How Racial Incidents After the 2016 Election Brought “Courageous Conversations” to SRHS

Esmeralda Navarro
4 min readSep 25, 2018

During the 2018 summer break a group of self selective teachers, administrators, and classified staff from San Rafael High School participated in a Beyond Diversity seminar: Courageous Conversations. They explored issues concerning institutionalized racism within the school system and how it affects each individual type of student.

“personally transforming two-day seminar designed to help leaders, educators, students, parents, administration and community participates understand the impact of race on student learning and investigate the role that racism plays in institutionalizing academic achievement disparities.” states the Courageous Conversation and Pacific Educational Group.

When interviewing San Rafael High School’s principal, Mr. Dennis, he explained that the overall school goal through these seminars was/is to identify the institutionalized barriers and be able to address them.

Since the 2016 Presidential election schools across the nation, specifically focusing on Marin County have seen numerous accounts of racial incidents and hate crimes targeting minorities. This was and has been the motivating factor for these seminars at SRHS, Redwood, and even Drake High School.

In Marin County most of these incidents and crimes are directed to the heavy population of Latinx kids from the Euro-American/White groups. At San Rafael and Terra Linda High there are large numbers of newcomers from Central America that also are targeted by not only Euro-Americans/White folk, but kids of their own ethnic background that were raised in the United States. There have also been a significant amount of insensitive jokes directed towards the Jewish and African American communities.

“The school most definitely is self segregated, white kids hang with white kids and latinos with latinos, etc. There’s many kids at San Rafael High School that are racist and this does affect the school” explains a young Latinx female student who wishes to remain private.

Shortly after, SRHS signed a two year contract pledging to combat these issues. Mr. Dennis described his opinion on the importance of this contract because evidence of institutional racism in schools shows up in who is teaching students, who thinks they belong at school, and which students are in certain classes.

Ms. Mazariegos works in the college/career center ann is always working with students on college related responsibilities and opportunities attended the seminar over the summer. She thought that the seminar brought awareness to the staff and much of its purpose is to be able to be more culturally aware of the population at SRHS.

“Racism exists everywhere” stated Ms. Mazariegos

She went on to mention how these seminars are not always effective for everyone. She explained how you must show up with an open mind and that even though it can be uncomfortable for some, it is a very important conversation that needs to keep happening.

The seminar was based and revolved around a big packet that had many activities and snippets of famous quotes or literature on the topic. Mr. Sanborn the SRHS librarian felt that the “racial consciousness” portion was most moving to himself. He was able to reflect on his own background as a White male in America. According to Mr. Sanborn he was able to notice how much unconscious racism exists and how many overlook the systematic factors.

Another activity that was a favorite was based on the idea of White Privilege. During this activity everyone was in a circle answering a set of questions in their own packet, once they totalled up their score which was based on privilege, everyone turned over the paper and presented it to the rest of the circle. With a variety of very low and high scores the staff was able to realize the amount of privilege some had based on their ethnic background or color of their skin.

Questionaire for activity
End result of Avtivity

“Shocking, powerful, and emotional” were words describing this activity by the administrative assistant, Ms. Rodriguez.

Through this activity Ms. Rodriguez was left feeling overwhelmed by the difference in scores because she hadn’t realized how many of her co workers had many different experiences. She was most importantly surprised at how much of a low score she got. She explained how even though she is of Mexican heritage, her skin color is white meaning she can still pass off as white and “American”, but she was not aware of all the other implications that have affected her.

Principal Mr. Dennis has made it clear that this conversation will not end and the school/district will continue to take action in order to make the overall school climate comfortable and welcoming for all students of all backgrounds.