While the tear gas is flying and arrests are being made, conversations are being held across our campuses about the Michael Brown Shooting and Ferguson Protests.
We are asking the tough questions such as; “Is this the latest example of how prevalent racism is in our society still?”, “If Michael Brown had been white, would this have happened?”, “Should the officer be cited for murder?”, “How do we talk to our students honestly about racism?”, “How do we provide services to our students who come from homes and neighborhoods where this type of issues is normal?”, “How do we address privilege?”, etc.
We are having deep conversations with colleagues and with our students. We, as higher education, are demanding action and education on white privilege, racism and equity. We are focusing on the importance of dialogue and programming with our students and each other.
However, amidst all the questions we are asking and conversations we’re facilitating, my gut was telling me we’re missing a component. So, I took a step back and looked at the larger picture and realized we are definitely missing a key component. And I’m just as guilty of it too, however, since the Ferguson incident and for me, recent situations on my own campus, I was able to identify it pretty quickly. I’m coming to realize that it is no longer sufficient enough to simply have dialogue and action on our campuses alone or solely within the “Higher Education Bubble”. To really move our society forward, to press issues such as racism, privilege, freedom of speech, etc. and to see the action and education which we are effervescently demanding for, that we need to get into the communities surrounding our campuses with our students, staff and faculty, and do it ourselves.
Most of us will admit that our campuses are basically silos within the community we reside in. We can talk, protest and have our dialogues within our campus communities but the real impact that we can make is through integrating our campus conversation with the communities surrounding us be it a community of similar mind frame or different. By bringing them into the dialogues, programs and conversations maybe we’ll see the action and education that we are so viciously clamoring for. Joining together, taking a stance as well as educating each other on the issues (yes, both sides have things to teach each other) may finally produce the results that society needs. As higher education institutions, we have the privilege, opportunity and responsibility to be change agents by interacting and living with our surrounding communities.
If we don’t do that, then we’re not really fulfilling the complete mission of higher education; to make the world a better place through academia and action.
So the real question is how do we get out into the community and get our hands dirty? How do we help move our society forward rather than just silo-ing our conversations to ourselves and our campuses and hoping that one of our students or graduates steps forward and ignites the change that is desperately needed. I know my mind is racing and am excited to see what it comes up with. :)
Just a few thoughts and musings to share as we continue our dialogues surrounding the issues coming out of the Michael Brown Shooting and Ferguson Protests.
Until next time
Peace, Love and Pandas!