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Please note: I would like to thank all of the student affairs professionals who actively fight against institutionalized oppression at their institutions. This post was written in hopes that those who are complacent on our college campuses find their voice.
Over the past few weeks, our profession as a whole has been sitting on the edge of our seats watching and waiting for the outcomes of the liberation movements occurring across the United States at institutions such as Mizzou, Yale, Ithaca College, and others.
We watch our Facebook timelines and our Twitter feeds to catch the latest news on what is occurring at these institutions anxiously waiting to see the resolve of a situation that we (read: White professionals) hope does not find us in our own backyard. But, if we are honest with ourselves, the reality is that we do not have to “hope” that these incidents don’t find us at our current institutions. They are already present and they have been since our foundation. Institutionalized oppression has been layered brick on top of brick cemented in the mortar of our walls and is held up by those who sit complacent.
My hope is that our profession breaks this cycle of perpetuation by taking appropriate and necessary steps to counteract these systems by focusing on the root of the oppressive behaviors rather than only providing triage treatment to those impacted. We are blind to think that the student success and retention of our Black and Brown students is not directly impacted by the systems of oppression that we continue to perpetuate. We cannot continue to invite Black and Brown students onto our campuses while ignoring the very system that oppresses them. The system that we are blindly reinforcing. We must stop the erasure of the experiences of marginalized students. We must recognize the immediate need for Black and Brown faculty members on our campuses. We must eliminate the whitewashing of history through our academic curriculums. We must redefine the criteria for hiring both faculty and staff on our campuses by making a statement that says if you do not have experience or will not work to eradicate institutionalized oppression then we do not have room for you at our institution (Wise, 2015). We must stop relying on the voices of a few, hardworking and passionate social justice educators to educate the masses while we sit back in our offices and perpetuate the very actions they are fighting so hard to eliminate.
As White professionals, we must be able to recognize and acknowledge that systemic oppression exists (and that we perpetuate it). Paulo Freire (1970) states, that in order for liberation to occur we must acknowledge the existence of oppression. If we truly want to eradicate institutionalized oppression we must address it from both the personal and systemic level. We can no longer be patient and provide excuses for our administrators when they state that they value “diversity” (whatever that means) with little to no action to support it. We must stop using the fear of losing our jobs as an excuse to why we (as White professionals) do not stand up to injustices on our campuses because the reality is that our Black and Brown colleagues are doing it every day not because they want to but because they have to out of survival. It is time that we stop hiding behind our whiteness and hold our institutions accountable for eradicating oppression.
In addition, we as White practitioners must encourage and support the empowerment of Black and Brown folks on our campuses. Whiteness has always intrinsically instilled in us the notion that any person that is not “White” is less. We must actively combat this within our offices, administrations, conversations, and personal experiences. We must be willing to move aside and allow for the voices of our Black and Brown colleagues (and students) to be amplified. It is time. We must start demanding the implementation of anti-racism work on all campuses and in all offices. We must begin to reflect on whiteness and its impact on our campuses. As higher education professionals, we must question what our campuses might look like if we interrogated our whiteness in every facet of our work. Then, we must bring those answers to fruition.
In the words of Dr. Lisa Anderson-Levy (2015), we have to stop investing in a “poisonous identity” that is at the root of the problem in our country. We must address whiteness and the benefits we gain as a result of it. So, my question to my fellow White colleagues is are we finally going to listen to the voices of our Black and Brown students, faculty, and staff? Are we willing to stand with them and allow them to lead us into liberation? Are we ready to do more than just copy and paste a tweet or Facebook post stating that we stand in solidarity?
We must do better.
Before you go…click the link below so I can send you my free resource, “Five Steps to Combat Institutionalized Oppression in Higher Education!” A special bonus is inside as well!Send me my Free Resource >>
Looking to bring in a workshop that allows for your office to critically reflect on how whiteness impacts their work on campus? Contact me today by clicking on the image (left). I would be happy to facilitate a program for your campus. Please feel free to contact me with questions about the program or to inquire about other workshops available. Thank you!