A rambling opinion: Why Student Protest Matters

multicultural-kids-holding-blank-banner-sign-23449953The short answer to the question “Why does student protest matter?” is that because those young people are our future.  I was one of them in the 80s. Now I’m a social work educator with a platform for social justice. I blog, I write Op-Ed pieces, I teach social justice and cultural competence.  I was hunger striking and camping out on the admin lawn on campus.  I had an opportunity to voice my concerns.  I was heard and acknowledged.  That propelled me to continue to be an active, critical, concerned citizen.

We should not judge, criticize, chastise, condemn, or discourage those students.  Yes, someone (they and/or family members) are paying for them to be in class, learning, studying, doing homework, earning grades and degrees. AND A LOT of learning on college and university campuses occurs outside of the classroom.  We should value the life lessons and experiences that enhance a young person’s life.  Being aware of, concerned about, actively in changing a social ill is an important lesson.  There is a lot of learning that occurs from organizing and participating in a protest. You may end up on a bus to your state’s capital to speak before the legislature.  You may end up in a conference room with the Chancellor and Board of Trustees to state your concerns.  You’ll most definitely end up speaking to the media.  Your name and picture will end up in your college’s archives as someone who worked to make a change for the better.

Those young people at Missouri, Ithaca, Smith, Yale, and all the other campuses engaging in social protest deserve their time and space to do so.  They have legitimate concerns to which we should listen.  They will eventually go back to class and to the routine of taking notes, writing papers, etc. But for now, today they need to say their truth.  That truth is the truth of our nation.  We have a dismal record of positive race relations.  These students, like the students from the 1906s are waiting to be heard. Maybe we can learn from our students.

Whether it’s at your high school or college, the voices of students matter! Their protest matters because history repeats itself and we are slow to change.  Their protest matters because we need to wake up, listen, take positive action, and make true social change.  Their protest matters because they speak truth.  Their protest matters because they are our future. I stand, sit, lay with our students wanting to be heard!

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I noticed you didn’t “like” my post

News1There has been a lot to write about lately. SO much that I have felt almost frozen and overwhelmed by which topic(s) to blog about. So I wrote the Opinion Piece instead and then posted and re-posted lots of mini opinions on FaceBook about ALL the current events.

You can quickly determine who is like-minded and who is not.

I am not delusional about who my family, friends, colleagues, and acquaintances are and who they are not.

I do not mind agreeing to disagree. This is part of what makes living in the U.S. so nice.

What doesn’t make living in the U.S. so nice is that we each live in some type of privilege that then often leads us to hate on someone else based on our privileged identity (whether that is one identity or many).

Hiding behind one privileged identity and it’s values and morals in order to hate on another group is still discrimination, oppression, and hatred.

I am an equal social justice advocate.  Not all vulnerable and oppressed groups experience discrimination the same. But each vulnerable and oppressed group deserves to live free of fear of oppression and violence. That is true for abused women, infertile women, LGBT families and individuals, folks without enough resources, racial and  ethnic “minorities,” etc., etc., etc.

So, I noticed you didn’t like my posts and that’s o.k. I doesn’t make my passionate advocacy any less, it just assures me that I should be louder until wide-spread justice occurs.

In 9 years my son will be a black teenager

My mind is racing, my heart is pacing, I can’t sleep. I keep checking in on our 4 year old as if he’s going somewhere. I keep hugging him and he keeps squirming. I keep whispering our love to him. Keep kissing his face. I keep praying and crying. We can’t control the outside world. We can arm him with info. But what info? I’m not yet prepared to tell him the crazy truth about his identity, which he’s begun to be so proud of “Mommy! He looks brown like me!” and smiles broadly. Makes your heart race and soar. He could be over-prepared or under-prepared. A million conversations bounce in my head “Son, if you’re in trouble look for a police officer.” “Son, keep your hands visible or a police officer may think you have a gun” “Son hands visible or not…”  Justice. Peace. I don’t anticipate him being “in the wrong place at the wrong time” or “hanging out with the wrong folks”…but what does all that mean??? And really? Trayvon and Michael were teens. Doing what we might typically label as “teenage mischief”…or not…my head hurts! My son. My nephew. My brother. I flash back to college and Rodney King…that was 20 years ago! I never said I was Trayvon, I always said “I am Trayvon’s mother” and Now “I am Michael’s mother.” Hugging my boy some more. Summoning enough energy to turn disbelief and sadness mixed with some anger into justice, peace…God have mercy. My privilege just got questionable.family I’m not surprised. I’m disappointed. I’m sad. I’m quite frankly scared. Our son is 4, since his birth I’ve lost count but over a dozen similar incidents each year, most non-publicized. I’m sick. Fear will not paralyze us. Breathing. In 9 years society will make many changes and I fear that our perceptions of each other based on race and ethnicity may not change (the pessimist in me). The optimist says if all the like-minded folks work (harder than we have been since the nation began lol) change will come…9 years is around the corner and tonight I am Michael Brown’s mom and I feel her pain.

Thanksgiving Thanks for My Privilege – Day ??(I’ve lost track of the days and am behind!)

I made a valiant attempt to do 75 days of posting honoring my mom and 27 days of Thanksgiving Thanks posts, but…life, job, family all got in the way! LOL How do I become a full-time blogger? I guess I go on sabbatical…1.5 semesters and counting…Until then…

PrivilegeI have read several friends’ posts and a few articles this month on privilege.  Most of these authors write about one’s ability to complain about having a name misspelled on a Starbucks cup, complaining about a commute to work (in a car), or complaining about all the SPAM messages on one’s tablet, etc…Peggy McIntosh made popular the notion of naming, acknowledging, discussing, deconstructing, and then doing something about privilege.  McIntosh started with the BIG one, white male privilege.  Other scholars followed suit with able-bodied privilege, Christian privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.  As I used each of the privilege worksheets in class with my students and facilitated discussions I became increasingly uncomfortable with my own privilege. What? A woman of African descent has privilege?!

The first time I said it out loud in class my students looked at me oddly. After all I had allowed them to follow that typical pattern of thinking in which we only view women and people of color as oppressed individuals.  Which is one perspective and depending on who, what, where, how, and why that vulnerable oppressed persona may fit. As I write this blog I am waiting to hear the Grand Jury decision on officer Darren Wilson, who shot Michael Brown.  I am 44 years old and I feel as if I have sat-in-waiting many many times before…so, I fully acknowledge that there is still a great amount of oppression for youth, men, and women who have brown, red, yellow, black skin; accents; unacceptable documentation; not enough resources….

AND another reality of 2014 is that many people who have the life I have had and currently have, also have much privilege. I grew up with more than enough resources. I have an advanced degree. I have a full-time job. I am heterosexual, born in the U.S., and am able-bodied.  Yes, I am a proud woman of color. I have many challenges based on those two identities – separated and combined.  But at the intersection of all of my identities, I am privileged.  Primarily because I can use my socioeconomic status to combat what comes my way based on biological sex and race. I am thankful that I have enough privilege that I can Code Switch and take action. It’s often exhausting work and sometimes I refuse to do it. But mostly I acknowledge my privileged statuses, and use them when and as I can to combat the isms. I’m also attempting to make our 4 y.o. son aware of his privileges…that’s another blog!

Today I am very thankful that my momma raised an aware, proud, activist Black woman! Thanks momma! Privilege comes with responsibilities.

ACOSA response to Ferguson (My mom would approve!)

Below is ACOSA’s statement on recent events is Ferguson, Missouri.  Thanks to my colleague Monica for sharing this and asking my to post on my blog.  What organizations do you belong to and how are they responding to Ferguson and other national and international events?  “ACOSA, the Association for Community Organization and Social Administration. ACOSA is a membership organization for community organizers, activists, nonprofit administrators, community builders, policy practitioners, students and educators. ACOSA will keep you informed of the latest innovations in community and administrative practice as well as provide you with a variety of opportunities for networking and professional advancement” (www.acosa.org). The statement is best viewed by visiting the website, as my blog formatting is a bit whacky…

world

The Association for Community Organization and Social Administration (ACOSA) Statement
in Response to Recent Events in Ferguson, Missouri
“If not us, who? If not now, when?” – John F. Kennedy
In times of systemic injustice, social workers have historically chosen action over inaction. The recent
death of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the national conversation it stimulated has highlighted the
extent to which institutional racism still exists in the United States. Our longstanding ethical commitment
to social justice requires social workers, regardless of their primary method or field of practice, to take
action to address the multiple manifestations of institutional racism. ACOSA calls on all social work
professional organizations, social work schools, and individual social workers to make their voices
heard, locally in their communities and organizations, and in the state and national policy arenas. Here
are some tangible steps all social workers can take to create a more equitable, safe, and just society.
We urge you to join with us in taking action.
Professional Social Work Organizations:
● Council on Social Work Education, National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of
Social Work, & Society for Social Work Research should hold special forums or symposia at
their annual meetings to discuss the social work response to the issue of institutional racism.
● The editors of the Journal of Social Work Education, Social Work, and the Journal of
Baccalaureate Social Work should publish a special issue dedicated to this topic.
● The newsletters of all professional organizations should feature a regular column in which people
can submit ideas for a social work response.
Schools of Social Work:
● We encourage all schools of social work to organize a series of events that involve faculty,
students, and community members to discuss the implications of what happened in Ferguson for
their communities and to formulate policy solutions at the local, state, and national levels
● We encourage all faculty members to facilitate conversations regarding the events in Ferguson
and their implications for the people and communities with whom social workers work. These
conversations can add context to the larger systemic issues, especially when linked to the deaths
of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Discussing the impact racism in such diverse areas as
criminal and juvenile justice, education, employment, health care, and housing is key to
advancing social justice.
● We encourage schools of social work to provide faculty development opportunities to assist
faculty members facilitate difficult conversations about race, racism, and injustice in a safe
classroom environment and among their colleagues. This enables faculty to make the
connections between institutional forces and their manifestations in the lives of our clients and
constituents
● We encourage schools of social work to highlight the work of faculty doing research with
implications in this area. Schools can provide development opportunities for faculty to translate
their research into forums that could heighten public awareness of these issues and influence
policymakers. Examples include the development of a speakers bureau for media and
community consultation when need arises, training in the use of social media, the submission of
oped
essays, and testimony before legislative bodies.
Individual social workers:
● Write letters to the editor of your local newspapers and speak to your local and federal officials
about your concerns.
● Lead a discussion of these issues in your local church, synagogue, temple, discussion group,
book club.
● Discuss the issue with your colleagues, friends, and neighbors. Do not be silent.
● Meet with members of law enforcement in your community. Discuss your concerns and hear
theirs. Using your social work skills, facilitate discussions with community leaders
● Vote. Make lawmakers know that you vote and for what reasons.
● Organize. With members of the community most directly affected by institutional racism,
identify issues for action and take action to change conditions.
“In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends” – Martin
Luther King, Jr.

P.S. My mom would approve

I’m a Mom of a Black Boy in the U.S.: A brief rant

I have lots to share from events this past week and this week, but I’m going to start with this:

This week I’ve hugged, kissed, cuddled, and nurtured my son more than in past weeks. I’m feeling ultra protective. Now that I am a mom I understand that need/desire to protect your child from all harm in whatever way it takes to do so.  My heart feels so heavy and broken for Trayvon Martin’s family. I’ve been watching and listening to all the news about this incident and I’m trying to maintain a sense of calm and sanity. But as a mother of black boy in America it is difficult to not have all kinds of irrational thoughts and feelings.

I grew up in a diverse household (Black, White, Latino) and neighborhood. My parents (a mixed race couple) never mentioned race relations and when I encountered a situation that seemed rift with any kind of ism (race, sex, etc.) we talked about it. But prejudice, discrimination, oppression were not part of my vocabulary until I went off to college. I was pretty sheltered and naïve. In college I learned what it meant to be a minority in America.  Students of African descent made up almost 3% of the population at UCSB. It was possible that I could be the only face of color in a lecture hall of 300. I didn’t think twice about it. Then there was this incident that I will never forget. The short version: a good friend (African American) got into a fight with a Caucasian boy at a club and my friend ended up in jail. It was probably the 1st time in my life that “being black in America” really hit me.  After that my awareness was up and I noticed many things that I may not have noticed before.

Living in Atlanta I felt comforted by the number of people of color and especially the number of people of color in positions of authority and power. AND living in Atlanta I also got to see lots of racism and prejudice – after all it is the south and despite growth, population change, etc., etc., etc. there’s still plenty of racial tension

So now I’m a mom of a boy of African descent. I’m a worrier by nature although I’ve tried to quell my worrisome thoughts – they just interfere with reality. But the shooting of Trayvon Martin has me in worry-mode again. I can’t for the life of me begin to understand how an individual can shoot another one and not be arrested. I’m not a lawyer nor do I pretend to understand the intricacies of laws in different states, etc. But it just seems to be that murder is murder and requires some action.

I feel helpless, somewhat hopeless, scared for the future my son will live, worried that I cannot truly protect him from harm, and angry that authorities are slow to act. As a social worker and educator I teach justice, in my own life try to live a just life and create that type of world, but incidents like this leave me often speechless and wondering if what I (we) do is making a difference. If it were your child who had been shot by a man as he walked home from the store, would you not want someone to take action?All moms have these thoughts I’m sure, but only moms of black boys need worry that a white vigilante will shoot her son because….why?…

Wear a hoodie, sign the petition, make some noise for justice!