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Division of Student Affairs Winter Gathering Q&A

Once again, thanks to all of you who were able to join us for the Winter Gathering. As you may be aware, there were three questions that were left unanswered during the live event due to time constraints. Fortunately, Desiree agreed to answer those questions post-event. You can review the questions and her responses below:

As the black/white binary morphs and morphs, how do we prevent a new hierarchy that privileges another people group from taking form?

We cannot do this work without centering racial healing. When we think about racial healing, we want to think really expansively about that and the design of that work is to embrace all people- even the oppressors. All people suffer from the fallacy of supremacy. We all suffer from this hierarchy of human value and this deeply internalized false belief. So this work of equity is really about eradicating the belief system of supremacy. Our work as individuals is to look at whatever it is deep within us that makes us feel we are superior to someone else. That is the work.


How do we reconcile the foundations of white supremacy in our institutions, calls for their abolition, and people’s livelihoods?

One of the ways I reconcile is understanding how socialization occurs. I go deep into the ways that we are socialized and we have to remember that these systems of oppression were already created without us. One way we do this is by controlling the narrative. Narrative change is a powerful tool to use within our institutions.

One of the questions I always ask is who was this institution built by and who was this institution built for, as a place to start having these deeper discussions around narrative. The last thing is we have to know that there are some systems that were literally created to maintain this hierarchy of human value- the legal system is created to maintain the fallacy of a hierarchy of human value, the economy is a system of hierarchy of human value. One of the ways that I navigate it, and it may work for y’all, is I always say I am transactional with systems.  I am transformational with humans.

I will be transactional with capitalism all day long, but I am never transactional with the workers who are involved in this unjust system


What are some grace pieces we can keep in mind as we see black and brown folks in leadership positions not "doing"; what we think they should be at their level?

Perfection is a tool of white supremacy.   So I have no expectation that folks will always do things right—sometime we have to be complicit to survive.  I never tell anyone how to find their freedom.
That is not my job. I am very clear that I never want to replicate systems of harm. I am never going to treat people, especially other black or Brown people, the way white supremacy has treated me. We have to always understand the trauma that folks are carrying and the ways this system has taught us not to be audacious, not to build real relationship, how this system has taken away our imagination and connectivity and understanding of true liberation. I show as much grace as I can, I show as much gratitude as I can in hopes that the days that I need it, it will be given back to me.
When I think about this work I think about relationships being at the center. I'd rather be in right relationship with someone than not. I think about the resources that we both need so that we can survive and how I can share mine. I think about what reciprocity looks like in our lives, and I think of what redistribution of power, resources, and time looks like. There are times where black and Brown people will disappoint you in this work, because we are all human.

I always hold space and room for their growth and evolution as well as my own and always keep connection to relationship with them because we don't get free without them. And we do not leave them behind.

We only and always get free together.