01 Jun RHS Student Says Things Are ‘a Little Bit Better’ After Protest Against N-Word
Markeith Anderson said the protest against the n-word at Richmond High “was a success because it opened up the teachers’ minds and ears.” (K. Easter)
Interview, Malcolm Marshall
Editor’s Note: After an incident in January between a non-Black student and a Black substitute teacher at Richmond High School, where the student allegedly called the substitute the n-word, members of the school’s Black Student Union organized a protest against the use of the word on campus. BSU member Markeith Anderson, who was a leader of the protest that led to the “We Stop, You Stop” movement on campus, spoke to Richmond Pulse about what has changed since the effort began.
Richmond Pulse: The n-word is everywhere and has kind of become like “acceptable” hate speech. What pushed you and your fellow BSU members to say we’re tired of this, and we want to do something about it?
Markeith Anderson: I think everybody came to a realization about the word that it was used not a good way back in the day. So we were tired of everybody else using it they’re not African American. But then it was like, even African Americans shouldn’t even be using it. For me, I just want to push it out because everybody was just tired of hearing it all around campus.
RP: It’s one thing to be tired of it. It’s another thing to actually try to do something about it at your school. Why were you willing to put yourself out there like that?
MA: I felt like it was because I understand the history of how the word was used, and I just felt like it was time for it to come to an end.
RP: What was the initial reaction on campus to the, “you stop, we stop” movement? What was the reaction from other Black students and from non-Black students?
MA: The Black students were happy and they was like, yeah, you needed to do this. There was a couple other Black people that was like, nah, we still gonna use it, but mostly everybody was on board with it and said yeah, this needs to come to an end.
I had a couple of people of other races come up to me and say they was on board with it.
RP: What about the teachers and faculty, how did they respond?
MA: All around campus there are “we stop, you stop” posters and the consequences that come behind it if the teacher hears you use the word on campus. They have to do a Google Slide presentation on it so they can understand why it’s not good to use the n-word and learn the history behind it.
RP: What do you think has changed since you started the protest started?
MA: I think it changed a little bit. I think everybody is more respectful. You still hear the word, but they won’t use it in front of a teacher because they know it’d be consequences behind it. So it’s like a little bit better.
RP: Looking back, do you think it was a success?
MA: I felt like it was a success because it opened up the teachers’ minds and ears. I know of a couple of teachers, if they hear you say it, they will send you right to the office. Before, it wasn’t none of that, teachers just let it slide. But now it’s like, like they will send you out of class to go talk to the principal. I know some teachers that’s not playing about it.
When we started I was thinking about other students, I never knew the teachers were going to step up and be strict about it. One of my favorite teachers, he has the poster up, and he like tells students with the quickness, don’t say that. And he’s not Black; he’s Latino.
RP: How did it feel to get that kind of support?
MA: For me, I felt like I had accomplished something and I felt good about it. And the same with the other BSU students.
RP: What do you think can be done to support the Black students at Richmond High School?
MA: From what other people are saying, we need more of our culture, programs with our culture. They want more Black culture with the Mexican culture that’s there.
RP: What have you personally learned from all of this and how have grown?
MA: I feel like I learned more about the meaning behind the n-word. I really studied it, because I didn’t want to tell somebody else what I heard. I want to tell somebody something that I know for a fact. So I did my research. I learned more about a lot of different things within the Black culture.
RP: Will “we stop, you stop” continue in the next school year?
MA: We are planning on having something next year too. I know for a fact that the posters is going to be up for a while. You know, if you walk in every classroom, you’re gonna see a “we stop, you stop” poster.
This story was funded by a grant provided by California Black Media through work from the State of California Library Stop The Hate grant campaign.