Quotation posted by students draws ire

Posted: Monday, February 11, 2008

ANCHORAGE - A quotation posted by black students at an Anchorage high school has stirred debate and outrage.

The quotation was posted in a glass case outside the Service High School library as part of Black History Month.

It states: "The best way to hide something from black people is to put it in a book."

The students who posted it say the quotation was intended to spark conversation in a high school that has seen its student population go from predominantly white to almost half minority.

But the message has stirred up questions among black students about where racism begins. Parents have called and teachers are talking about it in class. Service High principal Lou Pondolfino called a special public meeting Friday to discuss it.

Alexander Shaw, a member of the group, said he was surprised by the reaction.

"I wanted to challenge people to break the mold and evoke change," said the senior. He describes himself as Filipino, Puerto Rican and black.

Shaw, 18, said someone showed him the quotation from the Internet. The quote has been attributed to white supremacists, black activists and comedians.

In defending the message, Shaw pointed to school statistics. While blacks made up the smallest minority group at Service last year, they had the highest dropout rate of any ethnic group, nearly double the average, according to the school.

"This is a challenge," Shaw said. "Let's better ourselves."

Some students of all races and their parents, however, want the quote taken down.

"The statement is racist and propagating stereotypes," said parent Nicole Howell at the special meeting attended by 50 people on Friday.

Reyonna Sudduth, who is part of Beautiful Colors, said she wants black students to be motivated to prove the statement incorrect.

Senior Marcus Lowe, who is black, was initially shocked when he saw the display, the senior told the crowd gathered at the library. Then he thought about it more and now supports keeping it up.

"We're in desperate times right now," he said. "There's a big problem in the African-American community where it's cool to be dumb."

Principal Pondolfino said he applauds the students' effort to make a difference. There are no plans to take the statement down, he said.

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