In my small, New Jersey hometown, diversity is not a strong-suit. I went to a predominantly white high school. And middle school. And elementary school. Only one of my teachers throughout my entire NJ education was black, and I can think of countless occasions where my classmates made sexist, racist, or homophobic comments.
In my high school, if you were openly liberal, you were criticized by many other students, ironically most of which were white males, and most of whom sported "Make America Great Again" caps following the 2016 election.
Now, as a 21-year-old woman still living here, I am sad to say that not very much seems to have changed. Facebook groups boast white residents looking to pick a fight and play the victim, and I was ashamed to hear that a white resident of my neighboring town lied about a so-called "anti-white" sign in a store window just to try to villainize the black community.
Driving through my town, you will see "Black Lives Matter" signs scattered about, and one home has sheets hung up on a fence listing the names of victims of police brutality and racist attacks. These are steps in the right direction, but we need to do more to diversify, educate, and expose intolerance.
When I was still in my town's school system, I took two classes, only two, that discussed systemic racism and injustice. In both of those classes, I was so disheartened by the attitude of my classmates. They did not take it seriously, and many of them could not have cared less. One of these courses in particular was titled Contemporary Issues, and the subject matter was just that. I was in this class the day after Donald Trump was elected, and I watched my fellow classmate get yelled at by one of our white male peers when she voiced her disappointment in this country and its values. If I hadn't taken that class, I would not have been in a single course that touched on current events as an attempt to educate students on intolerance in America today, and that is really quite embarrassing.
School systems need to do better. Students need to learn, from a young age, about racism and all forms of resulting injustice and intolerance. I have kept in touch with my Contemporary Issues teacher and have been repeatedly disheartened to learn that her students have remained complacent and lacking passion.
More needs to be done, and it needs to start now.