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Experiencing the Intersections of Brown and Queer

Posted By Brian Medina | ze, hir, hirs, Thursday, March 14, 2019

Experiencing the Intersections of Brown and Queer

Brian Medina (ze/hir/hirs)

 

For many reading this, you are either personally or academically familiar with the concept of intersectionality. What many do not realize is that this term, coined by Kimberle Crenshaw in 1989, existed long before most of us may have heard or understood this now common concept.

 

Effectively, we are a mix of multiple overlapping identities, each distinct yet connected and often having profound ramifications toward our daily lives. When First Wave (liberal) feminism took shape in the late-1700s, writers such as Mary Wollstonecraft represented the wealthy white women of her day, speaking out about how she wants to work and go to school alongside men rather than stay at home and take care of children exclusively. While admirable, it negates the reality that for centuries in America, women of color had been working, yet not getting paid for work or having a choice in their labor – yes, I’m referring to slavery. Critics of liberal feminism often turn to the lack of representation embedded within. Even as recently as a couple of months ago, the Women’s March on Washington encountered internal division among its leaders who represent different identities (Israeli Jews vs Palestinian Muslims, Queer Women, Trans Women, and more).

 

In honor of Women’s History Month, do we highlight more than just the white, well-known women in our history books? Do we exalt women of color, trans women, queer women, and women from many other countries and cultures the same way that we praise the white women who have ‘made it’ in our society? I would challenge you to work with your staff to exemplify a more intersectional approach, not just to Women’s History Month, but to the many other commemorations throughout the year.

 

I was fortunate in my undergraduate education to have taken a class on Feminist Thought. While we started with Mary Wollstonecraft, we absolutely delved into more radical feminists (Shulamith Firestone!) and then on to bell hooks, my favorite of all. bell hooks wrote Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center, a pivotal work in 1984 and just as relevant today. Her text readily outlines the links between race, class, and gender in provocative terms yet relatable to the everyday feminist. 

 

When going about your day, how often do you stop to think about how your multiple identities play out with your interactions, decisions, and relationships? Does the fact that you are a professional of color with a white man as your boss or their boss make a difference? Have you attempted to support your students of different religious traditions, only to be told that ‘we cannot recognize everyone’s faith,’ despite the fact that Winter Break always allows for Christians to celebrate Christmas? When exploring initiatives like Gender Inclusive Housing, are you presumed to be the expert because you identify within the LGBTQIA community? When making tough decisions about staffing, accountability, or saying no, are you criticized because ‘women are supposed to be nice?’ Or even worse, are you stereotyped as the ‘angry black woman’ or ‘spicy Latina,’ just because you have a question or a concern? 

 

The reality is that the many isms of our world readily impact our work, even within Student Life. If you thought that somehow Higher Education was ‘better than that,’ then unfortunately, I have to burst your bubble. We are a reflection of the best AND the worst among us. I’m not trying to bring you down into despair, but I do ask that you reach out to those with identities other than yourself and ask about their lived experience, should they be willing to share. Before that, make sure that you do your own homework a bit – while your friends may not say it, they’re getting tired of being the black or gay or Muslim token to explain the world to everyone, so the more you read and understand ahead of time, the better.

 

I’ve already referenced Crenshaw’s and hooks’ work, but here are a few more resources for you to get started before asking your colleague to explain it all to you:

 

Smithsonian Video: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/what-intersectionality-video-breaks-down-basics-180964665/

NY Times Article: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/30/us/the-effect-of-intersectionality-in-the-workplace.html

Washington Post Article by Crenshaw: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/in-theory/wp/2015/09/24/why-intersectionality-cant-wait/?utm_term=.115e841715b3

Intersectionality Reading List: https://www.equalityhumanrights.com/cy/node/7576

 

Okay. So back to my being queer and brown… my situation is messy, as many of our lives are. I am bi-racial (Mexican and white), but can pass as white. I am queer and genderqueer, but can readily pass as a straight man, especially since I have a married partner who identifies as female. In many ways, I have the privilege to share this story with you because of my visible identities. On the other hand, I have been readily discriminated against for not being able to fit into a clean box, and for causing problems or asking questions about our presumptions around identity, something many white, straight men in power aren’t interested in exploring. It calls into question the very fabric of their reality and of why they received their power to begin with. 

 

While I can sympathize with those well-meaning white guys who are making an effort to help with the struggle, they will never understand the fear I have felt when purposefully targeted and harassed due to my race or gender or sexuality. Being told that I do not ‘fit’ into a workplace can be as much about my identities as it is about my teamwork or leadership. Being asked why I wore my hair in braids, often wrapped in a do-rag, may be just a question to some, but it can also be rooted in the ignorance about how important hair and hairstyles are for many cultures. Over the summer, I tend to get a tan much quicker than my white staff members. When coming back from a beach trip this past summer, I was repeatedly cajoled for ‘being dark’ and faux-jealousy about ‘why can’t I be that brown?’ Yes, my own staff said this to me… and it was not ok.

 

There are countless examples within the workplace and beyond where intersecting identities shines the spotlight and glare upon you unnecessarily. Perhaps a few of you are willing to post or share with a friend. Maybe you can read literature or attend webinars and workshops to better understand from experts in your midst. Many of us are willing to share, on our own terms, so long as you are listening respectfully and empowering our voices along the way.

 

While I make no pretense that it will be easy, we have to push and fight the struggle in our workplaces and lives to make a more socially just world. It certainly isn’t going to be given to us by our government, businesses, or higher education structures; it will require enormous solidarity and effort, but worth the sacrifice in the end.

 

Tags:  brown  feminism  intersectionality  queer  women's history month 

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The Value of a Person’s Story

Posted By Joanne Powser, she/her/hers, Wilkes University, Friday, February 22, 2019
The Value of a Person’s Story
Joanne Powser, she/her/hers, Wilkes University

Writing this blog was the most difficult thing that I’ve done in a really long time. My first draft was structured like an academic paper and felt like an academic article instead of a blog. After reading it and getting some feedback, I realized the last time I had written something for anyone to read, other than an email, was in grad school which was almost over a year ago. For me, I thrive off structure, and a blog has absolutely none. When I agreed to write this blog, I knew I would struggle but I thought I would at least have a few good ideas to write about because diversity is something I think about every single day. However, I was extremely wrong.

Luckily, I watched a movie titled Disobedience that sparked my interest for this blog’s topic. The movie’s overarching story is about a woman whose father passes away and her father happened to be the rabbi of the synagogue within the community. She returns home after being away for some time and struggles between staying for closure with her father’s death or leaving to get away from the hateful community. And I say hateful because people won’t even acknowledge the fact that she is the rabbi’s daughter because of her attraction for her childhood friend and because she left town. When they were younger, the main character and her childhood female best friend were attracted to one another and her father, the rabbi, walked in on them kissing. In the Orthodox Jewish community, this act is a sin. 

My reason in sharing the short summary of this movie is because watching it, I thought about all the people who have to hide who they truly are to fit in with their family. They either do this to ensure they don’t lose them, or they bravely show who they truly are and risk losing everything, including their loved ones. This movie allows you to see both sides of the choice that many people have to make.

In writing this, please know that I am no expert in any of these identities or experiences, but I recognize the privilege I have in being a heterosexual Christian and I will never understand anyone’s experience or hardship. For me, there is such inherent importance in taking the time to get to know a person’s story, if they’re willing to share with you. Movies allow you to gain that sense of exploration and allow insight into things we would never think about in our day-to-day lives. 

In Student Affairs, you have no idea what a student is going through, but as long as you let them know that you are there for them and you will accept them regardless of what they share, you will potentially have the chance to impact them in a very positive and supportive way. With our work, it can often be difficult to stop what we are doing to randomly chat with a student, but taking that 10 to 15 minutes could make such a difference in that student’s day, or even their life. Hearing others’ stories can also be an opportunity for you to grow and learn something new. The best knowledge comes from listening to other’s experiences.

The advice I will leave you with is: Take time out of your day to hear someone’s story and work to support them. This was too strong of a reminder to me to be left unsaid. 

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Self-Care is the Best Care

Posted By Najee Evans, He/Him/His, Centenary University, Monday, January 7, 2019

Being a Resident Assistant (RA) on campus can be a rewarding job. However, while there are many phenomenal features that come along with the position, there is a tremendous amount of responsibility and pressure that one will also endure. Residents on campus need for RAs to solve roommate conflicts, soothe homesickness, shower them with academic advice, and insure that residence halls are a safe place to live in. When looking at current events within student affairs, sexual assault, violence, and mental illness have all become prevalent on college campuses. This new wave of concerns requires that RAs begin to provide services for residents they may not have initially been comfortable with addressing. 

RAs handle intense situations frequently. The physical and emotional demands of the job can take a toll on any individual. It is imperative that RAs are aware of how they are affected by these interactions with residents. As a Social Work student and Lead Resident Assistant (LRA) at Centenary University, I am aware that burnout, compassion fatigue, and exhaustion are different ways that RAs can be affected. Burnout refers to when an RA feels hopelessness, is emotionally drained, and may feel overwhelmed. This can all result from the schools’ environments that involves excessive workloads and a restrained amount of support. Compassion Fatigue, which refers to evidence of secondary traumatization, occurs when an RA begins to notice changes in feelings toward residents such as losing interest, empathy and concern for those around them, or even a decline in work satisfaction.

There is much research that supports the consequences of burnout and compassion fatigue. These consequences may include anxiety, depression, anger, irritation, or troubled work relationships within Residence Life. Additionally, some may even begin to notice absenteeism, poor productivity and performance, ultimately leading to a decrease in self-esteem and increased feelings of incompetence.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. All of the above concerns validate why it is essential for RAs to have a plan of self-care in place and a robust list of stress management resources to use. Self- care extends to learning coping skills and skills that alleviate the effects of burnout. This can include exercising regularly, engaging in recreational activities, and ensuring that one has adequate sleep to mitigate the effects of duty-related stress. Such self-care activities may also involve sustaining ones spiritual connections by attending religious functions and use of positive forms such as art to express oneself.

Dr. Barbara Markway, author of “ Seven Types of Self- Care Activities for Coping with Stress,” provide her readers with several self care activities, which includes: going for walks, listening to music, laughing, spending time with friends, and even taking a 30 minute nap every day. These are some incredible and simple ways RAs can decrease stress and burnout.

Going above and beyond, the University of Wisconsin provides resources for their resident assistants, such as 24-hour counseling services, group counseling, and self- care resources.

Ensuring the self- care of an RA staff should be a Residence Life requirement. It is imperative for RA supervisors to create a safe space for RAs to feel comfortable confiding in them when they are overwhelmed and need some words of advice. It is during these times that an RA is in need of assistance that they possess the greatest capacity to walk away with life skills to help them well into adulthood. 

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Swept Under the Rug: How to Overcome Years of Untouched Bias-Related Incidents

Posted By Alex Wehrenberg | he, him, his | The College of New Jersey, Wednesday, December 19, 2018

Swept Under the Rug: How to Overcome Years of Untouched Bias-Related Incidents

Posted By Alex Wehrenberg | he, him, his | The College of New Jersey

 

We’ve got a problem on our hands. A big one. The weekend before Thanksgiving Break, we were home to a bias-related incident involving some of our Black residential students. Bias-related incidents are an example of those events which put higher education on the pedestal of the “free speech vs. hate speech” debate. The fact that they continue to happen is just a sign of the times we live in, and it’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to move past our own history by this point.

Now, the “residential” part may not seem as important as the “Black” part in this context, but it is important when you work in Residential Education and Housing and advise the Residence Hall Association. The three individuals on the receiving end of this incident live on our campus, and we did not show them any support in their time of need. That’s on us.

But I have to add that it’s not just on us. It’s on the entire College population. “Many on campus labor consistently to make this campus a healthy, safe, welcoming, and inclusive place,” President Kathryn A. Foster shared at the campus-wide forum held the next available Wednesday after the incident took place. “But our racist incidents reflect that we are not yet healthy, safe, welcoming, and inclusive to the level that we aspire, and that we must demand.” The forum brought up many points, including many of the past transgressions that went either unnoticed or failed to get any solutions.

Maybe you’re going through something similar, and maybe it’s been a continuous years-long problem that has persisted. I’m sorry if you have gone through this. This is not easy. However, from both that forum, led by our new President and new Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, and our own reflections within the Department, we think we have some short- and long-term solutions. Maybe you can use these on your own campus, or at least keep them in the back of your mind. 

LISTEN. We have to actually take the time to listen to people’s experiences, struggles, ideas, and visions. From the RHA side, we failed throughout the semester by not being more inclusive at our general body meetings. The executive board is mostly White females (a population that makes up the majority of TCNJ’s student and faculty/staff populations). Our meetings consist of the same small group of residents, and we have not actively advertised our meetings/events, which would help to bring in new people and their ideas/opinions. Now RHA gets higher attendance because residential students know about them (mostly because of their lack of involvement, but negative press is still press, I suppose). Our general body noted that the e-board took language about cultural education/inclusion out of the constitution. That’s something that’s going to get a look over the Winter break. However, if it wasn’t for listening, we, as the advisors, would not have known. So just listen. And listen well.

LEARN. Along with the previous point, you have to learn what people need. You can’t have the answers, because you don’t know what people need, what they see, or how they feel. If you try to implement a new policy or change a process without knowing how it may affect everyone involved, then you’ve already failed (President Foster talked about “failing” a lot, so I’m inclined to use her language here for emphasis). The forum brought up a great point about the diversity and inclusion education that we require of our students. This type of curriculum should be instituted at the start of every college educational experience. Classes on diversity, inclusion, social justice, and equity need to be there, because we have too many students with only one experience in their lives leading into college. We have students who’ve never left their neighborhood. We have students who’ve never seen someone who didn’t look like them. We need to expand some horizons, and it starts from the top. We need to learn too, and we need to hold ourselves accountable to learn. If the “adults” aren’t participating in diversity education, then the students won’t either.

EDUCATE. I am not asking anyone to speak for their entire group/community. That’s exactly what we’re trying to avoid. Many of my coworkers, student staff, and students are feeling that fatigue of having to speak for their race or their identity. That’s where the faculty/staff of non-marginalized groups come in. We need to be allies and advocate for those who either are using their voices too much to the point of fatigue or cannot speak due to the systemic barriers that take away their voice. If you hear inappropriate language or microaggressions, call them out and educate them. If you see hateful speech or actions taking place, call them out and educate them. If you see folks struggling to understand the importance of having campus-wide fora on these subjects, call them out and educate them. “Do you know what the incident was?” “Do you know it is having a negative impact on the campus as a whole?” “Since you’re part of the campus community, you should do your part to stay informed and become an ally too.” (Depending on your students, you may want to tailor this conversation).

DO NOT BECOME COMPLACENT. We live in a fast-paced world. The Olympics happened in 2018. Memes have a two-week lifespan at best. Flint, MI, is still without clean water, and no one talks about this. We need to remember this moment we’re in now: how it makes us feel, how it makes the campus feel, and our goals moving forward. We cannot become complacent and say “yes, we met at a forum, and we talked about goals, and… that’s it, right?” No. we need to hold ourselves accountable. More race-related bias incidents have sprung up since that incident. Good. Show those who feel they’re comfortable spreading hatred that we aren’t afraid and they haven’t torn us down. Keep checking in on the President’s office and see what task forces and initiatives they’re starting. Make sure your students have a voice in those initiatives. We cannot stop. “Traditions dies a hard death,” wrote John Kotter in Out Iceberg Is Melting. “Make it stick: hold on to the new ways of behaving, and make sure they succeed, until they become strong enough to replace old traditions.” We will keep moving forward past these “traditions” of sweeping things under the rug, and I will make sure we leave no stone unturned. 

Will you?

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Worthwhile Wisdom: A Reflection on Generational Learnings

Posted By Amanda Slichter | she, her, hers , Friday, November 30, 2018
Earlier this week in a departmental meeting, a thoughtful colleague led a beautiful check-in for the team. She asked everyone to share something they learned lately from someone of a different age than themselves, suggesting that viewing things from a different generational perspective can be eye-opening. 
 
Folx shared revelations from moments with their infants, insights from preteen angst, and advice from wise grandparents and family friends. I was stunned by the warmth and knowledge that filled the room. You could feel people relax a little and refocus their day. There was so much love, and the wisdom was genuinely profound. 
 
For me, the learning moment that I shared came from my mother-in-law. Although her children are much older than my tiny four-month-old, the lessons are pretty consistent. No matter what quirky, over-protective rules I share regarding her granddaughter, she patiently responds with a knowing smile, “You’re the parent.” Someone isn’t allowed to hold her? A request to sanitize her hands for the 43rd time? “You’re the parent, what you say goes.” It sounds like a small thing, but for a woman who is insecurely learning how to develop confidence as a first-time mom, it means everything to have a more experienced mother assure me that somewhere deep down I DO know what’s best for my kid.
 
I’ll admit, age is a facet of identity I’ve given much less thought. I often have a hard time relating to people much younger or older than me. But that check-in activity reminded me of something I’ve been repeatedly taught by our field of work— spending time with people who are different than you is always worthwhile. 
 
This isn’t a long post, and certainly isn’t groundbreaking. We know this already. Sometimes we just need a reminder to listen, reflect, and value the experiences from all walks of life. I certainly did. 

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Inclusion: How I Am Reminded It’s a Mindset

Posted By Raymond D. FeDora, III | he, him, his, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Inclusion: How I Am Reminded It’s a Mindset

Author: Raymond D. FeDora, III | he, him, his | Wilkes University

 

I committed to writing this blog post months ago while attending the MACUHO Summer Summit* and I initially thought, “Ok, October is coming out month. I am gay. This makes sense. I can write about the coming out experience.” However, as so often happens in student affairs and higher education, a monkey wrench was thrown into that plan as a recent experience diverted my attention to a new topic that inspired me in a whole new way.  

Just a few weeks ago, I participated in a University Conduct Board where two international students, one from Saudi Arabia and one from Kuwait, were facing conduct charges after being involved in a physical altercation with a town member. According to the students, this “townie” yelled at them from his vehicle as they were walking down the sidewalk. They yelled back and the townie got out of his vehicle and pushed one of the two students. This resulted in a physical altercation that ended with two staff member witnesses watching the students kick the townie who was on the ground. The townie got up, jumped in his vehicle, and drove away.

In this case, however, I could not help but consider how these students’ social identities and experiences informed how they reacted in this situation. I thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder if this has ever happened to them before? I wonder, if these students were in their home countries, how would they have reacted? Been expected to react?” In that short time with these two students, I could not help but wonder if that would have happened to me. In what ways does my privilege as a white man protect me from experiencing something similar? As a marginalized group, I can only hypothesize what must have been running through the minds of these two students. Would I have responded in the same way?

During the deliberation that took place among the committee, it was clear that these students’ cultural and social experiences were not something the committee had initially considered. We debated for well over an hour about how these students’ international status and socialization should impact our committee’s decision on whether they violated the student handbook and should be sanctioned. I was adamant in helping the committee better understand how these students went into autopilot when they were threatened and that autopilot is influenced by social and ethic identities and experiences. Now, please let me be clear, a student’s past experience, socialization, or cultural beliefs are not a carte blanche free pass to do whatever they’d like on campus. However, in periods of high stress or when a student is provoked, we have to take their cultural and social experiences into account in explaining how they react to certain situations.

I asked the students about their experience. Turns out, these students are verbally assaulted by “townies” on a regular basis being told, “Go back to your own country!” among some other nasty, racially-charged epithets. The remorse on their faces and in their behavior was obvious as they went on to tell us their parents were upset this happened to them and they had their parents’ full support. I probed further, asking about how they would have been expected to react at home. They shared that they were confident the law would have supported them in their claims of self-defense.

I am no expert in Suadi and Kuwati cultural norms, but I can ask. Our diversity and inclusion efforts are incredibly visible in our campus celebrations, cultural food nights, and winter holiday events that try so hard not to be Christmas events. Safe Zone programs and Diversity Leadership Certificates are important initiatives on campus that demonstrate our institutional commitment to supporting and educating students from all backgrounds. However, when the chips are down, are we really ensuring that all of our interactions are sensitive to inclusion and equity? This conduct hearing was a stern reminder that we cannot turn our inclusion and equity efforts on and off when it is convenient. We must be focused on always asking ourselves how a student’s marginalized identities impact this situation and how is my privilege going to erase that experience from consideration?

I do not have an answer based on research and verified through experimentation and scientific practice. I can only encourage you to ask yourself each and every day, in each and every student interaction, “How is my privilege impacting how I am viewing this situation? How has power and privilege marginalized this student in front of me?”

 

*Which if you’ve never been to a MACUHO Summer Summit, you really ought to – it was cool to see how the leadership of MACUHO functions to direct the association forward!

Tags:  conduct  culture  equity  inclusion 

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A Reflection: My Queer-Asian Identity

Posted By Ian Christopher D. Ulep | he, him, his | Rutgers University, Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Reflection: My Queer-Asian Identity

Author: Ian Christopher D. Ulep | he, him, his | Rutgers University

 

College Student Affairs. Hello ResLifers! My name is Ian, and I am currently in the College Student Affairs Ed.M program and serving as a graduate hall director at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Coming to Rutgers, I’ve been amazed at the cultural diversity and inclusion efforts present here. I didn’t even know about the existence of specific cultural centers aside from aggregate ‘Multicultural’ centers beforehand. I am extremely grateful to have found a campus that is ready and intentionally staffed to support my queer-Asian identity.

On Being Asian-Pacific Islander. Growing up, I’ve had a consistent battle of how to identify. Per United States identifications, my Filipino-Chinese identity counts as Asian, and Asian only. This means every standardized test, application, and formal communications should reflect that. In recent years, I realized that submitting to that mentality mutes so much of my upbringing.

My mom was born in the Philippines, and immigrated to Hawai’i as a child, where she met my dad. Together, they moved to Virginia after my dad became a proud member of the United States Marines Corps. In Virginia, they molded my childhood homes into places of Hawaiian & Filipino culture. We were very much in contact with all of our relatives still on Hawai’i and had found a small population of Pacific Islanders in Virginia. These are the people who have influenced the Ian Christopher D. Ulep that will enter the field of Student Affairs in 2019 (i.e. #HireMe2019).

Filipino Identity. Through various accounts that I’ve heard through conversation, or even light psycho-social studies, Filipinos are always navigating an extended identity crisis. Some call us the Blacks of Asia, the Latinos of Asia, not Asian at all, and the list goes on. These are to say, that while there are similarities in our cultures, we [relatively] don’t have an individual culture, but a culture to be solely compared to other cultures. In all, we as Filipino-Americans are usually given a narrative or mold to adhere to. We as Filipino-Americans must learn our heritage to give voice to our own authentically Filipino counternarratives in American society. I am also Chinese, which is widely regarded as a definitive Asian identity [if not the identity that all other East Asian identities are compared to]. In the ways that I was raised, I see my Chinese identity as an extension of my Filipino identity, in ways similar to how the Hawaiian culture and landscape have influenced my family dynamic. These identities have informed what it means to be authentically Asian by being able to define it as an individual identity from what American society solely classifies as Asian, Pacific Islander or the [insert non-Asian identity] of Asia.

Queer Folk. The one salient identity that I did not grow up with was my queer identity, which I have proudly owned since 2014. I don’t believe I would have found the passion to explore my Asian-Pacific Islander identity if not for my queer identity. It didn’t come without risk and coming out was the first time I told myself to live authentically. As I’ve continued my personal development journey, I have found so much healing and self-empowerment in standing up to dominant and oppressive narratives that are so widely perpetuated in media, social roles & beyond. Providing counternarratives as equally valid narratives is what I strive to do.

The Old Dominion. Who I am is heavily influenced by those around me, and as such, growing up in Virginia is also a part of who I am. I’ve always seen myself as the other. APIDA (Asian-Pacific-Islander-Desi-American) SA role models were almost nowhere to be found in the South. In a way, I couldn’t connect being Asian-Pacific Islander, and being in Student Affairs until I became involved with professional networking organizations. That is why representation matters; that is why mentorship matters. I couldn’t see the connection until after my undergraduate institution paid the way for me to find these organizations, and subsequently the racial identity groups within them. While there is a lot of work to be done in being able to recognize the plethora of identities and experiences in both the APIDA and LGBTQ+ mega-aggregate groups, we can start that work [for our students] by providing authentic counternarratives and genuine allyship to further their own identity development.

 

Tags:  Filipino-Chinese  Queer 

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The African American Resident Assistant

Posted By Reverend Najee Evans | He, Him, His | Centenary University, Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The African American Resident Assistant

Author: Reverend Najee Evans | He, Him, His | Centenary University

 

Centenary University is a small institution located in Hackettstown, NJ that is known nationwide for its Equine program. Because of it being comprised of about 44% white students, and African American students only making up approximately 8% of the student population, it can be considered a predominately white institution. Due to these statistics, it is often evident that there is much culture missing from the historical foundations of the educational makeup at Centenary.

Like many campuses, African American students unfortunately experience systematic racism and outright discrimination, as well as economic and social stereotyping that can have an effect on their success. However, the purpose of this post is to not discuss the ill-starred circumstances but to highlight the “in spite of” moments I’ve personally experienced. In September, I will begin my senior year with a 3.7 GPA, will serve as a Lead Resident Assistant, Transfer Counselor, Head of Club and Organizations, Chapel Service Leader, and Chaplain for the Black Student Union. While I may have frequently faced racism and stereotyping, I refuse to let those events hinder my growth as a student, a leader, and a person.

Without going into too many specific details, I can recall more than one instance where I’ve received pictures and screenshots of myself being called out of my name by the most degrading of terms used towards Black and African American students. If I had to categorize what I felt during those moments, it was not only belittling, but also embarrassing. To think that we still live in a society where many refuse to accept our diversity and embrace the wonderful attributes our different characteristics bring is unsettling. But times like these allow students of color to unify and fill the voids that we notice within our schools. We take on leadership positions to gain a seat at the table to make a difference. We stand up and point out inconsistencies that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, until someone listens and works with us to make a cultural shift.

One only has to glance at the news or social media to witness what goes on with police brutality, racism, cruel treatment of people of color, and oppression. I would lie if I said that while in school I have faced similar situations. While attending college and shopping or dining in Hackettstown, I have dealt with micro-aggressions and various forms of intolerance. Surprisingly, these experiences have not destroyed my college experience. Yes, I have been discouraged, disheartened, felt devalued and dismayed, but I have never given up. Some students have chosen to leave Centenary because of experiences like these, however I have not. I have not dropped out because I choose not to give those infiltrated with ignorance any power. I am determined to be a strong, educated, and successful Black male. I learned how to love myself, because self-love protected me when I was called names or made fun of. Black students are intelligent, driven, and passionate. They share the same qualities as other students on campus, but are often forced to deal with the obliviousness of those around them when they choose to attend schools outside of their race and culture. I do not regret attending Centenary, for it has forced me to experience living outside my comfort zone and to poses integrity and grit when it is the hardest thing to do. 

Tags:  leadership  microaggressions  PWI  racism  resident assistant 

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The Benefits of Lavender Housing

Posted By C’era Michelle Banks | She, Her, Hers & Dr. Evita Nicole Oldenburg, Ed.D | She, Her, Hers, Monday, July 23, 2018

The Benefits of Lavender Housing

Author: C’era Michelle Banks | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University

Co-Author: Dr. Evita Nicole Oldenburg, Ed.D | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University

 

 “Diversity is being asked to the party, but Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

-Verna Myers-

Imagine finally getting accepted into college after four years of hard work, trying to survive through high school, and all of the things that today’s high schools encompass. My smile was wide, my stride was confident, and my excitement was unstoppable walking onto my college campus for the first time. Becoming adjusted to a new atmosphere is always challenging, and I welcomed every challenge.

However, I did not expect that the first battle I would encounter would be in my new living space. Residence Life is usually the first stop of college life. I received my room assignment, met my Resident Assistant, and my roommate. Everything was going great until my identity as a Lesbian and support of the LGBT community had my roommate “shook.”  I remember walking into my room with my friends during visitation, where I endured long gazes and glares from my roommate and her friends. I am an open book and have always been welcoming to any questions about my identity. When answering these questions, I thought hardly anything of it, since being a Lesbian has always been my life and a part of my identity. In a new environment, you ask questions about people. You might ask where they are from, what their interests are, or other subjects to get a better understanding. However, when it comes to answering questions that they themselves would not even answer, that is when the conversation must take a step back.

Even the programming put on by my Resident Assistant was not relatable to me. Although the Resident Assistant had diverse programs, they had nothing geared towards the LGBT community. I figured the mission of the college talks about diversity and inclusion, but there were not any diverse or inclusive programs for the LGBT community. For me, in the words of Verna Myers, “Diversity is being asked to the party, but Inclusion is being asked to dance.” More and more, I had feelings like I did not belong. Therefore, I decided to take the opportunity to become a Resident Assistant. In that role, I could leverage change and help others who went through similar experiences. I went on to have some of the most notable and engaging programs that became traditions to host on campus.

Thankfully, this college had its own multicultural center— a critical piece to have on a college campus. When most people hear the term “multicultural,” they assume this is a center for race, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin. Although it includes this, multicultural centers embrace all people from all backgrounds and all communities. Therefore, this is a center where everyone can feel a sense of belonging and connectivity. At this college, I was on the Strategic Planning Committee to implement Lavender Housing. Lavender Housing is housing geared towards the LGBT community. On most college campuses, Living Learning Communities have become prominent to put groups together and create inclusive spaces. Lavender Housing allows LGBT students to have a safe space to live where they do not have to alter who they are just to live in housing. It provides an actual atmosphere that allows you to be who you are. Rather than debate, protect, and defend, you are able to educate, uplift, and befriend others like you. Lavender Housing allows for a peak in enrollment and inclusivity by fostering a place to live, learn, and grow. It is a place to help students show who they are.

I soon graduated and became an Assistant Resident Director at a college in the South that was Safe Zone certified and continued to advocate for Lavender Housing. My hope is that Lavender Housing be implemented at all colleges and universities. Being a gay, black woman, I have faced and continue to face an array of obstacles and challenges just for being myself. I seek to encourage comfortable living spaces for students in the LGBT community who already face the pressures of college, the backlash of critics, and the closed-mindedness of some of their peers. I seek to create these spaces so that students can have a place of tranquility to call home while in college. Being a Safe Zone certified professional, I have encountered countless students who are struggling with their identity, who are petrified to be themselves because of the responses they have received or those who feel they will not be well received. There needs to be more conversations centered on preferred names and not just pronouns. If someone prefers to be called Melanie and not Mike, then this should be comprehended. Now, if someone wants to be called Krypto-Chronic Spartan that might be pushing the envelope. Ultimately, there are students who should not be put inside of a box and who are in need of a safe space.

I am now a Resident Director at an HBCU and I was recently recertified in Rochester, New York by the OutAlliance program, which I highly recommend. In the future, I want to be able to implement Lavender Housing to create a safe space for LGBT students. It is my strong recommendation that institutions allow for more professionals to become Safe Zone certified. In addition, it is my hope that Lavender Housing becomes a part of the Housing atmosphere across the country.

 

For more information on Safe Zone: http://www.gayalliance.org/programs/education-safezone/safezone-programs/

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Can We Ever Be Safe? Questioning Safe Zones/Spaces Trainings…

Posted By Brian Medina | ze, hir, hirs, hirself, Thursday, June 28, 2018

Can We Ever Be Safe? Questioning Safe Zones/Spaces Trainings…

Author: Brian Medina | ze, hir, hirs, hirself (but I shouldn’t have to share that, so don’t expect others to do the same) | Marietta College

 

I am queer and genderqueer. Yes, I just outed myself in my first sentence. Not everyone would be so bold, or feel like their staff, friends, family, or others in their midst would accept their multifaceted identities.

Let me be clear; my being out does not make me safe. I am never safe. I have friends and colleagues that, to varying degrees, support and understand my queer and genderqueer identities. My partner and I have had many, many discussions about the impact of my identities on our relationship. Most of my biological family is not a part of my life, but if they were, I am absolutely positive that they would not accept my gender and sexual identities.

Over the last 15 years, I have attended, then trained, then trained trainers for Safe Spaces and Safe Zones. I’ve trained RAs, Hall Directors, faculty, administrators (even a President), and local community members who wanted the coveted rainbow sticker. While there are no universal templates or expectations for Safe Spaces/Zones trainings, the sticker has come to symbolize at least some modicum of support for LGTBQIA community members. Well, let’s be honest, most workshops really focus on the L and G, sprinkle in a B (but rarely a P), Q confounds most presenters, and my TIA folx are largely ignored or further marginalized. If you just understood what I said, then congrats! However, just as much racism, sexism, transphobia, and many other issues exist within the community as on the outside.

So, does the sticker REALLY symbolize that an office or person is safe? I am doubtful, though I cannot say that it does or doesn’t for everyone. I have to hold out some hope that people really mean well and want to support someone’s coming out experience or challenges with their religious beliefs and sexuality. However, with so many language changes and layers of our identities, saying that a space is ever truly safe gives me pause.

But Brian, how are we ever going to train our staffs to be inclusive!? Without the stickers, how we will ever incentivize people to take training with us? Can’t we just love everyone?

Answers: it’s complicated, stickers are a weak incentive, and no, I don’t love everyone. Trump sucks and doesn’t deserve my love.

In sincerity, we can always work to provide better gender and sexuality training (alongside many other identity-based trainings!). Hosting conference-style workshops whereby many marginalized identities or intersecting identities can be represented will help RAs and other students, staff, or faculty to appreciate a wider array of student experiences and beliefs. Engage your campus religious groups or your counseling center to talk about faith, mental health, and sexuality. Send some of your student-staff to SSLI, presenting on their own identities and collaborating with others in the region to be more inclusive with language and programming. Review your policies and procedures to take out the he/she or freshmen references (I will do it for you, as I hate the falsified binary) and demonstrate that you will do more than a training exercise. Sustained commitment to social justice must go beyond a sticker session hosted once a year.

And now for something just as controversial: do not require Safe Zones/Spaces training for anyone, including RAs. You may have staff who won’t outright say it, but may fundamentally abhor my queer or genderqueer identities. Do you really think that forcing them through a training, where they must accept the lingo and put a sticker on their door affirming me, will ever be done in sincerity? This doesn’t mean that RAs shouldn’t have broader training to learn terminology or to support all marginalized students in their halls. However, you may find that requiring Safe Zones/Spaces for RAs will just make someone MORE resistant than they were before, as they have had no ownership over the decision. Instead, provide optional or encouraged trainings throughout the year, open to a variety of constituent groups and relating a breadth of topics. If you have a good relationship with RAs who are more resistant to embracing LGBTQIA identities, see if it would be worthwhile to engage their beliefs or background (this can be sensitive, so caution yourself on your approach) in order to see if there are ways to individually serve their learning around identities. They will appreciate the personal touch AND they won’t feel ostracized in the public setting of a large group training.

I could go on about the various training exercises (Privilege Walk!) that reinforce and further marginalize individuals, but I will pause for now. In the end, I just hope that training individuals acknowledges our lifelong need to develop and learn, rather than ever portray that we have met a (non-existent) standard with a sticker, certificate, or other visual deception.

 

 

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Tags:  allyship training programs  RAs  safe space  safe zone  trainings 

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