Clubs like the Gender Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and Black Student Union (BSU) serve specific marginalized groups. Does welcoming outsiders to their cause come at the expense of providing a safe space?
Two writers dive into both sides of the controversy below.
“For the GSA, I think we should welcome everybody … because having more widespread support from people who aren’t LGBTQ is essential. I don’t believe this would come at the expense of our group’s integrity, because what’s most important here is the centering of queer voices.”
— Liza Gitelman,
BHS Gender Sexuality Alliance co-president
Should identity-specific groups welcome outside allies?
Have you ever wanted to connect with people over racial, gender, or cultural identities?
The world’s organizations share one common thread: they all gained traction not only from their own members but also from their diverse community of supporters. At Berkeley High School (BHS), most clubs dedicated to uplifting unique identities, from the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) to the Black Student Union (BSU), only consist of members who are part of the community the club focuses on. This isn’t how it should be. After all, isn’t the purpose of these clubs to facilitate understanding, equity, and unity among everyone?
These clubs provide a safe space for marginalized groups to share experiences while celebrating their identity. However, members of a community already know about their culture and the issues they face. They instead should include outsiders who are looking to support other communities.
It’s understandable that these communities may want to maintain the safe space clubs provide. However, when allies join these groups, it means that they want to understand the diverse group of people that make up this community. As a result, it doesn’t compromise the integrity of the safe space.
Take BSU for example. It represents the Black community, which faces a range of issues from redlining to police brutality. Black people already know what they themselves go through. It would be more beneficial for them to share their experiences with other groups, such as white, Asian, and Latinx individuals. This not only helps open other communities’ minds to different perspectives, but it also creates a whole new group of allies.
Having members who don’t identify with a club’s focal group is certainly a good thing. It bridges the gap between social groups, cultivating the viewpoint that everyone is equal yet different.
— Shanza Syed
Berkeley High School takes pride in its wide variety of clubs that create space for minority groups. These spaces offer a platform to those who otherwise may not be given the opportunity to speak their truths and cope with shared discriminatory experiences. So, when it comes to inclusivity of those who are not a part of said communities, it’s important that these spaces remain protected from becoming the same as the outside world. Allowing others into meetings would sacrifice the safety of these spaces.
We already have enough outlets for all-inclusive discussions. In Law and Social Justice, for example, students examine the US Criminal Justice System and its innate flaws and biases. Even in core classes, the topic of discrimination and our own biases frequently comes up in discussion. In classrooms, students may feel intimidated or isolated when asked to speak on a topic that only affects them. This could limit them from participating to their full potential. Clubs, in contrast, are valuable for their ability to encourage engagement with the subject at hand.
Above all, it’s important to distinguish that clubs are optional. Optionality ensures that members actually want to take part in discussion, as opposed to being forced into dialogue in class. This eagerness to engage is integral in creating meaningful conversations. With everyone in the discussion sharing experiences, there exists a sense of security that’s unavailable elsewhere. This space for students to speak their truth is invaluable.
It may be challenging for some to understand why we shouldn’t be all-inclusive in race and gender-specific groups and clubs. That’s why it’s important that we don’t construe what we desire with what’s necessary. In an ideal world, all voices would be heard, acknowledged, and respected equally. But in this world, we are simply not yet treated as equals. Thus, the action that must be taken in order to combat these social dilemmas should not be that of equality, but of equity.
— Ellora Mookherjee-Amodt