A recent Black Lives Matter event held at the Oak Park and River Forest High Schools in Illinois has sparked quite a debate. According to the Chicago Tribune, the event, which took place on February 27 was organized to commemorate the conclusion of Black History Month. While such an event seems quite befitting for the occasion, there’s one aspect of it that has raised concerns – the white students at the schools were not allowed to attend.
The publication reports that several white parents, who have opted to remain nameless, recently expressed their concerns about the controversial directive and the message it sends. White students who expressed desires to attend the event were reportedly turned away at the door. Based on the schools’ population, which is reportedly comprised of approximately “55 percent white, 27 percent black, 9 percent Hispanic, 6 percent multiracial and 3 percent Asian,” more than half of the population was denied entry to the event.
A statement addressing the basis of the event was posted on the schools’ website. It provided specifics about the event and the purpose it was initially suppose to serve. Here’s an excerpt from the school news statement:
“The forum used a racial affinity group model to engage participants in a deeper conversation around the national theme “Black Lives Matter.” This event, which was planned by the school without a review by the Board of Education, was part of OPRF’s ongoing efforts to look at issues of racial equity in the high school, the school community and around the country. Racial affinity groups are often used in learning communities to help facilitate positive identity exploration and provide people with similar experiences a space in which to pose questions and process topics.
“According to Principal Rouse, the conversation was an opportunity for students who identify as Black to speak openly, honestly, and productively. “I believe that the discussion will help us as a school begin talking about race in a deeper and more meaningful way than ever before—and most important, produce change,” Mr. Rouse said. One of the goals of the district’s strategic plan is to look at ways it can address disproportionate student outcomes that are predictable by race.”
“Some students and parents expressed confusion and concern about the event being for Black students only. Information about the event lacked clarity about this aspect of the conversation, and the high school is committed to improving communications in the future. Further conversations among and across other racial affinity groups shall take place at the high school in the coming months and into next year.”
The school’s principal, Nathaniel Rouse, who organized the controversial event, stated that the purpose was not to exclude the white students. He also defended the decision to conduct the event, along with the purpose of the forum and racial affinity groups.
Principal Rouse stated that the racial affinity group was designed to promote racial diversity as opposed to exclusion.
“I found it has been far easier for me to talk about my experiences with racism with individuals that look like me,” Rouse said. “I still struggle myself with talking about my experiences with people who don’t look like me. Unfortunately, the stories that they shared weren’t new to me. They were experiences I had in high school and experiences I had in college.”
What do you think about the white students being turned away at the Black Lives Matter event? Share your thoughts.
[Image via OPRFHS]