(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.
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.
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.