The Week After

solidarity_of_love_by_joyeuse

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“The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” –Martin Luther King, Jr., 1965.

“You have to really put your shoulder to the wheel to bend the arc of the moral universe.” –Adriana and Anita, 2016.

In the week after the election of Donald Trump as the next president of the United States, there have been a growing number of incidents of harassment and violence targeting those perceived to be immigrants, racial and religious minorities, women, and members of the LGBTQA+ community. The two of us have had various reactions to reading story after story on social media of friends and colleagues, many of them women of color, speaking of their experiences. Anita signed up for a self-defense course. Adriana’s been running and trying to get faster… and she’s been calling representatives and brewing up some collective, community actions.

One institutional action we are hoping that our college takes is to declare itself a sanctuary center. What exactly this designation means is being discussed and developed on campuses across the country, with over 80 schools (see map) developing and signing petitions asking their institutional leaders to become sanctuary campuses. While the expectations of a “sanctuary center” are being defined through this process of collective action and institutional response,  this essay by colleagues at Pomona provides a great, succinct history of the practice of sanctuary. They describe the role of colleges in assuring “the community and the outside world that that we will protect undocumented students and staff along with Muslim, Middle Eastern/North African and South Asian international staff, faculty, and students.  We have to insure that we remain an open educational community for all, particularly those who have been targeted in recent months.”

This goal–understood as a moral and ethical one–might look different at different colleges.

A petition being circulated at De Paul University argues for the following:

— Reaffirm current admission and financial aid policies regarding undocumented students;

— Guarantee student privacy by refusing to release information regarding citizenship status;

— Take steps to protect the visa status and funding of international students;

— Refuse to comply with federal authorities regarding deportations or immigration raids

In the article linked above, in comparison, they ask the institution to “refuse to cooperate with immoral laws, executive orders, police demands, or judicial decisions that target these members of our community.”

As we circulated among faculty and staff a letter addressed to our college president asking him to consider declaring the college a sanctuary center, there were questions from our colleagues about whether it was effective or desirable to make such a request. There were concerns, for example, that this kind of move would be merely symbolic–that in the end, there won’t be anything the institution can do to protect undocumented community members from being deported. There were concerns that supporting such a letter publicly might put people’s jobs in jeopardy and, in some cases, people’s or family members’ already precarious immigration status in jeopardy. The process of organizing a response on campus became an occasion for us to reflect on why we decided that we could go more public with our request to the college.

  1. We are privileged: We are tenured faculty members. We are U.S. citizens. We are financially stable.
  2. We are not privileged: Anita doesn’t have white-passing privilege, so her brown skin could make her a target of racial harassment. We are women, making us vulnerable to gender-based harassment. We speak languages other than English, loudly and publicly, making us vulnerable to anti-immigrant harassment. Given that we already feel targeted for how we look and act in the world, our response has been to become even more public about our support for our people, communities, and causes. We will be proudly rocking our Black Lives Matter and El Silencio Mata t-shirts. Anita will be proudly rocking this awesome giant safety pin a friend made for her.giant-safety-pin
  3. We believe in the moral and ethical power of institutions to stand for righteousness and justice. Sometimes our institutions do so in small, quiet ways. Sometimes, it’s necessary that they do it (with our help and support) in large, loud ways.

In the end, after circulating our letter for about 72 hours, we had 159 signatories.

We don’t know yet what will happen. When you start collective actions, after all, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get the response you want or need or even that you’ll get any response at all. We act because acting is better than staying silent.

“It may well be that we will have to repent in this generation. Not merely for the vitriolic words and the violent actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence and indifference of the good people who sit around and say, “Wait on time.”” –Martin Luther King, Jr. 1968.

“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what will you fall for?” –Lin Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, 2015.

“Support friends, process emotions, and join in collective actions.” –Anita and Adriana, 2016.

 Addendum: After writing this post, we and other cosigners received an email from the President outlining actions the College will be taking to protect our DACA students; these commitments are not being made public at the moment, but we are hopeful that these steps will move us forward.

The Day After

El Silencio Mata. Silence kills. Oaxaca mural.

(Image credit)

(Anita)

I went to bed early Tuesday night, not knowing the results of the presidential election. The first thing I saw Wednesday morning was a text from my brother: “Are you okay?” I knew then that Donald Trump had won. I logged onto Facebook: friends expressing surprise, sorrow, concern, anger, solidarity, love, and resolve. I appreciated white, straight friends promising to stand up for and with friends who are immigrants, queer, trans, POC–thank you and I’ll hold you to those promises. I appreciated the helpful reminders that the struggles against patriarchy, settler colonialism, racism, and xenophobia have been going for a long time; they have continued during the Obama presidency, would have continued during a Clinton presidency, and will continue during the Trump presidency.

(Adriana)

I had planned to go to an Election eve party on Tuesday, but a descending migraine kept me at home. In retrospect, that headache was an augur and a gift. At home, I sipped whiskey, ate Halloween candy, listened to the NPR stream, and read the 538 and NYT coverage. Slowly but surely I felt the world slip out from under me. At 10 p.m., heavy with a throbbing head and a growing sense of dread, I went to sleep, after texting with my son. “…” he first wrote. I knew exactly what that meant.

I woke up throughout the night. I would roll over, check my phone, fight to contain my fear and my sadness, then try to sleep again. Waking up to the day felt wrong. Mourning is like this. You look towards this possible future, the one you thought you were headed for, and you have to recognize it’s gone. Then somehow you have to keep on moving forward into the future you now realize you don’t understand or know or want. But this mourning is different, right? I’m grieving for the United States that I thought we could be, might be, and most importantly, should be.

How do we teach in sadness? I spent the morning running. Literally. I headed out to the woods and grounded myself in the feeling–ephemeral though it may be–that I have some strength, some power, and a world that makes sense to me. I wear a t-shirt for the day with the words, “El silencio mata” and make plans to hold space for my students. bell hooks prepares me for that: “I believe whole-heartedly that the only way out of domination is love, and the only way into really being able to connect with others, and to know how to be, is to be participating in every aspect of your life as a sacrament of love, and that includes teaching.” Love is not just a feeling. Love is a set of actions. Let us love deeply and radically; let us act wildly and meaningfully.

(Us)

We go to a rally on campus organized by our students. There are at least 300 students, staff, faculty, and community members in attendance. Students share their thoughts. They share their worries about feeling targeted in their women/queer/Black/Brown/immigrant bodies. They remind their peers that they had been so organized and involved in Get Out The Vote efforts, in supporting local progressive candidates, and in going out and voting. They talk about the practical steps moving forward to support those who might be affected most by policies and practices in the next four years–-getting trained as an escort for women going into reproductive health clinics, for example. They remind us to support and care for ourselves and each other. They make us feel hopeful and inspired.

To our students who organized the rally and who have been organizing and have been building bridges and coalitions across differences before the election and will continue to do so now: we see you, we support you, and we thank you.

To our former students who are now teachers themselves, working with children and young adults whom they are supporting and holding space for right now: we see you, we support you, and we thank you.

Teaching, learning, listening, and organizing trumps hate. Let’s get (back) to it!

Some suggestions for next steps:

Let us know if you have any other suggestions that we should add to this list.

Re-framing “self”-care

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We think a lot about the notion of “self-care,” because we want our lives to be sustainable and because everyone else is thinking and worrying about how to do it too. Yet in all of our love of massages, therapy, and the right amount of dark chocolate and white wine (or red or rosé, whatever floats our boats ‘cause we’re all about ‘diversity’), we wondered whether “self-care” placed too much responsibility for collective well-being on the shoulders of individuals. In that vein, we recently read two pieces that we think do a nice job of analyzing the notion of “self-care” as being part of an individualistic neoliberal framework. The first piece argues that, in order to have lives less focused on work, we shouldn’t focus our individual effort to achieve the ever elusive work-life balance but, rather, we need to engage in a collective effort to change the culture of our workplaces, through unions. As Peter Fleming concludes,

The trouble with much work-life balance advice is that it’s been captured by the self-help movement. It all centres on the individual. If you want to rekindle your wellbeing and discover your inner potential, then take control of your choices, find a job that better fits your temperament, erect firm boundaries between work and leisure and learn to say no…The trick is to see the ritual of overwork as a societal pressure, not an individual fault. And much of this pressure stems from the disempowerment of the workforce that has occurred over the last 20 years…We need to come together as a group to voice these concerns if progressive policy and legislation are to be forged. Otherwise little will change. Want a healthier work-life balance? Join a union.

While we appreciated this author’s focus on collective organizing and pushing back against impossible demands and expectations, the second piece we want to highlight focuses more specifically about the experiences of women of color in academia. Karen Hanna offers suggestions for “survival” and what we really appreciated about her suggestions was her focus on building healing community spaces with other women of color. We’ve certainly relied on individual women of color friends as well as communities of women of color to support us through everyday and extraordinary experiences of marginalization during our graduate school days and throughout our years of being faculty members.  We also appreciated her call for fighting for funding for healing spaces and for identifying allies in our institutions “who have access to funds and understand the needs of women and queer people of color.”

We hope that you find the two articles as inspiring as we did. Here’s to collective organizing, dreaming, and healing!