limited because we don’t have the experience or resources to create these policies or put them in place. And we not only have to change our education system; we have to constantly play politics in order to get change in our schools, all while maintaining good grades, a social life and maybe keeping a shred of sanity.
Let me be clear — my first reason to be an activist isn’t because I wanted to. I have grown to love it, but I didn’t want to from the start. My first activist action was starting a Latines Unides Club at our school. I wanted to do this not only because I thought it would be cool, but also to have a space in a community that is mostly white. My second activist action was making a movie about racism in schools. While I did this because filmmaking is fun, I also did it because no one was sharing the experiences of people of color in our school system. The third act of activism I’ve done is write this article. And the reason I’m writing this is not only because I like writing, but also to bring light about the issues of racism in schools to a bigger audience.
Every single activism thing I’ve done is not primarily because I wanted to. It’s because I had to. Because I knew that if I did not, no one else would do it for me.
I want to leave you with a couple of main things. There must be more of a push by administration to make a more equitable environment to reduce stress on students. We are all teenagers who not only have to focus on our education, but also have to educate others. And all the adults do is sit back and listen and maybe put policies in place. Maybe start placing equity plans. Maybe start making forums to get student feedback. It’s not about only having administration manage equity problems. It’s a collaboration between everyone in that community. But they should not only be passive listeners. They should be active commentators and active enforcers. White people already get the chance to live a normal high school life with no other worries. The choice of whether people of color will one day be able to achieve that is up to you.
Ana Vazquez-Gonzales attends Las Lomas High School in the Acalanes Union High School District.
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