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Let's Grow Out of Our "Haightful"* History

Written by World Trust Program Associate Meriam Salem.

Originally published in the Alameda Sun's Letter to the Editor.

Editor: Not only am I an Alameda resident, but I am of one of the last generations born at Alameda Hospital. I saw South Shore go from its original name to Alameda Towne Center to again being renamed South Shore. 

I know the town well, I attended school here, and I can assure you that two nooses found — one at Chabot Elementary School in Oakland and a second at the city-owned baseball field behind the school — should equally terrify parents in Alameda. Often times, we allow “Island pride” to translate to seclusion and negligence in what happens in neighborhoods across our bridges. 

Chabot Elementary School is one of the best schools in Oakland. A noose threatening the safety of Black children and parents, as well as the safety of all minority families, should raise the question: “What is Alameda Unified School District doing to protect our kids of color and religious minorities?” 

When we ignore the creation of an environment of inclusion based on authentic engagement in ensuring our children are culturally competent, accepting and compassionate, we are setting up children to repeat the horrors of American history. The backlash of renaming Haight Elementary School to Love Elementary School should show that Alameda is not above what happened at Chabot. On the contrary, it should be a warning that we should not wait for something unequivocally hateful to happen to be proactive in ensuring that our schools foster an environment that is culturally responsive and accountable. 

Parents, educators and readers of the Alameda Sun concerned about the idea of talking to their kids about racial equity should remember: if we are not proactively teaching kids about human rights and equality, others will teach our kids the opposite. 

The conversation is uncomfortable and nobody enjoys talking about race, but there are local organizations, like World Trust Educational Services, with decades of experience and research in addressing implicit bias, creating inclusive business and communities, and changing school culture.

Let’s be a lot more like Love Elementary and grow from our state’s “Haightful” history. 

Meriam Salem


*"Haightful" is a reference to California's 10th governor, Henry Huntly Haight, known for his hateful rhetoric to Black and Asian Americans.

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