By Mary McGinnie
(Editor’s note: On March 18, Californians for Justice held an event titled FlipTheFrame in Fresno. The premise of the event was to challenge negative stereotypes some may have toward youth based on the color of their skin, gender expression and sexual orientation, to name a few. In addition, there were recommendations by some in attendance as to how the Fresno Unified School District could make the educational experience of our youth better. One recommendation was to address the perpetual prejudices students face on a daily basis by teachers and administrators, as seen by the ABC30 report where Scandinavian Middle School Vice Principal Joseph Defillipo was asked about a student who he doesn’t like and his response was, “I just don’t like the Black kids.” The video was posted on YouTube.)
As a Fresno City College student and recent graduate from Edison High School, I realized that I’ve learned so much in my four years with Californians for Justice (CFJ). The CFJ approaches some of the issues we as teenagers and of color face nearly every day of our lives, including stereotypes and racism.
To begin with, one of my biggest reasons for joining the CFJ was because I was able to relate to the things they talked about and I felt comfortable telling my story as a young Black woman and the stereotypes I’ve been labeled. As a junior in high school, I’ll never forget one experience I had. I was walking home from school and there was a group of teenagers who were driving past me, and the person sitting on the passenger side decided to call me “Broke African.” No doubt after that, I was so angry but because the CFJ was a club I was involved in, I was able to tell them my story so we could address and heal from situations like these. I really didn’t let it get the best of me because I know that I’m not the only girl of color who heard stereotypes like that.
Our FlipTheFrame event that took place on March 18 gives us teenagers the chance and power to effectively fight against stereotypes and let everyone know we are not who they think we are just because we are young and people of color. Keep in mind, this is not just for African Americans, it’s for all youth of color, LGBTQ youth and immigrant youth as well. In other words, we want adults in schools and our communities to treat us more respectfully because we are all valuable no matter our color, background or age.
To be sure all of our voices get heard, we want to really focus on deeply engaging our amazing youth and parent allies. We’re pushing both youth and adults to challenge harmful stereotypes and imagine their schools and communities changed into places where youth are seen as solutions to their own issues. Our FlipTheFrame movement is focused on achieving transformative change through transforming policies, practices and perceptions in Fresno communities and schools. We want our allies and youth to understand the message we are trying to get across and why it is really important to #fliptheframe.
Now is the time to combat unfair stereotypes and realize that if we as young people of color were given a chance to make decisions that affect our lives, we could change the world. For more information on getting involved with the CFJ, contact Rhea Martin at email@example.com.
Mary McGinnie is a leader at Californians for Justice.