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Dozens of students of color and their allies walked out of class Thursday morning at Brookline High School, after Snapchat videos surfaced showing current and former students repeating racial slurs.
Many participants wore the maroon sweatshirts of Brookline High's African-American and Latino Scholars Program. That program was started as an academic home for first black, then Latino students, at the majority-white school.
In one of the videos shared with WBUR, a former Brookline High student can be heard saying that he equates "African-American scholar" with the N-word. (In the background, others apparently warn against using the slur on camera.) The videos surfaced Wednesday night, but were apparently recorded last week. School officials apologized for a delay in discussing the videos with students and parents.
The videos are one of the reasons students of color say they feel unsafe in Brookline, where the town's progressive reputation can mask what they see as a pattern of racial antagonism and belittlement, on and off school grounds.
Baylee Mendez Rainey, a senior crouched over her calculus homework, said that for now, she doesn't feel safe in the high school building. First, she said, "We need to broaden these conversations. [White people] hear you, but they don't listen."
When Brookline's reputation was invoked, Mendez Rainey and her friends reacted strongly.
"It's all a sham, it's a facade," said senior Penelope Cruz. "This was one of the macro-aggressions. But there are micro-aggressions we have to deal with every single day."
"It's an everyday thing," said Yama Estime, also a senior. "You could be walking down the street with, you know, your little nephew and [people] assume that's your child."
Other students described contentious run-ins with Brookline police and stereotyping in the classroom.
Mendez Rainey wasn't the only student who took her homework outside. One freshman, Ramon Perez, was walking around holding his copy of José Saramago's novel "Blindness."
Estime said that, true to the mission of the Scholars Program, participants in the walkout were taking pains to show they can be serious about their classwork and their civil rights.
"We're not what they say we are," she said. "We're a highly educated black people. And they need to understand that. We have a voice, and we're not going to be silent anymore."
Brookline Schools Superintendent Andrew Bott gave a brief press conference to reporters on the school's front lawn. He said he supports the students' actions and looks forward to a town-wide effort to change.
District officials declined to discuss the disciplinary action they're taking against current students, citing privacy laws. But many students weren't satisfied, saying they don't want this episode to be swept under the rug as others have, in their view, been in the past.
Hundreds of students and teachers turned out for a second walkout Thursday afternoon.
This segment aired on November 30, 2017.
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