As a four-year senior at Loomis I’ve had the privilege of meeting people who are extremely different than I. As a white, blonde, female student from the middle class, I found this to be quite an easy task. Growing up in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio, I was engulfed in cultural homogeneity; every home in my neighborhood was constructed by the same builder, every kid played soccer, football, and lacrosse, and almost every family was white. In this cookie-cutter town I call home, a town where the racial demographic presents a population of only 0.99% Black residents, I never questioned why all of my friends, neighbors, doctors, and teachers looked just like me. But I should have. In my community, privilege was the norm, yet I never realized it; the privilege was like oxygen molecules floating through the air – I couldn’t see it or feel it, but I always knew it was there.
So, how is this of any relevance to Loomis students? For anyone not in the Senior class, here is an overview of the recent email-related drama: a Loomis alumnus (and friend/teammate to many students on campus), Maxine Offiaeli ’14, wrote a poem regarding her experience with racism and the frustration she feels from racist people. A fellow friend sent out a class-wide email with the poem attached and a quick note of praise; however, rather than sparking an open discussion regarding the impacts of race in the Loomis community, the email chain erupted like a volcano with angry, passive-aggressive sentiments of dissent. It may also be important to note that this was all going down at approximately 1 o’clock in the morning. What began with good intentions and a cry for awareness transformed into a nasty dispute; freedoms of speech vs. political correctness, systematic racism vs. prejudice, black vs. white. This is the hard part about class-wide emails…or just emails in general – conveying the appropriate tone is really challenging when one is writing about such a personal, important issue; there are some things that emojis and exclamation points simply cannot portray.
So, where do we go from here? What do we do when the things that need to be discussed the most are often the most difficult things to talk about? How can I, as a white person, try to understand and sympathize with my black peers without having ever experienced racism? Policemen never look at me suspiciously when I walk down the street at night; my peers don’t assume I’ve been accepted to college simply to fulfill the diversity quota, and strangers don’t look at me as if I am inferior simply because of my skin color.
In my opinion, nothing will ever change until we talk – until we sit down like civilized human beings and express ourselves without feeling hostile or judgmental. One of my favorite things about Loomis is being able to sit next to someone with an entirely different life experience, conversing with people who challenge our beliefs, and sharing our struggles. Additionally, we, myself especially, need to stop placing people in boxes – the one passionate, opinionated black girl in your English class does not speak for every black woman in America, and similarly, the white male conservative student in your Economics class does not speak for all white people. We all came to Loomis to become our best selves and to embrace the qualities that make us unique. Therefore, In order to move forward, let’s try to ask more questions, express opinions with passion, listen with an open-mind, and most importantly, have respect for others.