There was the time in class when a teacher asked Niah Michel ’20 why she spoke “so gangster.” On the bus home from a track meet, a fellow student asked her why she wasn’t sitting at the back of the bus.
These accumulated experiences of microaggressions led Michel to express her views, as well as representing African American and Latino students, regarding racism at Staples in a letter to the editor of WestportNow published on Feb. 14.
Michel’s letter prompted an email sent out by Principal Stafford W. Thomas Jr., reaffirming his commitment to reconstructing Staples High School’s social infrastructure.
The letter depicted numerous microaggressions allegedly made toward Michel and other minority students and noted the lack of diversity among staff members at Staples High School.
“The whole letter was my decision,” Michel said. “When I was writing my letter, no one helped me while writing it and sending it off, but I made sure to mention in that letter that I was not only speaking for myself, but I was speaking for other people.”
In efforts to discuss potential change, Michel, along with other students, have met with Thomas intermittently to discuss struggles within the Staples community. According to Michel, despite meeting with administrators, she has witnessed no change at Staples.
“I personally have not seen anything [change],” Michel said. “I [felt as if I were] sitting here talking to a wall.”
According to Michel, insensitive comments made towards her have resonated with her throughout her years at Staples High School.
“Those little words they have said to us, those remarks, all those things carry a burden on our shoulders,” Michel said.