Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier editor-in-chief
Well, I think it’s safe to say that spring break is officially over. It’s weird to think that most of us left in March with the expectation that we would be returning to our normal routine after a short yet much needed break before entering that home stretch at the end of the semester. Instead, we found ourselves cramming for finals from our living room and then spending the next five months in quarantine, and for me, most days out of those five months are a blur.
Quarantine was hard, especially for a person who doesn’t handle chaos and change very well. There were a lot of new challenges and difficult adjustments that I would have preferred to avoid all together. But now, as I sit in my dorm patiently waiting for the school year like no other to begin, I am able to take a moment to reflect on what blessings and new perspectives quarantine brought me and I wonder how things are going to be different this year.
It might be difficult to associate the time from March to August as anything other than “corona time.” However, there was a major shift in our political and social climate that began in late May and maintained its momentum throughout the remainder of quarantine, and that shift came with the Black Lives Matter movement.
The movement, sparked a conversation that, if was not already being held amongst you and the people you associate yourself with, was long overdue. People were posting on social media, going to protests (in masks amidst a pandemic, I might add), sharing resources with their peers, signing petitions and so much more. And for people who had never been exposed to those rudimentary conversations or were oblivious to racially biased injustices that happen and have been happening in our country every day, reading posts and discovering new resources was the first step. But it is important to recognize the moment when productive conversation must become action.
Being a white female in America and one who has attended a predominately white private school since kindergarten, I have come to recognize the importance of being an ally. I am beyond thankful for my mom who acknowledged how my school environment would limit my exposure to different ethnicities, cultures, races, beliefs and people who were different from me in general. In response, she took the time to talk with me about why it was important and how to embrace people fully for who they are, including all of the internal and external things that make them different from myself. I am also thankful for my friends who were willing to have conversations or share stories with me from their point of view along the way.
But my personal growth and awareness cannot be dependent on other people and neither can yours. A mentor is someone who gives advice. They set aside time dedicated to teaching and guiding their mentees. They are essentially role models and just because someone has been fighting the battle against racial injustices for their entire life, does not mean they are obligated to be your mentor.
An ally is someone who makes an active and individual effort to understand the situations, barriers, and challenges of others and then use their social and political platforms to advocate for someone other than themself. Allies come to the table prepared to productively join the conversation.
In order for us to progress as a society, each person must be willing to accept the responsibilities that come with their role in this story. As we begin a new semester, one that will be a learning experience for us all, there is no better time to start making changes you want to see happen.
If my time in quarantine taught me anything, it’s that there is no reason to wait to say something you feel needs to be said or do something you feel needs to be done. And right now, the passion and fire and drive we had for the Black Lives Matter movement in July must continue to grow. Our duties as allies have just begun and they do not stop, or become less important when school starts.
The harsh reality is, you are not the only student on this campus and your experience is not the only experience that matters. Aside from the fact that supporting the rights and lives of other human beings is at the forefront of what it means to be an ally, it is also our responsibility as members of a community to make our shared space here at Berry safe and welcoming for every single person.
First, know your peers. Being an ally is like training a muscle and you will build strength and capability over time. You can start with a solid foundation by talking to members within our Berry community about the challenges they face everyday in order to better understand and familiarize yourself with the battles that need to be tackled.
Second, know yourself. Understand how your worldview and personal experiences contribute to your bias, and learn to recognize where your strengths come into play. It is important to recognize that you will make mistakes along the way and that there are areas in which others’ voices need to be heard over yours.
Finally, know when to take action. The answer to that is, whenever, wherever and however you can. Call out a friend who makes an insensitive joke. Encourage difficult discussion amongst your peers and in your classrooms. Read books, watch documentaries and listen to speakers share insights about different aspects of the racial injustices that most systems in our society perpetuates. And most importantly, take every opportunity you can to immerse yourself in different cultures and interact with people who you might not relate to on a surface level basis.
At Berry, there are several ways to get involved. You could attend a meeting hosted by the Black Student Association or a vigil hosted by the Solidarity Week committee. If you are in need of resources, follow the Berry Student Diversity Initiative page on Instagram. Find unique ways to incorporate these practices into your daily life as a college student and start thinking now about how you are going to be an ally on campus this semester.