Commentary

I Do Not Want To Be Afraid

I was born in Charlottesville, VA., in 1998. I grew up in an integrated, but largely white neighborhood in Norfolk, VA. I have a younger brother in eighth grade and a younger sister in seventh. Both of my parents are lawyers.

This past Friday, I attended the forum on Ferguson, which was hosted and facilitated by many teachers and students on campus. I was fortunate to be in a group with Jennifer Elliott, Dean of Abbot Cluster, and Linda Carter Griffith, Dean of Community and Multicultural Development.

Ms. Griffith asked the group what we truly wanted out of the discussion. Why were we here? A Post-Graduate and an Upper in my group said that they wanted to understand how to respond to people on social media. Several other students said they wanted a safe space, they wanted to learn and they wanted the opportunity to support and form alliances with oppressed peoples. Then, I decided it was time to put my hand up.

I knew the moment I raised my hand and started talking that it was going to be rough. In the past, I had always been very guarded and hesitant in sharing my feelings – this was the first time I had expressed exactly how I feel in such a public setting.

Why was I there? Because I am afraid, I said. I am afraid for myself and for my siblings. I am afraid that they might be the next young people to be killed at the hands of police. I do not want to have to fight a war I thought my grandparents had won half a century ago. I do not want to have to deal with the consequences. I do not want it to be my responsibility, but I know it is. I want to be able to take on that responsibility – that was why I was there.

Finally saying these words aloud was a powerful and overwhelming experience for me – so much so that I cried during the group discussion. My friends held me through the candlelight vigil when holding back my tears proved again impossible. Stephanie Curci, Instructor in English, walked me through my confusion and helped me come to terms with the situation. Finally I was able to stop crying. As my tears dried, I realized the responsibility I must step up to – although it may have been unfairly thrust upon me, it is a necessary one, and one that I am proud to uphold.

It is my obligation to make sure that everyone understands this is not just some distant problem that does not affect Andover students and the forum was not just the school patting itself on the back for being “with the times.” There are people on this campus who are scared and angry. More discussion and more support are necessary to make everyone in the Andover community feel welcome and safe. Even if you are not black or do not live in a place where you are scared of being hassled by the cops, there are people on this campus who are. I am one of those people, and I do not want to have to be afraid anymore.

_Ashley Scott is a three-year Upper from Norfolk, VA._