To The Editor:
In 1960, during deep resistance to racial segregation and a desire for equality for people of color, the graduating class of Stuyvesant High School included only seven African American young men out of 698 students. Nearly six decades later, Stuyvesant’s incoming freshman class of 900 will include 10 African Americans and less than 30 Latinos. As a debate rages over proposals to address inclusion and eliminate the entrance exam, what is abundantly clear is that the current practice of using the SHSAT as the only criterion for admission into the specialized high schools continues to foster segregation and inequity. The status quo cannot remain.
As alumni of the specialized high schools, we are in favor of change and we believe the time for justice is now.
Many of our peers hold admission and graduation from the “Ivy Leagues” of public schools as a special distinction and perceive change as a loss. While we acknowledge and believe that deep reforms are needed to address fundamental inequities within the New York City school system, the reality is also that maintaining an air of elitism cannot take priority over addressing a persistent problem.
While some alumni have failed to advocate for alternatives that speak to equity in education — the outcomes of which matter for all of us — these same alumni have poured energy into fighting state legislation promoting alternative pathways into these schools. Many of the online comments on specialized school group pages reflect racist tropes and stereotypes, such as the model minority myth, suggesting that black and brown students are lazy. These comments equate an initiative aimed at moving the dial on diversity and inclusion to “dumbing down” the schools and opening the gates to decline.
When Brooklyn Tech, which was once an all-male high school like Stuyvesant, began to admit young women, some of these same arguments were undoubtedly used to suggest that the entry of women would crumble these schools. When women, African Americans, Latinos and Asians tried to break into the ethnically dominated municipal workforce, these kinds of arguments were also used to limit their access to the police force, fire department and other city agencies because they were believed to be too short, too weak and too uneducated to do these jobs. Proponents of measures to segregate and marginalize women and minorities in the 1960s were on the wrong side of history then, and they are on the wrong side of history now. The important, critical thing is that we move forward — and that we start today.
As Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “History is the long and tragic story of the fact that privileged groups seldom give up their privileges voluntarily.” This is why New York City and State must act now to address racial and socioeconomic inequities in the specialized high schools, which are public entities and accountable to the people of this city. As alumni, we want to show support for change that could signal the turning point for what a public education in this city looks like for all students.
Vanessa Anderson, Stuyvesant ‘95
Tricia Bellinger, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Oni Blackstock, Stuyvesant ‘95
Uche Blackstock, Stuyvesant ‘95
Melissa Carlo, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Geovanna Chavez, Brooklyn Tech ‘12
Jayeesha Dutta, Stuyvesant ‘95
Sasha Edwards, Bronx Science ‘85
Laura Flaxman, Bronx Science ‘85
Lynette Gibbs, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Dawn Gilbert, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Erica González, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Melinda González, Brooklyn Tech ‘93
Patricia González, Brooklyn Tech ‘89
Shahara Jackson, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Monique Massa-Sena, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Audrey Montas, Brooklyn Tech ‘91
Katherine Olaya Compitus, Stuyvesant ‘95
Anita Rivera, Bronx Science ‘85
Maria Rivera Maulucci, Bronx Science ‘84
Camille Torres, Brooklyn Tech ‘93