“Si te hago daño a ti, me hago daño a mismo”

Liana Wallace, Opinion Columnist

This summer on a trip to the Holocaust museum I was able to interact with one of the youngest Holocaust survivors, Samuel Harris, through a holographic theatre.

After Sam shared his incredible story of survival ending up a graduate from New Trier High School, the floor was open for questions.

A pre-recorded holographic image would play a response Sam had already answered during a recording session.

One student raised his hand. “What is your perspective on current day genocides?” Sam replied ‘people need to know the sophistication that Germans utilized to kill people’, he paused, ‘not like something that occurs between people in South Africa but a sophisticated killing…’.

I stared at Sam’s holographic image in shock. When I asked a clarifying question about the word sophistication Sam had no pre-recorded response and the museum docent looked at me utterly confused. What was the big deal?

The big deal was that whatever Sam intended to say, he made a distinction between two types of death; sophisticated and unsophisticated. In his statement I saw the way brown bodies could be murdered and never make it on the news because their deaths were too simple. I’ll never know what Sam truly meant because I never got to ask him.

Shortly after I processed all of this, a question was asked about Sam’s sentiments on the Israel-Palestine conflict. Again, no recorded answer.

I heard Angela Davis in my head from Freedom is a Constant Struggle, there is a connection, “between struggles and racism in the US and struggles against the repression of Palestinians.” The hologram is publicized on the museum website as a way visitors can be reminded “to stand against hatred in all its forms.” Still, in the eight years of its existence, no conversation has been had about the way the actions of the Israelis mirror apartheid.

The ETHS equity statement is similar to that of the Holocausts museum, placing emphasis on producing active members of society, “our school must guide and nurture students as they strive to become responsible citizens”. Both ETHS and the Holocaust museum have the right intentions but don’t always reflect what they preach.

The museum’s discomfort with having conversation around the Israel-Palestine conflict is no different than living in what we like to call “the ETHS bubble” while never confronting underlying inequities within our institution.

White parents tend to pride themselves on the diversity that comes along with the Evanston community but have few social relationships with parents of color. The same can be said for student social experience at ETHS. Our cafeterias hold a rainbow of identities yet we sit and party with people that look like us on the weekends. Nothing is wrong with having parties with people that identify like you, but if we are going to pride ourselves on living in a diverse community then our actions must reflect a certain effort and consciousness.

In terms of academic access at ETHS, I have heard too many stories of sophomores of color being steered away from Chem-Phys by teachers and counselors. If we continue to deny students of color the access to Chem-Phys based off mere perception, then we are no better than what Sam implied about the sophistication of murder in Germany vs South Africa. We need to stop relegating experiences of black and brown folks as “unsophisticated” and reserving “sophisticated” experiences for white folks.

This year at ETHS, we should be thinking about our social spaces, our counselors’ offices, and our classrooms. It should be about thinking of ways our baseball and soccer teams can become more inclusive so that the students who can’t afford private clubs aren’t off the team by senior year.

It should be about finding ways to incorporate history into math and science courses so future chemists and mathematicians know that academic gains were not solely the work of brilliant White intellects but of magnificent Black, Latino, Middle Eastern, and Asian intellects.

If you’re tired of talking about equity and inclusion at ETHS then do something to change it this year. Consider the proverbs from “In Lak’ech, “Si te hago daño a ti, me hago daño a mi mismo.”