This past week I attended the Institute on Social Justice. For my profession, this Institute gave me a lot to ponder on. For me personally, well, let’ s just say that it was a confirmation that I wasn’t crazy. During this conference, I was engaged in conversations around privilege, race, sexism, heteronomative thinking, systems, and biases. All of these things are not new topics of conversation for me but to have them all presented to you in a 48 hour time frame can be overwhelming. After I sat through the two-day institute, I felt full. I was full of meaning, questions, curiosity, regret, patience, and interest. I began to think more about who I was when it came to defining my social identities as well as a professional of Social Justice Education.
Then I had to return to work. My private, liberal arts, privileged institution. An institution that I couldn’t have thought twice about when I was searching for my Higher Education. An institution that thinks that their diversity spectrum has been fulfilled by their predominately Black and Hispanic/Latin support staff. An institution that fails to notice their lack of accessibility for people with disabilities. An institution that can count on one hand the number of female faculty of color — don’t bother counting the Blacks, there are none. All these things I knew, noticed, and have been aware of for the 7 months that I have been here. But then I began to think deeper, something that I tend to do often. I began to notice more.
I began to notice everything that dealt with race, class, gender, and education. I noticed that I was being treated differently. But as I said, ISJ confirmed that I wasn’t going crazy noticing these things before. But it did confirm that I have now become hypersensitive to the behaviors. During the Institute, Dr. Shakti Butler screened her film Breaking the Codes and it displayed every experience that I have encountered in my 30 years of living (of course, I can probably only speak on 20 years of cognitive awareness). From someone of the opposite race jumping the line in front of me & acting as though they did not see me standing there waiting, to spending a large amount of time deciding how to respond to an offensive situation and not being coined “angry or hostile”, to being treated differently because I do not have the degrees of the majority, to being seen as only being accessible for “my people” when I am here for all people. All of these experiences have been more prevalent with my recent move.
Recognizing one’s differences in life/society, allows them to determine their involvement. Being hypersensitive to the actions of others further determines how they will be involved. But being a Woman and being Black, tends to raise a higher sensitivity. Acknowledging these experiences makes me ask numerous questions. I instantly think back to Dr. Maura Cullen’s 35 Dumb Things Well Intended People Say and begin to question if they are really “well intended people”. Or are they just dumb people saying dumb things. Or for this conversation, are they dumb people doing dumb things?