SOAR-ing Above Prejudice

New program encourages students to take action against racism in their community

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SOAR-ing Above Prejudice

Juniors Richard Kertscher and Zuri Hightower discuss racial issues.

Juniors Richard Kertscher and Zuri Hightower discuss racial issues.

Juniors Richard Kertscher and Zuri Hightower discuss racial issues.

Juniors Richard Kertscher and Zuri Hightower discuss racial issues.

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On Sept. 9, around 30 students gathered for an all-day workshop share experiences and address racism in Decatur. The workshop was part of a new program known as Students Organizing Against Racism (SOAR).

Sophomore Yana Batra opted to join SOAR, after encouragement from teachers, because of her passion for racial justice.

“I’m pretty passionate about racial issues because I moved from a very white community that wasn’t the most welcoming to me and my family,” Batra said. “So wanting to reduce race-based issues is something I’ve wanted to do since I moved here.”

The program was brought to Decatur by The Pacific Education Group, whose goal is to bring racial equity and education across the country. Through SOAR, participants are equipped with the skills needed to have open and honest conversations with their peers about race in what the program calls “courageous conversation.”

Junior Rebecca Raybourn said one of the most valuable takeaways from the meeting was how to initiate these conversations.

“Instead of getting into an argument with someone,” Raybourn said, “You want to discuss and focus more on what race entails in our society and how it plays into everyday life.”

SOAR speaker Lori Watson explains how companies have racial bias in their marketing and advertisements.

Part of having these “courageous conversations” is learning how to evolve one’s language usage and think of racism as a whole.

“What had the most impact on me was moving away from using the word racist all the time, because it’s more of a spectrum. [The spectrum] starts with race and then racial, racism and then racist, instead of jumping straight to calling someone a racist,” Batra said.

Another aspect of the program is placing students in a position where they can report on race-based issues that might go unnoticed by staff members.

“Student voice is essential to achieving racial equity and eliminating barriers that are often unseen or overlooked by adults,” The Pacific Education Group said on their website.

Raybourn believes that student involvement is an integral aspect of what makes SOAR so important, especially when it comes to shedding light on the lack of diversity within certain school programs.

“Being in the IB program where there aren’t a whole lot of people of color, I don’t think teachers can really see how uncomfortable that can make kids,” Raybourn said. “Sometimes, it can feel isolating and oftentimes you question whether you really belong.”

Administrators posted flyers to raise awareness about the club. Students could scan the QR code to sign up.

By forming connections between administration and students, SOAR members hope to bring a new perspective that has been rarely seen when discussing racial issues within Decatur.

“I feel like racism in Decatur always has people talking about how teachers treat students, and while it is important to talk to teachers about why these academic discrepancies are happening and get their side of the story, it’s also important to talk to the students to see how they’re being impacted,” Batra said.

SOAR has their next meeting planned for December, where members will continue to learn more about racial issues and how to address them within their community.

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