Student of Color Community Standards
We, as members of the Student of Color Coalition for the academic year 2015-2016 at Wesleyan, have come together to create this Student of Color Community Standards to acknowledge the pain we are going through, the origins of this suffering and how it is allowed to continue, and the responsibilities that we have for each other, using these to envision a future in which we are able to strive instead of just survive.
We feel that the university lacks consideration and inclusion of our community--both in whole and in part. More specifically, it has failed to provide the resources we have asked for; tolerates and thereby perpetuates the bullying, assault, and disrespect from the larger privileged, explicitly and implicitly bigoted white student body; is reactive instead of proactive in the face of our suffering; physically neglects our spaces; limits our pursuit of educating ourselves in our history by refusing to promote “ethnic studies” as programs instead of fully funded departments; and exploits and tokenizes our bodies for its “Diversity University” image while continuing to neglect those of us that are here.
We as a community understand that all that we experience now happens because of our history and predecessors. We recognize that the institution of Wesleyan has a colonial legacy by way of displacing the Wagnuk peoples, participated in chattel slavery with wood-frame houses being built by enslaved peoples, and further, in the so-called “post-colonial” world, continued to profit by way of dispossession people of color to continue expanding its physical land to accommodate a growing student body.
Those that attended this institution before us highlighted a disconnect between students of color and the institution as the students demanded recognition and self-determination when the Vanguard Class of 1965 took over Fisk Hall. This continued in 1994 when the latino/black brotherhood confronted members of the DKE fraternity for their participation in exclusionary practices.
Despite the efforts of those who came before us, the work is not done. Right now we face a lack of funding for ethnic studies-- an indication of our devalued lives and history, low retention rates of faculty of color, daily micro-aggressions from all areas of campus, general lack of institutional support (especially from those who are meant to serve us, namely the Office of Equity & Inclusion), and the perpetual vilification of those of us who try to speak out against these hardships.
Still, despite the injustices we face on an institutional level, we must also acknowledge the historical discontinuity of our community. We continue to be torn apart by focusing on our differences amongst us as students of color, instead of recognizing that we are one in the eyes of Wesleyan. Many of us continue to be exploited by Wesleyan. Leaving us little time to focus on caring for one another. Our oppression historically and presently illustrates why we need solidarity amongst POC.
Each of our voices can be used to dispel the myth that all members of the SOC community have to have the same opinion. In order to be a supportive community, we need to respect everyone’s voice. As we continue to educate ourselves, we must remember to challenge ideas, not people. We must treat everyone as human and not mistake a difference of opinion as a personal attack on specific members of our community. Our relationships with each other should be grounded in mutual respect. Of course, we are not always going to get along, but we should address these conflicts utilizing the mantra that “your truth is not the truth”.
The spaces that we share in community with one another should be an uplifting environment for everyone. Our community should be a model for inclusive spaces. Although SOC groups seek to empower those in our community, and they are primarily for us, we must recognize the importance of reaffirming that our spaces are open to the larger student body. SOC student groups should work to recognize the intersectionality between each of our affinity and identity groups. We should all strive to advertise and attend each other’s events and help advance each other’s goals. Through solidarity, collaboration, and coalition-building we can all work to create spaces on this campus that better represent and reflect the interests of all members of the SOC community.
The burden of lifting oppression falls upon the oppressed, and nothing changes when we become complacent. Wesleyan affords each of us with certain privileges, but social justice ain’t a cute trend. It’s truly about survival. We acknowledge that this is a struggle and that our time at Wesleyan, as activists, will often make us tired and frustrated, but let us not be discouraged. Many have come before us and made progress while fighting for the same goals. They have laid the groundwork for us to be successful. Let’s be okay with knowing that there are things that we will not be able to accomplish, that we will not have the chance to do, but it is our responsibility to continue to build upon the foundation of our ancestors.
At times we may not be focused, but let’s try not to lose sight of our goal(s). Instead of letting our anger cloud our judgment, let’s use our emotion as fuel. Real change is implemented through strategic planning and resistance. Our community should be a space where we can support and challenge each other. We must actively work on communicating effectively, because if we continue to break up into smaller groups nothing will get done. Everyone has different obstacles, but this is not the oppression olympics. It is important to recognize our individual positions in the system without conflating our experiences with others who share an identity. Push yourself to learn your history, and our history as a community at Wesleyan. Knowledge is power. Acknowledge that liberation is an eternal process, not a destination. Do not let struggles hinder your focus. Look at failure as a point of provocation, not as a point of stagnation. Do not imagine a singular utopia, that will obscure the task at hand, and force everyone to fight for a restricted goal.
Provoke. Fight. Fracture. Demolish. Persevere. Celebrate our victories, but do not let them blind you from the work. We always need to keep going. Fuck respectability and assimilation politics. The work that you do is not about you. Make sure your activism does not end your generation, teach those that are coming after you. This is not easy, or comfortable, but nothing worth fighting for ever is.
Acknowledging that we have a responsibility to support each other, we hold ourselves accountable to strengthen each other’s voices. We call to each other to embody solidarity in our actions. Let this statement be a testimony to our collective power. We recognize this power and grant ourselves the agency to exercise it.
Signed in collaboration with the 2015 - 2016 Student of Color Coalition