Uprooting Anti-Blackness & Racism to Protect our Students of Color

(Originally posted on 5/25/18)

We need to protect our students of color.

At the beginning of the 2017-2018 school year, Taeyin and I co-wrote a blog post about how we we must continue to protect and support our marginalized students and students of color, especially given the rise of alt-right groups and the status of DACA students on college campuses. This year we faced many challenges starting with Charlottesville on the University of Virginia campus, countless racist acts against students in Alabama, Georgia, and D.C.

Just two weeks ago, a black woman Yale student was reported to the police for napping in a friend’s common room after a late night of studying. This latest incident is yet another occurrence of the same story we have seen play out over the last month: Starbucks, Waffle House ,  Airbnb, and now universities. But this isn’t new. Just a few years ago, at Colgate University, a young Black man simply walking around campus with glue-gun that he needed for a class project was questioned by the cops and was the subject of a campus lockdown.

The dominant narrative would say that immediately calling the police is a practice of just precaution. We should make sure that our communities are safe and so calling the cops on a “suspicious person” is protecting the whole of the community. However, this dominant narrative does not take into consideration the anti-Blackness in our communities. Taking into account counter narratives means understanding the stories of Tamir Rice, Oscar Grant, and Renisha McBride. They were all innocent brown and black lives that were suspected as deviant, dangerous, and a threat to the larger community. We may think our college campuses are immune to what happens out in the real world. Yet, our black and POC (people of color) students are still affected by the racism that impacts our society as a whole.

unnamed.jpg

At the center of our Conference were Strategy Circles led by InterAction staff and Diversity Catalysts. In using theater for social change, the conference highlighted and centered how we as artist-activists were going to commit and strategize to uproot anti-blackness and racism in our workplaces, environments, and communities. Anti-blackness is so subtle and pervasive that it is ingrained in the American psyche and seen as the norm. Anti-Black racism is a term used to describe the unique discrimination, violence and harms imposed on and impacting black people specifically. It includes the void of blackness as worthy of value and systematically marginalizing black people and their issues, institutions, and policies (Movement for Black Lives). Therefore, we must actively uproot it to ensure the safety of our Black and POC communities.

Given the recent news, we think it best to share a few actionable steps that you can take to uproot anti-blackness and racism in your own life. Self analysis is the first step in becoming an active ally.

 

1. Be Vulnerable

This process is difficult and not easy. Be vulnerable to the fact that you’ve made mistakes or you’ve harmed others. But remember that impact > intent. So once you are open to this process it’s much easier to learn how to be a better ally moving forward.

 

2. Get Familiar with the definitions of Anti-Blackness, Racism, and Oppression

We recommend Racial Equity Tools, Movement for Black Lives, and Everyday Feminism. If you don’t know what these terms mean, reach out to equity-focused resource pages for more information. Want more video related content? Franchesca Ramsey does a whole series called Decoded that’s worth a watch.

 

3. Learn about what police brutality means in communities of color and familiarize yourself with their stories.

Racism is a system of oppression that is upheld through institutions like our justice, educational, and legal systems which disadvantages communities of color. There is substantial research about how our criminal justice system and our law enforcement have historically and currently been instrumental in disadvantaging people of color. To learn how people of color are disportionality negatively impacted by police brutality due to racism, pick up Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow and the stories of black teens’ encounters with the police from the Invisible Institute.

Remember the stories of Oscar Grant, Tamir Rice, and Renisha McBride.

 Gateway Technical College students and staff participating in our Counter Narrative Workshop.

Gateway Technical College students and staff participating in our Counter Narrative Workshop.

4. Start with Yourself

The way we see and experience the world is affected by who we are and the identities we hold. Consider how the identities and the privileges you hold may affect the stories you are exposed to, the experiences you value, and the power you have.

 

5. Reflect on your community, workplace, personal life and ask yourself, “How is anti-blackness operating in my life and how do I up-root it?”

We encourage you to continue to reflect on this question and engage in conversation with family, friends and colleagues. Racism affects all of our communities and it is important that we reflect on the realities of racism at home. Especially as people in the dominant group, reflect about the possible consequences of calling the cops on people of color.

 

After you’ve dug deep and asked yourself these questions, we hope that you gain a deeper understanding of the complexity and depth of racism. We hope that you have a more nuanced understanding of the stark reality that calling the cops could mean death for people of color. So being critical of how you uphold anti-blackness and participate in it truly means that we can better protect and keep each other alive.

Source: /uprootingantiblackness

Another Haiti

Trump’s remarks last month on immigration policy and limiting the number of immigrants from “sh*thole countries” in favor of immigrants from countries like Norway drew outrage across the nation. My parents were born in Haiti and emigrated to the United States when they were teenagers in the late seventies during the dictatorship of Duvalier. I am a proud Haitian- American woman. Trump’s comments got me thinking about the stories we tell and the power they have to either uplift or exploit communities of people. During our training for InterAction, we always begin our sessions with a quote from Chimamanda Adichie’s famous TedTalk, Danger of a Single Story. In the quote, she warns us that stories have the power to “malign and dispossess” and that they can “break the dignity of a people.” So, how might Trump’s comments be considered dangerous as Chimamanda warns us?

Read More

Changing Places: Privilege & Identity Abroad

During the fall of 2016, we witnessed how our political milieu has broad consequences around the world. We started thinking about privilege in the international context. Because our identities exist within a context of a society, our privileges shift in different local contexts. But when we’re talking about international travel, there is also larger historical context we need to keep in mind. We started asking ourselves: What does it mean to be an American visiting Palestine or the countless other countries negatively affected by US foreign policy? How should a white person act in a country when they visit people who have been colonized and/or imperialized by white people?

Read More

Why Counter-Narrative Theater?

The experience created by this model of raw, simple, monologue-based, counter-narrative theater is the closest we can get to hearing second-hand about real life encounters of racism, sexism, homophobia, and all of the marginal experiences of exclusion. This matters because it is an opening to understanding how we can replicate seminal experiences.

Read More

The Threat to Inclusion & And what we should do about it

Extremist ideologies centering on exclusion are possible because they simplify the world with one story, which is supposed to speak for all of us. For example, the ideology of white supremacy builds on a one-dimensional narrative that white people are superior with the intent of obtaining and maintaining power for this status quo group. This one narrow story is historically tied with power and is used to justify wrongdoings of past and sparks hate crimes in the current day. Moreover, this one story silences the realities of the historically marginalized populations.

Read More

The InterAction Love Story: Tips on Leading a Healthy Work-Spouseship

There’s a lot of advice and self-help books on relationships - from finding the love of your life to how to keep your marriage afloat. I’m surprised that there isn’t as much writing on how to find your lifelong work partner. I think of lifelong work partners as those who 1) share a common mission in life, 2) choose each other to strive for that mission, and 3) are committed to working together to achieve that mission in the long haul.
 

Read More

Back to School: The Ongoing Battle & Strategizing with Stories

We're back to school after one of the most challenging years for those in social justice and inclusion work. Let’s start with stories. The stories we create communicate our experiences and interactions with the sociopolitical and historical reality of the world. There are many stories in circulation today. Stories are an ambivalent tool like religion. They can be used for building a more equitable society as much as they can be used to create more injustice in the world. Critical Race Theory helps us understand the role and place of counterstories: stories that challenge the mainstream. With the vision of building a more equitable society, we need counterstories to be centered for surviving, healing, and building.

Read More