We, the black students of Brooklyn Technical High School, created the hashtag #BlackInBrooklynTech on Facebook in order to share the stories of racial discrimination and harassment we face as members of a 7.5% minority inside the establishment. The hashtag has gained popularity among the black population of Brooklyn Tech and its alumni following an incident of racial harassment on Facebook. This has opened up the movement of many students discussing their issues, stories, and negative experiences as black students in our high school. It has since been parodied by other students in the building, creating parody hashtags such as #WhiteinBrooklynTech to make jokes and detract from our message.
It is important to note that the racism in Tech is not only student-to-student, but also perpetuated by faculty, teachers, and deans in the school, as well as on an institutional level. Faculty members are complacent in permitting racially insensitive comments in the classroom, and often make offensive comments themselves. This causes a very real and rational fear of retaliation amongst students who feel the need to speak out against these issues and so don’t. The lack of teacher/administration diversity perpetuates this fear. We have felt as though we have a limited number of people to whom we can bring our problems. There is a lack of resources for students of color to deal with transitioning from subpar middle schools to a specialized high school, which causes many black students to slip through the cracks. There is no clear place to report incidents, especially if the general culture in Brooklyn Tech seems to stifle the voices of black students when we do want to speak up.
On Monday, January 11th, Principal Asher met with the Black Student Union of Brooklyn Tech in an effort to hear out our concerns regarding racial insensitivity in our school. Principal Asher listened to about an hour of the issues highlighted in the #BlackinBrooklynTech dialogue, including not only individual stories of blatant racism and microaggressions, but also the frequent dismissal and disregard of them.
The board of BSU also had a meeting with Mr. Asher, Superintendent Karen Watts, and other administrative employees on January 15th to present a list of solutions to the issues aforementioned. Solutions proposed included more diversity/sensitivity training and workshops for both students and teachers and clear guidelines for how to handle accountability on the part of staff and students. Mr. Asher has already begun taking steps enforce mandatory sensitivity training to faculty members in the school, and plans to establish a timeline for each solution he agreed to accommodate. We will continue working with administration to ensure that our solutions are not deferred and that Brooklyn Tech can set a precedent for change in all NYC Specialized High Schools.
Tolu Walase ’16
President of the Black Student Union