Responding to Racism, Homophobia, and Antisemitism in our Community

The Xaverian Missionaries at Our Lady of Fatima Shrine in Holliston, Massachusetts works with other faith communities as we widen the circle of the Kin-dom of God both within and beyond the Catholic community. Recently, bias incidents showed up in our local public schools with racist, homophobic, and antisemitic graffiti. The trauma caused to students and their families is enormous and school and town officials, are working together with local faith leaders to address this problem.

In this light, we would like to share the story of an African American teenager and her experience in the Holliston public schools recently. It is heartbreaking, but it is hoped that her story awakens in more people insight into the human costs to our children and future generations of our divided hearts.

Fr. Carl Chudy, SX

Throughout my life, I’ve had some significant medical issues. When I was three years old, I was diagnosed with PFAPA syndrome, and in eighth grade diagnosed with DRES’s syndrome, sending me into organ failure and causing my skin to peel off. Most recently, in February 2019, I had bi-lateral pulmonary embolisms that caused me heart and lung damage. My whole life I’ve struggled with an immune disorder and its symptoms, along with serious life-threatening allergies. Through it all, I maintained my grades and participated in extracurricular activities. But although my medical issues have been difficult it’s not the most challenging situation I’ve ever faced.

I grew up in Holliston Massachusetts, a predominantly white town, where I am one of three black people in my entire school. As a kid, I never especially thought that people saw me as “black” or “mixed”. At the start of high school, I was excited about beginning a new chapter. I had good friends and I played on the volleyball team. Everything began well, but in late September, I had an experience that would forever alter me.

A new boy had joined my biology class that year and one day, my teacher was absent and there was a substitute covering. Unprovoked, the new student took his laptop and held it over my head, beginning to yell “This is what we should do to ——-! This is all she will ever be good for! Let’s hang her like the slave she was born to be”! All I remember is one of my friends saying “Don’t look ———!” and I didn’t. I later discovered that he had a picture of slaves being hanged on the screen.

I wanted to get up and flee the class, but I was unable to move, it felt like I was cemented to my chair. I felt nauseous but he kept yelling. I couldn’t understand why nobody was making him stop. I was frightened and humiliated, so I simply bowed my head down and tried not to cry. Even my medical issues had never made me feel this terribly. For the first time in my life, I recognized and felt that I was different. It was my first experience encountering racism and school was no longer a place I felt safe.

An investigation was conducted and I was constantly fearful of retaliation from him or his friends. I was unable to sleep, do my school work, and I felt trapped by my own skin. The realization that I was a black person in a white community was something that I’d never even thought of before and now, it was all I could think about. The incident was deemed a civil rights violation and he was removed from all my classes, but I still faced him in the halls.

Afterward, I had a challenging time in school. History and English classes which had once been my favorite classes, now made me feel physically ill. I couldn’t bear to sit in a sea of white peers as the only black student while we read “To Kill a Mockingbird” and studied slavery. It felt like all eyes were on me. I felt like an outcast. I retreated into myself and prayed to be invisible.

I am fortunate to have a supportive family and friends. This network rallied around me during this tough time. And I now know have nothing to be ashamed of. According to Webster’s dictionary, one of the definitions of a challenge is “to confront or defy boldly”. I relate to this definition, I myself now refuse to allow an ignorant high school freshman, or anyone else, to ever make me bow my head in shame for who I am. I will boldly defy his accusations that I deserved to be hanged for the color of my skin. I’ll keep my head up and confront whatever challenges come my way.

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