Wilmsspeaks Sparks School-wide Action

Sameer Vidwans, Writer

History is messy. And like most countries, America’s history is no different. We’ve done a lot of evils, and have allowed for many to continue. Racism, sexism, homophobia… the list goes on. But many people were of the belief that, at least in schools, where kids were still uncorrupted, these things had almost vanished. From June 24th to July 24th, 2020 – in just one month – an Instagram account by the name of wilmppspeaks shut down this idea using over a thousand stories from every private school in Wilmington. What do people think, and what changes are being made?

“There was no single event that inspired me to start this account. I think any person of color knows that there’s no one thing that’s ‘waking you up’ from a reality you live every day.” wilmpsspeak, a WFS alumni, created this account simply because “the Wilmington private school community needed one”. The creation of this account allowed for marginalized people to speak up in a safe space where they wouldn’t be silenced or doubted on experiences they went through.

Some students were surprised by the sudden number of posts from the account. A 10th grader who wished to remain anonymous said, “I wasn’t really shocked at the fact that people had experiences to say, but rather at the sheer number of posts there were.” A total of 1,019 posts ended up on wilmpsspeak, each of them terribly unique. “Reading those posts definitely helped me understand how difficult it is for POC at WFS. Since I’m not a person of color myself, I don’t go through that discrimination and it was very eye opening.” Ellie Criscimagna ‘23 added, “In some ways I knew it was happening, but I never knew these prejudiced actions were as blatant and out in the open as they were in the posts.” 

Though this account has exposed a lot of wrongdoings, there is a silver lining. Reading these posts will help shape a generation that is more conscious of their actions, making another step away from prejudice and discrimination of all forms. Or will it? “I don’t feel that the account would change anything within the student body. Due to the fact that some of the accusations were false or had no evidence, the credibility of the entire page was brought down,” said an anonymous 9th grade student at WFS. 

Another student, an 11th grader, was shocked when they first came across the account, but for different reasons than others. “It just didn’t make sense. For a while, Friends had the most recorded ‘racist’ incidents, even over schools like Tower Hill and Salesianum, where I’ve actually heard racist stories occur. My perception of WFS and diversity didn’t change at all. I haven’t had any real racist incidents or encounters and I’ve been going here for many years. I’ve even talked to my friends and they’ve all said the same thing.”

Though the account may not have affected the student body as much as was hoped for, the important part was making the faculty more aware. More can be done now that the people in power understand what needs to be done. Already, steps are being taken to see to this issue of racism and bias. “[Wilmington Friends] has hired an outside consultant to do a climate assessment this fall so that we can better understand our areas of improvement in creating a truly inclusive community,” said Mrs. Zug, Head of the Upper School. The school conducted over a dozen facilitated conversations with alumni, parents, students and faculty this summer to receive feedback and listen to one another. The faculty also engaged in professional development on implicit bias before the school year began, and there is a faculty/staff-led discussion program that will be ongoing throughout the year. As Mrs. Zug put so aptly, “Though hearing painful accounts from past incidents is very difficult, it is necessary for growth and change within our community.”