By Kyra Rogers, VOX Media Cafe Reporter
Students of color at predominantly white schools are fed up with the way they are being treated. They are tired of their schools’ poor responses to reports of racism and discrimination. In an attempt to yield responses from predominantly white schools in the United States, these students have taken to Instagram.
These Instagram pages are collections of anonymous confessions of instances of racism from students of color and white allies. These confessions range from their hair being petted and touched without permission to being called the N-word straight to their face. The goal of these pages is to get a reaction from the school and make it acknowledge its mistakes and there have been very different reactions from these schools across the board.
The Woodberry Forest School is an all-boys boarding high school located in Woodberry Forest, Virginia. It is a predominately white institution that also has a student-run Instagram page dedicated to confessions. The page has had mixed reactions from students. alumni, and faculty, but it has also generated attention and created progress within their school community.
In a letter sent by the Woodberry Forest Board of Trustees, Headmaster Byron Husley and the Board Chairman Sandy Finch stated that the goal of the school was “to create a stronger, more inclusive Woodberry for everyone.” The Woodberry administration has made the decision to revise its handbook, the Blue Book, and ban the use of hate speech at school and enforce serious consequences if not followed. The Board of Trustees will be required to complete implicit bias training. The school will begin addressing its full history as an institution, create a minority alumni advisory committee and work on hiring a more diverse faculty. These are just a few examples of the positive progress that have come from this page. I applaud the creators of this page because their bravery and willingness to speak out helped to influence my decision to make a similar page for my school.
My school, Chatham Hall, a private girls school in Virginia, has had its fair share of discrimination against its Black students and other students of color, whether it be from other students or the administration. As the head of the Black Student Union, I took it upon myself to create a confessional Instagram page for my school. My intention for this page was to give Black girls and other girls of color at my school a safe space to share their trials and tribulations of being a minority.
I created this account in an attempt to garner attention from the school administration and to ask why it didn’t feel the need to deal with its poor history of dealing with racist remarks from students and faculty, especially this summer in the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter protests throughout the country. For a school that seems to value diversity and claims to want inclusion and for everybody to be heard, there are many instances that should have been discussed but have been repeatedly swept under the rug. Some of the instances have now become confessions on the Instagram account posted by current and former students. Students of color, especially Black students, already have to deal with being a minority throughout their entire lives. They need a safe space and to feel as if they are valued. They don’t need a school full of people that don’t look like them, making them think that they are safe, but when something of magnitude happens to them, there is silence.
I want to see change. I want to see students being held accountable for racism and hate speech instead of sweeping the instances under the rug and pushing Black students’ feelings to the side. I want PW private and boarding schools to make an effort to make students of color feel comfortable in what can sometimes be a completely new environment they aren’t used to. Students of color need to feel seen, especially at a school full of white people. Until these schools decide to actually get uncomfortable and confront racism and discrimination, these changes wont happen. Change has started with these pages made by the students and needs to continue with school faculty and administration.
Editor’s Note: In response to the student-run Chatham Hall Instagram account detailing confessions from students, Chatham Hall Chief Communications Officer Beth Stefanik sent VOX ATL this statement: “Over the past few weeks, Chatham Hall community members have shared their stories of painful experiences of racial insensitivity at our school. These are sobering and shocking to hear, and we are listening. We grieve the experiences that students past and present have described. We are committed to becoming an actively anti-racist institution, and it is clear we have work to do to make this commitment a reality. This summer, we will share our plans to confront, challenge, and change the systemic inequities that have existed on our campus. To our BIPOC students and alumnae, thank you for your courage in lifting your voices. We are ready and committed to act to make Chatham Hall better for you and the generations of young women to come.”
Kyra Rogers, 17, attends Chatham Hall in Chatham, Virginia but resides in Fairburn, Georgia. She enjoys basketball, poetry, acting, and speaking out against injustice towards the Black community.