Chesty’s House: a good start

Chesty’s House campaign sparks thoughts about the past as well as the future

By Jonas Lord

Throughout the months of December, January, and February, LHS had to contend with a rise in anti-semetic graffiti and overall hateful rhetoric. A group of students and teachers helped tackle this  with the Chesty’s House Campaign, which sought to start important, student-led conversations and emphasized the importance of inclusion. 

My initial opinion on the campaign was mostly positive, and it still is, to a certain extent. It was a good effort which was represented by a completely agreeable message. People shouldn’t feel comfortable when expressing these opinions, especially in our school building. This terrible language shouldn’t be hidden by unfunny ‘jokes’ or dogwhistles. Students need to address the issue head-on, and I’m down for all that.

I couldn’t help but feel weird about this effort though, especially when I was first exposed to it all in my third hour analysis class. That day was a Thursday, a long day, and some time was devoted to the Chesty’s House video and an ensuing conversation.

Through this conversation I heard multiple viewpoints surrounding the campaign, all along the lines of, the effort is appreciated, but more can be done. 

Some thought that the campaign was completely shallow, and while I don’t completely agree with all that, I can see their point. Telling someone not to do something will not stop them from doing it, and I think this is recognized, at least according to member and Chesty’s House co-founder Jackson Green.

“I think the main flaw, if I could only think of one flaw, and it’s that there are some people who are never going to be on board with this and we can’t change everyone’s minds because that’s virtually an impossible task,” Green said.

Despite this flaw, Green is still a big believer in the campaign, especially the student feedback aspect of it all. 

“The students are in charge of it,” Green said. “The students are hearing what people have to say and we are taking that and putting that into what we do.”

I totally agree with this sentiment. Student perspectives should be listened to more and this campaign does a good job of engaging in all that, especially in the aforementioned video, which expressed all sorts of neat, diverse viewpoints.

Another strength, in my mind at least, would be the ways in which Chesty’s House is open to being a more permanent fixture at LHS. This permanence was made clear to me through the establishment of after-school panels, which also seem really neat, especially when considering the fact that all too often these sorts of campaigns end with very little real impact. I think that Chesty’s House is actively trying to change all that and that’s also very cool to see.

But all of these strengths and criticisms made me think: Why, now, why are we focused on all this? Not that this focus is an objectively bad thing, but it’s more complicated than that, I feel like.

We live in a pretty progressive city, a college town. Lawrence and Douglas County are splotches of blue in an otherwise red state. And that got me thinking about assumptions over this progressive nature, as in thoughts of, maybe the issue is already addressed so we don’t need something like Chesty’s House, or any other, more substantial school reform on the districts part.

Like I said earlier, I think they regonize this (hence the planned panels) but I can’t help but think about how different things could be if whoever wrote that heinous graffiti was exposed to more diverse lesson plans, assemblies on prejudice that get at the exact problem, or maybe even stricter punishments for certain, prejudiced behaviors.

All that can’t be done right now, of course, time machines haven’t been invented yet, but it’s interesting to think about, if there was a more preemptive approach to the issue of prejudice.

My final point is this: It’s important to realize that, just because we live in a place where the majority opinion is inclusion-based, doesn’t mean that close-minded racist bullshit can’t exist. Maybe, if this point is realized, we wouldn’t have another incident like the one which inspired Chesty’s House.

Also I feel like I should mention, I am a white, cis male. My own viewpoint is very limited. If you, the reader, have any feedback or any other things to add to this opinion piece, feel free to contact me at [email protected].


Milo Bitters contributed to the design of this graphic.