Alex Shantz is a former member of the St. Helena Unified School District Board of Trustees. He resigned on Nov. 16.
I’ve devoted most of my young adult life to challenging structures of oppression while defending those whom American culture has marginalized and abandoned. This political passion traces back to my own experiences in high school. I was a freshman during the first anniversary of 9/11. During this time, our nation’s leaders called for national unity in the wake of tragedy, and I witnessed, within my own high school microcosm, the worst of humanity.
I heard my peers calling for carpet-bombing Muslims in Middle Eastern countries. I saw students divide themselves along racial lines, whites against brown students, during Physical Education free play time. I felt physical objects and homophobic slurs hurled at me while changing in the boys locker room. Those who claimed to be the most enthusiastic lovers of America’s foundational freedoms were among the most vicious opponents to free speech.
Suicide is the third leading cause of youth death with over 14 percent of high school students considering it and 7 percent attempting it. Youth who’ve been bullied are between 2 and 9 times more likely to attempt suicide. Being the vocalist for a hardcore punk band and listening to music helped me survive.
Much of my civic engagement since then has been aimed at working with historically marginalized groups to dismantle structures of racism, xenophobia and oppression. The stories and experiences from people of color, queer youth, and women were excluded within dominate cultural spaces while I grew up. My work has been centered on cultivating and creating spaces within the dominate culture where the voices of those deemed “misfits” can find acceptance, understanding, and the power to persist.
Our community has made some progress. [Read More…]