When I was first asked to write for #SAProsContribute, it was primarily from the view point of the Orlando tragedy. How should we respond to instances of tragedy as a field? I had every intention of talking about the sacredness of dwindling LGBTQA spaces, the complexities of multiple identities, how far too often the daily experiences of violence against Trans and Queer People of Color goes unnoticed, and how to build coalitions across communities that resist the systematic pitting of one marginalized group against another. I was going to talk about the beautiful Iftar dinner and vigil I attended following Orlando, where LGBTQA, Muslim, and Latinx communities (and individuals who live at these intersections) engaged in mourning, collective healing, shared a meal and engaged in critical dialogue with one another about the impact of Orlando. I was going to talk about resilience and allyship, and how we should work to build communities of care and empathy.
I still firmly believe all of these things, however, I am also currently spinning in a whirlwind of emotion. There has been a never ending onslaught of violence, both internationally and nationally over the last two weeks. The state-sanctioned deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile have left so many in my circles numb, angry, deeply saddened, shocked, hopeless, and some are reactivated, recommitted, and resistant. I’d love to give sound and concrete advice about how folks in the field should respond to these incidents, but the truth is that there is no one best practice method for dealing with residual and community-wide trauma. Surely, as a field we have identified key competencies for creating more inclusive campus communities. However, our students (and our colleagues) do not navigate our campuses in a bubble from the outside world. I’m a firm believer that the best reaction is to be proactive. To truly create equitable campus spaces, we must also actively engage in the dismantling of systems of power outside of our universities. When violence occurs, who students turn to for support speaks volumes about who has actively engaged in building these connections and fostering inclusive spaces throughout the year.
If we have not been proactive, what are we to do now? We must ACT. We must SHOW UP. We must ask ourselves how we contribute to cycles of violence and exclusion from our own inaction. We must not allow our own fear and guilt to get in the way of engaging in difficult conversations. We must remember that ally is a verb, not a label. Okay grammatically speaking it’s both, but I’m trying to prove a point. To name oneself an ally because you really care, or are grieving too, does not do anything to alleviate the pain of those you are attempting to support. What are you willing to risk? Marginalized student communities take risks everyday simply by navigating institutions that were never designed for them.
I don’t have any one answer for you, and personally I would rather gather information about how you resist, ally, and persist. I’ll start the list, but let’s grow it together.
1. Turn off the news, and seek out alternative forms of information. Even if hashtags aren’t your thing, they are updated in real time, and often come directly from those whose stories may not be made visible, or whose stories will be filtered/warped by mainstream media.
2. Resist the urge to share auto-play videos or graphic images on your social media. Links are great, as they give your networks the option to view the content as opposed to being forced to experience it over and over again.
1. I challenge all white and non-Black POC to not simply delete folks who need education around anti-Black violence. Part of allyship is to help make sure those directly impacted are not the only ones being sought for education. Everyone should delete trolls, though.
2. If you, too, are an administrator and identify as white, check in with all your students and staff, but especially your students and staff of color. Even if you do not have answers for them, we can all open ourselves to others. Ask them what they need right now. You don’t have to hand them over answers, inspiration, or a teachable moment all neatly packaged. You simply need to listen.
1. Take time for yourself today.
2. Don’t let anyone tell you your reaction, whatever it may be, is unjustified. Have you needed to disconnect from social media? Justified. Have you had to remain silent at work so that you don’t have to engage in victim-blaming conversations? Justified. Are you terrified? Justified. Do you feel absolutely nothing at all right now? Justified.
Show compassion. Always. And forever. I believe in this work. I believe in its power to awaken, heal, and sustain movement. I believe in you.
What’s on your list?
This post is part of our #SAprosContribute series, which aims to answer the question: How can you contribute solutions or actions when a tragedy like Orlando occurs as a Student Affairs professional? We will hear from Student Affairs Professionals of all backgrounds on their take on contributing to make positive change on campus after a tragedy. For more info, please see Mehtap’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.