What they don’t tell you about speaking out (and having different views)

If you are privileged enough to go to college, then hopefully you are challenged, faced with hard decisions, and exposed to new ideas. College is meant to be a place of self-realization, exploration, and enlightenment. I spent five years as an undergrad and didn’t fully realize how much college changes you until my last year. I realized pretty quickly that I had abandoned my ultra-conservative roots and picked up a more liberal, left-winged way of thinking. From the Black Lives Matter movement to DAPL, I consistently had different opinions than my loved ones (specifically on Facebook).

I am a loud and proud individual. I am privileged as hell. I suffer from white guilt but choose not to be immobilized by it. I am a God fearing Christian. I am all of these things and more, yet I find myself constantly questioning my role, what society is suppose to be, and how to make a true difference. All of these things I have learned about on the job, in the classroom, on a Saturday night three drinks deep at a bar. There is so much knowledge I have gained, questioned, and created – however they don’t tell you everything.

They don’t tell you how to respond to harsh criticism to your ideals and beliefs by your friends. They don’t tell you how awkward it will be at family events whenever you’re the “flaming liberal” who has betrayed their conservative upbringing. They don’t tell you about the tears, rage, and fear you feel (all at once) when a family member you have loved, looked up to, and have worshiped all your life tells you they don’t know who you are anymore, that you have betrayed your heritage – essentially cutting ties. They don’t tell you the pain you will go through as you change into the person your trying to become.

They don’t tell you that sometimes you will wonder why you even bother to speak out about injustices, the hypocrisy, and the hatred. They don’t tell you that your family will slowly walk away whenever you don’t sit on the same side of the political spectrum. They don’t tell you have you sit, for hours, wondering if all you have done is even worth it. There is so much they don’t tell you – so here I sit, wondering if my activism, yearning for a socially just society, and hundreds of hours of self-education is even worth it. What am I really accomplishing? Is it even worth it?

I don’t know. I am terrified. My greatest fear is being lonely. They don’t tell you about all the shit that comes with picking the high road, the road less traveled, the road not in-line with your family. I am so young, yet I feel so old. I am so privileged, yet I feel like I have lost so much. No one told me that I would be where I am at right now. The only thing I have left to do is pray, read, meditate, and reflect. I don’t know what I am meant to do in this life – what I know now is that it gets real ugly, real painful, real. This is not the guilt confession of another white ally. This is not the bickering of a privileged male. This is true hurt, true confusion, true desperation. This is so much and more – the things that did tell me when I started this journey.

Advertisements

I’m tired, but I have no reason to complain.

Regardless of the results of the past presidential election, I have been so damn tired. So tired because people are being hurt and oppressed while others are blind and refuse to see the whole picture. As someone who works in student affairs, I have become emotionally attached to the current state of our country because my students are diverse and are affected differently. What I call “empathy overload” has been a label to describe myself over the last year. The sad thing is, it hasn’t always been that way. Even sadder, I am a white, cis gender, male. I have literally a buffet of privilege to choose from. Why should I complain?

I have done a lot of reflection, questioning, and journaling over the last year, trying to better understand myself and why I am feeling the way that I am. During this time, I have dove deeper into my identities, my lenses I use in the world, my biases, my blindspots, my everything. Each time I stop to reflect more questions come up. Each time I sit down and ask why I am so tired I keep coming back to my identities.

I have a really great friend who is super wise in the ways of identities, power of privilege and oppression, and she said something real powerful: oppression hurts everyone and the liberation of the oppressed is something we all gain from. It wasn’t exactly like that as I do not have a way with words so look past my butchering of her beautiful words. I agree with what she said and we all lose when people are oppressed and have a lot to gain from a society that is liberated and free. I say all of this because I think of so many student affairs professionals who share privileged identities like me that have done what I have done (and still do because privilege is so over powerful and tricky): centering myself in the situation and making it all about me. What am I talking about? Well since you asked….

Remember when I said I have struggled to understand to say why I feel so tired, so hurt, so over this recent election? Well I argue that because I wasn’t able to truly identify why it was I felt the way I was without centering myself lead me to this notation that we as white folk, white folk that want to do good, white folk that say forget being an ally and want to be an accomplice, still have tendencies to center ourselves. When we feel the empathy, the tug on the heart strings of the recent election, why do we feel the way that we do? White folk don’t suffer from oppression the way our marginalized friends and family do. NOT EVEN CLOSE. Yet we shed our white tears (another blog soon to come on the fallacy of white tears), grab our baby pins, wave our “SafeZone” stickers and think we are victims too and we are here to support. However, we are doing what we try to avoid: we make it about us, our whiteness, our ability to save and help, us, we, I.

Now, this is not to say my views are correct, that everyone does this, but I argue it is true. Until we as white folk can clearly connect why the way we feel the way we do. Until we as white folk can see how our tears, our protests, and attention seeking is still trying to center ourselves. Until we realize we are taking space from those of our oppressed and marginalized friends and family. We have a lot of work to do. So next time, before you complain about “being so tired”, being drained, so over this election, reflect on why you feel the way you do. If you are white, why do you care about the hate crimes of your Black, Latinx, Muslim, and so many other friends? If you are white and “are so shocked by this election”, why is that? Can you clearly articulate why? Or are you just reflecting the emotions of those around you, centering your whiteness, and not realizing your privilege is showing.

We as white folk have to get our shit together. We as white folk have to do work. We as white folk have to stop centering ourselves, stop trying to save people, and start doing real work. And you can’t do real work until you understand yourself. It is not an easy journey. This journey has no mid-way point, no quick fix, no happy story. This journey is long and hard and will not end until all are liberated. So I ask you my dear white folk: why are you shedding your white tears, why are you “so tired”, why do you even care? Answer this without centering yourself completely before you start putting on your baby pins and SafeZone stickers.

“Hey y’all” and not “hey you guys”

So as I am (attempting to) becoming more professional in my attire, lingo, and mannerisms, I’ve noticed something people of the Midwest (and others) love to say: “hey you guys”

Although I love the classics like “The Goonies”, there has to be some subtle changes to our everyday life if we ever hope to become more inclusive. The South may have it’s own grocery list of problems, but we do one thing right: we do not show gender preference in our common phrase of grabbing attention.

I cannot begin to count the number of times I have traveled to other states outside the South and used the word “y’all” and got that “oh you’re not from around here look”. But at the same time I cannot begin to count the number of times already during my short stint in the Midwest the amount of times I have heard someone reference a group a people as being all male and they weren’t all male.

Now I know it is a nit picky thing but is it really? We live in a society where inequality is so deeply rooted and systems of oppression are so heavily ingrained into our habits. Although I personally don’t have a 5 step action plan to make the world a better place, I do know that I can use more inclusive words when interacting with society.

If you are a guy, imagine how weird it would be if you’re in a group and someone says “hey you girls”. Imagine how women feel when we mask their gender identity and enforce this crooked society we live in today.

So when you’re out and about, working with students, children, or coworkers, say y’all. It may sound like turpentine on your lips but I promise not only will you be more inclusive, but you will also get some really odd looks and can then explain yourself and spread the message about being intentional in breaking away the system of oppression we live in today.

Y’all come back now, ya hear.