Taft Sits Down for Racism

One+of+Mia+Porter%27s+signs+for+the+Taft+sit-in
One of Mia Porter's signs for the Taft sit-in

One of Mia Porter's signs for the Taft sit-in

Mia Porter

Mia Porter

One of Mia Porter's signs for the Taft sit-in

Geethika Bathini '19, Staff Writer

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In October 2017, in a dorm common room at The Taft School, a student discovered the n-word written next to the name of a black faculty member on duty. Taft held a major all-school assembly to address the incident. However, a significant number of the student body was unhappy with how the administration handled the issue. As a Taft student, Mia Porter, expressed, “I was disappointed by how lenient they were with the announcement by saying ‘you have no place at Taft.’ There needs to be clear and explicit discipline stated.”

Recently, the Taft community witnessed four hate crimes within a week around Martin Luther King Jr. Day. A racial slur was written on a door telling a victim to “go back to Africa” followed by the n-word; a painting was vandalized to make the eyes more slanted, and one victim received homophobic notes calling them a “dirty f*g.” The fourth victim did not wish to speak on the issue. Porter commented, “We believe that the acts were lash back of MLK Day because two out of four victims performed in our MLK Day performance.”

Porter is a junior at the Taft School and an active voice in her school community. She is the head of Taft’s Black Student Union; United Cultures at Taft; and Taft Stands in Solidarity, a club that encourages activism in the Taft community. Porter was responsible for founding both the Black Student Union and Taft Stands in Solidarity.

In September 2016, Porter organized a sit-in for Taft students to protest police brutality. On January 17, 2018, she lead another protest to express her disappointment with how the administration handles issues of racism, such as the recent hate crimes at Taft. This time, however, it was not preplanned. She said, “On my way to class, in the middle of traffic, I put my backpack down and sat there and people followed. I just wanted people to know I was disappointed and frustrated and faculty and administration received it very well. I didn’t even let my teachers know what I was doing and I was not penalized.”

When asked about the changes she would like to see in the administration, Mia replied, “I would like to see immediate action and it’s frustrating to read the letter from the headmaster that does not properly address the situation and state what their plan of action is.”

The protest began around 8:10 a.m with about six students and garnered about 50+ student participants by 12:30 p.m. After the protest, Mia created a sign which read, “CALL THE POLICE,” surrounded by the Connecticut state law for hate crimes and displayed it in front of the dining halls. Shortly afterwards, the Taft School administration contacted the police for advice about  how to handle the situation and identify the people behind the hate crimes.

Although it was a coincidence that the protest occurred after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, Mia says that many methods she uses to convey her beliefs, such as the sit-in, are inspired by Dr. King. In May 2017, students at Milton Academy also organized a walk-out during a school assembly followed by a two day sit-in with hundreds of participants to protest racism on campus and show their dissatisfaction regarding how the school administration handled these issues.

In response to these protests, the Milton Academy administration sought professional consultation from Rodney Glasgow, a speaker and activist for diversity, equity, and social justice. Rodney worked at Worcester Academy from 2005-2012 as the Assistant Head of Upper School, Upper School Dean of Students, and the Director of Diversity.

1 Comment

One Response to “Taft Sits Down for Racism”

  1. Jacqueline Howard on January 28th, 2018 1:07 am

    Mia, I sent you a message but I don’t know if you got it, you may get this message twice. Mia, I am very proud of you for taking such a bold stand. I pray that the Lord will guide and keep you during these times. It will take young people like you to make a difference in this world.

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Taft Sits Down for Racism