An event that was supposed to be designed around unity and intended to promote inclusivity seemingly had the opposite of the desired effect.
Oak Park and River Forest High School recently celebrated Black History Month (along with the rest of our nation), and as part of that celebration, the school held an event called “Black Lives Matter” in an effort to promote an open discussion on racial issues. Sadly, they got in their own way when they decided to ban white students from participating in the event!
Several white parents who spoke to the Chicago Tribune were confused and just couldn’t understand how, in an effort to promote inclusion, the school would make an event exclusive and based on race! The parents were offended that students who truly wanted to be part of the conversation and help to promote diversity and inclusion would be excluded from the event.
The school’s Principal, , was apologetic and explained that there was never any intent to be “exclusive” or to hurt the cause of inclusivity. Rouse, who is black, felt that in order for there to be an honest and open discussion about race that all students must feel that they are safe to contribute. To that end, the event was planned with the idea of “affinity grouping” in mind. The philosophy of affinity grouping says that people of a certain racial persuasion are more able to express themselves in a homogenous group. So for black kids, being in an event with white kids would make it harder for them to express themselves.
“In order for us to move forward, I believe the affinity group is the safe way for us to move forward in a safe environment,” Rouse said. “I found it has been far easier for me to talk about my experiences with racism with individuals that look like me. I still struggle myself with talking about my experiences with people who don’t look like me.”
However, as a result of this approach and the school’s inability to properly articulate what was happening and why, many non-black students were left feeling excluded and less important than their classmates. Principal Rouse says that he plans to hold similar events in the future for the other ethnic groups represented in his school and finally bring all of the groups together to talk about race in a larger setting.
Look, the answer to our racial prejudices and animosities aren’t going to be cured by the public school system. The public school system can’t even properly educate our children in academic areas… let alone when it comes to morality. The place where we defeat racism, hate and bigotry is in our homes. It is the job of we parents to teach our children that judging someone else based on the color of their skin is evil and foolish. If we as a culture truly want to stamp out racism, then we must do so in our homes.
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