Jamison Guice, Campus Carrier features editor
Zander Carver, Campus Carrier asst. features editor
Berry is a small Deep South community, and the “bubble” which surrounds the student body supports connections, friendships, relationships and mentorships which can be transferable to future endeavors. However, that community can become a reflection of conservative opinions that may lack representation. These limited attitudes in administration, classrooms and curriculums can result in student bodies becoming frustrated at the underrepresentation. Senior Rebekah Rowe, president of the Black Student Association (BSA), said there are very few people of color on campus which makes it hard to be heard.
BSA encourages and educates on topics from Black issues to Black culture; anyone who is willing to listen and learn is welcome to join the club. Rowe said BSA has been working to promote a more tolerant campus with events such as screening movies like “Get Out.”
“I think whatever is going on, it feels like we’re taking several steps back right now instead of any steps forward,” Rowe said. “Although, I recognize the steps that have been taken. So, I feel like we are still working to do it. But just like with anything there, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better.”
Events like Blackout Friday, a day to show solidarity with victims of racial injustice, helped showcase the people not of color who participated. Rowe said their support demonstrated their willingness to walk alongside marginalized people.
“So, I think people are waking up and understanding now how important we are as an organization on campus and how important it is to walk alongside people that are in marginalized populations, and that includes the Black students on this campus and other minority groups,” Rowe said.
According to Rowe, allies can be defined as people who understand they are unable to walk in the shoes of marginalized groups, but they are still willing to disregard their pride to follow the lead of the ones who need help. She said allies are necessary to further unheard voices, especially since many of their ancestors were once the problem.
“We’re not looking for a white savior,” Rowe said. “We’re looking for someone who’s able to understand where we’re coming from. Then when we say, hey, we need this to get done at the drop of a hat, be able to stand up and say, ‘Okay, what do you need us to do?’.”
When educating oneself, Rowe advised respectfully asking Black friends about the information that is being consumed. She also said that to read books and a lot of literature concerning the topic to be fully informed, so as to not be afraid to begin difficult conversations.
“I don’t want them to get to a point where it’s like, well, ‘I don’t see color so, I’m not racist,’” Rowe said. “See our color and respect it. Understand what comes with it, don’t look at it as a burden, it’s not. Be willing to bridge that gap.”
According to Orgullo Treasurer senior Orlin Gomez, Orgullo is Berry’s only Latinx, a gender-neutral term that he prefers, club on campus. He said their focus is to celebrate and promote cultural diversity within the Latinx community.
One of Orgullo’s goals of is to help promote diversity within the Latinx community because of misconceptions from outside views.
“I think a lot of times, terms like Latinx or the term Black, portrays this very monolithic experience,” Gomez said. “And so, our purpose is to expose individuals to the different cultures and to live in the different complexities of our identity and race. I think by doing so, it gives people a more understanding of how racism works with different types of racism and it gives people a perception of even more subdivisions of racism, such as colorism.”
Gomez said a common misconception of good allyship is thinking just saying no to racism or offering pity and condolences, but Gomez believes that being a good ally requires more action than words.
“[It is] not necessarily just saying ‘I’m against racism’ but changing your tendencies, changing the culture around you,” Gomez said. “And just being cautious about how complicated this issue can be.”
An issue among Berry students of color is that, oftentimes, classes do not represent minorities.
“People should be able to be exposed to different opinions and thoughts,” Gomez said. “But unfortunately, it’s not like that. Because if it was then we would have more professors of color, we would have a curriculum that gives you a deeper understanding of not just ethnicities, but religions.”
Solidarity Week is an annual event at Berry to acknowledge, educate and celebrate differences across campus, according to Solidarity Week committee member sophomore Macilah Taylor.
“We need to talk about why diversity is important, and why we might not be as a diverse campus as we think we are.” Taylor said. “And if we talk about those issues. I think we can do better as a collective to make it a better environment for those on campus. Our objectives this year are basically to encourage open mindedness, to ensure that everyone feels welcome. Practice radical empathy and equip students and faculty and staff to have difficult conversations. So, we’re really trying to push those four things this year, more than anything, and we’re really excited.”
Solidarity Week itself will include several events and panels to help promote diversity on campus. Some of the events include a panel about being a good ally to people with disabilities and dessert and discussion.
In terms of being a good ally, Taylor believes doing your own research is a better way to educate yourself, rather than asking people of color to explain it.
“People oftentimes burden the Black and Brown people in their circle and they’re like, what is this,” Taylor said. “I’m an open book. And I’m always open to answering questions like that, but you do have to realize you’re asking us to relive our trauma. Which some people are just not okay with no one wants to go through trauma.”
Racism is a sensitive topic, but Taylor believes it is something important to address rather than ignore.
“We have been ignored and kind of pushed to the side because nobody wants to say the word racism, and nobody wants to talk about racism on this campus because they think it’s an isolated thing from Berry,” Taylor said. “But it’s not. And we see it all the time. And we deal with it all the time. Nobody just listened. So I would implore the student body to listen and use their privilege and speak up and speak out about the things going on.”
Student Diversity Initiatives is a great resource for students wanting information on race equality, inequality and allyship, according to senior office coordinator Melody Creamer. She said the office workers are always willing to talk and inform students.
“You know, we’re not trying to work to get students who believe differently than us,” Creamer said. “That’s not our goal. Our goal is just to help educate and inform students that way they can make their own decisions.”
Creamer encourages anyone to ask questions in order to stay informed. Staying vigilant against the widespread battle of false information or fake news is one of the biggest battles when on such a small campus. Creamer said to always be aware of the campus dialogue.
One example of avoiding misinformation is to not assume what a group of people want or think. Creamer said if a group advocates for police defunding, then that can be a big and scary word for listeners. Rather than focusing on agreeing or disagreeing, try to understand what the person is saying. While it may come as a surprise, she said the listener may find some aspects of the statement appealing once they are able to have a true conversation.
“You’re not going to know that if all you hear is, a lot of time, scare tactics the media uses to kind of push us apart and keep us from having conversation,” Creamer said.
Creamer suggests students to continuously educate themselves so as to not get into the issue of the “Berry bubble.” The information bubble is where a person only surrounds themselves with people who mirror their beliefs. Similar to an echo chamber where opinions are just yelled back to the originator, this bubble can become toxic since there are not any opposing opinions that allow room for growth.
Consciously avoiding these bubbles can be hard since many social media platforms contain algorithms that tailor content specifically for the viewer. Content marketing, the strategy of showing relevant and consistent material, can be damaging when trying to learn new information since timelines simply become a repeat of content. Creamer said it can be hard to do, but it is important.
When in a position of privilege, Creamer said that it is almost a responsibility to amplify voices that are typically silenced or ignored. Promoting black voices on social media, like during #Blackoutday, is one way to participate.
“I think that’s the foundation of allyship,” Creamer said. “You know, it’s kind of quieting your own voice, but using it to let other voices be heard.”