Confronting Systems of Oppression In Higher Education

Institutions of higher education are not exempt from the impacts of systems of oppression, nor are they blameless in perpetuating those systems. Building more equitable communities requires a commitment to be critical of the structures and ourselves. In recognition of this ongoing work I share two articles for digestion, reflection, and action.

Language of Appeasement

The first article is called Language of Appeasement, Written by Dafina-Lazarus Stewart for Inside Higher Ed. It’s an extension of zir talk, Minding the Gap: The Differences Between Compositional Diversity and Institutional Transformation. Both the talk and the article serve as important call-ins to institutions to be mindful of how focusing on diversity and inclusion at the expense of equity and social justice supports the inequitable status quo.

“A truly democratic education must not be ideologically neutral; rather, it must ardently pursue the preparation of students for engaged citizenship in an ostensibly democratic society. Whether HWI leaders will gather the institutional will and the moral and ethical courage to provoke and institute real, substantive institutional transformation is unknown. The first step on that road, however, is to make equity and justice the yardstick by which leaders measure progress instead of merely diversity and inclusion.”

–Dafina-Lazarus Stewart

Dafina-Lazarus Stewart also writes at zir blog Wilderness Voices: Speaking Truth to Power About Higher Ed in Society.

White Supremacy Culture

The second article is White Supremacy Culture by Tema Okun, which provides examples of how white supremacy shows up within organizations along with ideas for interrupting white supremacy culture.

“This is a list of characteristics of white supremacy culture that show up in our organizations. Culture is powerful precisely because it is so present and at the same time so very difficult to name or identify. The characteristics listed below are damaging because they are used as norms and standards without being proactively named or chosen by the group. They are damaging because they promote white supremacy thinking. Because we all live in a white supremacy culture, these characteristics show up in the attitudes and behaviors of all of us – people of color and white people. Therefore, these attitudes and behaviors can show up in any group or organization, whether it is white-led or predominantly white or people of color-led or predominantly people of color.”

–Tekma Okun


From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones

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I'm a Social Justice Educator and Aspiring Humanitarian who is interested in conflict resolution, improving intergroup relations, and building more equitable and inclusive communities. "Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian" is my blog, where I write about issues of diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice. By exploring social identities through written word, film & video, and other forms of media, I hope to continue to expand and enrich conversations about social issues that face our society, and to find ways to take social action while encouraging others to do so as well in their own ways.

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