A couple of years ago, a local vigilante — armed with some sharpies and sticky paper– wrote on two stickers and posted them on a high traffic crosswalk in the Bush upper school. The stickers read “PRIVATE SCHOOLS: educating the next generation of OPPRESSORS” and the other “private schools for white people, private prisons for people of color”. When I came across these, I was initially angry. I’m not sure why I was so frustrated with these statements at first, but after thinking on it, it became clear: these statements forgot about people like me. They erased my presence at Bush or the presence of anyone that looks like me. Being the passive-aggressive freshman I was, I responded with another makeshift sticker that read “What about us students of color? Who are we oppressing exactly? Ourselves? Take into consideration that it isn’t the school that is teaching ‘oppressive’ behavior, but rather people like you who ignore our presence at all. There may be few of us, but we’re still here.”
Similarly and more recently, Richard Sherman visited Bush to speak with our Rainier Scholars. He provided us with some insightful and empowering words about pursuit of passion and transcending your circumstances by persevering. For all of the Rainier Scholars, the talk was very impactful. After our roundtable talk, Sherman gave an address to the entire upper and middle school. No one was quite sure of why he was there, as it hadn’t been broadcasted that he was there for Rainier Scholars. It didn’t need to be. Those of us that needed to know, knew. However, Facebook would disagree. Richard Sherman posted a photo on Facebook with us Scholars in front of a Bush School flag, to which other Seahawks fans felt the need to call him out for visiting a school that already ‘had it good’. Some comments said things like ‘those kids are rich, they don’t need to be uplifted. Why didn’t you visit a school like Rainier Beach or Garfield?’.
Once again, I found myself lodged between the haves and have-nots. Too ethnic to identify with the white kids I go to school with, but apparently too bourgeois to identify with other students of color in Seattle. My education had thrown my entire identity into limbo; stuck between the side of the oppressor and the side of the oppressed. While I resonate with the sentiment behind criticizing privatized education in general, can we hold individual schools accountable for an issue that is systemic and largely institutionalized? Are we not perpetuating those oppressive systems by erasing brown identities on white campuses? Why do we choose to ignore or criticize the handful of students of color at predominantly white schools, instead of encouraging and empowering them? According to them, I am either an Uncle Tom that is ignorant to the ways in which I am subservient to the big, bad white man OR I am invisible altogether. I am wedged in a rigid dichotomy that I never asked to be a part of. Both, reaping the benefits of a privileged culture, but not being included in the privilege myself.
In the project, #BushLooksLikeUs, we strive to define brown identity on white campuses for ourselves. We will not accept the idea that we are traitors to our communities or that we simply don’t exist. We are here. We are loud. We are beautiful. We are what Bush looks like.
Cheyenne Kāmakaokalani Brashear
℅ 2017, co-leader of Blazers of Color