Sunday, June 21, 2020

You Say My Existence Matters, Now What?

This is my leap of faith to be transparent with the hope that I am the voice of someone’s situation. Previous posts by me on diversity on this platform garnered unexpected responses, not in a positive way. I hope that the openness I see around me will allow all who read to receive my words. One thing I learned from my mother is to speak when you feel it is necessary and know that every word and action is a risk. Today, I feel it necessary to write. Let me forewarn you, this may be raw and heartfelt for some but not out of the ordinary for others.

I am a Black woman in law school academic and bar support. As simple as this seems, it is a weighted statement. I contend with a myriad of impressions, judgments, expectations, and stereotypes projected on me by virtue of being black, by virtue of being a woman, by virtue of being in a law school environment, and by virtue of being in academic and bar support. The word count does not permit me to fully explore each aspect but generated here is an outline for a paper. Expectations thrust on me in the professional environment about how I should carry myself, how I should dress, and how I should speak are abundant. Also thrust on me are expected and projected limitations in my ability to be successful and thrive professionally are daunting. I balance this all while carrying the weight of expectations of immediate family, extended family, adopted family, and community because “I made it”. Why didn’t I matter earlier when I expressed the struggles I carry?

I am touched by the individuals around me who check-in, ask if I am okay, tell me I am valuable, show care, express anger, and even apologize. I used to say I am okay but lately, I say I am not okay.  It is not because of all the happenings on the news, though I am significantly impacted by it, it is because those around me only seem to hear my voice now, but I am still invisible to them. I understand that for some it is too “real” to have a conversation that might highlight the fact that you injured me by your actions and inactions and made me feel less than and undervalued even though you thought you supported me. When will we have that conversation? Will you still be invested in me a month from now? Six months from now? Therein lies why I am not okay. Your silence makes me fearful that you are not committed.

As academic support and bar professionals, our focus and heartbeat are our students. I was once a black student, a female student of color. We need to examine ourselves and ask if we do not provide our colleagues of color with the care and support, then are we truly living up to the mission, values, and origins of law school academic support. I challenge my academic support colleagues and others who do not identify themselves as individuals of color or of indigenous populations to evaluate how they engage with colleagues of color and students of color. Please be proactive and intentional. Do not simply say you are an ally and you care but have no action to support your statement. Be courageous and willing to stand for and endure the consequences for something or someone you say you care about.  If you value me, you will see me, you will hear me, you will try to understand me, and you will empathize with me.

My experiences and life are not a trend; I am a human being just like your grandmother, mother, sister, cousin, and daughter. Please show-up as an ally and not simply as a bystander as I am destroyed by others. Someone once said, say what you mean and mean what you say. Honestly, I do not have all the answers and my concerns may be very different from the next person, but I call you to action and challenge you to:

  • Read and implement information from Law Deans Antiracist Clearinghouse Project on the AALS page[1]
  • Read the #BlackInTheIvory, while focused on higher education, information is applicable to black, brown, and indigenous colleagues and students in the legal arena[2]
  • “Cite Black Women”, persons of color or indigenous persons[3]
  • Use your power to occasionally give up your seat for the next person
  • Dismantle the “isms” for the rest of your life
  • Notice a silenced voice and amplify it
  • Share the microphone and spotlight
  • Be uncomfortable
  • Mean what you say
  • Use your power
  • Take a risk

If you expect the process to be perfect, I am sad to tell you it will not be. You are going to mess up and you might mess up a lot. You must start so start with someone who is open and will tell you the truth. I can be blunt on occasion and don’t speak for everyone, but you are more than welcome to start with me.

True change starts with you!

(Goldie Pritchard - Guest Blogger)

 

[1] https://www.aals.org/antiracist-clearinghouse/?fbclid=IwAR2Gh40j-iVhV1mnlfnX-qqNnl3-_vXBEfxc7DhbNWtrB4Olio6R-YJStQM

[2]#BlackIntheIvory was co-founded by Dr. Sharde Davis and Joy Melody Woods

[3] ”Cite Black Women” created November 2017 by Dr. Christen A Smith to push people to engage in citation that acknowledges and honors Black women’s intellectual product

https://lawprofessors.typepad.com/academic_support/2020/06/you-say-my-existence-matters-now-what.html

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Comments

Thank you for this, Goldie--very powerful words.

Posted by: Cassie Christopher | Jun 23, 2020 12:19:06 PM

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