Issue 25 • Feb-Mar 2019

Humans of The Tavern

Race & Ethnicity: Cultural Relations

“For fourteen years, I attended a day school in Ho Chi Minh City that had a predominantly Vietnamese student body but a completely white faculty. As part of the majority, I did not experience any racial discrimination. Additionally, we never had discussions about racial issues due to the lack of diversity at my school. Coming to America and becoming one of the few Vietnamese students at Phillips Exeter Academy was a huge change for me. There were many times throughout the year that I felt like my culture was underrepresented. However, at the same time, boarding school gathers students from all over the world and I am able to learn about different cultures from my peers. Additionally, I have been able to find teachers of color and people that I can look up to because of Phillips Exeter Academy’s diverse faculty.”

- Tien Duong, Phillips Exeter Academy

Interview by Aiwen Desai

Photograph by Thuy Anh Duong

Interviewer: Katie Renevo

"Groton has done a great job of emphasizing the mantra of diversity and inclusion through workshops, Cultural Day, food in the dining hall, and so on, but I think the most powerful type of interaction is in the small moments. My roommates and friends and classmates hail from South Africa, Sweden, Korea--you name it, and there's so much to learn from their individual stories. Discussions in the classroom, at check-in, sharing stories of home with friends and teachers in the dorm--these are the times when I learn the most and gain the most perspective about the different cultures and backgrounds in the community."

- Josh Guo, Groton School

“In college, I was not aware that diversity was something the United States or teachers had to work on. As a history major, the classes I took were all content based, so while I studied different cultures in regards to human rights and genocide, my learning did not extend to cultural fabric like diversity and inclusion. Therefore, as far as my formal education goes, its ability to help me address issues of diversity was minimal. In the new curriculum at Milton, we are focusing on studying a variety of voices in every unit. For example, in a regular US History class we use a textbook from a white guy, Eric Foner, who basically says “here’s a paragraph about Native Americans.” Instead, in the new curriculum, we actually get to read John Ross (a former Cherokee leader)’s speech. Reading those types of primary documents lets us hear the voices of women, of natives, of laborers, etc, and get different and more personal perspectives on historical events.”

Robert McGuirk, Milton Academy

Interviewer: Nara Mohyeddin

Interviewer: Angel Cleare

”I was born and raised in a homogenous environment, and everywhere I looked I saw people who looked and acted similar to me. So when I finally arrived at Phillips Academy, I experienced a culture shock. Though http://andover.edu claimed at that time that 42% of the student population were students of color, I soon realized the true meaning of that percentage. Yes, there are approximately 42-48% students of color attending P.A., but quite a small percentage are underrepresented students of color (Black, Latinx, and/or Native American). Moving to a diverse community has completely changed my outlook on cultures around the world. I am more open to learning of others’ backgrounds and the experiences that come with their cultural identities. I have also significantly expanded my cultural competence through campus events such as Alianza Latina’s potluck and salsa lessons during Latin Arts Weekend, the Chinese Department’s annual New Year’s celebration, and Commons’ attempts to serve food from different cultures for dinner. Cultural interactions considerably affect how I navigate throughout Andover, and my own journey regarding self identification.”

- Abigail Ndikum, Phillips Academy

“Although this school tries to educate students about other cultures, I think it’s a shallow and surface level of understanding of a culture with deep history. I think my culture has a lot of history like any other. It’s more about my family taught me what I should value in life, such as family and happiness. I have a rough experience with language barriers. Although I was raised in America for most of my life, I still have trouble with English. Especially when my mother immigrated to America, arriving there not knowing how to speak English; this was about when I was two years old. Living in a household that primarily spoke Vietnamese, I mixed my English and Vietnamese at school and at home. I had trouble communicating with everyone around me, including my mother."

Naomi Lam, NMH

Interview by Max Alphonso

“The issue of cultural appropriation is complicated, like any other social justice issue. On one hand, people should not be taking from a minority or oppressed culture without giving credit; on the other hand, people need to be granted some forgiveness for mistakes in the process of learning about a foreign culture. It’s easy to say everything is fine or nothing is OK; the hard question is: when is it acceptable? Where is the balance? As for mistakes, many celebrities have apologized for cultural appropriation. If they are really sincere, I understand that--it’s just what they have learned, and it’s hard to relearn something you have learned. But if you make a “mistake” one, two, three… five times, like, say, Kylie and Kendall Jenner, then you are not even trying to understand, and that’s unacceptable. Sometimes there is no way to avoid mistakes if you didn’t know better; just acknowledge it and progress from there.”

- Bethany Batista, St. Mark's

"Before coming to Tabor, I lived in Scituate, a town which had a lot of people that were similar to me: looked like me, talked like me, and acted like me. But coming to Tabor I was introduced to a world of new cultures where everyone was different and unique. However, as much as cultures are integrated into Tabor, I have seen how separate they are at the same time. Everyone interacts and are forced to in the classroom as well as extracurriculars, but out of the classroom it becomes a different story. Depending on the situation, people often categorize themselves into groups of identifiable factors, minority students more than others. I understand that people gravitate to others who share identifiable factors between others within the community to feel more comfortable which is very clear outside of the classroom. I often feel isolated from minorities because I become conscious and cautious of what I say or do because I worry about what they may think about me: Am I insensitive? Am I racist? Am I bigoted? Fitting into the majority, I feel as though I have a skewed perception of the cultural integration within the community. I think it's important to have affinity groups, but I wish that that divide was not as harsh as it feels now. Conversations should be possible in and out of the classroom even if they are difficult, but sometimes the conversation is based on us vs. them rather us reaching a better understanding together."

-Maya Yukselen, Tabor

Interview by  Anna Douglas

Photographer: Kjeld Mahoney

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