Black students speak out on racism and culture
Black history in the United States is complicated. From slavery to Jim Crow laws, racial injustice and black suffering has long existed within the 244 years of the country’s existence. Today, issues pertaining to race still bleed at the heart of the country as police brutality, prison reform, and systemic inequality become needed conversation topics. To many protestors, students and black Americans, there is hope for a brighter future.
Kapaun Mt. Carmel sophomore Vivine Langdon is among those hoping for a day when racism will no longer be an issue.
“As a black person, we are made to feel that we should be grateful for having ‘privileges’ that white people have always had without having to fight to get them. I have had, as many black people have had, to learn the color of my skin. I can only hope that one day the black children of America will be able to live without being aware of the color of their skin,” said Langdon, echoing the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.
“It seems to me that my race has always found a way to be incorporated in my life. I’ve always know [sic] that when other people looked at me, they saw a black person. People see me as black before they see me as a person,” recounted Langdon.
On June 3, 2020, alumnus Amy Pham detailed her experiences with racism at KMC on Twitter, gaining over 1,000 likes and multiple current and former students sharing their experiences. Pham’s Twitter thread sparked a hotly debated question among students: is KMC racist? For many black students, the answer to this question was complicated.
“I would not be able to answer if there was a racism issue at Kapaun, but there is an ignorance issue with acknowledging and understanding the black people in America,” Langdon said. “I don’t understand the racial divisions in the U.S. I was never aware of the racial divisions in the U.S. I was never aware that my skin color had so much meaning to others until I moved to the U.S.”
For senior Malik Ngugi, racism at KMC is a deep issue for him. Slurs and microaggressions have been a major part of his school years.
“I don’t believe Kapaun is a racist school because that would imply a majority of the school is racist. Kapaun’s racism problem is that there are too many people getting away with being racist and the majority that are kind and treat others well don’t stand up to say anything,” Ngugi said.
“I’ve been through many circumstances where I could have gone to the office and expressed my grievances, but the hostile environment of nonaccountability for racist behavior would have made me vulnerable for bullying and retaliation,” Ngugi continued. “So the two options for [persons of color] are to either leave the school or take this pain and suffering and offer it up to God as a sacrifice.”
“I think after this summer, the microaggressions and racism at school has stopped a lot, but I remember my underclassman years being really hard because of these instances,” Ngugi said.“There are definitely moments where I’ve thought, “What’s the point of going to a Catholic high school when you’re greeted in the morning with ‘what’s up my n-word’ by someone who’s deepest understanding of that word is through a rap song.”
But racism is not what defines black Americans or students like Ngugi; instead, it is the rich history and culture that black people carry across the country.
Ethnically Kenyan, Ngugi literally keeps in touch with his culture through a Kenyan bracelet.
“Whether it be little things like listening to my parents on the phone with family or going to Kenyan events like Kenyan Independence day, I am always in touch with my culture. The most in sync I’ve been was when I visited Kenya last Christmas; I truly got to see what my parents call home. It was a life-defining moment for me because for the first time I felt like I naturally belonged somewhere,” said Ngugi.
The best part of being black for Malik? The power to influence American culture.
“Black people have had such a huge impact in American culture because we bring a different taste, style and perspective in all we do. We start trends in fashion like bucket hats, sneaker culture, box braids, and hoop earrings. And besides fashion, [in] music, black people continue to be trailblazing,” Ngugi said. “From Louis Armstrong, Stevie Wonder and Lauryn Hill to Jay Z, Alicia Keys, and Kendrick Lamar, black people have always been setting the tune in music (pun intended).”
Efemena Otarighobe, a Nigerian-born sophomore at KMC, tries keeping in touch with his roots.
“I’m in touch with my culture, but it’s been kinda hard as of recently due to COVID,” Otarighobe said. Like before COVID, every Saturday all the Nigerians of Wichita would have a get together and party.”
“We have great food and we are very loving caring people,” said Otarighobe.
Freshman Omari Elias agrees. He enjoys the sense of community shared among African Americans.
“Even if you are in a foreign environment there may be another black person there and you feel like you have something in common with them, even though you might not have ever met them,” Elias said.
Senior Lori Kelly embraces her black identity through language and self love.
“[I want non-African Americans] to understand that the color of my skin doesn’t mean I am not well spoken but because I am well spoken I am not white washed. Just because I use my slang when I talk doesn’t mean I am ghetto and loud,” said Kelly.
“My favorite part of being black is that girls that aren’t black wanna be black,” Kelly said. “They style their hair in braids, laying their baby hairs or they pay money for big lips, big booties and boobs that black women have naturally.”
“I’ve had many times where someone has made a racial joke or asked to use the n-word as a joke. I really don’t pay attention to those kinda people because I have bigger fish to fry as a black woman in America,” Kelly said.