Racism At Copper Hills


In nearly every aspect of society, there is inherent racism. This is due to the ever changing culture we have all been raised in. Our grandparents were alive when schools were desegregated. The first black students were their classmates. Our parents were obviously raised by our grandparents, so they had some of the more “traditional” values instilled in them from a young age. As time has gone on, things have changed, and lots of people have grown with that change. However, that does not immediately eliminate the systemic racism in our society. Even though most of us are not intentionally prejudiced, there are inherent biases and beliefs that have been instilled into us for as long as we have been alive. This results in racism being present everywhere. Copper Hills is no exception.

“Most of the racism here isn’t super overt. But, there are definitely times that I see my non-white students being overlooked or profiled, and that isn’t okay,” explains a Copper Hills teacher. This type of covert racism can be defined as microaggressions. The Merriam Webster dictionary explains that the term “microaggression” is a “comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (such as a racial minority).”

Many individuals view microaggressions as unimportant or irrelevant. However, the vast majority of BIPOC (black, indiginous, people of color) find them offensive and hurtful. “These comments or actions are directed at you without pulling the whole racist card,” explains a BIPOC student attending Copper Hills. “Most of us just take the comments and microaggressions because if we speak out we are being ‘dramatic.’ In my own experience, my middle school teachers would try to tell me it is not a big deal because they don’t believe that the student means any harm.” the student continues.

They go on to say that the silencing of racism causes some of the biggest harm. If we keep dismissing the experience of BIPOC with microaggressions and other racist experiences, we are adding to the underlying problem. Keeping it “hush-hush” will only cut deeper into the issue that already exists.

Non-white students are in agreement that some of the most common microaggressions at CHHS include people constantly trying to touch black students’ hair, being harassed about where they’re “really from,” having their names being mocked by peers (purposely mispronouncing it, using demeaning nicknames, etc), and racial slurs being used somewhat regularly. These problems should not be dismissed or overlooked.

A more serious issue occured at a recent football game. Every game has a theme for the student section, and all the students dress up to match it. This particular game had a “blackout” theme where everyone was supposed to be dressed in black. Some of the students painted their faces, which is normal for football games. On its own, it is a harmless theme made for fun. However, quite a few students took things too far. There were multiple people in the student section who had painted their entire faces black. This is called blackface, and it is extremely offensive and insensitive due to its history.

In her article titled “Why Blackface is Offensive,” Harmeet Kaur informs us that blackface dates back to minstrel shows of the mid-19th century, which were a form of racist entertainment. “White performers darkened their skin with polish and cork, put on tattered clothing and exaggerated their features to look stereotypically ‘black,’” Kaur explains. These minstrel shows belittled and made fun of black people by depicting them in an extremely negative light. 

The National Museum of African American History and Culture teaches us that blackface, racial parody, and stereotypes were made to be a “family amusement” by popular actors who donned blackface. Some of these actors include Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Mickey Rooney. Blackface, or anything that may resemble it, invokes a painful history. While the students at this football game might not have intended to be hurtful or racist, we cannot ignore how actions, whether intentionally racist or not, impact our BIPOC student population. 

After the football game in question, a Copper Hills senior who was in attendance said, “I saw what they were doing and I was honestly shocked. Some people were calling each other the ‘n-word,’ too.” If they were calling each other the “n-word,” then it is clear that some of the students doing blackface were aware of its racist roots, yet did it anyway. 

The Copper Hills Mission Statement reads: “We create an environment where all feel welcome, safe, and comfortable. We treat everyone with kindness, consideration, and respect. We prepare all students for college and career readiness as respectful, responsible, and productive citizens who contribute to the greater good of society.”

How do the previously mentioned microaggressions and events at the football game make every student feel “welcome, safe, and comfortable?” We need to do better. We can make excuses all we want, but this type of behavior is never okay. How are we supposed to make our mission statement a reality when some of our CHHS family has experiences like this? We must recognize our personal contributions to the culture of acceptance at our school. Every single action that is taken by any one of us matters. 

For every story that is told, there are an infinite amount of stories that are left untold. Our job is not to make decisions or draw conclusions for the BIPOC at Copper Hills. Rather, it is to listen to their voices and be better. That starts with educating ourselves.

“A lot of people are so ignorant. Instead of talking to me or asking me a question about something they think I believe or do, they make a conclusion and reflect it on me in a viscous way,” explains a BIPOC student at CHHS. 

We can learn more about this issue by researching topics like microaggressions and using our newfound knowledge to change our own behavior. Additionally, we need to be comfortable with admitting that we don’t know everything there is to know about a person’s race or culture. It is okay to have questions, because they help us learn and grow. We can start by examining ourselves and our behaviors in an unbiased lens. Once we all get on the same page, it will become a lot easier to implement the changes needed to make every student feel welcome at Copper Hills.

Though it is not a problem exclusive to our school, battling racism could not be more important. We must be vigilant in regards to issues like this. No student or teacher should be treated differently because of their race or ethnic background.