Will Penn Manor always be known for its racial problems of the past?
Although the number of minorities has doubled in Penn Manor over the past decade, racial incidents have decreased since the high school enlisted the help of reformed racist Quay Hanna.
“Penn Manor is unique,” said Hanna. “It’s hard to measure how more or less racist someone is, but we are progressing.”
In 1997, racial tensions broke out at Penn Manor resulting in what today many Penn Manor students refer to as “the whiteout.” That incident of racial violence occurred after an African American student was stabbed by a white student with a pencil, recounted Hanna.
When the accused student who stabbed the African American student returned from his suspension, he was greeted by several white students wearing white t-shirts in his support.
Penn Manor called Hanna and arranged for him to speak with their student body. Upon hearing about Hanna’s book “Revelations of a Redneck,” discussing his change in views on race, administrators thought he would be the man for the job.
After Hanna addressed the whole school, a select few involved in “the whiteout” were angered and wanted to speak to Hanna privately. Hanna agreed to speak with the students the next week.
Following Hanna’s first meeting with the students, they asked him to return the next week. This continued for the rest of the year and by the end of the year, the racial tension had subsided so much between the the African Americans and the white students, that the students involved in the “whiteout” asked the African American students to join their club.
Thirteen years later, Hanna still meets with Penn Manor students on a weekly basis discussing issues of race. This club has helped open the eyes of both white, African Americans and Hispanics and allowed them to understand each other and speak to each other freely, he said.
“I’m not trying to create a bunch of little Quay’s I just want people to think,” said Hanna.
Hanna was not always as open minded. In fact he was a self-proclaimed racist. All that changed when he took a bus trip throughout the U.S. where he was seated next to an African American where he was forced to listen to him and interact with him.
“It’s easy to be racist from a distance but hard to be that way to an actual human’s face,” said Hanna.
The bus trip changed Hanna’s life and made him change his ways. He decided to spread his new-found respect for other races to other people.
As for Penn Manor, racist remarks and racial tension have greatly decreased over the past thirteen years, Hanna said, and he hopes to keep this going.
By: David Mohimani and Miriam Karebu