In May of the 2018-2019 school year, the Equity board sent a video to all the staff in Carrboro High School. The video was shown to all students during their fourth period, and consisted of staff and students in Carrboro who were willing to share their experiences of racial inequality to CHS.
Despite the intentions of the video, the reaction of the CHS student body and staff were not the desired outcome.
“We knew it wasn’t going to be perfect, we knew people were going to be upset on multiple sides,” said Anna O’Connell, CHS equity chair.
O’Connell said the video was meant to be quick with some impact. The main purpose was to show students that race-based incidents had the staff’s attention and that they were taking action. However, many students and other staff-members raised questions of concern.
One of the main topics of discussion surrounding the video revolved around the inquiry “why was it only about black and white students?”.
“At the time our thinking was ‘let’s keep it black and white because the incidents that came to our attention as a staff were mainly between black and white students… a lot of the racist language that was being used was particularly targeting black students…” said O’Connell. “It’s also easier for white people to latch onto basically any discrimination other than white and black by saying they’re related to, or close to someone of a race other than black. I think a lot of that goes back to our country’s history of slavery,”..
Kayla Hampton, a student who participated in the making of the video said via email that she was told to be “as blunt as possible” about racial instances she’s faced that made her uncomfortable.
“I knew the video was going to be mostly about African American students and white students because that is where most of the split and issues are in our school,” said Hampton.
Hampton said she was called the “N word” in the video, but she was criticized and “laughed at” for doing so.
“Me and my friends call each other the N word but that’s how we greet each other and that’s how every other black student that I know call each other. We don’t say it to harm each other, but when I said [in the video] what others had called me it was meant to hurt me intentionally,” said Hampton.
Another question concerning the video was in regards to how students and staff were prepared. Supposed rumors circulated around CHS about participants being scripted, and the video was not considered sincere by some of the student body.
“The stories were all genuine, they were all real. The hard part was finding white students who were aware enough of it [racism] that they could point to specific instances in which they were privileged.” said O’Connell.
An anonymous student who participated in the video said that they were pulled out of class and given a few minutes to figure out what they were going to say, then spent most of the time they were given to prepare by expressing their frustrations.
“We all thought that it was ridiculous that there were only black people and white people, and not a single white male. Several tales had to be redone because no one could take it seriously since it was so poorly organized and thought out,” said anonymous.
None of the participating students were able to view the video before it was released, and all who were asked said that they wish the video was approached differently.
Most of the student body who watched the video expressed their disappointment, saying that they wish there was more representation and a “more substantial message” because they found it “deeply problematic” that there were no latinx, arab, or Asian people represented “despite the fact that they face discrimination too”.
While the purpose of the video was to raise awareness of race-based incidents within the school, a lot of questions were raised about the purpose and how encompassing the video was relative to the demographics Carrboro’s students and staff.