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CGI and CSJ: Is It a Black and White Issue?

Montclair High is a school critically acclaimed for its diversity. The institution receives an abundance of praise because its students come from all different backgrounds, and it is thought to be a suburban school like no other.

There is, however, an underlying separation of the classes and of the races, that so greatly contradicts the MHS vision of diversity. Board of Ed reps, Montclair residents and onlookers can chose to pretend a problem doesn’t exist, but it undeniably confronts students every day. Students self-segregate. What I’m addressing more specifically is the stark separation of black and white in the small learning communities of MHS.

It’s disturbing how in 2012, this day and age–in Montclair, the Civics and Government small learning community is known as “white,” and the Center for Social Justice is known as “black.” How about that “Montclair diversity?” I don’t know when the stereotypes started, but all I know is that they definitely affect students’ decisions in which small learning community they’ll join. I’ve heard white kids saying that they don’t want to join CSJ because it’s “ghetto.” I’ve heard black kids say they don’t want to join CGI because it’s all snobby white kids. Not to say there aren’t any black students in CGI or white students in CSJ, but black students are definitely the small minority in CGI, as are white students in CSJ.

When I hear people raving about MHS’s diversity, I can’t help but shake my head in disappointment because I know there is much work to be done. I don’t want to undermine MHS, because anyone can recognize that in many aspects the school is very diverse. There is, however, a major disconnect concerning the diversity of these small learning communities. Students should join CSJ because they love to learn more about issues related to social justice, not just because they are black and are avoiding the “white institute,” and students should join CGI because they have a passion for politics and government, not because they’re white and want to avoid the “black learning community”.

This is an issue MHS students, staff, parents and community members need to be cognizant of. The first step is to recognize that there is a problem. As a community, we need to do more to build a bridge between the two institutes and work to make them more connected. For starters, there needs to be more exchange between the learning communities. Maybe even joint projects can be instituted where the two communities can work simultaneously in raising awareness and proceeds for a specific cause. We need to break this vicious cycle and promote the institutes for what they really stand for. We need to tear down these walls of self-segregation and promote change in these small learning communities for future students.


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