I want to pose this mostly as a question, because I am afraid. I’m afraid mostly of backlash from discourse that could cause me to get fired.
Does anyone else have this fear of discourse? In graduate school, I learned that to truly work to break down the oppressive barriers in our society and in our field, you can’t just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. I learned that discourse is how you learn and grow and challenge not only your students, but also yourself. Only then can you really analyze the beliefs we were raised under and ask yourself what you truly stand for.
However, in my field, I have seen discourse have negative consequences to those who pose it. I have seen students get so upset over a Youtube video with a social justice speaker, or a training that discusses one of their privileged identities, that they threaten to sue. They call parents who threaten to sue. They call VP’s who decide to cut people out because they want to save face in the news. All because a student had a moment where they felt dissonance. Or an idea was put out there and they rejected it.
So, I am now afraid to be a social justice practitioner because I have to remember my other identity: breadwinner. I am the breadwinner of my household. Everything, from our cars to our health insurance to the very roof over our heads, depends on me keeping my job. I sent a Youtube video of a social justice-themed slam poem out to my residents (with a trigger warning, letting them know what to expect from the video). I am now terrified of any backlash because my very livelihood depends on how my students receive it.
So, how do you do it?
How do you practice being a social justice-minded practitioner while also balancing your own needs as a human being? I ask this because I do not want to lose the very thing that made me excited to work in this field. I also cannot lose my livelihood that my family depends on.
Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.