This is a letter written by a 17-year-old Oak Park student who set off a racial uproar after posting a selfie of himself in blackface. You can read details of the Incident in my earlier post here. I am reprinting it here in its entirety, with no edits. The student is underage, so his name is not being published.
As a member of our community who has made a mistake I would like to reach out to all who would listen.
After I posted a racist image on Sunday I knew that I had to begin the process of healing the community that I affected with my action. I was put into contact with Anthony Clark, a teacher at OPRF and a local activist whom I’ve met many times and worked with. As someone who knows Mr.Clark I was eager to get in touch with him to start the healing process.
I met with Mr.Clark on Tuesday and had a long, hard conversation that set us off towards healing the community as a whole.The school itself didn’t meet with my family until Wednesday. We learned later that before our meeting the school had suspended Mr.Clark. The school itself never informed us of this, even while they interviewed us, asking again and again about my relationship with Mr. Clark.
The only advice that the school gave me was to stop contacting anyone and to just “lay low.” The meeting with Mr.Clark was much more productive and furthered the progress towards a better community.
I truly wish to use this opportunity that I now have, not to advocate for myself, but to turn the spotlight on our school and local community. I am not a victim of the school system. If I wanted to I could’ve been back in classes on Tuesday of this week. I decided to stay out of school and finish my senior year online regardless of the options that I was presented by the school for my “safety,” because plunging me back into the school community would benefit no one.
The students who I hurt didn’t get the option to protect themselves and don’t need to be subjected to further stress. Instead of keeping silent I would like to use any opportunity I receive to express not only how sorry I am, but to also use the bad situation that I created to commit not only myself but others to making a change in our community.
My worst fear is leaving this as the white kid who got away.
Every day we are faced with more and more news stories and court cases where instead of talking about the crime committed, excuses are immediately made for the defendant. I want to make it abundantly clear that I take responsibility for my actions. I do not want to run away from the issue, instead I would like to attempt to make amends by being an example.
I would like to use this opportunity to help focus the community, not on myself, but on the the people I impacted, and on how to heal, and move forward to bring issues in our education system and local community to the foreground. I am glad that I’ve been given the opportunity to write to you, but I in no way intend to write for you.
I made a mistake and instead of attempting to bring the community together, as Anthony Clark did, OPRF took action that caused more harm to the students and community members affected. It is my belief that policies need to be changed.
I believe that I have to do the most good I can in this situation. I know that many of you may not want me fighting by your side. However I want it known that I am ready and willing to help in any way you will let me, to repent for my actionsand to truly grow from what I’ve done.
An Oak Park Student
Photo courtesy of Paul Goyette
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