We All Trust Eachother… Until We Don’t
Four years ago, I walked into Packer for my revisit day after being accepted into the high school. All of the schools I had gotten into were equipped with the amazing academics and extracurriculars that anyone would expect to find in an elite New York City private school. However, it was the community and friendly atmosphere that drew me to ultimately choose this school, the sense of welcoming and warmth that one immediately feels when walking through Packer’s front doors. In short, I came to Packer because I saw that everyone cared about each other, and that students and teachers alike had developed deep roots within the community. These sentiments have only continued to be confirmed in my time at this school.
So, that is why it confuses me that this innate quality to trust and help each other seems to dissipate when entering conversations about social issues. I have noticed that when we have these conversations, in both formal and informal settings, we lose the shared identity we have as Packer students in a supportive environment. We instead choose to prioritize other identifiers, may it be race, gender, religion, socioeconomic status or any other, and although these other identifiers are important to have meaningful conversations, our shared identifier as Pelicans should not be lost. When this happens, I am not an equal member of the conversation who can express my opinions fully, but rather a part of the privileged class who must sit down and accept anything the members of a subjugated group propose without question, as doing otherwise would risk ridicule by the entire community.
I do not deny that I come from a background of immense privilege and that there are changes that should, and hopefully will, be made both within and outside of Packer to provide a more inclusive community. However, the fact that I feel more lectured at than engaged with during these conversations dissuades me from even wanting to participate in them. I also understand that these conversations are inherently uncomfortable for people coming from a place of more privilege, and I welcome that discomfort as part of the process of change. But, the fact that this discomfort is compounded by a lack of comfort to speak up during these conversations makes it even harder for the injustices that are affecting so many individuals in our community to end.
Almost every social justice conversation we have had as a community over the last few years was about, fundamentally, the fact that some in our community do not feel comfortable fully expressing themselves fully in Packer. People of color, members of the LGBTQ+ community, people of varying socioeconomic status, students with different family compositions, and conservatives have all bravely spoken about how they cannot be themselves in Packer. However, any attempt to fix those problems have been stifled, not by the malicious intent of those who are considered privileged, as I believe everyone wants their peers to feel as comfortable as possible at Packer, but by the atmosphere surrounding these attempts. This culture is one which makes those who are more privileged feel uncomfortable truly engaging in the tough conversations necessary to fix these important problems.
Without everyone, both those privileged and not, feeling truly comfortable and engaged when talking about these issues, no substantial change can be made; only a well-meaning, but not fully ingrained, facade of change can be built. Sadly, as we have seen over the last few months, these facades can fall, exposing the lack of true change that has occurred.
This issue, like all the issues surrounding it, has no easy fixes and will most definitely not be fixed until well after I graduate in a few months. However, if those in our community can see that not everyone feels comfortable asking legitimate questions and frankly engaging in these conversations, we can start moving in the right direction together, as one united community.