When tackling a lack of inclusion at your school
If you are silent about your pain, they’ll kill you and say you enjoyed it. — Zora Neale Hurston
This semester a group of students at my school helped make a biiig change. We have created an inclusive excellence position on the student government. Our student government has been plagued by lack on insight into issues that concern students of color and a lack of interest to do anything about it.
When tackling a lack of inclusion at your school expect it to be hard. Lack of inclusion is not always unintentional. If there was anything that showed the lack of willingness for change at my school, it was when at the very end, right before the decision was made, my group was called a bunch of bullies, lacking professionalism and ego sucking. The only way this got approved was to put us down as far as they could and say they took the moral high ground to pass these measures.
When tackling a lack of inclusion expect to be considered an instigator. The students and administration we dealt with barely understood the problem. And so when they proposed solutions or ‘compromises’ they were way off base. Such as suggesting a White student, a non-minority, could fulfill this role or that no influence like a vote or budget would affect our ability to make real change. When the push back started it took a while for them to hear what we were saying, so we had to get louder.
When tackling a lack of inclusion expect mud to be slung. There was no absence of name calling, of trying to corner other people into saying what they want to hear or stealing ideas and taking credit for it. What really crippled our student government was their lack of honesty. They would often talk out the side of their mouths thinking they smoothed the situation over but didn’t expect us to call them out on it.
When tackling a lack of inclusion expect your language to be appropriated or your ideas to be stolen. Students at my school that are not members of marginalized communities are generally clueless about the real issues. They don’t study the problem. They don’t HAVE TO. So it was particularly frustrating when one person might speak to a representative of our student government, use a certain word or describe a situation and it be told to the rest of the big group as an idea or a real concern of the representative all along. eye roll. It will happen right in front of your eyes.
When tackling a lack of inclusion expect the other side to be innocent, in the right and in power. With this you have to change the way students perceive their school. They often think everything is fine when it comes to race relations based on their assessment of the rest of the world and not the local culture and climate. Find a hole the size of a pin, poke at it, and make it an opening for change.