In light of the ongoing resistance against systemic racism, Black private high school students are opening up on social media about the discrimination they face.
Content warning: This story contains themes of racism and discrimination that readers may find disturbing
Black students in private high schools have in flocks taken to Instagram in order to anonymously share instances of racism and other forms of discrimination they have faced while at school. Starting pages called "Black at" in conjunction with the name of their private high school, pupils are collating dozens of experiences in order to prove a pattern or a culture of prejudice. Though fellow classmates are the perpetrators in some incidents, faculty members and others from school administrations have also exhibited bigoted behavior as per the accounts shared via social media. Some schools in question, having taken note of the first-hand accounts, announced that they would be taking much-needed measures in order to combat this institutional injustice, CNN reports.
There are, at present, over 40 pages that publish anonymous accounts from Black students at private schools on Instagram. Students, alumni, and in some cases, even grandchildren of alumni submit their experiences through forms and direct messages via the app. For many former students, these Instagram accounts are a way to document the hatred they were forced to navigate. "Social media gives us the ability to apply pressure that we otherwise wouldn't be able to because we don't control the endowment," said Josh Odoom, an alumnus of Woodberry Forest School (WFS) in Virginia. "Our voices are making a difference online even though they weren't important on campus." He's currently the administrator of the "Black@WFS" page.
For the administration at WFS, the social media account has been viewed as "a moment of reckoning." A spokesman for the school stated, "We see the Black@WFS account as a moment of reckoning for our school and for what it felt like and feels like to go to school here." He added that while social distancing is proving to be quite the challenge for students and educators alike, the school has already launched listening sessions with students and alumni of color. But this is not new information; students have for years now been experiencing and sharing their confrontations with racism on private high school campuses.
"We just want Deerfield to be a better place for people who look like us," said Deerfield Academy's Jada Howard, who runs the Black@Deerfield page. "We want to be loved and accepted by the place we call home." Similarly, an alumna of the Loomis Chaffee School in Connecticut Aigner Picou shared, "For Black people, this is nothing new. We've kinda been talking about this and fighting against this for hundreds of years." Picou was an honor student, held a job, led a club, took part in community service, and played an instrument—yet her college counselor told her that a college with an acceptance rate of more than 50 percent would "still be a reach for her." She now manages the Black@Loomis page. The page has evolved into a community where present and Black students can vent, share, and find solidarity.
Picou explained, "It was like people were waiting for this page and waiting to have a space where they could share their stories and not feel like they were not going to be ignored. I know this because I still have friends from that time and we still talk about what happened while we were there." She added that the page quickly gained traction once it went live. Though these pages received a slew of hate comments at first, they hope to bring awareness and instigate change. The Loomis Chaffee School did not respond to requests for comment. Nonetheless, they did state that they would be gathering information on the racial breakdowns of everyone at the school (from students to the board of trustees) in an effort to heed the Black@Loomis page's call to be more transparent.