And then what?

[November 9, 2015]

If you’re a Jeezy fan like me, you read that title and naturally went “boom, boom, clap”.

Despite Jeezy coming to Philadelphia to perform next week (blatantly just for me), this post is not about him.

Today marked a fairly historic moment for college activism. As someone who participated in her fair share of marches and protests at the University of Michigan (cue embarrassing nostalgic photo here),

I can say without a doubt that I am BEYOND thrilled for the University of Missouri students, faculty, and staff for getting their needs met. Ousting a sitting college President is a pretty big deal. Getting a grad student to go on a hunger strike is beyond my understanding (food is pretty important in my life…something like God, food, Jeezy — and in that order). And getting the football team to join you? Man — we failed multiple times to pull in our Michigan athletes, but again, a huge congrats to Mizzou for doing such! So the prez is gone, Jonathan Butler can eat a chalupa (or whatever the kids are eating these days), and the football players can compete against BYU this weekend.

And then…what?

Let me reiterate a million times over — I am exceptionally proud of the work that Mizzou folks have done in targeting a solution to a huge problem, that is, asking someone who was very passive about racism to shape up or ship out. So you’ll get another president. And you’ll pray that this doesn’t happen again.

And, if it does?

More debilitating — if it doesn’t- and you have a sitting president who espouses the right thing but does not actively change admissions policy, governance, or budgets within the school…what then?

Racism is SO entrenched within the fabric of our nation that it often takes victories like this to realize just how deep we’ve been thrust into the all-consuming waters. But this is actually the problem. We focus on one thing or one person without instruction for how to make substantial changes in the system. Maybe it will take another lifetime or three to address the levels to this ish, but I am not so sure that the immediate, generation now tactics we have come up with, like penalizing people who quickly delete a tweet and then have to issue a fake apology, are the right solutions either.

Is there a better way to educate people about why understanding systemic oppression as a sitting president is important, or disparate attacks on Black female students is inherently race-related, or referencing the destruction of a natural disaster that disproportionately impacted Black NoLa residents is downright evil?

I would argue there is — and, while it is NOT our sole responsibility to educate folks on race-related etiquette, it will also be exhausting if we have to pinpoint every wrong someone is doing and try to extinguish it, or rather, them.

I am working on a psychological intervention that empowers Black youth to do exactly what the Mizzou students did by freeing youth of racial stress and trauma and becoming more assertive in the process. While not taking anything away from this/their technique, I wonder what other strategies we can develop alongside this empowerment that focuses on the challenges that those with a Whiteness perspective maintain (to clarify — I’m not talking all White people AND I’m talking people of color who tout Whiteness ideology — yup, you Ben Carson).

When our Racial Empowerment Collaborative (REC) at Penn talks with educators at various schools, is it enough just to have our few hours here and there? What about folks in neighborhoods that our trainings will never reach? What about the biased media that colors (pun intended) the way news is reported?

Where are the actual conversations happening?

I am just starting the intervention work focused on racial stress reduction in Black parents and teens, but recognize even more clearly just how much work is needed within families who often times DON’T discuss racial topics at home. If not in the homes, will we create curriculum in schools? If not in the schools, will we catch them in the workplace? On the TV? Jeezy lyrics?

It sometimes feels completely daunting, and, while victories are few and far between, it is nice to know that they are possible. I am just hopeful that we can figure out tactics that will bring better understanding of how to alleviate race-related problems on a wider scale so that the next president (who is currently shaking in his/her boots) can appropriately address student concerns prior to a protest. Until then, boom boom clap Mizzou, boom boom clap.

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