From Ignorant to Engaged

Why it took an eleven hour drive to the South for this Dallastown junior to have the most influential conversations of her life.

After+ten+days+of+crying+together%2C+laughing+together+and+discussing++issues+such+as+racism%2C+diversity+and+Civil+Rights%2C+the+participants+of+Engage+had+a+hard+time+saying+goodbye.+This+final+photo+together+was+taken+at+the+closing+ceremony.+
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From Ignorant to Engaged

After ten days of crying together, laughing together and discussing  issues such as racism, diversity and Civil Rights, the participants of Engage had a hard time saying goodbye. This final photo together was taken at the closing ceremony.

After ten days of crying together, laughing together and discussing issues such as racism, diversity and Civil Rights, the participants of Engage had a hard time saying goodbye. This final photo together was taken at the closing ceremony.

Photo Submitted

After ten days of crying together, laughing together and discussing issues such as racism, diversity and Civil Rights, the participants of Engage had a hard time saying goodbye. This final photo together was taken at the closing ceremony.

Photo Submitted

Photo Submitted

After ten days of crying together, laughing together and discussing issues such as racism, diversity and Civil Rights, the participants of Engage had a hard time saying goodbye. This final photo together was taken at the closing ceremony.

Shelby Hallett, Reporter

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This summer I spent 10 days at the Youth Theology Initiative at Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tennessee, during which I had classes and conversations about social justice and visited locations and museums relating to the Civil Rights Movement–at least that’s what I tell people when they ask.

In reality, the event, called Engage, was much more than that. Engage brought together 24 teens from different racial backgrounds to learn about and to discuss prejudices.

The point of bringing all of these different people together was to bring diverse perspectives and make us “engage” each other in conversation.  

The perspective I brought was from the point of view of someone who had lived in both the North and the South, contrasting the majority of participants who were primarily from southern states.

My friend Jayden (or as he referred to himself in our group chat, “J Bleezy”) put it like this: “The best 10 days of ma life.”

I could not agree more.

We had serious discussions about racism and prejudices towards women and the LGBTQ community– discussions that I think more people need to be having.

One of the topics that came up repetitively was ignorance to racism, especially among white Americans.

I would certainly hesitate to call Dallastown racist; we have good people at this school and in this town. But I definitely think we have an issue with ignorance, particularly in the sense that the students here are often unaware of societal issues that have not affected them personally.

The fact of the matter is our school district is over 80% white (according to niche.com, collegesimply.com, and usnews.com), which means that many of us don’t really need to think about racism.

Another girl who attended the event, Mattie, told me that something that really stuck with her was when Dr. Hughes, the leader of the event, said that “white privilege remains the number one driving force in America.”

White supremacy is defined as the belief that white people are superior to all other races, but the idea is more than simple prejudice; it’s become a sort of system and a way of life that is so integrated into our society that many of us don’t really recognize it.

This is a topic that Dr. Hughes discusses in his newly revised book, Myths America Lives By: White Supremacy and the Stories That Give Us Meaning.

I love the subtitle to this book because white supremacy truly is a major issue in our country that is rarely addressed. The stories that were told at engage were probably what impacted me more than anything else.  If we learn through experience, then stories are the medium through which we share that experience.

Engage was such an eye-opening experience, and I desperately wish I could share all of the stories and conversations we had with everyone who will listen.

Before Engage, I knew about issues like police brutality and racism towards biracial kids, but I didn’t know that parents had to teach their children to be scared of police officers because of the color of their skin or that families could be split over racial differences.

Without meaning to be, I was guilty of ignorance, and Engage provided an exoneration. I hope I will be able to provide that same exoneration to others using the knowledge and experience I gained.