“United Against Hate Week is [about addressing] honestly anything that’s oppressive,” said Seth Nixon, a senior in the Academy of Medicine and Public Service (AMPS). Nixon, this year’s Chief of Equity and Student’s Rights, is one of the organizers of Berkeley High School’s (BHS) participation in United Against Hate (UAH) Week. “Our goal is to be able to come together as different groups of people, and tackle hate as a general target,” he said.
UAH is a movement that is local to the East Bay, and was created in reaction to the white supremacist rallies in Berkeley and Oakland in 2017. This year, UAH held a week specialized to analyze hate in the Bay Area and take action. During the seven days, November 17-23, events such as rallies, story sharing, and more were hosted.
At BHS, students were encouraged to come to the courtyard during lunch and write positive messages, use #BerkeleyUAH on social media, and wear yellow on Friday, November 22 as a statement of solidarity. Some may wonder, why should BHS feel compelled to participate in UAH week if it is a place of such diversity and acceptance? While Berkeley displays somewhat of an inclusive environment, many members of its community will attest that underneath the surface, acts of hate sometimes occur.
“Berkeley High definitely has a lot of bullying and a lot of hate that goes unnoticed, partly because the students are too intimidated to go to an adult to seek the help that they need,” said Kyra Clark, a senior in Academic Choice (AC) and another organizer of UAH Week at BHS. She also mentioned how peer pressure can dissuade students from utilizing the resources that BHS has to offer.
At a rally in the Downtown Berkeley Plaza on Thursday, November 21, students shared their perspectives and experiences with hate. Berkeley International High School (BIHS) senior Mia Stein, another organizer and BHS’s Chief of Service this school year, discussed the fear she felt when she found a Swastika, a Nazi symbol, etched into a school desk. She remembered her reluctance towards telling others that she was Jewish because of the threat.
Andrew Mathews, a BHS senior and president of the Talented Tenth club, which provides a space of community and connection for young Black men at BHS, recalled being targeted by racial slurs on the sidewalk while walking through Berkeley.
The event especially left a strong impression after the speakers discussed how hate crimes have affected their own lives as well as how those experiences have remained relatively unnoticed.
Nixon spoke about how he has multiple identities that are targeted by hate in Berkeley. “For me personally, as a gay Black man, homophobia and racism is something super important [to recognize].” For Nixon, however, it’s not just about himself. He stated that other students experience issues like sexism and islamophobia and other forms of xenophobia on a regular basis.
Clearly, there are changes that still need to be made to eliminate hate inside and outside of the school environment, but BHS is constantly battling hate in ways that should be recognized as beneficial to the student body.
Nixon acknowledged resources like On Campus Intervention (OCI) and the Health Center, which are open for students to talk to advisors about their feelings. These on campus resources have provided many students with the opportunity to express themselves and have served as a “good way to cope.”
Berkeley has also evolved with respect to diversity and political stances. Before the 1960s, Berkeley had a conservative city atmosphere that was similar to other cities on the west coast at the time and had a mostly white racial makeup, according to Clark. “I think that as far as Berkeley High, it has gone from a very mono-racially dominated place to a more inclusive place, but I do think we still have work to do,” said Clark.
An event like this can leave many of us asking: How can BHS work to further inclusivity? “We need to have more discussions on hate at our school, and we need to come up with solutions for that. That’s what United Against Hate Week is about, us addressing the hate that’s happening,” said Nixon.