Louisa Kean '22
Allyship shouldn’t be explicitly requested at NCS from white students. But it must be; that’s the problem. While talking about race can be uncomfortable, we make progress toward greater understanding when we lean into discomfort.
As a white person, I will never understand the experience of people of color. It is a privilege that I will never face prejudice because of my skin tone. Because of this, I have an obligation to use my voice to open conversations in white spaces about racism on and off the Close. As we start to have these conversations, the most productive thing that I, or any white ally, can do is work on being actively anti-racist.
While attending NCS, I have noticed many things that have not sat right with me either because of their racist undertones or blatant racist. I have heard and I am guilty of having used African American Vernacular English (AAVE). AAVE is usually used by many white people for comedic effect or for entertainment purposes. When AAVE is used, white people may laugh at the comments without understanding the origins of the words. I was unaware of what AAVE was before this summer, and I originally thought it was merely “internet slang.” Words like “sis”, “bae”, “slay”, and many others have been normalized in NCS girls’ vocabulary. Many students do not realize that these words originated within the Black community. In Contrast, when Black people use AAVE, they can be considered inarticulate. This teaches Black people, particularly Black students, to suppress the use of their language. This is one of the many examples of why NCS needs WARAC.
Another trend which is intensely prevalent on the Close is the overuse of fake tan. Many NCS girls get spray tans or use self-tanner before school dances. At NCS, the negative attitude toward pale skin is directly linked to the fetishization of dark skin, and it does not sit right with me. It should not sit right with anyone. A white girl gets a spray tan, and the color usually fades in about two weeks. White (or simply fair-toned) girls can reap the aesthetic benefits of appearing as a POC, but they still have the privilege of being Caucasian. However, POC and particularly Black girls are forced to endure everything that comes with being a minority every single day. Their skin color does not fade, for it cannot be washed off or sprayed on. This is yet another topic I aim to delve into in WARAC this year, and I hope to hear others’ perspectives.
Because white people cannot experience racism, many of us do not recognize the microaggressions that their friends of color face daily. Once you understand and finally see that racism is ever-present and embedded within our society, efforts to cultivate change may seem pointless. As a predominantly white institution (PWI), NCS needs a White Anti-Racist Allyship Club (WARAC) to promote active allyship. This club is a small step towards educating students on awareness and active advocacy for POC. Although the club is targeted to white students, WARAC welcomes everyone. This isn’t profound, and no white ally should be praised for self-education or advocacy. The bar should not be set so low.
Students who attend club meetings should be prepared to ask questions, admit mistakes, and learn how to do better. We, as a community, need to reflect on ourselves, communicate more, and stand up for others when we encounter racism in our day to day lives; these skills have not necessarily been our strong suits in the past. I hope that students (primarily at NCS, with hopes to expand to STA) will come to and benefit from meetings with various affinity groups, reading antiracist books and articles, hearing a multitude of speakers, and more in the near future.
Anisha Phillips (February 3rd, 2020) Using Black Vernacular English (BVE) as a Non-Black Person Isn’t “Woke” if You Don't Understand the History