By Jackson K. ’21
This is another installment in a series that is being written throughout the year by Gryphon Gazette’s publishers, in which we aim to provide a platform for a diverse range of voices on our campus to speak about equity, inclusion, and social justice issues both within the Crystal community as well as in society at large. Click here to view our first article on an interview with Ms. Wade. This article will focus on my interview with Ms. Isaacson, who is Associate Director of Admission and Financial Aid at Crystal. In our interview, Ms. Isaacson shared steps the Crystal administration is taking to become a more anti-racist institution, discussed her own experience pursuing her identity as an transracial adoptee, and drew from personal experience as she gave advice on how to create positive change within the community.
It’s clear Crystal is far from perfect, as Ms. Isaacson voiced her frustration with being the only Latino/a/x member of the faculty for her first fours years, mentioned that the Latino/a/x demographic is the most disproportionately underrepresented at Crystal when compared to the racial makeup of San Mateo County (nearly a quarter of the county’s population identifies as Latino/a/x, but only 5% of Crystal students do), and offered examples of microaggressions she’s experienced. Yet, she also sees a light on the horizon, and is hopeful for the future. For one, she sees promise in the Multicultural Leadership Team, the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Taskforce, as well as the student-led discussions surrounding various social justice issues, all of which she has played a role in introducing to the Crystal community over the last year. She believes that valuable and productive dialogue is being created in all three environments, and that real policy and change of thought is happening because of it. The main reason for her optimism, however, stems from the fact that the administration is taking steps to address what she sees as one of the largest obstacles to increased community affinity: the difficulty that students have in reporting or discussing racist incidents and microaggressions. Ms. Isaacson feels that this issue is caused by two primary factors. The first is that, in her opinion, students don’t trust the administration to actually take meaningful action when alerted about a problem regarding microaggressions upon one’s racial identity. This is a concern that has been raised with the administration, and although this trust will come slowly, she feels that Crystal is certainly becoming better at responding with decisive and consistent action. The second issue is simply that students are often self-conscious about reporting the racist behavior of their classmates. By coming forward about microaggressions and engaging in conversation, students are putting themselves in uncomfortable situations. Ms. Isaacson said that she understands this, but that with renewed faith in the administration to take action when these issues arise, students should feel safe telling teachers about anything uncomfortable or off-putting that they’ve experienced. Additionally, she reminds that the process of making Crystal a more anti-racist place is itself awkward and difficult, but that it is necessary and, when done correctly, can yield real progress.
Ms. Isaacson went on to explain another issue facing Crystal’s progress towards anti-racism: the extreme opposite of not being able to speak up, which is being resolute and impatient. Ms. Isaacson feels that at Crystal, students who are pushing for change often become frustrated when their peers are slower to accept certain concepts or disagree on certain issues. In her opinion, the conversations that our community is having on race shouldn’t be courtroom-style debates where there is a definitive winner and loser. Instead, it’s completely okay to walk away unsure or unsatisfied. Crystal’s ultimate goal of anti-racism won’t happen in a day, or even a year. It’s a long and arduous process, and there is bound to be frustration, disagreement, and moments of discomfort. Ms. Isaacson used a personal example to support this, and said that during the 2014 protests against the killing of Michael Brown, during which police officers were attacked, she was first exposed to the idea of “All Lives Matter” and didn’t see the problem with it. It was only after research and discussion with her colleagues when she came to the realization that “All Lives Matter” is an irrelevant and untrue statement, as all lives can’t matter until black lives matter. As such, it’s important to have patience with those who grasp onto ideas slower than most. Ms. Isaacson emphasized the importance of assuming good intentions: just because someone isn’t an outspoken activist doesn’t mean they aren’t doing meaningful and constructive work behind the scenes. If we are able to strike a balance between pushing for change and respecting everyone’s ability to process and learn at their own speed, Ms. Isaacson feels that there is significant progress to be made in pursuit of a more inclusive and anti-racist Crystal community.
Want to start doing research yourself? Make sure to check out the “Crystal Community Anti-Racism Resources” document.