The Black Student Union Strives for Racial Equality Despite Obstacles

By: Simone Dunbar (Correspondent)

On Tuesday, May 21, the junior class attended an assembly created to educate the student population about the culture of sexual harassment in Sharon High School.

During the open-question forum portion of the assembly, a question asking “Why do we need the BSU(Black Student Union)?” caused controversy where students walked out of the auditorium in tears. This question has shed light upon the fact that our school lacks awareness of inequality between races and the clubs that are trying to mend the problem.

Sharon Public Schools Superintendent  Dr. Victoria Greer says that she understands that when something is painful, one’s reaction is stronger. “Some students were very offended and others did not understand why this was even part of the discussion during the assemblies,” Greer said. She adds that she understands the emotional responses of the junior class, but is not sure if they are adequately justified.

Greer says that she read the question because she thought that it was better to address it rather than let it lie dormant and vaporize into the air. “I felt that whoever asked that question was authentically curious and not trying to be hurtful, and I wanted them to get the answer to their question,” Greer said.  

“My thoughts about the junior assembly is that each of the students have varying perspectives, and some even have pain. The emotional display during the assembly was representative of the pain felt by each person who shared and expressed their thoughts during the assembly,” said Greer.

Greer adds that there were very few questions that were not answered during the class assemblies, so she did not feel compelled to hold this one back.

Greer says that going forward, she will continue to meet with students and highlight students publicly for what they contribute to our school district and community in order to raise awareness about clubs and unions similar to the BSU. “More importantly, I will work closely with the principals and school administrators to require them to educate their school communities about various clubs and groups and the purposes of those groups,” Greer added.

Sharon High School alumnus Aly Coleman says she would like to educate Sharon High School about the Black Student Union. ”I started the Black Student Union because I saw a need for the address of certain racial disparities in the school,” Coleman said.

She says she had seen first hand the inaction of administration when serious issues arose in regards to their students of color, and she decided that the next generation of students would not attend a school in which their social and emotional needs were ignored.

Coleman says she is the founding member of the BSU, and she dealt mostly with the organization this year.  “Though I am the founding member for the BSU, I was solely a catalyst in the greater scheme of events this year. Nothing that we achieved this year could have been done without the dedication of the entire BSU,” Coleman added.

“I believe that the community we build and the connections we make with the people around us are what makes a group like this beneficial for everyone,” said Coleman.

Coleman says that when the problems of a minority are addressed and solved, both the minority and majority benefit. “Join the BSU if you care about the social and intellectual advancement of all people. Sharon has a problem when it comes to the intermingling of students which is why I think it’s daunting for people to want to join a group with black at the forefront of its name,” Coleman said.

“The BSU is not some radical group trying to uproot systems that have been here for hundreds of years; however, we are trying to change people’s way of thinking and expose people of the dangers of a single story and give reason for why all perspectives need to be examined before major decisions are made because often, not all are, “ said Coleman.

Coleman adds that the BSU met with the faculty and school committee to discuss educational disparities among students and the black experience throughout Sharon Public Schools. “We met with the Teachers for Racial Equity group multiple times to discuss the review of all curriculum, and we attended a forum in which we learned how to maneuver through racially tense situations, “ Coleman said.

Coleman says that Sharon cannot become a catalyst for change if they do not understand the problem, which is why she implores people to join the union.

Sharon High School alumnus Jeremiah Bonnet says that the BSU is a group of students who have acknowledged discrepancies among black and white students. “ We attempt to educate the white Sharon High community in regards to microaggressions, the black and white academic gap, stereotypes, and unconscious bias,” Bonnet said.

Bonnet was this year’s President of the Union. He says that he facilitated conversation during meetings, created faculty presentations, and acted as the voice of the group. “In addition to responsibilities pertaining directly to the black student union, I attempted to bring about social change at Sharon High. Whether it be calling a white student out on saying the word “n*****,” promoting the idea of sensitivity among the faculty in regards to race, or initiating conversations about racial inequity, I have attempted to educate the white community to benefit future black students, which was a personal goal of mine going into senior year,” said Bonnet.

“To me, the most important aspect of the BSU is the empowerment of young black students,” Bonnet said.

He says that all black students experience racism, but through this group, a stronger connection is made, aiding them in dealing with the challenges they face.

“With these connections, black students are given a sense of direction, making them feel able to succeed knowing that they have the black community behind them,” said Bonnet.

He adds that inclusivity is very important, especially in a high school setting, and how the BSU offers that for black students.

“Black students are constantly under the gun when surrounded by their white peers in Sharon, but the BSU allows these students to be themselves and let loose,” Bonnet said.

“People should join the BSU if they are able to acknowledge the inequity between black and white individuals and feel passionate about moving towards a solution,” Bonnet added.

He says that the purpose of the BSU is to educate the white community in Sharon and to have them step into the shoes of a black student. “Sharon is said to be one of the best public schools in Massachusetts; however, academic data shows that black students in Sharon do not benefit in comparison to their white and Asian counterparts,” said Bonnet.

Bonnet adds that black students do not feel accepted, which is not something that should be tolerated in an academic setting. “Another purpose of the BSU is to galvanize the young black students. Any student is capable of taking an AP class and succeeding in the classroom; however, American culture and history says otherwise,” said Bonnet.

“We as a black community have fell victim to stereotypes stating that we are less intelligent and less capable of academic prosperity. Black individuals have been shown and told that success is only for whites and Asians, but we as a group hope to disprove these false ideas and inspire young black students to push themselves and aim high,” Bonnet added.

Bonnet adds that the one thing he wants the population at Sharon High to know is that racism still exists. “As elementary as that sounds, there are many people that deny it. Sharon is not a perfect place and never will be. We put on a diverse face and act as if we are accepting, but the reality is that we all hold racial biases, and until we acknowledge this, we will never look towards a solution to racial inequity,” Bonnet concluded.

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