posted on: Thursday April 12, 2018
by Taylor Godfrey ’19
When polarizing events happen on campus, it can be difficult to find a way to move on from the discord to a place of love and respect for all students. For those who are not members of marginalized groups, it can be difficult to understand how to help in these situations. That is why it is so important to be an ally.
This was the topic of the talk given Monday night by SHEPARD co-founder Paige Clausius-Parks ’03. She came to speak about the importance of allyship, specifically for LGBTQ+ individuals, and what she had learned from forming SHEPARD at Providence College in 2002.
Like many issues in our world today, passivity is not the solution that will solve problems on our campus. Sitting by and hoping somebody else solves the problem will only result in the problem not being solved at all. Clausius-Parks emphasized the need for allies to speak up for the sake of those who may not be in a position to speak up for themselves and to encourage others to speak up as well. If nobody is talking, the issues will not be resolved.
Clausius-Parks also underlined the importance of reflection not only of yourself, but also of other people and topics that you may not know much about. You must first understand the issues and your own place in relation to them before you can solve anything.
And that is not to say that people will not make mistakes or will be a perfect ally right away. As Clausius-Parks said, it is not about dwelling on past mistakes or misunderstandings, but finding “comfort in the discomfort” and making “a promise to do better next time.” The point is to try your best and to listen to and learn from others.
It might seem like some issues facing society today are too contentious and that fighting this uphill battle is too much for someone who may not be directly affected. But those are the people who should be helping, who should be using their more priveleged voices to uplift the voices of others that may be quieter or may not be ready to speak at all.
In the tense political climate that we live in today, it can seem like there is nothing one person can do to stem the tide of hatred and intolerance in our communities. It can seem like people are so entrenched in their own lives and opinions that real, positive change may never come.
But one person actively working towards a more open and accepting society is doing much more than someone who is remaining neutral or silent. In order to move forward together, we must hold on to, as Clausius-Parks said, “the revolutionary idea that one person can make a difference.”
If we are truly committed to being a “Friar Family,” then we must learn from and care about every student on this campus. No one should have to fight their battles alone and with a family of almost 4,000 students, we do not need to. We all have to make more of an effort to, as Clausius-Parks said, “have the courage and audacity to be present,” involve ourselves in issues that need our help, and work together to make a more accepting and inclusive “Friar Family.