Student Affairs While Black, or SAWB, is the term I use to define my daily superhero adventures in the world of Higher Ed Student Affairs. Recently, social justice issues pertaining to people of color and the police, have made that job slightly more difficult. For clarity, I’m not in the business of determining someone’s guilt or innocence. I am, however, tired of these ongoing stories involving police shooting unarmed black men. As a Student Affairs Professional, I feel front and center to my students when these tragedies happen. My superhero abilities are tested as I seek answers:
What do I say; how do I transform their fear into hope; how can I ease their worries?
As a Black Man, these issues are near and dear to my soul. I search daily for an appropriate sentence. I dig deep for some soothing words on how to support our students in these times of social crisis. You see, when you Student Affairs While Black, or “SAWB”, you’re already on the front lines of the struggle, and have a bird’s eye view at just how real the struggle is.
On many campuses, my colleagues are also Student Affairs While Black. So many of you serve in various roles that mean you too may be the only point of comfort for black students. How can we, as a profession, ease the fear caused by blue lights in the rear view of our student’s vehicles at night when they’re coming back to campus? We are now forced to prepare our students to handle themselves with the police, trying to prevent their names from being etched into a somber t-shirt.
How can we give those comforting words to a worried mother, who has resorted to a thirteen hour Greyhound trip for her son, because she’s afraid to have him drive his car home for the break? “SAWB” has forced me to play a role in this work; a role that I never thought about when taking my graduate courses. Even though I embrace it fully, it is emotionally draining, mentally taxing, and I feel my superhero powers draining.
So as student affairs professionals, how can we heal, how can we educate? How can we ease despair and instead, rain down hope? We do it gently, authentically, carefully, and professionally. Our professional experiences have trained us to counsel and comfort. There are no days like the present to put on our capes and do just that! It’s time to make the difference, support our students, and prepare them to change the world!
> BONUS <
Podcast With Maryann Krieglstein on Social Justice & White Privilege