Talk Circle Around Race Discusses Allyship and Accompliceship

The Black Students League and ASPIRA hosted a virtual Talk Circle Around Race on Allyship vs. Accompliceship on October 20.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Black Students League (BSL) and ASPIRA hosted a virtual Stuyvesant Unity Talk Circle Around Race (TCAR) on Allyship versus Accompliceship with the Stuyvesant Muslim Students Association (MSA), South Asian Youth Association (SAYA), and Stuyvesant Asian Coalition (SAC) on October 20. The event was moderated by leaders of BSL and ASPIRA along with Assistant Principal of Pupil Personnel Services Casey Pedrick and SPARK Faculty Advisor Angel Colon, while the conversation was facilitated by senior and BSL co-President Sarai Pridgen. TCAR is a series that began last year, which included a virtual event discussing COVID-19 and police brutality last June.

The two-hour session started with an introduction to Allyship versus Accompliceship toward Black, Indigenous groups, People of Color, and other minority communities. The rest of the session was split into several parts that consisted of an introduction by a moderator, followed by a discussion of a series of questions in breakout rooms, and ending with a share-out in the main session.

Though not every club moderated, all the Stuy Unity Clubs were heavily involved in preparing the event. “MSA, SAYA, and SAC played a huge role in planning and organizing the TCAR,” senior and BSL co-Vice President Tolulope Lawal said in an e-mail interview. “From gathering attendees to helping draft the TCAR agenda, Stuy Unity often works together to build every TCAR.”

The first segment, introduced by Lawal, focused on the terms “actor,” “ally,” and “accomplice.” Participants discussed why accompliceship is favorable to allyship, what being an accomplice means to the individual, and whether allyship still carries relevance today. Students also shared their views on recent actions taken by people around the world against injustice, social media activism, and stigma around accompliceship in society.

Senior and ASPIRA co-President Veronica Fuentes then led the second segment, which highlighted the importance of not being a bystander, correcting friends and families on beliefs that are racist or inconsistent with their values, and the significance of privilege in relation to accompliceship. In addition, junior and ASPIRA co-Vice President Elio Torres highlighted accompliceship across minority groups with an introduction of the Jewish philosopher and Civil Rights activist Abraham Joshua Heschel.

Finally, senior and BSL co-President Falina Ongus introduced the controversy around non-Person of Color (POC) artists who highlight POC issues and direct attention to themselves rather than those affected by such issues. “Within the last few months, restrictions on activism capabilities have led to a surge in other mediums of activism, such as social media,” Lawal said. “We wanted people to reevaluate their role within activism as well as challenge the performative activism that may be seen across several platforms.”

The chat box, as with the last virtual Talk Circle, was used to further the conversation in the main session, share book recommendations, and highlight important social media platforms. “There were times [when] the chat and the people speaking were on different conversations, but no one was being ignored while they shared, so I think it was alright,” Fuentes said in an e-mail interview.

Within the Talk Circle, a few attendees voiced controversial opinions, which sparked discussions of their own. “[There was a] big argument toward the end when someone tried to make the claim that white privilege isn’t all that prevalent or all that important and that racial bias isn’t the issue, but class,” an anonymous student said in an e-mail interview. “Despite the fact that there were dissenters and despite the fact that they didn’t totally seem to listen at times, I think just the fact that they bothered to show up is definitely a huge step.”

Fuentes emphasized the importance of respectful conversation regarding these topics. “While there were some disagreements during this past TCAR, and while I personally don't agree with what some of our participants believed, I’d say that I am fairly happy with this month’s TCAR,” she said. “We just ask that all discussions remain respectful and that people come in willing to hear each other out and be mindful of what they share.”

Various participation regarding other relevant topics from attendees helped to create an insightful and engaging discussion. “My favorite part of TCAR was, hands down, the rapid-fire explication given by [senior] Jonathan Schneiderman about the history of Jewish oppression and migration,” Lawal said. “I know very little about Judaism and [its] history, so I was happy to learn more about it and grateful for Schneiderman’s [very] thorough anecdote.”

Overall, the hosts hoped that the participants were able to gain a new perspective from hearing the thoughts and opinions of other students during this TCAR. “I hope that everyone walked away with a pensive mind,” Lawal said. “It’s easy to justify self-righteousness when being an activist, but I believe that it’s more important to be able to listen and learn from others in order to be more open to making change for the betterment of others.”