CULTURE Club combats racism

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Members of the Steamboat Springs High School CULTURE Club gather for a group photo before a meeting April 20.

— Anyone in the Steamboat Sprngs High School CULTURE Club will tell you there is something missing at our school: diversity. Worse, there is a serious lack of acceptance for diversity.

Students at the school undertake an interesting paradox - regardless of the general absence of different ethnicities and religions, racist comments and prejudiced jokes are thrown around so loosely by some of the students you might think the civil rights movement had never happened. It is for that reason that English teacher Jenny Gabriel, along with a few of her students, decided to start a club advocating diversity and acceptance in our community.

CULTURE, Community Unified Learning to Understand and Respect Everyone, had a turn out of 65 students at its first lunch meeting about two months ago.

"We were pleased and surprised at how many students from different backgrounds were genuinely interested in integrating this community and who wanted to work for acceptance," said Gabriel.

As the club began to regulate weekly lunch meetings, it became a group of about 30 students determined to see a change.

Within the club, there are three separate research groups focused on various issues surrounding prejudice. One group is focused on the history of racism in Routt County, and has located accounts from past residents describing the KKK parading down the main street of Yampa in the early 1900s. Another group is focused on legal and political issues such as immigration and affirmative action. The third group is focused on gay rights issues, including gay marriage, and works to eliminate stereotypes and promote acceptance surrounding the gay community.

The club has been involved in activities such as a group viewing of the film "Crash," followed by an hour and a half discussion about the social implications of modern prejudice. The group also participated in this year's International Night at Olympian Hall, for which the club undertook an after-school project of making more than three hundred crepes.

A prominent issue CULTURE is focused on is integrating the Latino and West African populations - both were present at the International Night - into the rest of the community more successfully. Some club members also are volunteering for the Partners Program through Integrated Community to help support younger kids of Latino backgrounds in Steamboat.

The club has provided a positive atmosphere for students where they are not only able to express their frustration about prejudice in their school, but also given the opportunity to change it.

"It's great that we finally have a club where you meet people who are just as passionate as you about promoting diversity," said Zach Dunlop, a sophomore and involved club member.

Another member, Graham Geppert, said "not many people in our school are genuinely racist, but a lot of them do say racist things."

"These comments are made as the result of ignorance," added Dunlop, "Ignorance is the only thing that can cause this mind set when half of the kids in our school haven't even met someone of a different ethnicity or sexuality. Changes definitely need to be made."

Comments

SJBlessing 7 years, 8 months ago

My two sons attend George Washington High School in Denver. It is an inter-city school that is diversified.

My oldest son's girlfriend is beautiful and Hispanic and has the second best grade point in the school. She joined the Spanish Club and in the first meeting the club wanted to "experience the Spanish culture" and the ideas from the club to accomplish this were to "cruise Federal Blvd and have dinner at Taco Bell". How pathetic!

The point that I am trying to make is just because you don't have diversity within the school does not mean that you can not have knowledge, understanding and compassion and this can be taught - it does not need to be experienced - because those who live the experience can still be ignorant.

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JazzSlave 7 years, 8 months ago

While I can appreciate the intent, I am mindful of old saying about the road to hell. The danger is that this initiative might stray into PC land and empower the thought police.

I also would have liked to have seen the reporter cite examples of the "serious lack of acceptance for diversity." I have yet to encounter anything like it in Steamboat at large. If it exists at the high school, I am confident that most of the kids will grow out of it.

Steamboat is the most lilly-white community I've ever been a part of. Beyond our young people traveling or moving away, I'm not sure there's a great deal to be done - except to let them live their lives and learn for themselves what is and is not acceptable in the real world. Experience is always the best teacher.

Time and emerging generations are also helpful. My dad is in his 70s. To this day, his surviving siblings refuse all contact with him because he married a woman who was neither white nor Catholic. My cousins, on the other hand, recognize the prejudice for the bs that it is despite their parents' attempts indoctrinate another generation of narrow minds.

Incidentally, many of my friends call me "Sep" (which I also used as an airname from time to time when I was in radio). It's an acronym, and it stands for Slant Eyed Polack. If Mr. Geppert is being held up as the authority here, my friends and I must be pretty ignorant.

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