I work at an institution where it can be easy to believe that we live in a post-racist society.
I work at an institution where administrators truly work hard to build bridges across the drawn battle lines of difference, where individual employees work hard to ensure that every student feels welcome regardless of skin color, where we often the idea of one campus community.
I work at the institution that overwhelmingly supported Michael Sam as a phenomenally brave black gay man.
As a white administrator, it is easy to believe the pain, horror, injustice, tyranny of white supremacy and racism are nestled safely in the past, a bullet point buried in the textbook of history. It is easy to believe that living in the present provides distance and safety from their evil reign.
It is easy to be complacent as a white administrator in a white environment in the middle of a predominantly white state.
I work at an institution two hours from the street where Mike Brown was shot and killed.
I work at an institution two hours from the street where Mike Brown’s body lay in full view for hours.
The tragedy of Mike Brown’s death and the ensuing howls of pain and cries of justice have a direct impact on the lives of many students, faculty and staff at the University of Missouri. This tragedy drives home the fact that white supremacy based on racism is alive and well, and the events of the past months must act as a wake-up call to white student affairs administrators across the country.
It is not enough to recognize we are privileged. It is not enough to be able to discuss critical race theory and understand on an intellectual level how our students experience difference. As white people, these ideas are easy to discuss intellectually, safe as we are in our bubble of privilege, tucked away from the day to day reality of negotiating a black identity in an overwhelmingly white environment.
For all intents and purposes, I walk around my campus a straight white male, my gay identity notwithstanding, benefiting from multiple systems of privilege I inherited and did little to earn. Yes I work hard, and yes I’m decently intelligent, but that doesn’t mean my life is more valuable than the lives of Black human beings, Hispanic human beings, Muslim human beings, Asian human beings, or any other human beings who do not benefit from the privileges I inherited but do not inherently deserve.
Mike Brown did not deserve to die. Mike Brown deserved so much better than what he got from a cruel society set up to disenfranchise him.
Black students on campuses across this country deserve our support, and it is not enough for white administrators to understand their experiences on an intellectual level. We must be in the trenches in this fight, engaging in meaningful conversation, attempting to understand what is impossible to fully experience ourselves.
We must recognize that we too are products of a racist society, and that we have a stake in dismantling white privilege.
We must acknowledge our own biases.
We must listen to black students and peers who cry for justice, and work to understand their experiences empathetically, not just intellectually.
This conversation and the events unfolding in Ferguson and across the country are about so much more than Mike Brown’s death. It’s about dismantling an unjust system based on the constructed idea of race that continues to disenfranchise millions of people.
For white student affairs educators, complacency is no longer an option. We must listen to the voices Black human beings who cry for justice, and recognize those cries as evidence of a society gone horribly wrong. We must listen, and add our voices to those crying for change.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Brian MacDonald on New Student Orientation & Family Programs