After disagreement in RBHS about the courtwarming Thursday theme, “Country Club Sports,” scores of students came into RBHS clothed in all black instead of wearing attire tied to the theme day.
These students claim the theme has “racial undertones,” as a predominant amount of those that attend country clubs are a higher socio-economic level, disenfranchising those who are lower.
Multicultural Achievement Committee (MAC) Scholars discussed their lack of excitement about the theme, president Ojurere Shonekan said. The movement began when Shonekan, a senior, Dr. Deborah Greene, MAC Scholars’ sponsor, senior Trazhane Richardson and senior Daeyon Jordan passed out small slips of paper Tuesday about a blackout protest, senior Savannah Singletary, a MAC Scholars member, said. The papers said, “The theme is offensive.” It also stated, the club “value[s] you and your contribution to RBHS and we want our voices heard”.
“We hope that the RBHS Student Council that are supposed to be representing us will think about how they represent their entire student body. Obviously they represent themselves and their friends, but they’re not representing the people that put them in that position as well as we would like them to,” Shonekan said. “When you think of country clubs, you think of a select group of people, and it tends to exclude a select group of people. Even if you look at the people who are a part of Student Council, those are the people who would expect to benefit from country clubs, and we don’t. We feel like it’s exclusive.”
In response to the circulation of the protest notes, Student Council held a meeting during first hour Wednesday. Afterward president Justin Hajicek and vice president Julia Bower met with Shonekan, Richardson, senior Ron’Tayza Hill and Dr. Greene to discuss MAC Scholars’ concerns.
Treasurer of Student Council Boon Palipatana, a senior, said he believes the conference was a step toward unification of the school.
“As far as I know, by the end of the meeting we all collectively held the position that we will continue to support ‘Country Club Sports Day’ but will also welcome the continuation of blackout day if people still wish to partake in it,” said Palipatana, who attended neither meeting. “At the end of the day, I think we did our best to convey that the intention of the theme days was never meant to be offensive or create social divides.”
Singletary wants to voice her opinion to make a positive impact but doesn’t want the movement to be misinterpreted.
“It’s a huge wake-up call, not only for myself but as a community, as a nation, we need to think about what we do and what we say,” Singletary said. “I know that [the theme] was totally innocent, [and] we’ve always been known as the rich preppy school. I’m not uncomfortable with the fact that it was an innocent ordeal. I’m more uncomfortable with the fact that not a lot of people stepped back and looked at it from a minority perspective.”
The situation has made members of Student Council varying degrees of frustrated, confused and empathetic, and sophomore Kam Farid hopes the two groups, as well as the rest of the school, can move forward and avoid future divisiveness in the student population.
“As part of [Student Council] we have to respect their opinion and realize that that is a potential problem that we face with this year’s themes and we need to represent the whole school. It’s unfortunate that some people saw it that way and it’s our job to make it better,” Farid said.”I think one thing we can do to move forward is keep an open mind about all these suggestions about things because it can be offensive, and we need to respect all the opinions. We want to keep the school together. We want to be strong together.”
Shonekan hopes the same and wants students to know that the protest isn’t a representation of hate but rather concern.
“We don’t think they have bad intentions. We don’t think they’re evil. We just want them to know how we feel. The whole country club theme isn’t inclusive of everybody, and it doesn’t represent the entire RBHS population,” Shonekan said. “We just want them to be aware. We don’t hate them. We don’t have any bad intent for them, and we know that they don’t have any bad intent for us.”
Additional reporting by Rochita Ghosh
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