Racism: An Old Pandemic in a New Year

Hey Mamis!

#Scholarmami here… I usually try to work on my blog post the week before it is due. It gives me time to read, review, and edit before going “live” on Tuesday. This week was different. To be honest, it’s been kind of hard to focus.

As if a COVID-19 global pandemic with a disproportionate effect on African Americans and Latinxs, massive un/under-employment, and trying to social distance and work from home weren’t enough…the centuries-old pandemic of racism reared its ugly head. As a social-justice educator, wife of an African American man, and mother of a biracial child, the senseless death of George Floyd, coupled with Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, made my heart heavy. Indeed, grief, anger, fear have come to the forefront for many individuals across our country.

But what can we do?

We can offer our condolences and sympathies to the families who have lost loved ones as a result of racism. We can stand in solidarity with Black communities and lift Black voices in shaping policies and practices in our schools and communities. As faculty, we must call out anti-Blackness in our curriculum, programs, policies, and professional communities. We must work towards diversifying our student, faculty, and staff and honor the unpaid labor many people of color undertake when taking a role in higher education.

Let’s also be vigilant in checking our own biases and assumptions. In my diversity class, students take an inventory to understand their different social identities and areas in which they have privilege (i.e, unearned benefits just because of the color of their skin, sex, abilities, religious beliefs, etc.). We talk about how it’s not enough to be “not racist,” but to be intentionally anti-racist and call out inequitable practices in our jobs, communities, and even homes.

Finally, let’s start early by educating the next generation – our children. We can engage in age-appropriate conversations about difference, read books from diverse authors, watch shows and movies focused on diverse communities, and encourage kindness and inclusion. If we can stop worrying about saying the wrong thing, then we can authentically engage our kids, family, and friends in difficult conversations that challenge the status quo. Together, we can change things for the better.

Hola Mamis,

#vpmami here and I’ve been restless, anxious… I even did the unthinkable… cried in a meeting (gasp!).

In times like this my anxiety is through the roof and immediately I worry… about my Black friends and colleagues, about our students. About all the things I want to say and how to package my message because I am in administration and well, everything matters… my silence matters as much as my words.

So to echo my beloved #scholarmami— what can I do?

Well, administrators, we have to show up. We have to acknowledge the world is a mess and the lethal impact it has on our Black brothers and sisters. We must acknowledge it to our colleagues and those who look to us for leadership and we have to acknowledge it to our students who also look to us for leadership but also protection. We are role modeling how they will respond/react in the future… we have to be brave and speak our minds and hearts especially for the folks who are not Black and need to see this role-modeled too.

What else do we have to do in administration? Speak out and up when someone slides in a racist remark during a meeting or any time deficit and racist thinking seeps into our work spaces. Our silence makes us complicit. It has taken some time for me to grow comfortable in my mind and body when it comes to speaking up when racism or deficit thinking is spoken in my work context. I regret every time I did not speak up because I suspect I may have unintentionally hurt or let down a colleague who may have been directly impacted by the spoken aggression…sometimes they were aggressions against some of my own identities. That silence is what also gives others the false sense that it’s ok to defame and disregard particular groups… this is what renders brutal killings of Black people as “normal”… we have normalized aggression against minortized communities with our silence. Ya basta!

Lastly, administrators, let’s consider how racism and bigotry shows up in our policies, processes, in our student handbooks… it doesn’t take a lot to see it sometimes. In our classrooms, who tends to be silent? Do you seek to make them comfortable in our educational spaces? Spaces which have consistently and repeatedly told brown and black bodies they don’t belong?

We have a lot to think about and much more to do. I am committed and look forward to creating space for all those who want to walk this hard road to call out and uproot racism by elevating our minortized voices in all spaces in academia… administration and professoriate.

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