The Rainbow Behind the Black and Gold

Graphic+by+Jenita+Poodwan

Graphic by Jenita Poodwan

Gillian Smith, News, Science and the Environment

Kelowna has never been a progressive place. The town is right in between rural and urban, with the general mindset of a small farming town yet far too great a population for said mindset to function. We’re stuck in between the rural valley we used to be and the tech hub we’re becoming, and most of the residents are slow to adapt to any change, even one that is long overdue. That being said, I when I came here as a short, optimistic tenth grader, I was hoping my high school would be a bit more tolerant than it is in reality. Kelowna Secondary School has the general mindset that if you ignore problems, they go away, and that if you pretend everyone is equal, they will be. Most students here like to think the school is an accepting environment, and because of that they ignore all evidence to the contrary. With just one walk around the halls, slurs can be heard left, right, and centre. When confronted, few will actually admit to their own bigotry, but that doesn’t mean said bigotry is non-existent.

This can even be seen on a national scale. We as Canadians like to see ourselves as tolerant and open minded, but when you look at our bloodstained history it is evident that the reality is different. We may not have obvious police brutality towards people of colour, but our nation committed a genocide of first peoples, and those racist attitudes remain. We may have been one of the first to legalize same gender marriage, but one of our major federal parties only came to accept that decision this year. We may treat women as equal to men, but the right to chose is still causing political controversy. Canada, and KSS with it, appears accepting when compared to the worst common denominator, yet our bigotries still exist under the surface.

Thankfully, Kelowna Secondary has undergone a radical shift towards acceptance. I have been impressed with the reception of our Diversity Club. When we started the group we were prepared for the worst. There were plans in place in case posters got torn down or vandalized, and we braced ourselves for some backlash. Thankfully, these incidents have been minimal, and our group members have reported feeling safer and more included than ever before. Kids who used to be seen wandering the halls alone and outcast have found a group where they can fit in. Even the overall atmosphere has changed for the better from what I remember from my first day walking through those front doors.
We still have improvements to make. KSS needs to continue to discuss its problems instead of turning its back, and needs to allow more students to present solutions that could make the school better. Our student body is large, and thus diverse than it can appear at first glance. We may all bleed black and gold, but that doesn’t mean we hold the same values, identities, and beliefs. This school will be better if we acknowledge our differences, and embrace them for all the world to see.