Minority Report: the state of race relations at PMHS

Jonny Fernandez, a Hispanic student, said he came to Penn Manor to get away from the fights and racial violence in his urban high school.

So far he hasn’t been disappointed.

“I feel more comfortable here than at my old school,” he said.

Many other minority students expressed similar sentiments, although  some expressed the complete opposite after transferring to Penn Manor, a mostly white, mostly suburban and rural high school that has experienced racial incidents in the past.

Laronn Lee, an African American student who transferred here this year, says he’s never felt uncomfortable either, “everybody’s pretty friendly.”

That leads to the question, is racism still going on in Penn Manor?

“Yes to the tenth  power,” said Lashaya Baker a minority, “but it doesn’t matter because ya’ll can’t get me outta here.”

“There’s a difference in being afraid of being jumped in the hallway and being called a name,” said Quay Hanna, a race-relations consultant hired by Penn Manor in 1997 when tensions here reached a boiling point. “Sometimes it’s a matter of different cultures rather than different races,” Hanna  said.

“Sometimes I hear people talk about their parents being (racist),” reported Alyssa Figueroa.

Hanna said some fears of racism at Penn Manor are based on the past, widely publicized,  incident but it’s also based on stereotypes people have put on different school districts, deserved or not.

“I’ve actually had a student say that he heard that the gym was used on the weekends for klan meetings,” said Hanna.   “Many students are told to watch their backs when they come here, especially if they’re coming from different cultural backgrounds.  All of this is untrue, but rumors are powerful and hard to dispel unless one is here and able to speak against the lies.”

Many of the views observed here contrast with each other and many echo the same tune.

“Its not that it’s so much racial tension here, just uncomfortable,” said Natasha Fletcher, although Fletcher said she has never had a racial incident here in Penn Manor school district she still feels that not everybody is showing their true colors.

In 1997, some Caucasian students wore all white t-shirts in support of a fellow classmate suspended for initiating a fight with an African American student.

Now more than 10 years later there hasn’t been another major racial incident and students seem to be heading in the right direction even though the number of minorities attending the high school has more than doubled.

Minorities represented 5 percent of the total school district population in 1999-2000 and they now make up 13 percent, according to official state records.

The Hispanic population has grown fastest.   According to the Pa. Department of Education statistics, in 1999, there were 109 Hispanic students in Penn Manor.  That population has more than tripled  since then to 361 students.  Likewise, the white student population has decreased in the past eight years.  White students numbered 5,161 in 1999.  Now there are 4,536 white students.

Number of Minority Students in Penn Manor School District

Many students of color say that they do not really feel tension here, but are uncomfortable, not just because they are the minority but because they are misunderstood.

“People are afraid of what they don’t know,” Marcos Rivera said.

However, more and more students from the most polar of backgrounds are becoming more accepting and more aware of unjust stereotypes.

More than a dozen students, mostly minorities, were interviewed at Penn Manor on this issue, among them were several white students.
“I think it’s great, we need more diversity,” proclaimed Abby Newport, a white student.

“It’s a good thing because all of the minorities will become the majority,” said Josh Herr, another white student.

“It’s the 21st century and I think it’s time everyone is accepted,” said Morgan Fletcher.

“I think Penn Manor has more to offer than (my old school),” said Ariela Contreras, a minority student.

In every story there are two sides, two views, but one truth. Although it has become clear that racism has not quite left from this school, or from this world for that matter, it is evident that it’s getting the hint from students who go to school here.

By: Robert Henry

Comments

  1. Ariela C. says:

    Though I don’t personally know him, I agree with Josh Herr; it seems as though minorities are definitely going to become the majority in later years.

    I’ve only attended Penn Manor for almost a year and it looks as if its progess in overcoming its racial issues is improving.

    Great Article Penn Points Staff! =)

  2. I really like that racism is being brought to a minimum because I still believe it is a big issue, even among teens. I think that making it clear that racial discrimination is untollerable is very comendable.

    CHEERS!!!

  3. cyle williams says:

    I think that its good that people are not that racist at this school because it makes fights a lot more less here.

  4. Felix Y. Gonzalez says:

    I want to thank Mrs. Baldrigde for allowing us the opportunity to learn about this article, because it directly relates to me. This article mentions legitimate concerns that many students have, and the statistics provided help to dismiss any worries caused by any minorities who are concerned about racial problems in our school.

  5. Rebecca Lexa says:

    I feel that no one is a minority. marting luther king wanted man to be equal, we are all human beings which means no one is above another. i feel that people dont understand what it feels like to be called a “minority”. How would caucasion people like to be a minority. we dont appreciate being labled ither than a human being. thank you.

  6. Lashaya Baker says:

    Thanks for putting my quote in the article even though my words were changed around the message is still clear. I hope one day this school will be able to look at one anther equally and realize that no one race is better than another… i feel bad for the people that feel as though they dont get treated differently in this school because when they get out into the real word they wont know how to cope with it.And also teachers and principals need to be aware and stop trying to hide the fact that there is racism in this school and disciplinary actions should be put forth if we’re taught racism is bad there should be a punishment for it…keep that in mind for next years freshman things need to change in this school seriously…. it’s the worst feeling in the world to be judged because of the color of your skin which you have no control over, to hear people whisperin behind you calling you n****r and s***k when you never did anything wrong to them for them to be so rude to you hurts. but for some reason thats ok in this school and nobody gets in trouble. my very good frind last year got called a n****r by a white boy she cussed him out..she got sent to the office and susspended…he didn’t get into any trouble what type of system is that it dissapoints me. LUCKILY i’m the type of girl that does’nt let thigs like that keep me down…thank god~~

    [Editor’s note: An expletive was deleted from Lashaya’s comments for the story.]

  7. I really don’t see a problem with racism in the school. The n word isn’t even considered offensive anymore. Our media and rappers use the word on a daily basis. Our generation morphed it into another meaning just like what we did with the word gay. The N word is now considered a greeting to a friend in a manner that is meant to be silly. I personally don’t say it but this is what I have noticed.

    I think the real issue is the discrimination against homosexuals. Walking down the hallway one hears the term “f*g” atleast twenty times coming from various boys and girls in the school.