Over recent weeks, Black alumni of elite New York City all-girls’ schools have come forward with stories of racism and anti-Blackness that they experienced during their time at the prestigious institutions. Instagram pages such as @blackatchapin and @blackspencespeaks have been created to share the experiences, which range from unfounded accusations of stealing to white-washed history classes.
The New York Times reports that the movement was sparked by Chapin Class of ‘16 Alum Miesha Agrippa, who created the @blackatchapin Instagram page when, nearly a week after George Floyd’s murder, her alma mater had failed to release any statement about his death. Agrippa couldn’t help thinking about Chapin’s motto “brave for others, brave for self.”
“This moment was an opportunity for them to be open and honest and they missed it,” Ms. Agrippa said. “They failed to acknowledge that this is not only a problem out on the streets, it’s not just a problem in the government — it’s a problem right here at home.”
The Times piece contains a plethora of upsetting stories of explicit racism, both from the private schools themselves and from the students who attend them.
Ayo Lewis, who graduated from Brearley in 2017, said one of her most uncomfortable moments occurred after Trayvon Martin was killed in 2012.
Ms. Lewis remembered sitting in an eighth grade advisory class and finally mustering up the courage to say what she really thought: that America was, in her words, “built off the labor of enslaved people,” and that white people should be held accountable for the country’s long history of racism.One of her white classmates burst into tears over the remark, and Ms. Lewis was asked to leave the room, and eventually to apologize for upsetting the student.
In the wake of the creation of these Instagram pages, the school leaders and boards of trustees at the city’s top three all-girls schools (Chapin, Brearley, and Spence) have made statements where they’ve promised to enact change. Brearley and Chapin specifically have committed to hiring more teachers of color, making their curriculum more inclusive, and revising their codes of conduct to focus more on acts of racism. However, many alumni remain skeptical about whether the culture and norms of the schools will actually change.