When you started your career as a faculty member or staff member in your first real job in higher ed, did anyone give you the advice to “find your people?” Yes, I figured they did. Great advice, but how does one find supportive, justice-focused, compassionate, non-competitive, equity-minded folks in the academic landscape? After all, academe is/was designed to attract and promote individualism, elitism, narcissism, cut-throat competitiveness, and self-aggrandizing behaviors.
Despite that, I managed to develop a sixth sense to identify others doing justice work in their teaching, community-work, scholarship, university service, and mentoring. My social justice radar faltered a bit in my first 8-10 years and is an ever-evolving compass. Fortunately for my mental health, I stumbled into my justice professional home (shout out to SPSSI!), and have been lifted up and carried through by my community for over 2 decades.
You really must find your people. Those people you can trust in your lowest and most head-spinning times to support you all the while telling you any tough truths you need to hear. The people who will amplify your voice when you are not in the room, AND buy you a margarita when you are turned down for that internal director position. The people who will listen with empathy as you recount nasty comments on your evals, validate your feelings of betrayal, and then help you plan your formal teaching statement for promotion. The people who will advise you when the department chair supports a white student who claims you give him bad grades because he is politically conservative and refuses to learn about privilege.
My hope is that our Enough Y’all community will provide a community for social justice academics like you.
Do you consider yourself a social justice academic?
In claiming this phrase, please do not think of this as any sort of self-congratulatory or performative ally stance. If you design some aspect of your academic work from a place of justice values, then I am taking the liberty to label you a “social justice academic.” Why even bother with this label? Well, this particular group stands out in higher ed and yet has no term that brings us all together. Social justice academics are far too often isolated, scattered to the winds, and struggling to find others to build that sense of community. We need each other. We need an identity.
Also- if you willingly receive my newsletter and did not yet unsubscribe, I am here to tell you… You are a social justice academic!
Why social justice academics NEED community
When we feel like justice is being delayed, like we are not making progress, like we are not sure what to do next, like are are experiencing isolation, or hopeless within institutions that seem uninterested in justice, we really do need our people. My survival in academe is 100% due to my invisible college of incredible social justice academics who are always there to remind me of my worth and to keep hope alive. Without them, I do not think I would have made it through graduate school or my first 5 years as a faculty member.
5 ways our communities matter
My guess is you already knew that having an academic social justice community is paramount to survival. Even so, I want to point out some of the ways our justice communities, our people, help us keep working for justice despite roadblocks and resistance.
Within social justice academic communities, we:
- make it clear you are not the only one;
- prevent or at least mitigate the negative effects of gaslighting;
- share ideas for effective action for change;
- connect each other to more justice allies when needs arise;
- fuel us up for taking action and staying hopeful; and
- bring us laughter and joy that sustain the soul.
Learn more about the White Anti-Racism and Action course I created for (aspiring) white allies and my group coaching program for social justice academics called Choose Your Own Adventure.
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