For the generation born after the dawn of social media, protesting on Instagram is second nature. In recent weeks new social media handles have emerged that give first hand accounts of the stinging, racist rebukes that Black students face in their every day high school life. Many of these accounts are called Blackat [School Name] and they document personal moments where Black students have suffered racist remarks and actions at the hands of their white classmates, those classmate’s parents or the school.
These accounts are anonymous and their growth swift among current students and alumni. The stories are collected through anonymous Google Docs, allowing current and former students to speak more freely about experiences they may never have had an opportunity to share. These are stories that must be heard.
Many of the moments shared happened in the classroom with racist remarks from faculty members. Others were private moments with a fellow student or student’s parent. The pain of the moment is clear and excruciating to read, but the lingering effects years later is heart breaking. These are moments that stay with the narrator always. Lauren Gloster and Oamiya Haque started the Instagram account, “True Colors of Columbia,”. Gloster explains,“This is not something that ever leaves you. Those little comments, those jeers, those jokes — they stay with you forever.”
The Instagram page of @truecolorsofcolumbia cautions against those whose interest is simply to identify who might be in the story, “These are the experiences of your peers, former classmates, staff and parents and you are expected to listen and to digest. These voices have felt ignored and this is an environment for them to share without judgment or censorship. If you find yourself on this page for the sole purpose to figure out who these stories are about or to guess who shared them, please change your intentions or leave.”
With the very public nature of social media, it is clear that many schools are being forced into listening to students and former students. Some schools have already made formal statements promising action by the coming school year. These Instagram accounts are a way for us to hear the truth that happens in unguarded moments, they are powerful because precisely because they shine a light on what often goes unseen by white school officials. But not everyone feels they can speak up, yet. The New York Times reports, “Summer Seward, a rising Andover senior, who has been reading the account carefully, is hesitant about posting herself. “I’m on full scholarship and that can very easily be taken away,” she said.”