I came into the position with a classical approach to social justice. My office mates and some of the people in leadership were working from what I identified as critical social justice. The two are very different in terms of their outcomes for society.
For example, classical social justice manifests things like equality of opportunity. That's very different from critical social justice, which emphasizes equal outcomes.
I would add that woke sees racism as systemic and present in every interaction. When our academic senate was drafting a resolution on racial healing, one of the lines was, "We acknowledge that America is a systemically racist country, and that it's founded on white supremacy.
I said, "I'm one of the people saying we're founded on fairness and equality. We can debate whether we've lived up to that, but to say we're founded on white supremacy and that racism is everywhere and systemic, that's problematic.”
That was the path I took, bringing people together to talk about what we mean by certain terms, so that we could all get on the same page and best serve our students. Even with different perspectives, we could identify some points of commonality.
We had a women, gender, and sexuality center on our campus. The coordinator for that office was saying that white faculty felt uncomfortable coming there.
My team and my supervising dean said, "What are you going to do about it?" They said, "We're not going to do anything. This is how we've structured this office. It's for BIPOC. That’s who’s welcome here." BIPOC means Black, indigenous, and people of color. I told them, "From my perspective, we're a public school. Anyone should be able to come to the center. It shouldn’t be about race."
Once one of the staff said, "Stop what you're doing right now. What you're doing is white speaking and whitesplaining. You're being a white supremacist." Everyone else on the team had these smug looks on their faces. From that moment on, every action I took was a confirmation of their idea, "She's a white supremacist."
I thought, "How dare they call me that? I'm a black woman, and I'm being called a white supremacist.” That had never happened in my entire teaching career. Not only that, I had never seen teachers calling each other names that way.
I’ve always told my students that to be a successful, they needed to be on time, to be objective, and to be curious. Now those qualities are relegated to whiteness. What does that say about the people promoting this? That people of color are not those things? That we’re not supposed to be objective or on time?
I didn't want to talk about being a victim and oppressed, or about grievances. But we're being made to focus on that because a small minority are intimidating bullies. They’re subverting the system to advance this toxic ideology.
I had to weigh that, because I have a family and all the things I'm working on career-wise. And the consequence is that I’ve lost a lot—my job and livelihood, and the tenure track position.
But what I've gained is so many people saying, "You inspired me to ask about my equity policy. You inspired me to go into my child's school and ask to see that curriculum, and to make a Public Records Act request if people aren't forthcoming with the information. You've inspired me to push back." To me, that’s worth everything, because that is what it’s going to take to get our nation back.