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Guest submission: History month displays make our stories visible, deserve respect

Grace Hamilton
History month displays represent a dedicated time to celebrate a particular group. These displays deserve respect from all community members.

As you come up the orange stairs, you see all kinds of displays throughout the year. Every high school student will inevitably use these stairs at some point in the day. It is where you feel like you “enter” the high school, which is why these displays set the stage for our school and what we value.

Teachers make displays to welcome students in August, and the Office of Student Advising designs Futures Week. Most often, students create the message and visuals that greet our community. When StuCo decorates for spirit week, there is no question that we are celebrating. When OSA makes the board for gratitude in November, appreciation is made visible to everyone. Bringing attention to a topic or event our students value is essential to this school representing you.

Throughout the year, our wider society commemorates months, weeks or special days dedicated to raising our awareness about certain groups of people that have historically had less visibility. In the U.K. and the U.S. and sometimes around the world, just a few of these are Arab American History Month, Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Black History Month, East and Southeast Asian Heritage Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, Holocaust Remembrance Day, Jewish Heritage Month, LGBTQ+ History Month, Neurodiversity Week and Women’s History Month. These are recognized by governments, institutions, businesses and schools across the country and the world. We are a part of this tradition.

In a perfect world, all the stories lost, suppressed or forgotten throughout history would be found, heard and studied.

Students sometimes ask why we need a particular month to highlight these histories or heritage. Shouldn’t it just be part of what we learn every day? As a student, it is critical that you see yourself at ASL. You should have windows into other experiences and have mirrors that reflect your communities. When student groups like the Social Justice Council, Sustainability Council, South Asia Club and East Asia Club (among many others), create displays to recognize these months, they aim to help celebrate you and make your story visible.

In a perfect world, all the stories lost, suppressed or forgotten throughout history would be found, heard and studied. All the groups pushed to the textbooks’ margins would share space equally within the narrative. Until that day comes, these special periods of time help us all recognize the beauty of diversity and call attention to the communities and individuals whose stories are often not told.

March is Women’s History Month, and the posters on the stairs offered us a space to share what we can do to support the women in our lives. You wrote about your teachers, friends, celebrities, activists, sisters, mothers and grandmothers. For around 50% of our community, this moment was a mirror to see their identity celebrated. 

Words are powerful, and they matter.

For the other roughly 50% of our community, this moment was a window to recognize the value of women’s experiences, though different from their own. Both experiences matter. Understanding the purpose of monthly celebrations is vital to our community, and we must treat these student displays with respect.

A member of our community chose to deface this display with sexualized comments that objectified women.

What that person wrote was hurtful and degrading to all women. Women and girls make up half of the ASL community. The same teachers, friends, sisters, mothers and grandmothers that were being celebrated and honored, now have to bear the weight of these offensive comments. Words are powerful, and they matter.

We want ASL to be a school where all students can thrive, be themselves, be respectful, and be appreciative of the perspectives and experiences of others. But if your words and actions are hurtful to others based on their identity, you are impacting someone else’s ability to be themselves, to feel safe and thrive here. That is a violation of our core values as a school. It is not acceptable.

Progress is made by reaching out and talking across our differences, not shutting each other down.

We also want to recognize and affirm the possibility for us to be allies to each other across our differences. There are plenty of boys and men who support and respect women and girls, and are allies for gender equity. There were also comments written on the display that declared “men” as obstacles to women succeeding ignores the reality that millions of men are allies.

Progress is made by reaching out and talking across our differences, not shutting each other down. The next time you come up the orange stairs and see a community or an important topic on display, remember that your peers, friends,or teammates are working to make our school a welcoming place for all, including you. Sometimes you’ll see a window, and other times you’ll see a mirror. No matter which it is, treat it with the kindness and respect we all deserve.

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About the Contributor
Grace Hamilton, Editor-in-Chief
Grace Hamilton (’23) is the Editor-in-Chief of The Standard. Her love for writing stemmed into a passion for journalism, and she became involved with The Standard in Grade 9. Journalism provides her a powerful platform to inform the ASL community and learn more about local and global perspectives, issues and events. Outside of journalism, Hamilton leads the Sustainability Council, writes creatively and sails competitively.

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