One Step Further

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!

Published by Brian

I am currently the Assistant Director of Student Life for Registered Student Organizations and Late-Night Programming at Michigan State University. After earning my B.A. from the University of Michigan-Flint, I entered the Student Affairs profession. After a few years in the field, I returned to school and earned my M.A. in Educational Leadership-Higher Education Student Affairs from Eastern Michigan University. In my spare time I blog about my thoughts and musings on current issues in higher education, student affairs, digital worlds, identity development and general life inspirations and observations. I also volunteer a lot for my fraternity and multiple regional and national professional associations.

3 thoughts on “One Step Further

  1. Great post Brian. I have been thinking a lot about this myself. My passion is with social justice education, service learning, and how to get students involved in their community and on campus…and that is a huge part of multicultural affairs and much of student affairs in general right now. I would love to work in a multicultural affairs office but I really don’t know that there is a place for me there…?
    I worry that as we continue to work to make our campuses more diverse and inclusive for students that I will be put aside. And I want people to have the opportunity to get ahead that haven’t in the past, so I really struggle with this.
    I already had one interviewer tell me I didn’t have enough diversity experience (even though my undergrad is in Women and Gender Studies and I facilitated diversity workshops through alternative breaks, and have spent many years making myself aware of social justice issues) but will I ever have enough diversity experience? Sometimes I feel like I have to go into an interview and point out the ways in which I am marginalized (low-income, first generation) to be considered….
    I want to work with diverse groups of students, on pressing cultural and societal issues…but I’m worried I am not going to get the chance and maybe I’m not suppose to?
    What do you think?

    1. Wow, that’s a REALLY interesting point! Do we promote our work in diversity or how we ourselves have diverse identities? Which is more receptive and desired in the interview/work place? To some degree we seem to be moving to where if you want to work in diversity or multicultural affairs you need have and OWN a marginalized identity in order to be taken seriously and to be convincing to be in the running for these positions. Then again, multicultural and diversity etc. work is everyone’s responsibility. It can be incorporated and taught in any SA Functional Area. Diversity and Multicultural Offices are only one way to work with diverse students with pressing cultural and societal issues. And sometimes its those areas that are not directly within the view of diversity and multicultural offices that really need the #SAPros to show them how it influences all areas of SA and in EVERY office, not just those key diversity or MC offices. Hmm…would you ever wanna guest blog for me? 🙂

      1. I would love that! Also, I just started volunteering at MSU in the Center for Service Learning and Civic Engagement…and everyone is so lovely there! 🙂

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