Dear Socioeconomic Issues in Higher Education Knowledge Community:
It has taken some time for us to process the rage and protest happening around the nation because it affects us too. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, Tony McDade and countless others have deeply impacted us, and we know that you are likely impacted also. Additionally, there have been three officer-involved shootings in Shonda’s hometown in the past two weeks.
The work we all do to support students in earning their degrees, many of whom are racially minoritized, and/or low-income, and/or are first generation college students, is important. Many of us came into doing this work because either ourselves, or our family members were not supported in their educational journeys and we wanted to ensure that the next generation of students does not experience that. For some of us, we’ve seen the ripplings of these current protests on our own campuses as our students lead the way in holding institutions accountable for the racist actions that many campuses have baked into their very founding. Some of our own students have endured violence from campus police and many of us have faced resistance to convincing our leadership to side with the very people paying tuition.
Yet, we remain hopeful that what we are seeing is the beginning of systemic change. For our part, Mitchell and I had already been working to ensure that our 2020-2021 platform be intersectional. We understand that social class issues are connected to racial discrimination and white supremacy and that erasing class disparities will not erase racial inequity. There is documented evidence that low-income people often do not participate in civic engagement and there are very limited lobbying groups on their behalf. Therefore, those who are racially minoritized and low-income are often left with no means of support. We see this problem in our homeless student population and the protests from graduate students around the nation for stipends that actually cover housing costs in their area. These issues impact students with multiple marginalized identities the hardest and we will be collaborating with you throughout the year to highlight, challenge, and hopefully, through our work, get campuses to shift how they think.
In the immediate future:
We affirm our Black colleagues, particularly those with intersecting identities of class status, gender, sexual orientation and/or ability status who are carrying the burden of state violence on their shoulders while also functioning at work to serve students. Please take time to care for yourselves.
We invite colleagues who have not been involved in the knowledge community to join us to support the intersectional work we will be doing this year to unpack how class and other marginalized identities intersect.
Shonda and Mitchell