How do we move forward?

Congratulations on becoming the College’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. What are your goals in that role?

First and foremost, I’m really excited to join the College’s Diversity and Inclusion team. I’m really excited to be working with Assistant Dean Henne-Ochoa and Associate Dean Vivian Nun Halloran. What I’m hoping to do is move forward from talking about the problems. As academics, we talk a lot. We’re kind of like politicians—and I include myself in this issue— academics are a lot like politicians. We talk a lot about problems. We do a lot of research. We always want to have another committee about something. We want to say, ‘let’s do a survey and get more research’.

But what we want to do is move beyond the talking and the surveys and the research to actually implementing action items. Because we know what the issues are across this country. We know what they are, and we’ve known for a long time. We know what the issues on IU’s campus are, because they’re not really all that different from the issues across the country. What I think is important is that we signal to our students, staff and faculty that if we want to make this a more welcoming and safe environment and make it attractive to new faculty, new staff, and new potential students, then we need to begin moving away from talking to actually doing the work.

We need to decolonize our courses, classrooms, and syllabi, and make this a place where people don’t just say ‘I’m not a racist’, but where they are actually doing the work of being antiracist. By decolonization I’m referring to the process of deconstructing colonial ideologies of white, European superiority which privilege Western thought and approaches over all others. As an academic community, we need to think outside these imposed Euro-Western ideologies and practices that still frame most conversations in higher education with regard to our curricula and policies, and which clearly underpin all the socio-economic and governing structures of our society.

That’s why I’ve been encouraging people to read the work of Black thinkers and scholars like Ibram Kendi, Michelle Alexander, Bryan Stevenson, and James Baldwin, to name just a few. Because it challenges you to move into the actual walk of how to be an antiracist ally. That’s what I would like for us to do as a collective at IU and certainly in the College—move out of simply talking and move into the walk and begin to engage actively in dismantling the structures of white supremacy on our campus. Reading one of these books together as a campus community would be a great place to start.