Who is Elaina Yang? Minnesota high schoolers stage walkout to support student targeted with anti-Asian slurs, texts

Elaina Yang received comments from her classmates at Centennial High School disparaging her father’s English and saying he should go back to Hong Kong in a group chat. These texts also included racial slurs

                            Who is Elaina Yang? Minnesota high schoolers stage walkout to support student targeted with anti-Asian slurs, texts
Students at the walkout at Centennial High School in Circle Pines, Minnesota (Instagram/desi.hennagir)

CIRCLE PINES, MINNESOTA: Students at a Minnesota school planned a walkout Monday, March 29, to stand up against anti-Asian racism after a student posted screenshots where she was called racist slurs in texts. Elaina Yang decided to expose the racism she has been subjected to in high school and said, “It’s been going on so long it’s normalized and I’m just used to hearing it all the time.”

Students have also come out in solidarity as they participated in a walkout on Monday morning, armed with megaphones and posters, saying, “Silence is violence,” and “We demand change.” Desi Hennagir, a 2019 graduate of the high school who helped organize the walkout, spoke to local media: “I am very very upset about it.”


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Who is Elaina Yang?

Elaina Yang, a student at Centennial High School in Circle Pines was the target of anti-Asian harassment, a trend that has seen an uptick in the US recently. Yang took to social media to report racially insensitive messages she received in a group text from other students. Yang received comments from classmates disparaging her father’s English and saying he should go back to Hong Kong. The texts also included racial slurs. 

On Instagram, she shared screenshots of the messages on March 24, writing alongside that she wanted to bring awareness to “how prevalent harassment and racial slurs are happening” at the high school. She said that she was coming forward with this because she knew other people were “experiencing this as well,” and that this awareness would “allow us to make change”. “It would mean a lot if people could use their voice and repost this so it can bring awareness and so the school understands that this is a real issue that needs to be seriously dealt with,” she wrote.

Anna Yang, Elaina’s mother, speaking to local news, said that the ordeal broke her heart. “Absolutely disgusting, heartbreaking,” she said. Anna Yang, however, said that the school district was very responsive and supportive. 

“Earlier this week, an incident involving racist and derogatory comments at Centennial High School was reported. An investigation was conducted and appropriate, disciplinary action is being taken,” the school district said in a statement on March 26. “Due to student privacy rights, those details cannot be released. The Centennial School District condemns all types of hatred and racism and will take appropriate action with any situation.”

“Through our equity efforts, we have worked in partnership with our stakeholders to make a better environment for all of our students. We recognize there are still issues, and we are committed to partner with our stakeholders and the community on a plan to ensure these issues are addressed,” the statement added. 





As per reports, the walkout was not the first call for equity in the school district. Centennial Community Advocates for Racial Equity, a private Facebook group not officially affiliated with the school district, was created to promote anti-racist efforts for students, faculty, and staff in June of 2020. Centennial Students for Change, a group formed after the death of George Floyd, also peacefully marched in the summer of 2020 in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Organizers at the march demanded that all faculty and staff be required to undergo anti-racism training. “A student at Centennial harassed my friend for wearing her hijab and asked if she had a bomb in her backpack. And when she reported it, guess what happened? Nothing,” said a student there. 

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