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What I'm Reading - Anya Piotrowski
The perk - and on some overwhelming days the downside - to being a doctoral student is that I have the opportunity to read so many scholarly works I might not otherwise come across. One such work is an article by Dr. Philomena Essed, “Women social justice scholars: risks and rewards of committing to anti-racism.” Essed writes, “Anti-racism is a form of leadership. It emerges from the need, or desire, to influence others while seeking to create a more just, humane world. It is about setting a different example of being an intellectual or academic, namely by grounding scholarship in lifelong commitment to social justice in general and racial justice in particular.” Essed goes on to share experiences from women - predominantly women of color - and the ways in which their anti-racism work cannot be separated from their commitment to being critical scholars. Essed describes the way holistic care for and bonding with students can help anti-racism professors manage hostile environments. Finally, perhaps one of the most important takeaways from Essed’s article is her point that a commitment to anti-racism further marginalizes women of color because their work “violates the normative stance of distance and neutrality.” Essed’s article provides readers an opportunity to reflect on the challenges that women - and in particular women of color - face and the ways their work extends beyond campus walls and the required work. As I reflect on the article, I believe these leadership stories are not only examples of what it means to commit to anti-racism work, but also a challenge to everyone to commit to creating anti-racism environments that support anti-racist leadership from women, especially women of color.
What I'm Thinking About - Anya Piotrowski
Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about a recent Net-A-Porter interview, which garnered quite a bit of attention on social media after Ellen Pompeo spoke out on a lack of diversity in the room. The clip I initially saw circulating was just that - a brief clip of Ellen Pompeo stating, “This day has been incredible, and there’s a ton of women in the room, but I don’t see enough color. And I didn’t see enough color when I walked in the room today….” She went on to say, “...when I show up on a set I would like to see the crew reflect the world I walk around in everyday….as caucasian people, it’s our job. It’s our job…” My issue is not with Ellen using her white privilege to speak out on diversity and equity - I firmly believe white people need to educate themselves and recognize where they can use their privilege to create changes. However, like so often happens, what’s been dismissed are some key components of the interview. First, the discussion actually began when Gabrielle Union said, “You cannot center or amplify a voice that is not real or valid in your own personal life.” Union went on to point out it’s harder to pass the mic and see another’s humanity, with an emphasis on you then become part of the problem. After Pompeo’s statement, the conversation turned to creating change in their children’s schools and Pompeo interrupted and spoke over Union multiple times before she began crying. Pompeo made a point of talking about the challenge she seeks out in changing the representation in her children’s school without acknowledging that for her to do so is different than when Union puts in effort to do the same for her own children. The entire interview left me thinking about Robin DiAngelo’s work on white fragility and her 2011 article in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy. It felt to me as if Pompeo exhibited white fragility in the quick way she defended her desire to take on the challenge of diversifying her children’s school and the tears shed felt a bit like an inability to handle her racial discomfort. It’s not that Pompeo walked out of the room or stopped participating in the conversation, and yet as I watched the interview it felt that her white fragility was much more subtle while being no less present. The entire conversation left me reflecting on how white fragility manifests in the white people who are educating themselves, reflecting, and speaking out. I don’t have answers, but I encourage white folks who are speaking up to reflect on how they might shut down other voices in the moment of speaking out against structural racism.
I read a lot of books about music and musicians. A LOT. Bowie, Hendrix, the Dead, the Doors, Dylan, Prince. You name someone, I’ve probably read about them. I started reading Life, Keith Richards’ (Rolling Stones) autobiography in August, and I’m still picking through it. I always lose interest when he starts talking about chord changes, or how he came up with the riff to ‘Satisfaction’ – as a non-musician, this information is way above my head. Why I’m writing about this now is something that struck me while reading – the main music influences of the Rolling Stones were black American musicians – Chuck Berry, Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and Lightning Hopkins. Buddy and Muddy were an integral part of the Chicago blues scene, but they were largely unknown outside of black Chicago in the early sixties. Chuck Berry was Chuck Berry; who else could have invented the duck walk? And Lightning was a blues guitarist hailing from Texas. When the Stones first started playing their bluesy brand of rock and roll, they were largely trying to imitate these already established blues musicians. Here’s the thing: American’s weren’t listening to their homegrown musicians because they were black. It took the white (and British) members of the band to bring black music to America, where it had already been invented years before. Indeed, the band’s name is a direct homage to Muddy Waters, as it is the name of one of his songs (Rollin’ Stone). How many times have we seen white culture appropriate something from another culture, making it acceptable for white folks to listen to, see, read, and hear? Have you ever listened to a Rolling Stones song, like Stray Cat Blues? It’s filthy (basically, about underage sex) – somehow this was acceptable, but consider the idea that if a black man had written and sang it, it would have reinforced stereotypes of black men and women – that they’re basically insatiable and can never have their desires quenched.
The synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. I watched the news coverage all weekend – something I don’t normally do. It was originally (falsely) reported that one of the victims was a Holocaust survivor. It made me wonder what kind of strange things are at work in this world, or the universe, that would allow someone to survive such a terrible horror, only to have that same person die by gunfire simply for her religion. I used to wonder how people could allow the Nazis to take over – how could they sit by, and watch their friends and neighbors be carted off in cattle cars to their death, and not do anything? I see now, living as we do in such a culture of fear and hate, that maybe it wasn’t too difficult. People are scared out of their wits. We live in a world now where anyone who is not a white, Christian male feels threatened – people can’t sell lemonade, can’t eat their lunch, can’t go to Starbucks – without someone calling the police on them, based solely on the color of their skin or how they look. I commend the local and national officials in Pittsburgh who are refusing to meet with Trump this week; instead they are focusing on the families and funerals for those that were slain. The members of the Bend the Arc organization have written an open letter to Trump stating that he is not welcome in Pittsburgh until he denounces white nationalism, which he so far has refused to do. Tweeting words of sympathy, or refusing to acknowledge the holes that exist in our current gun laws, does nothing to put an end to this type of senseless violence.
What I'm Reading - Jared Della Rocca
The Root - Part of the Gizmodo Media Group, owned by Univision, which includes sites like i09 (pop culture), Gizmodo (tech), Splinter (politics), and Jezebel (women's issues), The Root is a phenomenal lens on issues concerning POC. Articles range from high school students spelling out racist and homophobic slogans during class pictures, to a new tent city in Texas for migrant children (which is not subject to state laws such as providing an education, but instead under the "guidelines" of DHS), to Janelle Monae's message of support to survivors of sexual violence. Some of the articles are more pop-culture related (the latest updates on Kanye/Ye and Cardi B), but there are also many *shaking my head* articles such as a white teacher fired for teaching racist slavery lessons suing for reverse racism, a white mother sending a racist text to her black nanny then firing her for being offended, to the WAY TOO MANY "Beckys" (white people who call the police on POC for such "offenses" as selling lemonade or waiting for an Uber.) My personal favorite author is Monique Judge, aka The Journalista, who posts at The Root "After Hours" and regularly crushes it. She takes pieces of big issues, like "Brett Kavanaugh Thinks Being a Virgin Means You Can't Sexually Assault Anyone" and "#WhyIDidntReport: A List of Reasons for Every Time It Happened", and gives you an inward look at something you may have missed in the grand scheme, or gives you an alternative view on the issue that you might not experience. All of the writers at The Root, though, are uniquely talented and well worth reading!
What I'm Thinking About - Jared Della Rocca
Brett Kavanaugh. It's hard to read, watch, or listen to the news and NOT be thinking about Kavanaugh and Dr. Christine Blaisey Ford, Deborah Ramirez, and Julie Swetnick. Reams of words have been written on the entire issue, but I want to highlight and respond to just one piece, one horrible, no good, absolutely terrible take. Courtesy of CNN via Time Magazine, "GOP Voter on Brett Kavanaugh Sex Assault Accusation: 'What Boy Hasn't Done This?'" Gina Sosa, a former Florida congressional candidate, remarked, "But we're talking about a 17-year-old boy in high school with testosterone running high. Tell me, what boy hasn't done this in high school? Please, I would like to know."
Nonsense like this, which is the politest word I could use (were this not a public blog I'd use MUCH stronger language), signals to boys and men across the country that they are excused for their actions. Testosterone is to blame, not you. And if it's not testosterone, let's blame the victim. What was she wearing? Was she drinking? Anything that excuses the aggressor. (To be clear, the aggressor has to be a white, preferably Christian male for these "excuses" to work.) The perpetuation of the myth of a testosterone-fueled sexual assault leads directly to the violent crimes documented by Jon Krakauer in "Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town." We have boys and men who consider women objects there for the men's enjoyment. We have adults that shame the victims and make every effort to protect the males. And we have a justice system that discourages women from coming forward.
When a sitting Senator says, "Why wait 30 years to come forward?" it makes you wonder if they've watched any of the dialogue that preceded their remark. Have they watched as the woman before them OR ANY WOMAN who has reported an assault had their reputation torn apart? Have they heard their own constituents find any excuse to blame the woman for gaps in her memory? Have they read about the parents coming forward and talking about how this will affect their SONS?!
Women have been fighting alone for years, decades, centuries to bring awareness and change the system. It's time for us men to repair some of the damage that's been done in the name of our gender. It's time we take our place by their sides in this fight. It's time to #StandUpMen and #BelieveWomen. Because I'm a lot less worried about my son being falsely accused than my daughter not being believed.
What I'm Reading - Samantha Ivery
The author of Race Talk, Derald Wing Sue, is a professor of psychology and social justice advocate. In Race Talk, he focuses on uncovering the impact of racial oppression while offering us another viewpoint into the difficulty of discussing and perhaps moving beyond the barriers of racial oppression. Sue organizes this book in a way that enables readers to learn about their own biases and prejudices while also gaining awareness of others. For example in the chapter titled, I’m not White, I’m Italian, Sue notes that the “denials of being White or confusion surrounding its meaning, hamper awareness the could result in successful race talk.” Sue goes on to say that, “unlike people of color, Whites seldom think about their racial/cultural identity.” (p. 149) This seemingly simple insight is missed in many discussions about race. Often the dialogue is centered solely on the experience of people of color. The pain, the disappointment and sometimes anger that emerges when detailing the experiences of racial microaggressions, prejudice and ultimately discrimination. Race Talk offers us another way to enter these dialogues. It requires for everyone to do some honest reflection. In other words, white people need to be in the race dialogues. Racism is predicated on a white/non-white binary. It is difficult to have a dialogue with only one part of the conversation represented. Consider Race Talk a guide into how a more meaningful and impactful dialogue on race and and the impact of racism could develop.
What I'm Thinking About - Samantha Ivery
‘All I Did Was Be Black’: Police Called on Smith Student Eating Lunch is a video that has gone viral in social media and amongst those on college campuses across the country. In the video you are introduced to Oumou Kanoute, a student at Smith College, whose sense of safety and security has been rocked to the core by those charged with maintaining it, Campus Police. This incident illustrates how a lack of critical thinking, compassion, and perhaps awareness of self and others can be problematic. Kanuote, a teaching assistant for a summer program at Smith was eating lunch and relaxing one afternoon when another member of the Smith community, saw a black man eating lunch or perhaps napping on a couch. Kanoute’s blackness is not the issue here. The issue is why blackness invokes fear and irrational thinking. Why are Black people targets of racial discrimination, profiling, and denigration? Furthermore, why are White people so comfortable policing brown and black bodies? These questions and others are provoked each time an incident like this occurs. What do you think of this? What would have done if you were the dispatcher? What would you have done if you saw the student? Are you sure? These are other questions are worth thinking about.
What I'm Thinking About - Samantha Ivery
This recorded debate between the acclaimed author and social critic, James Baldwin and conservative author and founder of The National Review, William F. Buckley is a must see/hear for those who are interested in understanding how the activism of artists is, not only meaningful but, powerful. In this debate at the student union at Cambridge University in the fall of 1965, James Baldwin eloquently addresses the question. In his argument he posits several notions that are worth exploring. First, he notes that reality is subjective. Baldwin says, “One’s system of reality...one’s reaction to that question has to depend on effect and, in effect, where you find yourself in the world, what your sense of reality is, what your system of reality is. That is, it depends on assumptions which we hold so deeply as to be scarcely aware of them.” Second, Baldwin situates himself in his response to the question. He goes on further to say, “I [long pause] have to [pause] speak as one of the people who’ve been most attacked by what we must now here call the Western or the European system of reality. What white people in the world, what we call white supremacy – I hate to say it here – comes from Europe. That’s how it got to America. Beneath then...has to be the question of whether or not civilizations can be...equal, or whether one’s civilization has the right to overtake and subjugate, and, in fact, to destroy another.”
In these two points Baldwin illustrates that in order to understand white supremacy and the notion of racial oppression, one must first understand that it is a system of reality. Race is a social construction that creates realities for both the subjugated and the subjugator. Next he goes on to argue that embedded in the system of white supremacy and racial oppression lies another question of equality. How can a system built on oppression, anchored in the subordination of one set of people be made equal for all? Baldwin continues his argument with a question that sums up his entire position. Baldwin asks, “If one has got to prove one’s title to the land, isn’t four hundred years enough? Four hundred years? At least three wars? The American soil is full of the corpses of my ancestors. Why is my freedom or my citizenship, or my right to live there, how is it conceivably a question now?” Baldwin’s assertions about systemic oppression, struggles for equality and nationality are just the tip of the iceberg in his argument. Buckley, rather inarticulately, doesn’t come close to answering the proposition of whether the American Dream has been achieved at the expense of the Negro and unfortunately doesn’t offer up a position steeped in evidence or historical facts.
There is much to be learned from Baldwin and Buckley regarding how they address the question and each other. The level of understanding of the issues from two vastly different perspectives illustrates the chasm that exists when we consider how to address systemic inequalities based on identity. I’ve watched this twice and read the transcript. I think I may need to watch it again and again to really appreciate Baldwin’s 1965 argument and its relevance in 2018.
What I'm Reading - Samantha Ivery
Nicolazzo, Z. (2017). Trans* in college: Transgender students’ strategies for navigating campus life and the institutional politics of inclusion. Sterling, VA: Stylus.
It only takes one news cycle, if that, to see the increased violence and harassment felt by misunderstood and historically marginalized communities. This phenomenon makes Nicolazzo’s Trans* in college a must read for those who value inclusion, equity, and full access in higher education. “The aim of this book is to elucidate how trans* college students navigate their gendered cultural context” (p. 16). While there is an increase in research, according to Nicolazzo, much of the discourse is situated in a deficit model which presents trans* students as having problems with a need for accommodations (Marine, 2011). Trans* in college invites readers to learn from the voices of trans* students and “recommit to intersectionality” (p. 151) in research and praxis. An intersectional approach (Bowleg, 2008; See also Crenshaw, 1989, 1995) creates the foundation on which we can embrace the compounding nature of social identities in the lives of students. Consequently, by better understanding how gender, trans* identity in particular, is understood and discussed, I hope to encourage others to reflect on the ways in which we effectively use an intersectional approach to work with students rather than focusing in on one specific social identity. It is my hope that this work will create a more seamless and affirming environment for all students
What I'm Thinking About - Samantha Ivery
With exasperation and fatigue, I’ve said multiple times in the last month, “You’re microaggressing the hell out of me.” (Yes, I know I have turned a noun into a verb.) Nevertheless, that statement underscores a major theme in my personal and professional life. As a Black woman concerned with issues of inequity and intolerance, I am often in discussions that seem redundant and disdained. I’ve been saying for over a decade now, things like, “Why did you touch my hair?” Or, “It doesn’t matter if the joke is not about me, I don’t think it’s funny.” They are disdained because often I hear sighs, see rolled eyes and ultimately the behaviors continue. I am actually becoming fatigued and slightly angry that I’m still saying the same things. Here’s a helpful thought for those on the other end of my opening statement, “You’re microaggressing the hell out of me.” Consider the words of Oluo when she writes, “…when you are called out…Before you respond at all, pause and…remember that your goal is…to have a better relationship.” If it matters to you at all, the colleagues, students, family or friends that are naming for you a moment when what you did or said hurt them; Pause; Ask yourself why; Explore if you feel threatened; Remember, this isn’t the first time they’ve been hurt and the impact is greater than your intentions; Do some research; and finally Apologize (Oluo, p. 175-177).
What I'm Reading - Samantha Ivery
“I mean, as I see it, they have the same opportunity and everything. They should be doing equal,” (p. 31). This reflection from one of the participants in Bonilla-Silva’s study concretely describes the need for this important book. In Racism without racists, Bonilla-Silva explores color-blind ideology and the negative impact on anti-racist activism. He argues, as the title suggests, that there is no racism without racist attitudes and behaviors to maintain and reify the underlying oppression that results from “a pervasive system of advantage and disadvantage based on the socially constructed category of race” (Adams, M., et. al., 2016, p. 134). He explains that a color-blind racial ideology is “about justifying the various social arrangements and practices that maintain white privilege” (p. 211). I hope after reading this book to better understand the transitions in racial ideology made by white people (Jim Crow, Civil Rights Movement, Affirmative Rights and post-Obama eras). Consequently, by better understanding how racism and white privilege is understood and discussed, I hope to encourage honest dialogue about how to dismantle this ideology and replace it with a more effective approach to anti-racist activism.
What I'm Thinking About - Samantha Ivery
Peeples gives voice to the unnoticed and unnamed challenge that people of color in the academy face almost daily. Aggressions, whether micro or macro, “feel like perpetual paper cuts to the spirit, but they act more like parasites. They suck away at a person’s sense of self…. leaving no mark on the outside, offenders never really have to deal with them.” As a new member of the Bennington College community I was prepared to answer questions about my job, where I am from, and how I am dealing with New England weather. Unknown to most, I additionally prepared myself to encounter stares at my natural waist-long locs and my brown skin. This additional preparation is not something white people (generally) have to do. Having lived in 9 states across 3 times zones has taught me that my physical appearance to some is invited and welcomed and to others is curious, unwelcomed, and worse feared. Peeples in her post recounts when she came to awareness about her own white privilege and how that privilege came with racist attitudes and behaviors that while unnoticed by her, were visceral in the lives of her colleagues and students. I am grateful she came to this realization and now I have to remain hopeful that she does not stop there. In order for me to not have to prepare to encounter racism, I need her and others to continue to understand White privilege and work to become anti-racist and end systemic racial oppression.
What I'm Thinking About - Samantha Ivery
One of the many conversations I’ve had while working in higher education was if I saw myself as a scholar-practitioner or the reverse a practitioner-scholar. When I was working on my master’s degree almost 20 years ago I had no idea what this really meant. The implication in the question was that there existed a tension in this field between those who created and disseminated knowledge and those who used that knowledge. Further complicating this issue was whether or not you could do both and which was more important; your ability to create knowledge or your ability to integrate the knowledge into your work praxis.
If I may keep it 100 with you, I think this discussion is one of the biggest problems in higher education leadership. If in fact we (faculty, administrators, student-facing and non-student facing staff) were truly committed to the educational principles our institutions espouse, we would freely admit that learning never ends. In order to meet the needs of all students, in order to inspire creativity and original thought, in order to be competent in working within the diverse world we live in, learning must never end. Therefore, we would all aspire to be scholar-practitioners and practitioner-scholars; and here is the reason why.
Irrespective of the prevalence of traditionally and culturally white, Christian, wealthy, male institutions, our aspiration to transform these educational environments into spaces that welcome every student we admit, then learning must never end. We must strive to learn and accept what our scholars are telling us are best practices. We must inform the scholars when their work is missing an element of pragmatism. We must, in essence, be both scholars and practitioners. To that end, here is a forum for that work to begin.
Search the resources available in this collection and the variety of places on campus where you can find them. There are individuals who are opening up their bookshelves for you to continue your learning. Additionally, students have also created resource lists. There are books, articles and other media. Go a step further and add these works to your course requirements, engage with them to increase your awareness and discuss something you’ve learned or that challenged your prior understandings. When learning never ends we can all be transformed.