As a follow-up to February’s Black History at Lakeside article, Darrow Hartman offers insight into the ongoing conversation of diversity and inclusion at Lakeside. As the grandson of Bob Henry, a history teacher from Lakeside who greatly contributed to efforts for more equity on school grounds, he shares his thoughts on and experiences with racial discrimination, along with how we can combat it.
How aware of discrimination and bias were you growing up?
I was born in LA and then moved up to the bay area, so I was up in the middle of California for most of my life before very recently moving up to Seattle. I grew up in Menlo Park, California, which is a pretty White, pretty Asian community. There were not a lot of black people there, so discussions about race didn’t come up a lot. Talking to my cousins and family members was where I truly experienced Black people in my life.
How much did you know about your mom’s high school experiences and your grandfather’s Lakeside career and history at Lakeside growing up? How did these make you feel?
I didn’t, really. I knew that my grandfather was a history teacher at Lakeside, but I didn’t really know the extent of his impact on the community until I first came to Lakeside. He first showed me around the campus, and all of the teachers were his friends. I could see that he had a huge impact on the community, and that was where I really gained a sense of appreciation for his history at Lakeside. My mother had talked to me briefly about her experiences in the past, but when I first applied to Lakeside, she really went in-depth and explained all of her experiences and what she went through. I’m not going to go into them specifically because they’re her stories to tell, but they were pretty negative and were based on racial and class discrimination. She went to Lakeside for two years before transferring to Garfield to finish her high school career there.
How did the Lakeside experiences of your family members differ from yours? How were they similar?
Firstly, my grandfather was a teacher, and my mother, my aunt, and I were all students, so we have that difference in experience. And of course, Lakeside has changed over the course of its lifetime. I’d say that it’s a very different school now than it was several decades ago. Additionally, myself, my grandfather, and my mother are different in our racial makeup. I think these factors all had impacts on our experiences at Lakeside, but mine, thankfully, has been a really positive one so far.
What more do you think could be done, in all kinds of environments, to include Black students and students of color in general?
I think that Black students want an opportunity for success, and Lakeside offers that to them by and large. I really like that Lakeside has a BSU, and that it’s a place where students come together and share their experiences. Keeping that is in the best interest of the school and the students, but I also think that too much needed attention could alienate students and create a system that just increases tensions. But overall, Lakeside – this is in my personal experience, I’ve only been here for one year – has been a really supportive community for all identities so far, and I hope it doesn’t overextend ideas of identity.
Anything else you want to add?
When I came up to Seattle, I actually didn’t tour any of the schools I applied to because it was so late in the application process; it was literally this summer. When we found out that my dad was going to be switching jobs and moving up to Seattle, we really had no time, so I just applied to several schools. I thankfully got into Seattle Academy and Lakeside, and I was having a really hard time choosing between the two, literally a week before school. I got into Seattle Academy at the start of the summer, so mentally I was already set on going there. They were also going to let me take some college classes at USeattle, which would have been really fun. If I had just gone off of my mother’s experience, I wouldn’t have gone to Lakeside. She had had a really negative time, and I didn’t want that repetition in my life. I think what changed my perspective was my grandfather telling me about his experiences, since he had taught there for many decades, and how he thinks the school is a much better place now. I would have had a good time at Seattle Academy, but I think I made the right decision going to Lakeside and am glad it isn’t the school it once was.
This interview has been edited for clarity and concision.