LHS racial education serves as model for city


Zoë Bonnichsen

Junior Pirrie Wright participates in one of the breakout sessions at the Critical Race Studies Exhibition Night.

Lincoln High School has recently started a class called Critical Race Studies to educate young students about racial disparities in this country along with the history of race and its application to Hip-Hop today.

The idea for the class was started by a student and this program and others like it have gained recognition throughout schools in  Portland and started movement to get more classes like this everywhere.

“This class has taught me so much about race that many people won’t ever learn in their lives,” said senior Bella Bringhurst. “It has shown me just how big of an issue racism still is, not just through explicit language or direct action, but implicit bias and institutions.”

In this class, students are given a lot of helpful information and facts and have guided discussions to create their own opinions on the issues that are discussed. They are also given the opportunity to do their own research and present their learnings and opinions  to the class.

“We have created a community in our class and it really helps everyone get comfortable sharing their opinions and growing and learning from each other,” Bringhurst said.

As well as work in the classroom the students have participated in teaching experiences outside of the class. In March, the Critical Race Studies classes held an exhibition night where many groups taught their own seminar that they created about race. They were each about 40 minutes and got great reviews from people that attended.

Bringhurst described it as, “an opportunity to practice facilitating conversations about race as well as educating your peers and community members about what the students have learned in this class and what information they feel is most important to teach their peers and community members.”  

Kristi Yuthas, who attended the seminar said, “The work these students are doing is incredible, I am so proud that my daughter gets to be involved in something this wonderful, I learned so much from that seminar and I can really tell just how passionate these students are.”

Bringhurst said she also found the exhibit productive.

“It was an amazing opportunity for me and now I feel more comfortable leading discussion about race.”

All of the work these students have been doing has sparked incentive throughout Portland Public Schools  to implement more programs like this. On Tuesday, May 2, the school board voted unanimously that by 2018, all Portland high schools will be required to offer an ethnic studies class.

“This is just the start of something so great, it is nice to know that this work is getting recognized and people are really starting to realize how important it is,” Yuthas said.

The work of the students here at Lincoln and many other high schools have started a movement and made progress towards educating about race and many hope it continues to grow far beyond what it already has achieved.