Discomfort Rather than Fear: A Reflection and Call to Action, By: Danny Foster

I’m uncomfortable.

As I reflect on the incident that happened at the Philadelphia Starbucks just a few days ago, and the subsequent reactions, I continue to be uncomfortable for a variety of reasons. I am a queer, white, cis-male; I am from an educated middle-class family and I hold a graduate degree. I am one of the most privileged people in the United States, and that privilege allows me to say “I’m uncomfortable” over and over again rather than “I’m afraid” or “I’m unsafe,” I feel that’s an important point to make, here. I am uncomfortable because I continue to have to examine how I have been complicit in systems of white supremacy. The Starbucks incident again has me examining my actions (conscious and ingrained). I have never had to fear the police, that doesn’t mean I am always comfortable around officers or scared in their presence, but it does mean I have never had to think “will I go home alive after this interaction?”. That is why I am uncomfortable.

This isn’t the type of post where I give all of the answers or any answers at all, really. This is simply a call for my white colleagues, friends, peers, and communities to continue to be uncomfortable and to use that discomfort as your call to action. It is not enough for me to be educated.  It is not enough for me to have read some really great research by scholars of color. Guess what? It’s not enough for you either

The Starbucks event is not an isolated incident, it is a symptom of something much larger, more systemic and systematic, but because it didn’t result in death, because a white woman recorded the incident, because a few (not even most) white people in attendance questioned the police, and because the two black men were meeting to discuss real estate opportunities with a white colleague it has become palatable for the (white) masses. It is an easy catalyst for white people (like me) to cry “Injustice” but for people of color this is a day in the life. Let this be your catalyst. We (white people) all have to start somewhere, but don’t let this just be your start. Use this as your assignment to do more. Research the murders of Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Philando Castile, Freddie Gray, Sandra Bland, and the countless other people of color murdered by police in our country. Look at the murders of trans people (specifically transwomen) of color. Dig deep in to our history of segregation, white supremacy, racism, colonialism, gentrification, and oppression. Read about racism. Read about history. Listen to people of color. Hear what is being said. Work to understand the fears of the marginalized around us. Take action in your work and communities. Protest. Be active in your communities and work places. Interrupt systems of oppression, hell, just interrupt the cisgender, white guy in your meeting so your colleagues of color have a louder voice in the conversation. Start small, but start!

We all recognize our role in racism at different points in our lives. Obviously, we want that recognition to be earlier, but if the Starbucks incident was your moment take it and run with it. Take it as far as you can and never look back. One thing, though, white people, learn to follow. We have, for too long, failed to listen to people of color and the most marginalized in our communities because we have always been “the leader.” Remember when I said to listen to people of color? That’s not just to inform you, it is also for you understand the needs of people of color and following through on those needs by using your privilege to amplify the voices. I am not the leader in this moment, and neither are you.

I’m uncomfortable. I hope for the sake of my friends of color I am never again comfortable. I will continue to question my complicity. I will continue to recognize my role in white supremacy earlier every day and dismantle it. I will teach my students that using their white privilege to help people of color and other marginalized identities is more important than their comfort, because for many racism is a life and death scenario.

I hope you are uncomfortable too.

 

Danny Foster (He/Him/His) is a Residence Director and Orientation Coordinator at Lamar University in Beaumont, TX where he lives with his partner, Dylan. Danny is passionate about Social Justice education and restorative justice in student conduct and hopes to one day be a Director for a Student Conduct Office.

Danny can be reached at fosterdj2@gmail.com or @FosterDJ2 on Twitter.

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Racial Justice: A Reflection on the Black Lives Matter Movement, By: Allison Hunter

I would like to start by expressing that this is simply my reflection on things I’ve seen recently surrounding the movement. I will also give the spoiler alert that I hope this causes you to rethink your involvement with your students and the community around you. Okay, so here goes. It feels as if no matter where I turn, I am seeing post, articles, news feeds, or brief clips surrounding racial injustice. Even in my direct community, I see men and women of color being mistreated due to the color of their skin. We always say “It’s 2018 in America” or “This has to stop”, but I truly wonder if it ever will. I am very passionate about my experiences as a Black Woman growing up in North Carolina. I have personally been the victim of racial discrimination, but I don’t let it stop me. I use my experiences to push me to affect change for others.

In the later part of January, TV One, a station that focuses on discussing issues in, and the achievements of, the Black Community, announced that they would be airing a series called “Two Sides”. The series is produced by Viola Davis so I knew there would be an interesting twist. The basis of the show is focused on giving the families of many of the victims of police brutality a chance to express the truth of their loved ones case while giving the law enforcement agencies time to express their take.  Watching this series really has pushed me to be emotional about the state of our country. Each episode showcases the lives of the victims before their tragic death. There is a clear theme amongst them all, these were Black people with limited opportunities, living in the inner city, subject to the mistreatment of their local law enforcement. From the stories that have already aired, the Eric Garner and Ezell Ford stories, my sociological mind has been thrust into analyzing the many social structures that have failed these men. Based on the information provided it almost feels as though they were both targeted by the systems that are in place to keep them safe. This causes me great frustration and sadness. These emotions led me to pay closer attention to the lives of Black men around me. In the past week, I have been informed of instances where DWB or Driving While Black has impacted someone I know. It almost makes me wonder, what are we doing wrong as a people?

I have taken the time to reflect on our history as a community and it leads me to believe one thing. We have done nothing but what we were designed to do. Systemically, we were brought to this country to be the mistreated and impoverished. Thankfully, we have opened our eyes to the systems around us and we and our allies are fighting to change what history is trying to dictate as our future. How do we impact this change? I think that answer is simple. It may manifest differently for each of us but, as educators it starts with us. Taking the time to lead by example, hearing the voices of all our students for who the are, respecting their experiences, and admitting our biases is a huge first step. For me, I hope to inspire others to use their education as the key to open many doors and to mentor those coming after me. I know those don’t sound like concrete things but, it’s what I know I can do, along with my civic duty to vote and be involved in my community. What you do, is strictly up to you. But please do something. Don’t let people continue to lose their lives in vain.