Our current social climate has brought attention to oppression in the Black community. The sad reality that we must remind our society that Black lives matter is something that has been on my heart. The gravity and the widespread nature of this movement has caused members in Little Rock communities to speak out. One community was the students and alumni of my high school alma mater, Mount St. Mary Academy.
It seems that even though MSM gave my classmates and me a unifying experience of an all-girl learning environment, it was not enough to keep girls and faculty from implementing their own bias on the Black minority within our community. An Instagram account @blackatmountsaintmary was created to share testimonies from past and current students on issues including racism and prejudice.
As a past student, I read every single post to gain perspective I could never have as a white student. While I was reading the posts I felt anger, disbelief and sadness at the actions of others toward the minority groups at Mount.
The account highlights many Black students’ experiences at MSM that hold racist intent and several occurred while I was attending. I found these statements to be especially impactful because of my preconceived notion that my classmates and I strived to treat everyone as equal.
Learning to accept my own unintentional biases and our country’s history regarding the Black community has been my first step toward solidarity with my sisters at Mount and the movement as a whole.
Reflecting on my time at MSM, I realize now that the prejudices were present and honest conversations were avoided in order to conceal the outstanding problem. I also acknowledge that MSM is not the most diverse school for many reasons and has its own unique culture that is capable of the mistreatment of other races.
I suspect that almost every private school struggles with issues like superiority and socio-economic class differences due to the typically expensive tuition that narrows the diversity at entrance. The familiar idea of systemic racism brings an unfortunate reality to the Black community that has created situations for Black students to be judged and treated as inferior.
In stark contrast to my high school experience, I chose to attend a public university with around 20,000 current students to complete my undergrad degree. The student body on campus brings a larger amount of diversity than a school of 400 girls and also represents to me a more realistic view of the world.
Unfortunately, even though the diversity was celebrated, there was not a big discussion about the prejudices that minority students were still facing. In response to recent events, school administration has come forward to create a diversity board of students to aid in advising the university officials of their campus experience.
Recognizing the stance of Pope Francis in support of the movement to advocate for Black lives invites all Catholics to reexamine our own hearts to see if we are truly supporting the sacredness of all human life on earth.
When I found this social media account, it built a bridge between me and the BLM movement. I started to understand, on a more personal level, the severity of the issues they were speaking on and the justice they were demanding.
A statement that I have been reflecting on in my mind since the resurgence of the BLM movement has been that not all people are perfect and they will bring to the world their own biases and shortcomings. While the truth of this fact coincides with the world’s flaws, BLM activists are trying to bring awareness to complacency.
Improvement on a personal and systemic level is what we should strive for every day. As Christians, we have many examples from Jesus of how to treat others especially those who are not seen as worthy in the eyes of society. We must accept the people around us and desire a world where we live equally.
Olivia Parker is a junior at the University of Arkansas Fayetteville. Immaculate Conception in North Little Rock is her home parish.
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