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Open letter to our community from the PVHS Human Rights League

Stand up against white supremacy at PV

The+halls+at+PV+will+likely+be+mostly+without+students+Tuesday+and+Wednesday+during+the+district%27s+%22Virtual+Days.%22
The halls at PV will likely be mostly without students Tuesday and Wednesday during the district's

The halls at PV will likely be mostly without students Tuesday and Wednesday during the district's "Virtual Days."

Smoke Signal file photo

Smoke Signal file photo

The halls at PV will likely be mostly without students Tuesday and Wednesday during the district's "Virtual Days."


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Pay attention as you walk down the hallways of Pascack Valley High School. If you listen and look closely, you’ll hear and see exactly what students of minority groups experience every day: a stream of hateful racial, ethnic, and homophobic slurs. Sometimes these may be subtle, but they are always extremely offensive, unjust, and threatening. In the past few months, more and more students have been reporting signs and incidents of racism, including:  swastikas drawn in the hallway in bathrooms, uses of the “n” word and other racial slurs, and white power signs displayed by PV students at sporting events and on social media.

There is no denying it: a group of Pascack Valley’s own students have been publicly advocating white supremacy, in our hallways, at our sporting events, and on social media. White supremacy is the idea that the white race is inherently superior to all other races, and therefore should dominate society. It is a “historically based, institutionally perpetuated system of exploitation and oppression of people of color.” White supremacists not only target people of color, but members of religious, gender, and sexual minorities as well.  Those hand signals in the form of a “W” that you see displayed within our halls, at sporting events, and in pictures on social media are signals of “White Power” (not “win”).  Is this the image of Pascack Valley High School that we want advertised? It is time for the student body, faculty, and administration to be aware of this issue occurring within and beyond PV’s own walls and to feel empowered and compelled to stop it.

White supremacists not only target people of color, but members of religious, gender, and sexual minorities as well.”

Racism, hatred, and intolerance in any way is not cool, nor is it funny.  When you stand by in silence you are passively supporting it. When you “like” or “share” social media posts you are perpetuating it. Not being an actively racist, queerphobic, sexist, or anti-semitic person does not mean that you are not a part of the problem. However, we can all work together to combat the oppression present in our community and change the negative tone that has dominated our school climate in recent months.

The Human Rights League at PV firmly believes that free speech is a wonderful concept, but people have the ability to corrupt their right to it. There is no warranted reason to threaten the happiness and safety of individuals whose beliefs and/or identity do not hurt themselves or others. Oppression is not wrong just because it is “wrong” – it is an unfounded attack on human beings who live their lives with their own identity, purpose and originality. We can never reach a better world if bystanders to these incidents do not act in solidarity with those who are abused physically and emotionally simply for who they are. Do we want to make our mark as a school that tolerates hatred and contempt among its students on the basis of their identity? No. Do we want people at our school to feel scared to walk through the halls as they try to make it to class on time? Absolutely not.

We can never reach a better world if bystanders to these incidents do not act in solidarity with those who are abused physically and emotionally simply for who they are.”

Do we want to generate positive change to make individuals of all well-meaning groups welcome in our community? Of course. The only way we will ever be able to do this is if those who possess strong voices in this school, even when not directly affected by oppressive acts, stand up for those without voices. This must be made clear: hurting others in any form is not and never will be accepted or perpetuated at Pascack Valley High School.  If the people you surround yourself with think it is, educate them. If you are an administrator or teacher, make this an important part of the curriculum. It is not okay in any context to make someone uncomfortable about their race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other aspect of his or her identity, which quite frankly have no bearing on the lives of everyone else. Everyone may be entitled to their opinion, but we have no time or patience for those whose opinions endanger the lives and safety of others and poison our school climate and image.

Author Wes Moore wrote: “The common bond of humanity and decency that we share is stronger than any conflict, any adversity, any challenge.  Fighting for your convictions is important.  But finding peace is paramount.” Please, pay attention, PV!  Let’s fight this and show the world how amazing we can be!

To show your support for the cause uniting Pascack Valley, feel free to post on social media with #PeaceInPV. Let your voice be heard.

Sincerely,

The PVHS Human Rights League

And Other Very Gracious Members of the Student Body and Faculty

(Editor’s note: While The Smoke Signal welcomes user comments, it will only publish comments submitted with an actual, verified name and email address. Anonymous comments will not be published.)

 

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Open letter to our community from the PVHS Human Rights League”

  1. Jill on May 12th, 2015 12:41 pm

    Today (5/12/15) everyone at Pascack Valley school is talking about this article. The Email has now been shut down because of everyone sending mass- emails about it. We here at PAscack Valley high school are known for our extremely friendly environment. Now look what is being said. The brave people who wrote this article are amazing. Thank you to everyone who helped to write this and post it.

    [Reply]

    Michael McLeod Reply:

    For this whole ordeal I wasn’t able to see any of the emails. I was forced to sit in the auditorium and listen to my principle lecture my class and I on how to act. I understand completely how to act in school and what is appropriate and what is not. I didn’t see any of this as an issue until this article was written and people blew it up. I feel that instead of punishing the school by taking away the email and having us go to an assembly the administration should reprimand any one in violation of what they are expecting and also review this article to make sure that there is no propaganda that would cause disruption in the school. If such things are found, the author should face consequences as well.

    [Reply]

    Allison Reply:

    “Propaganda?” Seriously? So you’re advocating that the administration possibly censor our student newspaper, even if it has important truths to say, purely because it might cause “disruption?”
    This is a serious issue at Pascack Valley and one that has been festering for months without any public action taken by the administration. They have been reprimanding individuals and there has been progress made behind the scenes, but the current climate and the response to the article and the assembly shows that more transparent, public, larger-scale action is necessary. Just because you apparently haven’t seen it, just because you feel like it’s not an issue, doesn’t mean that it isn’t affecting tons of people. The problem does not go away just because you cannot see it.
    It’s a problem when people feel unsafe going to school. It’s a problem when my parents have to sit me down and talk to me about staying safe because of my heritage.
    Don’t make the mistake of completely ignoring a problem just because you’re blind to it. Be aware of your surroundings. We all need to learn from this and now take time to fix our behavior as a school and grow as more tolerant, respectful people together.

    [Reply]

  2. Terri on May 12th, 2015 9:48 pm

    “Truthfully, wicked people reveal themselves in words first, to inhibit speech would inhibit us seeing the wicked before they act.”
    ― Leviak B. Kelly, Religion: The Ultimate STD: Living a Spiritual Life without Dogmatics or Cultural Destruction
    Just saying that defending” free speech” often involves defending the speech of those whose ideas you may find morally or ethically repugnant. it doesn’t mean you need to agree with or condone their thoughts but accept that they have the right to voice them in this country. That said “free speech” and “hate speech” are not be confused, though many who spew hate hide behind “free speech”. The best response is to solidly voice your own objections and to educate those who choose hate.

    [Reply]

  3. Steve on May 14th, 2015 9:33 pm

    I graduated from PV a number of years ago and recently started working in a more “diverse” school system this past year. The irony is that there is little to no division or racism in a school where the split is pretty much 50/50 white to “minority” student. The kids play on the same sports teams, go to the same parties, and are close friends regardless of color or religion. Everyone is accepted for who they are, and while there are some stereotypes that float around, no one seems to care. The faculty is primarily white, and for the most part very accepting of other races. Most of the racism comes from the teachers, and it’s all very hush hush, no one openly talks about it.

    The thing is, PV is not a diverse environment, neither are Hillsdale or River Vale. These sentiments are probably held due to ignorance rather than true feelings. The “minorities” I work with are for the most part good kids, brought up in a different culture without the luxuries that a PV student typically has.

    Exposure would likely changes this entire thing, and would probably eliminate or at least reduce the issues that seem to be happening in PV.

    [Reply]

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Pascack Valley High School's Official News Site: Where there's smoke, there's fire.
Open letter to our community from the PVHS Human Rights League