Stuy Needs Lessons in Tolerance
May 15th, 2002
Last month, a disagreement broke out in the cafeteria, after an Asian male called a black female a "monkey." Later that day, a group of more than fifty students gathered at the "Asian bar" on the sixth floor, in a tense atmosphere.
Many of us at Stuyvesant think the need for tolerance is too obvious to mention; Stuyvesant students are clearly too "intelligent" to be so intolerant and immature. There is a collective denial of any racial tension at our school.
But the alacrity with which black and Asian students gathered to confront each other reflects that neither group took the incident lightly. It also clearly indicates that as a school, Stuyvesant is not nearly as tolerant or accepting as we would like to believe.
The racially-charged events at Stuy did not stop with verbal attacks or in-school confrontations. Over the last few weeks, race-related fights have repeatedly broken out in Stuy. The tensions climaxed on April 23, when two groups of Stuy students congregated along racial lines, after school in Battery Park. Police with megaphones had to break up the scene.
We can no longer be complacent. We cannot ignore the racial tension at Stuy. We, as a community, must confront and solve the problem. If we don't deal with this ourselves, no one will.
Tolerance is not simply some abstract ideal to be taught to us and then put away in the closet of our brains to gather lint. It is a constant practice that requires more than the application of some universal formula.
It is not easy to change our ways and learn to accept all of the diversity in our community. But it is the most important thing that we can do on a day-to-day basis. Maybe it's the only important thing.
Stuyvesant is not just about college preparation or classes. It is not only a learning center, but a community as well. High school is a critical stage in our growth as scholars. It is also a time when we develop as people.
A step towards such education would be the addition of a class such as Prejudice and Persecution to the core curriculum. This may seem an unrealistic action, especially in light of the recent budget cuts.
But it is undeniable that we need a class to prepare us to deal with social issues-in school, in our community, and in our future. At the very least, students should attend one of the guest lectures hosted by Warren Donin's Prejudice and Persecution class, at some point during their Stuy careers.
We need to engage in a community-wide discussion so that situations like those that have plagued Stuy for the past month are not left to fester in the future. Unspoken anger can only beget conflict.
The Spectator wants to provide a forum on race. In that spirit, we will be featuring a "Race at Stuy" column, starting next issue. We want to hear accounts of your experiences with race at Stuy.
Stuyvesant must come together as a school and a community to discuss the very serious issue of race. Only after we acknowledge that there exists such a problem at Stuy can we begin to search for a solution.