Saturday, August 15, 2015

Though My Voice May Tremble

As some people know, I have started intensive training for my graduate fellowship with Residential Life at WashU. And I mean intensive. The quality of training by WashU Res Life is apparent in the level of satisfaction in the students. I can already tell how much I am going to love my staff, supervisors and the other grad-fellows. The environment is so inclusive and open-minded, I can understand why people love working in student administration. 

That being said, WashU goes to great lengths to make sure the RAs are prepared for the year. Everything from what it means to be a leader, Title IX and emergency procedures, to Mental Health and Diversity Inclusion activities. Today,  two Social Justice facilitators were brought in to discuss the reality of microagressions and biases towards marginalized populations. 

We were asked to walk around the room and look at images, social media platforms and incidents from past university settings that displayed racist, ignorant and/or biased comments. In other trainings we were made aware that some of this may be triggering and difficult information to digest, however there was no warning before today's activity. And it hit many like a brick wall.

I was made very aware of the fact that I am in the majority in most aspects of my life. Aside from being aware that I am a woman, which has a lengthy history of struggle, I am white, middle class and heterosexual. I have never had to fight for my right to marry the person I love. I have never had to defend myself to an authority figure based on the color of my skin. Rarely do I have to defend my religion-one that is relatively standard and accepted in America. 

This isn't the first time I have been made aware of my 'standing' or my privilege. In the past this privilege has led to a lot of guilt, which surfaced today. I have worked damn hard to engage in education and conversation that would lead to me being cognizant of my surroundings. Lead me to be more understanding and to be an advocate for those who may not look or act like me. Deserving of recognition nonetheless.

In the time we had to ourselves, I pulled my phone out and began writing. I don't exactly know what I wrote-if it is classified as poetry, creative writing, etc (I wasn't an English major) but as I have blogged about before, this is what I do when I have too many thoughts bouncing around. So, here it goes. 

 I am sitting in a silent room that could not be screaming louder cries. Witnessing those who have hurt for so long be re-traumatized, re-living their greatest fear, facing their biggest enemy. My internal cry asks why is this still an issue? Why are we still struggling for acceptance? 

I hope those who have been marginalized know if they are not loved by all, they are at least loved by one.

 I hurt because I cannot reach out to everyone. I cannot scream loud enough for all to hear that they are enough. They are worthy. They are strong. I hurt because being an advocate is not enough in this instance. Advocating for the future does not fix the past. It does not erase their struggle. A positive outlook doesn't eliminate the present pain. 

I am not gay, bi or transsexual. I am not Black or Latino. I am not Muslim or Jewish. I am not an overshadowed minority. Though I am a woman, I am privileged. I am guilty. 

My voice is strong but trembles when I hear stories of those who have been beaten. Those who have been ignored. I am infuriated by peers, elders and those younger than myself who exert dominance over any group. Over any person different from themselves. 

Though I am angered, I refuse to believe this is a loss. I refuse to give up on the idea that one person can love all. That my thoughts can have an impact. Though my voice may tremble, it is still a voice. One to be taken seriously. One to be heard. 

While this exercise was draining for all and traumatizing for many, it taught me something. It taught me that I have to do more than simply engage in conversation. It is my hope to build my reputation as one of love, respect and advocacy. Working in ResLife is a great start, but this need for acceptance and recognition reaches far beyond a college campus. It infiltrates our personal and professional lives. 

I can't think of a better way to tie my faith into my training then by quoting 1 Peter 4:8 "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins." We are all human. With recognition of our differences must come love and respect, or no progress can be made.