Racial Equity Focus: Wilson High School Students Hold Community Conversation to Address Racism and Harassment

On Thursday, September 26th, students from Wilson High School organized a conversation for parents and community members regarding the racism they have experienced on campus.

This event was sparked by an OPB article this summer highlighting racism at three PPS high schools. In this article, students reported enduring blatant racism such as, “N-words” carved into desks, swastikas drawn on lockers, native languages being mocked, and tokenism for many students of color.

Last year, in response to these incidents, students from the Black Student Union, Muslim Student Association, Asian-Pacific Islander Student Union, Jewish Student Union, and Latinx/Hispanic Student Union organized a walk out and wrote a letter listing several demands. 

In preparation for this coming school year, these same student groups organized the September 26th community conversation. First and foremost, they wanted to inform their parents and community members about their experiences. They believe that many families are simply unaware of what’s been happening on the predominantly White campus. Students also hoped this event could lead to better transparency and communication between school leadership, the District, and the Wilson community.

Thursday’s event was incredibly powerful. One by one, eleven students shared stories of racism, anti-Semitism, shame, fear, and cultural assimilation, forming a sharp, collective account of their experiences. The audience, comprised of parents, community members, Wilson High School administrators, several PPS School Board members, and local media, listened intently to what each student shared.

Nichole Watson, co-chair of PAT Racial Equity Task Force, helped organize the event and facilitated the conversation.

You can read more about this event on OPB, the Oregonian, KATU, and the Southwest Connection.

Racial Equity Focus will be an ongoing feature in the Advocate this year. Please contact Nichole Watson, for more information or ideas for future items, nichole.watson@oregoned.org. Nichole is on full-time release this school year, thanks to a one-year grant from the NEA designed to support racial equity organizing like the Wilson High School forum.