Last spring, students at the high school were given the opportunity to participate in the Annual Musikavanhu High School Essay Contest. Established in 2018 as a collaboration between the high school, World of Wellelsey, and the Musikavanhu family, the contest gives students a platform to express their thoughts on defeating racism in America. This year, the contest gave students two prompts about consolidating efforts to defeat racism and the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Why everyone (Conservative, Liberal or otherwise) needs to unite in defeating racism in America.
- The COVID-19 pandemic is shown to be proportionately affecting people of color in America. In addition, Ahmaud Arbery, an unarmed young African American was shot and killed while jogging: if you were in a position of leadership, what policies would you support that would stop the disproportionate effect of these two plagues of COVID-19 and racially motivated violence on people of color in America?
Students’ submissions were assessed on the thoroughness and accuracy of their research, the clarity of their facts and opinions, and the practicality of the solutions presented. Organizers encouraged students not to participate for public recognition, but as a way to show their commitment to the community and the fight for equality.
“This is not just an essay contest with public recognition, but a public call to action to show the strength of your voice and call for change. Wellesley needs students like you as an example of the commitment to end racism,” said Ms. Christina Horner, co-president of World of Wellesley.
Students took various approaches in tackling each of the prompts. Lauren Kim ’21, the fourth place winner focused on blending what she learned at school with her pre-existing knowledge.
“I found it enlightening that I could combine what I learned English, and I also took the historical aspect pulling like policies from the New Deal, so it was really cool to be able to combine my views that I’ve had my whole life with what I’ve been learning in school that year. I really enjoyed building a perspective through that,” said Kim.
Aaron Lai ’23, the first place gold medal winner of the competition focused on what divided people on both sides of the political spectrum.
“I think the prompt itself was phrased very well: it’s not a question of whether ‘racism is wrong,’ but a discussion of how can we as a society come up with concrete reasons to convince everyone to actively end racism,” said Lai. “I approached the writing process by thinking critically about how we can appeal to all sides of the political spectrum because in a partisan nation, unfortunately, people need reasons that resonate with them when being persuaded to end injustice.”
Through examining Kenneth Clark’s doll test, which tested the psychological effects of segregation on African-American children and Jonathan Haidt’s 2012 social psychology book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, Lai explored how racism can be remedied by finding different ways to appeal to the moral values of both conservatives and liberals.
“The research and writing of this essay have only reinforced my perception of how issues plaguing society are politicized. In other words, making the issue of treating people the same a political one, and not one of human rights and moral foundations. Writing this essay has made me realize further just how much moral and intelligent people can be divided by politics, ” said Lai.
Through the essay, students were able to reflect more deeply into social issues that continue to plague society and find creative solutions to solve them.
“Tackling these topics through writing helps us better understand how we can change the society around us, as well as how we can educate ourselves,” said Lai.