Happy July, friends.
In recent blogs, I’ve shared regional and national news, as well as the occasional joke. However, recent news stories have left me feeling anxious and frustrated. I recognize my privilege--yet still fear putting my thoughts out into the universe. However, my “discomfort” is nothing compared to the brutality, discrimination, and oppression people of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA+ and other marginalized populations experience.
Neither the privileged nor the marginalized can choose our appearance, identity, culture, and heritage; yet, we the privileged can pick and choose when to show up. One of the greatest privileges of majority culture -- in which I identify as a straight, white, able-bodied, cis-woman-- is NOT having to say something when we see, hear, or witness discrimination and microaggressions. Sometimes, when we do show up, we do so in a way that takes away agency and/or voice from those we mean to support. I am still on the path of learning and have leaned on my Student Affairs, Higher Education, and NASPA colleagues and resources to try to grow into a meaningful ally. I have made--and will make--mistakes and missteps.
We continue to witness striking issues of disparity, racism, sexism, homophobia, and normalized bigotry in the “land of the free.” However, instead of stepping back, we, the majority culture, have the opportunity to take action in the face of oppression.
Last month our nation recognized Juneteenth and Pride—respectively, dates commemorating the official end of slavery in the US, and a month-long celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots in Manhattan. Both of these events remind us of our nation’s legacy of legalized oppression on the basis of identity and serve as an opportunity to celebrate communities. Even as we celebrate, the fight for equity and justice on the basis of race, sexual orientation, and many other aspects of identity continues.
This month we celebrate the U.S. Declaration of Independence*. As a nation, we pride ourselves on the freedoms, values, and rights afforded to our citizens. Yet we must also recognize the history of colonialism, genocide of native peoples, mistreatment of immigrants, slavery, and other atrocities that are also part of this legacy. Those of us who are members of the majority culture must not turn our backs on the lessons of our past, and should lean into the recognition of both the proud and the shameful realities--and learn from them both. It was philosopher George Santayana who said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
Our individual efforts in education and advocacy can be expanded by connecting with NASPA’s Public Policy Division. The Public Policy team can help us learn more about legislation and law that affect us all, as well as how to be an advocate for—and against—specific public policies.
Social Justice and Inclusion (SJI) competencies can be further developed, in yourself and on your campus, to grow understanding of how to be good partners and advocates. The Competencies for Student Affairs professionals, including the SJI rubric and ways in which the competencies are used on campuses across the nation, can be found online at: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/groups/professional-standards-division/resources
NASPA’s Knowledge Communities provide access to information and resources regarding a multitude of communities, while their members facilitate the sharing of knowledge. Representatives for all of these areas can be found on our regional roster at: https://www.naspa.org/constituent-groups/regions/region-four-west/roster
How can we better include social justice and inclusion in NASPA’s strategic plan? How can Region IV-W assist you, as a professional? What topics need to be discussed, and what programs should be included at our fall regional conference? I look forward to hearing from you.
There is no time like the present. If you want or need an invitation, I invite you to join me in the conversation -- now is the time to speak up. Now is the time to grow and learn. Now is the time to advocate and support. Whatever you did or didn’t do yesterday or the day before, whatever it is you think you know or don’t know, let today be the start of your renewed commitment to standing up for justice and equity.
Until next time,
Shana Warkentine Meyer
NASPA IV-W Regional Director
*Oh Canada! Our Canadian members celebrate Canada Day on July 2 this year.