Be part of Making Change Happen. Dare to stand with us for Social Justice in Education. Here’s some Tips and Insights to Get You Started.
They were dying. The deaths were mounting up, and there was largely silence or indifference from the US Government and its health administration.
It was as if these people didn’t matter. They weren’t part of the mainstream. They weren’t considered ‘normal’. They weren’t ‘Us’. They were expendable.
It was 1986, and with the death toll continuing to rise alarmingly, 6 gay men coined a phrase that captured the mood of many: Silence equals Death
It was a rallying call to stand up and take action – not only to the communities affected by and living with HIV/AIDS – but to those outside such communities.
I think a lot about silence, invisibility, and indifference.
I think about the costs of not speaking up with the silence is complicity mantra readily coming to mind.
I guess it comes from my experience as an outsider of sorts .
Few were willing to speak up for me or stand with me – as a young same-sex attracted man – as I’ve written elsewhere.
I’m firm in my conviction that we must unite across points of difference.
And that means: We need YOU.
We need you speaking up and taking action for the rights of minorities, standing up for social justice in education.
We need more of you speaking up and taking action against bigotry, injustice, and insensitivity wherever it occurs.
It shouldn’t just be us minorities speaking up and taking action for ourselves – preaching to the converted.
And it shouldn’t just be one-off occasions of support – then relegated to the back of the pack once more.
We need you to Stand With Us Everyday.
Let me illustrate my points with a few examples.
They were regular meetings – meetings I’d inevitably return from in tears.
My teaching colleague would always encourage me to take time out to recover.
But the next meeting would come along, and it’d happen all over again.
As a staff we had to learn to stand together – to not be silent – when a colleague was singled out and treated badly.
We had to learn to stand together for change – for better work conditions – to not retreat or cower in silence at the first sign of opposition or intimidation.
We had to learn that silence was not okay – for things to change.
And we had to make speaking up and supporting each other – in such meetings – part of our regular way of being, not the exception.
It was a bold initiative – to set up a Queer Allies Network – to support GLBTI staff and students within our education faculty.
At the onset, it was just open to staff. And alongside our training and regular meetings to discuss queer-related issues occurring within our education faculty, we set up a Queer Allies noticeboard.
The noticeboard was a key visibility strategy for us.
And so it was a considerable source of distress for all of us – when it was vandalized on a number of occasions with homophobic abuse.
Silence wasn’t an option here.
Nor was just speaking up as the Queer Allies Network.
It needed to be a message that came from our education community, about who we were as educators.
With that in mind, we drafted a letter that expressed who we were and what we stood for – as educators.
Most members of staff including our Head of School signed this letter which we posted prominently on the noticeboard.
We also decided that our pre-service teachers should have a say about the issue as well.
And so a student letter was created that received overwhelming support.
It was an issue that lead to many forthright discussions in our tutorials. We highlighted the importance of standing up against injustice, whether you are part of the affected community or not.
It lead to further discussion and action in respect to preventing further vandalism, and developing training in the field of gender and sexual diversity.
It was a Whole of School response, that we were immensely proud of.
And many students found the situation and our Whole of School response particularly instructive.
Many said that it’d be helpful to them if they faced a similar situation in their future workplaces. It was a class where we explored the social contexts of students’ lives.
Diversity of all guises was a key theme.
Not long after it commenced I kept finding myself on edge.
Whenever we discussed Indigenous issues in education, negative and limiting views would often surface..
I knew that coming down on such views wasn’t likely to be productive – far from it.
But I was concerned at how students would react, if I encouraged them to critically reflect on their views.
Would I risk getting offside with these students?
Would I risk my End of Course Evaluations and possible future employment by doing so? There were usually a handful of homophobic evaluations amidst my other End of Course Evaluations, so I didn’t think my fears unfounded.
As I recall the situation now – the fast beating heart and tightness within – readily comes to mind.
Silence in this situation seemed a betrayal.
Even toning it down further beyond what I thought was reasonable – seemed to be complicity.
And so I did what I knew to be right in my heart. I encouraged critical reflection.
And I was called in – due to student complaints.
Asked to alter how I taught that class – I just couldn’t. I had to say No.
It was costly in one way – but in terms of living with myself – I felt as though I had no choice.
The costs of silence and toning down – around racism – were infinitely greater.
And so I come back to the present with a few questions and challenges:
How might we make Standing Up for Social justice and Inclusivity – part of our Regular Practice?
When we see injustice, disrespect, insensitivity or bigotry within our communication spaces, let’s call it out.
And should we take the option of silence, let’s own that too.
But if we’re serious about owning it, let’s ask – How can we take our learning beyond the moment – and integrate it into our everyday?
Yes apologies and offers of support are critical. But even more powerful, is an acknowledgement that injustice is among us everyday.
And we can play a part by regularly standing up and taking action for diverse communities.
Let’s change our business as usual.
Let’s be willing to stand outside the mainstream, outside what’s comfy and familiar for us.
Let’s speak up and take action – for diverse communities – much more often.
How might we Integrate Social Justice Concerns into our regular Twitter Chats?
Here I’m suggesting that we exceed the one-off chats that focus on social justice or diversity concerns.
Yes these chats are definitely important and useful but if we’re serious we can do so much more.
At the minimum, how about having at least one to two questions (each week) that consider the social justice or diversity-related implications of the topic of the day.
And if you’re a participant in a chat, how about connecting with and supporting those who dare to step out and raise social justice-related concerns.
It can sometimes get lonely within mainstream twitter chats , especially if you’re raising issues that impact on, or affect, minorities.
You finally pluck up the courage to make your point and often you get little, if any, reaction.
So be daring yourself and reach out and connect with us.
If you don’t want to be visible in the main twitter forum – or if you’re not totally sure how to voice your thoughts – connect with us via a Direct Message.
And be okay with saying, Look I’m not totally sure how to express this – or I might get things mixed up or confused but I want to learn. I want to be part of making change happen.
If we look at the major civil rights movements of our times, an important element in making change happen – is the building of coalitions across differences AND
the willingness of people (both inside and outside the affected communities) to take action for change.
How about Supporting Twitter Chats that regularly deal with Diversity and Social Justice
Be sensitive and respectful when you do join these chats.
Take some time to see how issues are canvassed within the chat.
Be mindful of how the community engages with, supports, and challenges each other.
And be willing over time to join in and stretch your comfort zone.
How might we Support those Advocating for Social Justice?
It can take a bit of guts to speak up – especially when you’re speaking about your experiences as a member of a minority.
At times it can feel like, few people care – unless they’re part of your immediate community.
So if you’re part of a majority population, how about helping to amplify the work of minorities?
- How about re-sharing our writing and our creations?
- How about giving some feedback?
- How about thinking about how our ideas – relate to what you’re writing about or teaching about?
- How do the ideas challenge what you do everyday? How might you shake-up your business-as-usual in response?
- And how about joining with us, standing with us, and collaborating with us?
Let’s build more alliances across differences.
Let’s recognize the possibilities and the potential for change – when we work and strive together for social justice in education.
You can find my social justice posts here.
You can also click on the images below – for Social Justice-related Tips and Insights.