I was trolling Twitter at 5:00 AM this morning when I came across some conversations over a very thought provoking SACollective Post by Jerad Green, @jeradgreen494, titled “Why I Feel White People Shouldn’t Run Multicultural Affairs”. And it got me thinking a lot about offices and centers dealing with marginalized populations and of course specifically multicultural offices.
Jerad makes some spot on points. One was the benefit of having like-identified leaders in key positions. For example, LGBTQIA Centers need a LGBTQIA identifying Director or a Women’s Center is best led when a female is the director. He also makes a great point in addressing the White Ally vs the White Savior, and I know many colleagues who are struggling to support but not triumph for people of color and being an ally rather than a savior.
However, in order to fully understand the conversation and points brought forth in the post, I needed to reframe the context the post was made in. And it simply came down to the jargon, definition and interpretation used for these types of offices.
For me, to really embrace the information and insights of my colleague, I needed to take the specifics out of the multicultural context and pin them next to Multicultural Affairs for a second and only keep the key concept presented; The philosophy that to best lead Multicultural Affairs, one must be able to identify with a marginalized population in order to best understand therefore educate on the intersectionality of identities and cultures and how to balance the voices of all into a comprehensive conversation and dialogue.
As I was musing over this philosophy and the post, I realized that part of the disconnect for me was not understanding the definition and interpretation of “multiculturalism” by the author or institution. Let’s be honest, there is no singular definition, interpretation or practice of multicultural affairs. It has the ability to become a vast and varied term. So being able to replace the pinned situations and specific comments into a multicultural affairs area with racial issues as a significant component of its functions and mission, I was able to see the entire post from a more comprehensive position.
In line with this, I also thought about the offices that we’ve created in our field. We have LGBTQIA offices, women’s centers, Hispanic services, disability services, veteran services and even some have religious support offices and staff. But there are very few offices specifically dedicated to black students on our campuses. To me it then is understandable therefore that many of the issues, concerns and services are shifted to the overarching Diversity or Multicultural Offices. Thusly shifting the definition and interpretation of these offices and missions. Which leads to understanding why there is a conversation on whether whites have the ability to lead Multicultural Affairs, basing the criteria only on race and not another cultural identity they may have that provides them a similar understanding of being a marginalized population.
For myself, I tend to interpret Multicultural Affairs as not focusing on one identity and how it intersects and meshes with all other cultures and identities, but how a myriad of cultures and identities interact and co-exist in a space and what, how and when the relationships and connections move between them all. Also my interpretation of Multicultural Affairs works with how each of these offices which works with marginalized populations collaborate, educate and work together.
So, bringing it back around to Jerad’s post, I think that he hit on a topic that not only pushes out issues that need to be discussed and deals with leadership, privilege, and race but also what offices we choose to create and house on our campuses, how we define and interpret offices such as Multicultural Affairs, and our jargon that we use which leads to identifying who the privileged are and who are more inclined and prepared to lead specific offices and departments.
Just my thoughts on a very thought provoking post.
Until next time!
Peace, Love and Pandas!