The importance of being an ally: to the Black community

The Editorial Board

George Floyd. Trayvon Martin. Daunte Wright. Breonna Taylor. Rayshard Brooks. Daniel Prude. Atatiana Jefferson. Stephon Clark. Botham Jean. Philando Castille. Alton Sterling. Janisha Fonville. Eric Garner. Michelle Cusseaux. Akai Gurley. Tamir Rice. 

And so many more. 

Time and time again, Black lives are lost at the hands of police. In a country where racism seems not to be the exception, but the standard, Black children are six times more likely to be shot and killed by police than white children, according to the Equal Justice Initiative. 

It is staggering statistics like this one that fall on Black Americans’ shoulders. Despite not having a shared experience, allies to the Black community should take the initiative to support Black Americans in creating a more equitable future, which becomes increasingly important in a predominantly white community like South’s. 

The Oracle Editorial Board calls for the Glenbrook community to recognize the struggles of Black Americans and work to become allies of the Black community. Showing solidarity, taking accountability, supporting the Black community and educating yourself are a few steps in which you can be an ally to Black Americans.

Andrea Ball-Ryan, Black Student Union (BSU) sponsor, emphasized the importance of genuineness in allyship. In the midst of a social media frenzy regarding the Black Lives Matter movement, it is easy to be swept into a torrent of meaningless hashtags and empty reposts. 

“Let [social media posts] be because you actually care about equity and not because it’s kind of a cool thing to do right now,” Ball-Ryan said. “[Do not get involved because] ‘everyone’s doing it, it’s a big hashtag and I don’t want to be canceled.’”

Despite the thin line between allyship and pseudo activism, posting on social media in support of the Black Lives Matter movement can be a sign of solidarity, according to senior Kinijiah Perkins, BSU member. Perkins said that advocating for petitions and protests are pathways to increasing the visibility of Black Americans’ plight.

“Show solidarity,” Perkins said. “On social media a lot of people repost Black Lives Matter [and] petitions. All kinds of things like that could definitely help.”

However, allyship surpasses social media, sophomore Yemisi Olujare said. While someone might not be racist, tolerating the racist actions of others is just as detrimental to justice. 

“To be anti-racist is to actively be against racism and not tolerate any form of racism whatsoever,” Olujare said. “[Being anti-racist means] you hold people accountable, whether it be your friend or someone you love and they do/say something that is racist.”

Olujare often encounters racism as a Nigerian American, and she explained that many Black people, including herself, feel uncomfortable speaking out when these instances arise. She said that it is vital for allies of the Black community to stand up against racism, because the privilege that comes with their skin tone creates a safety net that many Black Americans cannot fall back on.  

“It’s all about knowing when to be quiet and help amplify [people of colors’] voices and also knowing how to use your platform and privilege as a white person,” Olujare said. “Since you have privilege and are more likely to be listened to because you’re white, you can help [people of colors’] voices be heard.”

Although conversations with Black Americans are crucial in understanding the importance of allyship, Ball-Ryan explained that people should not expect someone to feel comfortable having these conversations just because they are Black. She said that BSU members have expressed their discomfort in speaking for the entire Black community, and in these conversations, emphasis should be placed on the feelings of an individual, not the entire Black community.

“Find somebody that will be open and honest with you, and someone that will make you feel comfortable to say, ‘hey, I know a little bit about this topic, but I don’t know a ton, and I’m just wanting to learn more because I want to be an ally,’” Ball-Ryan said. “‘I’m not asking you to speak for everybody, I just want to know about your experiences. Tell me about you.’”

As a South transfer, Perkins emphasized the difficulties she faced with South’s small Black student population. When Black students are organizing events to raise awareness, she urges her peers and teachers to become involved, as the presence of allies at these events increases awareness and inclusivity of the Black community at a school, where they make up 1.5 percent of the population according to the Illinois Report Card and

“Stand with [the] Black students that attend [South because] there’s a small [number] of us,” Perkins said. “When I first transferred to [South], I felt uncomfortable because of the lack of Black students. When we are trying to raise awareness, students and teachers should volunteer and help out to the best of their abilities.”

The Editorial Board commends South’s administration f0r their support of the Black Lives Matter movement as well as their ongoing attempts to listen and implement changes based on discussion by Black students and staff. However, these actions need to be made more accessible to the entire student body so all Glenbrook community members can partake in creating change. 

This disparity is made evident by the varying opinions regarding the administration’s actions against racism. While some commend the administration for combatting racism, others, such as Olujare, feel that South has done too little and that there are countless instances of harmful actions slipping beneath school officials.

“Every time something happens [South’s administration] just puts out a little email,” Olujare said. “The action is never [reprimanded] and that is if they’re caught because there are so many instances where it goes undocumented.”

While Fagel expressed her understanding for people’s anger towards the school’s reaction to racist behavior, she explained that the school takes a restorative approach, where the person who was racist has the opportunity to learn from their actions. She explained that although many call for suspension or expulsion, that removing someone from the community would not solve the problem; instead, she said that educating them as well as repairing any harm that resulted from their behavior allows for growth.

“Our ultimate goal is to restore the harm, to repair the harm, and to also to educate whoever it is who said or did something that was perceived as racist [and] to educate them on why what they said or did is not okay.” Fagel said.

 Fagel emphasized the importance of creating a safe environment for all students, and especially Black students. Safety is correlated with academic performance, Fagel noted, so when students feel unsafe their education suffers. 

“This is first and foremost in my mind every day,” Fagel said. “In terms of not just serving as allies for our black students but creating and sustaining  an environment that everyone can feel is safe and that they’re not going to be judged or treated differently [in]. It’s a tall order, but it’s one that I would never stop striving for.”