Balancing Diversity and Safety in Multicultural Classes Is Key

Opinion

As a student of color at Berkeley High School (BHS), finding a community of fellow non-white students is a rare and cherished opportunity. For many BHS students, multicultural classes such as African American History and Chicanx/Latinx Literature have become safe havens. However, the disproportionately low enrollment of different ethnicities in these classes raises some concerns. With so few white students attending these courses, it is easy for them to become ignorant of historical BIPOC struggles. When promoting multicultural classes, it is important to make them accessible to students of all backgrounds while still preventing majority-white enrollment.

These courses are often less advertised and harder to access than the plethora of other electives at BHS. This can be extremely harmful as the few classes which emphasize a non-white narrative are put on the back burner, leaving important conversations about race throughout history undiscussed by the majority of students. BHS must encourage enrollment in these courses more heavily to avoid white ignorance in education. 

However, encouraging white students to take these classes could potentially lead to a majority of white voices taking control of class conversations. To avoid this, the increase in advertising for multicultural classes should predominantly take place in spaces such as the BIPOC Student Union, bring such courses to the attention of BIPOC students.

More importantly, the mainstream history and literature courses at BHS must incorporate discussions of racial struggles throughout history, rather than allowing for courses that are so blatantly Eurocentric. Teaching a pro-white narrative in classes in which the majority of BHS students are enrolled allows for ignorance and bigotry to manifest in students. This only exacerbates the conditions of systemic racism under which we live. An example of efforts to improve is the International Baccalaureate (IB) English and History courses in Berkeley International High School (BIHS), which have made an attempt to be more well-rounded in their curriculum by teaching a more multicultural narrative. However, there is still much room for improvement. 

The safe and comfortable communities created by African American and Chicanx/Latinx courses at BHS are incredibly important to many non-white students. These classes must be celebrated alongside the slew of other courses at BHS.