Throughout the last fifty years, views on racial issues have evolved and racial equality has become a more preserved value in the country. In the 1960s, many began to challenge previously accepted ideas of institutional racism, as reflected in San Jose Unified School District’s (SJUSD) decision to integrate its schools.
The Charger Account articles published in the 1960s illustrate a divide between today and the world of the past. The school dealt with race related issues through discussion and exposure to other perspectives. Opinions concerning race were increasingly challenged as African American guest speakers Jim Stanton, Jim Scannell, Mike Martronardi and Mrs. Goddard came to the school in 1969 to discuss topics like racial relations and racial equality. As students were exposed to these perspectives, they developed a deeper understanding and awareness of racism and segregation. As shown in an article written by Alumni George Rittenmeyer in 1969, many students questioned the societal origins of racism and were curious about racism and its effects, but other students were less
Despite opposing opinions about integration in the 1960s, SJUSD worked to desegregate schools by establishing two committees: the Quality Urban Education Study Team (QUEST) and a student advisory committee. Through establishing policies that revised curriculum and increasing academic
opportunities for student minorities, the two committees facilitated the mindset necessary to desegregate the district.
The country has progressed since the school was first founded, yet many still feel that racism is a prominent issue and that tension between races is getting worse. As seen in a Washington Post poll, 72 percent of black respondents and 63 percent of white respondents believe that racial relations have worsened. In addition to declining racial relations, a Pew Research Center survey shows that 61 percent of Americans believe that more changes must be made to achieve racial equality.
“Students nowadays seem to accept others of different races and ethnicities, but many of us do not take race issues seriously enough. Here, we live in an area where most people are tolerant of each other and have never been exposed to enough racism to understand the pain of others who face it daily,” Sophomore Yvonne Khong said.
Currently, students of different backgrounds participate in clubs, sports and classes together. Clubs such as the Black Student Union provide a safe space for students to discuss racial relations and equality. Today, classes cover material about different time periods and cultures, engaging students in literature that spurs such discussion. However, the school’s tolerant climate does not erase the fact that there is room for improvement. “It is obvious that as a nation we have improved in terms of equality since it was founded, but we still have a long way to go in order to make sure everyone is fairly treated under the law,” Senior
Hildana Sirak, Vice-President of BSU, said.
As integration sparked students’ interest in race issues and caused perspectives to change, learning about ways to prevent racism will create more awareness
about the importance of eradicating racial inequality. Ensuring that students have positive racial relations and learn about acceptance may pave the way for a future America where all Americans, no matter what race, have equal opportunities for success.