Welcome back to another Friday, you made it through another week! For me, these weeks have been slow, rough, and draining— today I wanted to remind everyone to take a few steps back from life for a moment, to rest and recharge with me. But something more important has come up and I have to talk about it. So look out for my rest and recharge post next week, after a new Poetry Place on Tuesday, it’ll be a good one.
Here is what I want to talk about today instead.
Though I am late to the party that no one wants to be at, apparently another photo has surfaced of a student doing blackface at Cal Poly more recently, this time making fun of the original incident that occured last month.
Is anyone else tired?
First of all, I appreciate the fact that fraternity members who knew of the picture are allegedly the ones who brought it to public attention. Like I’ve said before, oftentimes fraternities come with a bad reputation, but they do have some good in them. This just isn’t about them anymore.
This is about the status quo.
Today I sat in on a forum, of what we hope is the next step forward on campus in changing the way things are, where we were introduced to Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She outlined for us her mission and insight as well as offered a panel of faculty and students to go deeper into the issue.
Within the next six months, she will be working closely with our campus to help create more of a community than we currently have and foster a more inclusive campus. Though I do think it’s important to bring someone in from the outside, as she seems incredibly capable to help make change, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the students and the faculty that are on the inside of this.
As of today, we are Cal Poly. Whether we want to be or not.
Right now, this campus needs change, but the problem is so much larger than us. The issue is so complex that it draws on history— white supremacy if you will— and that history involves slavery, the foundation of America (liberty and a lack thereof), the Trail of Tears, the Chumash land that Cal Poly is built on, etc. More times than not, this history has to do with people dominating over others; not because they deserve to or they are more qualified to do so, but because the color of their skin makes them feel like they are.
This is the status quo.
Mrs. McLaughlin-Smith said something in the forum earlier that got me thinking: “Exposure to anything is everything; the alternative is the same.”
Sometimes learning something new means unlearning something you already know.
So if, growing up, we are exposed to people of color being treated like less than others for something they cannot control and should not be ashamed of, this exposure can become everything. And if, learning to become a practiced and intellectual member of society, we are not taught important racial history both in and beyond American standards, this lack of exposure can become everything.
Both can do a whole lot of damage.
With the way things are, the lack of repercussions for racist actions or even the lack of value in simple humanity is problematic— hold the door open for someone, be polite to a woman, remember that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican independence day, do not throw around the n-word like it’s a game and you’re trying to get the most baskets… Because if nothing is done to make a change happen, nobody exposes anyone else to the implications of an action or a history or a hope for something better, how can we aim for anything more than the status quo we are already living in?
Right here I am challenging the way things are because I know they can be better than this. Honestly, at 20 years old, I may be farther away from having all the answers than I was last week. I don’t even know if I’m asking the right questions anymore. Not because I know less than I did before, but because I’m acknowledging just how much I don’t understand.
I don’t understand why people think it’s okay to belittle others for who they are.
I don’t understand why so many of us see something wrong in our society yet are given so little power to do something about it.
I don’t understand what it’s like anymore to get up in the morning and not worry about being yelled at, or catcalled, or jumped on my walk to class or home.
I don’t understand why the color of my skin should tell someone an entire story about me without them even knowing my name.
Is this the status quo, or is this just my status quo?
If even one person on my campus and so many others feel like this, feel like they don’t belong there or deserve to be there or be here in this country, there is no liberty in that.
Today, I want you to think of your own status quo and what it means to you. For just a moment, humor me maybe, challenge it. Now what can it really look like?
Share your thoughts with me in the comments below, after all, you’re part of my status quo too. See you Tuesday.