Marin’s ‘Overt and Covert Racism’: How the District Can Do Better


Graphic by Naomi Lenchner

By Mikyla Williams, Features Editor, Graphics Editor, Photo Editor

We are all aware of the uproar in the Black Lives Matter movement last year, and the impact it had, not only in our country, but in the Marin community. After many protests all over Marin County, the Tamalpais Union High School District (TUHSD) established a formal district-wide Racial Task Force. The members consist of TUHSD Superintendent Tara Taupier, community members, parents, teachers, and students. (I am included, as I am also a frequent guest speaker). 

After going to one meeting, it is safe to say that the district is way in over its head. The overt and covert racism and white supremacy of our community are very prevalent. It is shown through our students, parents, and teachers. Though the district is now aware of the racism in our community, it is obvious they do not know the full extent of it. So let’s break it down.

Let’s start  with “overt racism” and “covert racism.” After referring to Religion and Race, or , and their article “Overt and Covert Racism”. Religion and Race is an educational organization. They have a website, which teaches through newsletters and public anti-racist activism. I gained a better understanding of the racism that surrounds myself and my peers. Overt racism is the blatant racism we see or experience. This includes hate crimes, racial slurs, burning of crosses, lynchings, anti-immigrant beliefs and discussions, writing of swastikas, and the list goes on. It can look like anything but it has to be abrupt and direct. 

Covert racism is more subtle. This includes microaggressions, racial profiling, tokenism, denial of racism, xenophobia, and that list goes even longer. It’s the same idea, only it’s easily overlooked, and is more rooted in our society. Especially in our community, we BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) students, experience a lot of covert racism.

But the problem doesn’t just lie in the incidents we face, it also lies in our white allies. Most of them are new and don’t know what to look for or how to help. Others are performative activists and are in it for the recognition and validation of being a good person. The expert white allies not only understand their privilege as white people, but they are active in advocacy. This advocacy can be shown by: being respectful of other cultures and religions; standing up for BIPOC so that they don’t have to; addressing racism at the moment, whether that be stopping the class or calling out a friend. Acknowledging the problem at hand while it is still fresh, and carrying out a solution until the message is understood, is the preferred and better way to educate people on racism.

The Racial Task Force is trying their best to be anti-racist but seeing as it is dominated by white people, you can understand my concern for their activism. We’ve seen it too often in our country’s history. The task force has done very well in asking for help from BIPOC students. SOAR, SLAM, and STAR (Students Organized Against Racism, fguy , Students Together Against Racism) are student-led organizations that tackle systematic racism within their schools (Tam High, Redwood, and Archie Williams) and TUHSD. Though the organizations take different names, they conform to the same curriculums, workshops, and ideals. My one critique for employing these organizations, would be that the tast force should be mindful of how much they rely on these students for help. Training and self-education is an important tool that all white people need to utilize. BIPOC students and students in general are not experts on racism, but there are many adult educators who are. Dr. Lori A. Watson is a great example of someone who is an expert on racism. There are, however, other educators around the Bay Area, as well as country-wide workshops and practices that are available to the district.

With the Racial Task Force being created during the time of COVID-19 pandemic, it hasn’t been very public. They have been focused on self education and how to hold productive conversations. From what I’ve seen in these meetings they are very reflective of themselves rather than the TUHSD as a whole. Its existence is known in the Tam community, but their voice is yet to be heard. With Taupier’s frequent district-wide emails about Redwood High School’s many antisemetic incidents, it makes one wonder how effective this task force really is, or even how much they care. But it also begs the question of why Marin, as a whole, so prevalent has racism and antisemitism. Could it be that the parents of these students are racist themselves? Could it be that the students are simply incapable of empathy and respect? Could it be that the district hasn’t been assertive enough with punishments and education of these white students? Simple answer, all of the above.

Marin County reeks of white supremacy and it is shown through the entitlement of its youth. Earlier we begged the question of why Redwood was having such a problem with racism. I believe it is their entitlement, and never being taught how to be decent people towards minorities, is the reason for their lack of respect. It is our school’s job to teach us how to be decent people in our society. It is our school’s job to prepare them for the world outside of our Marin bubble. It is our school’s job to be disciplinarians of students who lack respect. Our schools are trying but they need to be doing more.

In order to make our community one where BIPOC feels comfort and respect, the Racial Task Force needs to start holding students accountable for their racist actions and words. Lastly, some kind of punishment needs to be set. Holding their hands isn’t working anymore, too many BIPOC and other underrepresented students have been harmed due to racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy. From here on out, my peers and I need to see the Racial Task Force members do their jobs, and do it better.