Since 1953, the onyx has become “one of Meredith’s most treasured campus traditions” and a symbol of Meredith’s strength, according to the college’s website. Each year, current juniors and other students who have completed 60 credit hours get to officially join the sisterhood by slipping the onyx onto their finger for the very first time at Ring Dinner. The Class of 2022 will be following in their sisters’ footsteps in a few short weeks when this year’s Ring Dinner is held on Oct. 16. As a member of the Class of 2022, I started to feel the excitement of finally getting to wear my onyx as this past summer progressed, a sentiment that is echoed by my classmates. However, I could not ignore the feeling keeping me from enjoying the anticipation of receiving my onyx.
BIPOC students and alumnae have shared many of their experiences with racism at Meredith on the @DearMereCo Instagram page over the past several months. A few of these submissions said that some alumnae no longer wear their onyx because of the college’s unwillingness to address prolonged racism and discrimination, and that they will not wear their onyx until Meredith starts protecting its BIPOC community. These statements led me to ask myself two questions: How can we wear a ring that is meant to symbolize the strength of the Meredith community but ultimately represents a college with a racist history? How can we wear a ring that disrespects and invalidates our BIPOC classmates and their experiences at Meredith?
These questions caused me to reframe the symbolism of the onyx in my mind. In the past, I viewed the onyx as representing the bond between members of the Meredith community, a community that is supposed to celebrate and support each other in times of both ease and hardship. After learning about the racism that Meredith’s BIPOC community continues to face, I realized that my view of the onyx did not reflect everyone’s Meredith experience. I concluded that in order to still be excited and proud to receive my onyx, I needed to shift the meaning of the onyx away from Meredith College’s character as a whole and more towards my personal achievements and goals for the future.
This conclusion is not to say that my onyx will not represent Meredith College at all, as I certainly want my onyx to remind me of the valuable, rigorous education I am receiving, experiential learning opportunities I have had and close relationships I have built within the Meredith community. While I have had help along the way, I view these experiences in my Meredith career as personal achievements because of how much I have had to grow to succeed. This conclusion is also not to say that my onyx will disregard the aspects of Meredith College’s character that need improvements. Just as I have to grow to succeed, so does Meredith College. Meredith’s BIPOC students deserve better. If Meredith wants a better future, action needs to be taken now, and I want my onyx to represent the strength and resilience of those who are fighting for that better future.
To my fellow classmates: Be proud of your onyx. You have made it this far because of your own strength and determination, not anyone else’s. You have proven that you can overcome obstacles and reach your goals. You are the ones who are taking action in an effort to better Meredith College. So, be proud of your onyx. You have earned it.
By Molly Perry, Staff Writer