A page I follow on Twitter called Black Girl Culture @blkgirlculture tweeted today and said: “This is why inclusion is not simply being allowed in. Being a black woman in academic spaces means having to deal with such exclusionary words and behaviors from our peers and superiors.”
This message was based on a tweet by @DoctaValle that said: “My friend, a Black woman w/natural hair, is fighting back tears in her law classroom RIGHT NOW bc when she raised her hand the presenter pointed 2 her & said “the girl w/the mop on her head.”‘
I could not agree more with the above statement. I have had many experiences like the one mentioned in this tweet during my time in academia, and that is why it is important for black women to not only have a #seatatthetable, but also have a #sayatthetable. It’s 2018. Come on, when will we all learn? I could write about this topic blog post after blog post, because this example today shows how this is still an issue today. I still get told when I change my hairstyles “oh you got a haircut” (no I took my braids or weave down) or when I am wearing my natural hair “oh can I touch your hair?”. At that moment, myself or any other black woman must navigate these spaces with caution and pain all at the same time so that we can continue to charge ahead ad finish our degrees. Even worse is that these things happen within our academic and personal lives, so it is a double edged sword. So I challenge everyone to increase their cultural awareness, and really learn how to practice inclusion. And where does that start?
It starts with one education. Educating yourself on the cultural practices and norms of people who do not look like you so that you can understand what terms, words or phrases may be offensive to someone. Then with that knowledge that you have obtained, you can stop being defensive and start taking responsibility. It also starts with awareness. Being aware that if you hold a privileged identity, you have no idea how exhausting it is to have to defend yourself or constantly prove your worth or intelligence to people.
One definition of inclusion (by The Talent Intelligence Company ) says that it is: “the achievement of a work environment in which all individuals are treated fairly and respectfully, have equal access to opportunities and resources, and can contribute fully to the organization’s success”.
I feel that we have not reached this level of inclusivity in academia yet. There are still many students who feel intimidated and marginalized by educational institutions. We have some work to do. All individuals must be treated equally and feel that they can contribute and have equal access to opportunities. Calling someone out negatively because of how they choose to wear their hair, or telling the class that you are going to speed up the pace of the course and those who are beginner must catch up does not help us get closer to this goal.
And also by the way, I have a new logo! Thank you to dkillustrations for hooking me up! Isn’t it cool!
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