Should we just ‘get over it’? No, seek to change it… (some resources)

The world right now… each day seems to feel more and more challenging for people doing social justice oriented work, whether it’s against racism, sexism, sexism&racism, and all the other -isms and intersections of oppression and injustice.

This morning I read this story from US Professor Wanda Pratt, which starts with the suggestion that women should ‘just get over it’… An idea which is premised on the idea of accepting some forms of inequality as ok. But they aren’t. Her story highlighted her experiences of sexism and harassment throughout her study and professional work experiences, in engineering and computer science. Then I read this NY Times story on misogyny within economics. Such stories are powerful, painful, and frustrating. But they highlight why sexism is not trivial or minor, and that the end of the road to (gender equality) isn’t close, not even close enough, and why it seems like there still some fairly large mountains to climb.

And that’s (just) sexism and misogyny…

The (predictable, not ‘shocking’ [and you can read some brief Virginia-oriented history here]) violence in Charlottesville focused global attention on the repugnant hatred and violence of racism, and the emboldening of an organised and determined white-supremacist/ultra-nationalist/neo-nazi movement. Many resources have been doing the rounds in light of the hatred, violence and pain of Charlottesville, highlighting ways we can (more) effectively intervene in these times – what follows are some links to a few of these. Some are written by black people, spelling out what they want/need from ‘allies’ (a popular term, but also subject to valid critique), or how to fight white supremacy. Some are written by white people, highlighting the need for those of us who are white, to take this on ourselves – some specific to Charlottesville. Writer/activist Imani Gandy highlighted the hashtag #itsonus as a useful way to signal this obligation (others took the time to explain to those who might not realise, why #notallwhitepeople is not just inappropriate, but offensive and demonstrates a profound ‘not getting it’). This analysis of how the ‘alt-right’ operates is a useful read, as is this report on a not-yet-published study of psychological characteristics (and if you’re interested, look at how non-white ancestry can be recuperated by some white supremacists). Some highlight the way violence is not an answer – and humour may offer an alternative. Other’s note that while the extrematism of white surpremacists has galvanised responses (like this blog!), the systemic structural works of racism ‘rage on’ and need to be a key focus of white action against racism. The US National Council of Teachers of English produced a blog highlighting that no classroom is apolotical (even if we think it is) with resources for teaching in these times.

And, in case you’re in any doubt, racism is not only wrong, it’s a human rights violation. If you’re not actively working against racism, make sure you give nothing to racism. As Tim Soutphommasane recently concluded in an article on responding to upswings in racism, it is” not enough to be non-racist; we must also be anti-racist”.

Finally, I’ll end with this cartoon meme that’s been doing the rounds, drawing on Karl Popper, highlighting why being intolerant to intolerance isn’t actually the paradox some might accuse. This ties in to the problematic of idealised ‘free speech’ and the (problematic) premise that speech is distinct from action.

Excellence vs inclusivity and participation?

I’m just back from a month in the UK, where there seems to be much doom-and-gloom about the post-Brexit impact on higher education and universities (I’m not suggesting this is unfounded; all analysis I’ve read suggest this worry is well-founded). This morning, I read this piece in the Guardian about the push for ‘excellence’ and (related) exclusivity in (some) universities in the UK, and how this potentially works againstĀ developing more inclusive and diverse student bodies. Then I read this piece, again in the Guardian, about the scrapping of maintenance grants for the poorest of students, which indicates another way in which participation from certain marginalised groups will likely be reduced. They are just two points of a complex discussion of the role of the university, and the place (and obligations?) of universities in contemporary (western) societies – including the tensions between ‘private benefit’ and ‘public good‘ type arguments and perceptions.

Related to this question of who makes it in to our classrooms (and what we do to get them there, make them feel welcome, keep them there, and support them to flourish), one of my favourite presentations at the British Psych Society’s Psychology of Women Section conference was from Leeds Beckett academic Glen Jankowski, talking about diversity and inclusivity projects around race/ethnicity, in both the psychology classroom, and the university more generally. He discussed various projects and practices, linking to great resources like Leeds University’s anti-racism toolkit.