Know your why

The voices of three students who did not attend the protest


Canva graphic designed by Hillary Currier

Know your why. On Dec. 1, when many students left class to protest, some made a decision to stay put.

By Meileen Arroyo, staff writer

     On Dec. 1 at exactly 11:05 a.m., students headed to the commons to protest against white privilege after a video of a fellow Tigard high student perpetrating hate speech arose on social media.

     The protest lasted about two hours and consisted of multiple students sharing their own stories with hate speech, conversation about the district’s policy regarding hate speech, and a walkout off campus.

     At the time of the protest, approximately 400 students walked out of class and gathered together, but others decided to remain in their seats. There were many students who wanted to show up and stand in solidarity but something pulled them back? Why did students decide to stay in their class? 

     Junior and vice president of the Pacific Islander club, Grace Chofat, was unsure whether or not to attend the protest. The uncertainty of others intentions on the protest pulled her back along with the idea of standing out and being the only one to leave from her classroom. 

     “I wasn’t sure if they were actually going to be serious about it. Once it hit second period…I wanted to go but I didn’t see anyone else in my class stand up and leave,” Chofat said. “I wanted to ask someone to [go with me]. It’s hard to do it by yourself. You try not to care about what other people think but in the end you start to think about it.”

     Junior and secretary of MEChA club, Gisselle Hernandez Odeja, was set on participating in the walkout but later changed her mind the day of.

     “I wasn’t well informed on the topic about what was happening. I got a message from one of the clubs I’m in [as well as] a friend [that] said I shouldn’t go because the intentions of the protest weren’t good. I went along with what [they] said.”

     There were posts circulating on social media that promoted the walkout beforehand, but what about those that don’t use social media often or don’t have any at all? Along with not having enough information, influence seems to be another factor that also impacted Junior Karla Reyes’ decision. 

     “I didn’t know anything about [the protest] until I got to school. I had actually seen a story where [someone said] they were feeling uncomfortable and didn’t think it was a good idea. Since [that] was the only thing I saw about it I thought that maybe I [also] shouldn’t go.” 

     Reyes soon found out a classmate/friend was a speaker at the protest.

     “I think that if I would’ve known that they [were] going [to speak] then I would’ve gone. I would’ve gone to support them.” 

     Reyes also believes that the class you were in during the time of the walk out affected people’s ultimate decision. Reyes shares her thoughts. 

     “I think that many people went out because of the class they were in. Some were uncomfortable leaving class and others left because they wanted to skip [and] [take] advantage.”

     Hernandez goes deeper into this point and expresses that the level of importance of a class is a huge factor that influences her choices. These choices can range from asking to go to the bathroom and risk missing information or on a larger scale like the events on Dec. 1. Hernandez says, 

     “If I would’ve been in a class that was really important, I wouldn’t have gone. Even if I cared so much about the topic, I would care more about the class, unfortunately.”

     Chofat brings to light the idea that as a person of color the choice of attending the protest or staying in class is more difficult. You contemplate whether to stand up for your community and risk the consequences or stay in your safe space and advocate in silence. Chofat regrets her decision about saying in class.

     “I should’ve gone at least for a little bit. I wanted to hear other students’ stories, especially students of color. It was good that students came together and walked out. Although, I know there were some students who actually didn’t care.”

     Students say the protest was a success. Many students had a moment of spotlight, shared their stories, and were heard. Chofat, Hernandez, and Reyes were 3 out of around 1500 students who remained in their class. They knew their why; do you know yours?