An Open Letter to the Community
Citlaly Escobar, Contributor
Since the incident within the Honors Program, the university is buzzing in attempts to create an inclusive campus. Many faculty, staff and students have been working around the clock to ensure racial injustices do not repeat and are creating a new anti-racist and inclusive atmosphere.
However, as a student who works with local activists and community organizers, it seems the movement has hit a chilling wall of liberalism. As we talk about being “anti-racist,” it seems like fundamental pillars of understanding are escaping the community in the rush to “not be a racist.” We are rushing to have community conversations, but the conversations are not being followed up. Augsburg is hosting “anti-racist” sessions but not sessions of open communication to create a communal understanding of what it truly means to be anti-racist.
How can we build an anti-racist school movement when the school is not having conversations about what it means to be racist? If we, as a community, don’t have a mutual definition of what racism is, then how do we build a platform to fight it? If we are all fighting in different directions because of our differing views of anti-racism, where will we end up?
In order to build an anti-racist movement, we must have a communal definition of racism. In order to have a communal definition of racism, we must have a communal definition of race. And in order to have a communal definition of race, we must have a mutual understanding of the construction of race.
Without these pillars as a solid foundation, the community we are attempting to create is another closeted manifestation of white supremacy. Without creating spaces of knowledge, the movement of anti-racism will die, as we will unknowingly further entrench white supremacy in our classrooms, actions and languages because we will be working with different definitions of race, racism, anti-racism and white supremacy.
In this discussion, I am not blaming an individual; racism is a systemic issue that will not be solved or stopped by an act of an individual. The misconstruction of racism is the fault of white supremacy, where white supremacy causes confusion for all of us and loves mimicking liberalism as radicalism. Too often, white supremacy forces us to forget our own humanity and in the process of capitalism, intellectualize the morality of the rest of humanity.
However, simply because racism is a system it does not absolve the individual of accountability. All folks are working within the system, and all white folks and white-passing folks benefit from this system consciously and unconsciously. What I’m asking for is an in-depth reflection for all of us who consider themselves to be an activist. Where are you an activist? Why are you an activist? Where does your analysis lie? Whose voices are you centering? And most importantly, are you open to critique? If you’re white, are you centering the voices of people of color and doing the legwork necessary to educate yourself? If you’re white-passing, are you calling out anti-blackness within your communities and amplifying the voices of your darker brother and sisters? Or are you only being part of these conversations to absolve your own guilt and only talking about it on social media?
By reflecting on these questions and creating spaces to have a communal analysis, I hope we can move forward with a productive convocation and truly begin the steps to be an anti-racist school. It won’t be solved in a day of workshops, but hopefully it can begin the groundwork where students and faculty of color can breathe without constant pain in their chest.
A first-generation, woman of color with a dream to wake up without pains in her chest
This article was originally published in the Jan. 25, 2019 issue.