Matthew Kaplan Photography

Student Walkout Over Racism at George Washington HS in Chicago - 5/18/22

Students at George Washington High School, on the southeast side, walked out of their classes Wednesday morning, to spotlight what they see as an alarming increase in racial incidents directed towards Black students at the school.

Assembling on the school steps, Sophomore Greg Miller took the megaphone first and described a number of disturbing events at the school, including racist graffiti found in bathrooms, and a racially insulting video created and distributed, using edited footage of a Black student dancing at a recent pep rally. He felt the school administration has not responded quickly enough, and was keeping the full extent of these occurrences from students and their families.

"Students have been traumatized." Greg stated. "We can't wait for the school to act. We are the ones who have to make the change. It's time that George Washington shows what a community that loves one another looks like!"

Many other students related experiences of racial tensions and the effect it's having on their learning environment. Victor, a junior at GWHS said "It's crazy that this stuff is happening in our halls. None of us should use the N word! Until we all stop using the N word, people will continue to use it."

A teacher at the school, Mr. Ramsey, spoke at the rally, saying he was there to show solidarity. He told me afterwards that racial incidents have escalated significantly over the last month. But he was hopeful because, "the kids have really stepped up and taken it on".

Destiny, a sophomore, ended the protest by declaring "We're all the same inside and out! Please respect people, even if you don't agree with them. Respect them!".

George Washington High School is located in Chicago's 10th Ward, on Avenue O and 114th Street. Its students have been active in a number of controversial issues in the city, including protests against the environmentally problematic General Iron metal shredder which was allowed to move from the north side to a site on the Calumet River, only two blocks to the west of the school. After sustained and vocal opposition by GWHS students and others, the city denied the company a permit to operate that facility.

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