By Zach Selassie '18
From an outsider’s perspective, St. Albans seems to adhere to the stereotypes that go hand-in-hand with all-boys, private schools. We wear a blazer and tie everyday; the vast majority of us live in affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods; most of us go to colleges and universities that have a history of being for white men. In all fairness, however, St. Albans has improved its racial diversity since I began attending. In fourth grade, just four out of the forty-four students in my grade were black. Now, nine out of the seventy-eight are black—a number which more accurately represents the national average.
Among the faculty, the lack of racial diversity is worrying. There are just eight teachers of color in the entire school. We speak profoundly about how important diversity is, but what is the school doing to promote it? Racial diversity among teachers does not appear to be changing any time soon. Of the six new faculty members being hired in the Upper School next year, one is Latino, and five are white.
The lack of representation in the St. Albans administration trickles down into the way that students behave. I have heard students utter “n*****” far too often, and I have seen Snapchats of students mocking their racial features. A lack of racially diverse role-models fosters a lack of respect for people of color.
Since I first told my classmates that I wanted a Black Student Union (BSU), they have mocked me heavily. Whenever I point out that something is racist, I receive a slew of sarcastic comments such as: “You should have a BSU for that.” A BSU is not a pity party for Black students to point out racism. It is meant to be a forward-thinking organization working in tandem with our school to promote racial diversity and to bring to light issues hampering the Black student experience. St. Albans is one of the only private schools in DC to not have a BSU. Sidwell, GDS, Maret, NCS, WIS, and others have a BSU. Why shouldn’t St. Albans?
Many students don’t know this, but St. Albans used to be segregated. The black students would have classes in what would now equate to closets underneath the kitchen while the white students would be attending classes in the much nicer classrooms upstairs. In our history classes, especially US History, this should be a topic that we spend a great amount of time dealing with. As important as desegregation is, it is equally important to acknowledge that we still go to the same St. Albans that once would have forbidden I take a class with white people because I look a certain way. Not once have we discussed this in any class. In a predominantly white institution, both the school and the students need to work their best to preserve the black voice that is so often left out of the day-to-day conversation. The best way to do this is through the creation BSU.
My greatest regret from my time here is that I didn’t push enough for the creation of a BSU. I hope that an underclassman reads this article and continues working to create a better environment for all students.