Photo Credit: Smithsonian Institution
I want to take a moment to commemorate Indigenous Peoples' Day. In addition to a growing national recognition, this day for me is personal.
At 19 years old I was a student leader on my campus. As part of the student government, my role was specifically focused on multicultural student programming and collective action. Along with the President and VP of the student government (who are both staunch allies to this day), we wrote a resolution that Colorado State University recognize, rather than Columbus Day, Indigenous Peoples. We, of course, enlisted the wisdom of student, staff, and faculty leaders affiliated with what is now the Native American Cultural Center.
I remember this so vividly:
In the research and writing of the resolution, we also socialized the idea with a number of the University senators who would actually be voting on it. OMG, we got no love. There was not a glimmer of hope in sight.
I met with students, staff, and...
Every day I think about race. Actually, racism. For the past 12 years, since my son was born, it’s top of mind on a daily basis. I was born to a white mother and black father long before the prevalence of bi-and multi-racial celebrities and public figures. I remember taking road trips with my parents and younger sisters to family gatherings in Arkansas. I remember being pulled over by police and my father harassed for being with a white woman. I remember my mother being called a nigger lover. I remember being taunted as a young person or being preyed upon by older men who considered me exotic. It was awful, and even my parents’ love couldn’t shield me from the ugliness of the world.
Now, every day I think about what I, as a mother of a black boy, can do to shield him from the ugliness of the world. Often when speaking about racism and oppression to groups, I include an image of my son. I tell members of the audience to look at him, try to look at him with my...
Often the most ardent spokespeople for valuing diversity and creating equity in our systems also possess a determination that is rooted in wanting to help “those disenfranchised people”, or “that marginalized group.” The assumption is that “those ____ people” (fill in the blank: Black, Asian, Gay, differently-abled, etc.) need “our” help.
With all of the best intentions, this perspective—and often the associated “advocacy”—is not the real work of allies, even though it may make us feel like we are.
Think about the last time you were in a meeting and witnessed a person’s contributions being overlooked by those in power at the table. Or listened on as colleagues belittled a colleague who is different from you and them. Or saw a social media post from one of your “friends” that was clearly meant to put down members of another group or with different life experiences.
Then you, because the comments or...