Black SAPs, Don't Fear Being Fired, Expect It!
The Alt-Right hosted their “Unite the Right” rally on the campus of UVA last night and the first post I saw on Facebook about it was in the Black SAP fb group. Comments implied that the onus should be on Black staff to ensure the safety of Black students in the wake fearless comments and actions by White Nationalists who have been compared to Hitler-loving Nazis. There were concerns brought up about what the Black staff would do to create a welcoming environment. A few chimed in adding that they were waiting to hear how the university would offer support to Black staff who are also experiencing fear, anger and utter disgust for the “unlawful assembly”. To my Higher Education colleagues across the states, this is my open letter to you. Please know, that there will be more than a few fires this year based on how we as people of color respond to White supremacy on these campuses. Are you prepared? Are you worried about being fired for speaking out against the Alt-Right?
The images from the Alt-Right gathering looked like something out of a Civil Rights Era protest or a biopic time period film about Martin Luther King or Malcolm X. Nope, Over 60 years past my cousin Emmett Till’s brutal murder and the times we are living in resemble that of Summer 1955. Still, speaking out against White supremacy and White privilege is costing Black professionals their jobs in academia and college student affairs. Don’t believe me? Check out these two articles where Black professionals in higher education have been terminated from their positions for simply stating their opinions on race related matters. The first from a newly hired Student Affairs professional and the other a faculty member, who are often protected on the premise of Free Speech.
Campus LGBT Center Director Fired For Tweeting “Police Are Meant To Service And Protect White Supremacy” and Professor fired after defending blacks-only event to Fox News. ‘I was publicly lynched,’ she says.
These institutions, rather than validating the feelings and acknowledging the traumatic experiences of their Black employees, chose to terminate their employment for speaking out about it. With the continued national discourse on race, gender and politics being held on social media and both in and out of the classrooms, here are a few things I’d like you to consider as we move into the Fall ’17 school year:
1.) There is nothing new about torch wielding White men on college campuses. The “Alt-Right” as they like to call themselves are really only Klansmen who are cocky enough to leave their sheeted hoodies at home this time. Take a good look at their faces. Each of them work for somebody. I implore you to do your research and keep records. Share those records with your Black Faculty and Staff Association. File complaints. Leave paper trails for the DOJ and don’t stop organizing. Start a Black Faculty and Staff Association. If the group exists on your campus but they are not strong, strengthen them or organize with those who identify with your strategic ideals. As the Kenyan proverb says, sticks in a bundle are harder to break. Going out on the ledge by yourself makes you vulnerable and leaves you open for attack, but if you are convicted to fall on your own sword, go down with honor. Don’t bash those who chose not to follow your lead. In the same way, don’t ostracize people you think are too radical for your taste.
2.) In relation to number 1, not everyone is made of the same stuff. Allow your colleagues to “survive” in these toxic environments the best ways they know how. With that said, they do work for the institution and are expected to ensure the safety of all children. Let them know, and be very clear about this, that so long as their behavior and stance does not thwart the group’s effort to protect Black lives on campus, they are not your intended target for disruption. Encourage them to participate at any level they feel comfortable. To that point, any abuse of power, should be met with strategic and direct action for the protection of Black lives at the institution. This action should not be solely another intergroup dialogue or diversity training. I’d argue that White men bearing torches across campus is a direct action against the universities inclusive efforts. In some instances it may even be appropriate to coalition build with other marginalized groups, but only those who are willing to be accomplices in dismantling systemic oppression.
3.) This is for all my “White allies” and “good White people”. I understand that most of y’all are not really friends with your POC co-workers. Hey! Let’s be honest, we’re all here to collect a pay check and advance our careers. You were not thinking about me when you accepted the job, but you were sure happy to meet my acquaintance once you did, right? At the end of the day, you can choose to look away or act like you didn’t hear an off-colored joke whenever you choose to… but don’t you dare look me in my face and ask me what we should do about racism in America or on campus when you have no real intentions of rolling up your sleeves and putting your hands in the stinky poo. You have a plethora of resources at your fingertips, a heck of a lot more than your forefathers. Next time you think Becky or Ethan’s comment was racially insensitive, pull out your iPhone and ask Siri or Alexa… Find the spider that crawls through the Google search engine and pulls up a directory of actionable behaviors and clap-backs from the last 300 years to help you craft your response… IT’S ON YOU, to collect your people. Every singling torch carrying one of them, along with those who are well-meaning White people that only say offensive things every once in a while. Time is up and Black people can no longer spend time entertaining, I mean teaching you how not to impose your power, privilege and repetitive-ass questions on our Black bodies. The assumption that we should teach those who hold power not to oppress us, is foolish. Don’t ask me to host the diversity training for your professional staff because that’s what I like to talk about or that’s my area cause I’m tired. Higher Education leadership teams need to hire diversity and inclusion consultants outside of the university and make real commitments to culture change. Don’t ask anyone who is already on your payroll to do added work, bear the burdens, share their intellectual property and emotional labor created in the hostile environment your people are creating. That’s your responsibility and I’m too busy trying to save my people who are suffering from internal oppression and years of psychological trauma. There’s no quiz on this later, but dammit if you don’t build on your knowledge and stop asking if it’s okay to use the “N-word” or “ghetto” even if it’s in a rap song, why should I have to be responsible for my knee jerk reactions and your White tears? For the people in the back of the room, I’ll say it again, IT’S ON YOU!!! Step up out of your comfort zone, call out your problematic White colleagues and shut shit down.
Black SAPs, don’t fear being fired, expect it, because nothing you have connected to these institutions is your own. We didn’t build it, so it’s not ours. There is no job security for any of us, but do yourself a solid. Ask yourself, if when you leave, will those you were hired to help better off? Were the Black lives safer than when you stepped foot on that campus because you stood up, you filed a complaint, you didn’t let up when your colleagues flexed their White privilege muscles or exercised their right to make a “well-intended comment” because… implicit bias and everybody has them…? Remember, in the same way inappropriate language leads to the sexual violence, inappropriate language also leads to racial violence. Where do White men marching across campus with torches fall along the spectrum of racial violence? Is it as innocent as free speech or one step closer to a hate crime? I’d argue White men rallying with torches is a direct reaction to the diversity workshops and inclusive narratives increasing growing on liberal campuses today. And to the conservatives who are dying to ask me the question “What’s the difference between rallies held by The Movement for Black Lives organizations and the Alt-Right/KKK? One was demonstrating to negotiate, the other to incite fear and “make America great again…” Whatever that means.
If you enjoyed this blog post please head over to GrittyHeroes.com where I’ll be sharing more of my thoughts on race, gender and politics in the community and in higher education on my podcast Institute For Leadership and Change. Subscribe on iTunes or Soundcloud and share this blog post on your social media accounts. Respectful dialogue is always encouraged in the comments. Peace and Love.
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