Learning to be anti-racist: Calling IN white people and non-Black people of color

This post is written by Amelia Meman, ’15, Assistant Director in the Women’s Center.

I am trying to write this as plainly as I can because there are so many other words that are crowding racial justice spaces and many of them are stemming from the folks who could benefit from saying less in order to listen more.

Foreword: It is valid to feel and process through your pain, but the pain felt by our Black friends, family members, and community is not the same as the pain of white folks and non-Black people of color (POC). Feelings of anger, sadness, betrayal, frustration, exhaustion—all of those things make sense because we are in a time of massive unrest (and a pandemic to boot).

More importantly, it should not be Black people’s jobs to take care of and see to your pain right now. It is also not Black folks’s jobs to hold space for you to learn, to educate you, and to explain themselves.

That’s why I’m writing this. Because the burden we are placing on Black folks in all a manner of places right now, needs to be lifted. It is crucial that we center Black voices and words and prioritize creating and maintaining safe spaces for Black-identified people to feel.

Ally is a verb.

  • Being an “ally” is not a moniker that one earns through good intentions, donations, or rallies attended. You will never erase your white privilege, and just so, you will always have to work hard if you want to be an ally to the Black community.
  • Being an ally is a process-oriented way of being. It means being conscious of privilege and committed to learning more about social justice. It means that allyship comes from your actions and not from endpoints. In other words, allies are made by doing—not by showing. It is a title you are always earning and always striving to do better at.
  • Learn how to take feedback and correction. This work is messy and difficult. “Wokeness” does not come automatically (or ever, but that’s a different blogpost). If someone is calling you in or calling you out, especially if that person is Black-identified, listen and course-correct as needed. There’s no shame in changing your mind or letting people know you made a mistake. Feedback, the good critical kind, stems from a place of trust and care. Trust that you will do better. Care for you. Feedback takes work on both sides, and if someone is offering it to you, see it as a gift.

Check in with your people.

  • If you are white-identified, check in with other white people to see where they’re at. Hold space for them to be messy and for them to be uncomfortable. Use your privilege to be tolerant of others who are at different stages of racial consciousness. Yeah, it might feel better to unfriend your middle school friend who “does not understand why you’re supporting riots,” but frankly, this is not about your own sense of comfort and curated content. This is the time to dig in your heels, put on the armor afforded by your privilege, and either defend Black folks or help that person understand why they should care about racial justice.
  • If you are white-identified, check in with the POC in your lives, especially Black-identified people, and ask how you can support them. That might mean doing absolutely nothing. It might mean being okay with silence coming from the other end. It might mean donating money, giving rides, helping provide PPE for folks in marches, etc. Please offer your support and send your love, because people are hurting right now.
  • If you are a non-Black POC, check in with Black-identified folks and help to create, maintain, and safeguard Black-centering spaces. Help to uplift Black voices. Ask how you can support, and, again, be okay with silence on the other end.
  • As you reach out and check in, leave space for all of the ways of being. When a bad thing happens in someone’s life, we often default to problem solving and/or wanting to get someone to smile. I get it. It’s hard to watch and empathize with people who are pained. Right now, though, we do not need the reminder of silver linings, rainbows, or bright sides. Toxic positivity does not make us feel better—it does the opposite and perpetuates this idea that the only good way to be is happy. Here’s the thing: the only good way to be is how you are.

Educate yourself.

  • It is not the duty of Black folks to explain themselves or this moment to you.
  • Recognize that privilege and white supremacy are not just evidenced by the words we use. It is also about behavior, patterns of behavior, and the social value we give to some but not others. For example, if you are at a rally, pay attention to who grabs the microphone and what they have to say. Pay attention to the space white folks and non-Black folks take up whether through their speech or their behavior. Pay attention when a white woman’s tears are met with empathy or care, and when a Black woman’s raised voice and anger are met with eye rolls or pushback (for being “aggressive,” or “too much”). White people have access to so much more social value and acceptable behavior—pay attention to how that can dominate spaces.
  • The resources to understand white privilege and the role you can play in anti-racist work are available in many different places. Below there are a list of resources that you can search through.
  • Also! You do not need to know everything in order to do this work! Quality, not quantity! Frankly, the best thing you can learn to do is reorient your yourself so that you are open to feedback, open to learning more and/or changing your mind, and not having easy answers (see more on practicing cultural humility). Those paradigms do not come naturally to most people. We are acculturated to feel shame in not knowing and to hold fast to deeply entrenched beliefs, and so this work is difficult.
  • There are many ways to support Black lives and do anti-racist work. It’s not always about being in the streets. It’s sometimes about taking the time to have hard conversations with friends and family who are not totally getting it yet. It might be in taking the time to read a book. It might be in journaling and reflecting on how power and privilege come to play in your life. Just like any movement or group effort, it takes as much work as it does rest and reflection.

Are your social media posts effective in creating change? Or are they performative?

  • Social media messaging comes easily. It also means little to nothing beyond helping people see that you “care” about a cause. If you want to join in on hashtags and/or social media campaigns, that’s fine, but that should only be auxiliary to all of the work you can do to support Black lives. Those things include all of the recommendations in this blogpost and put more succinctly:
    • Donating
    • Reading
    • Listening
    • Contacting government officials and those in elected office
  • Always. Be. Critically. Engaged. It can be tempting to retweet, repost, share messaging from others’ making powerful statements—BUT when you’re jumping into the trend, look at the “why” and the “who” of what is being posted.
    • Quick killjoy jab: corporations do not care about Black lives right now. They care about where you would like to put your money. Just like with human activists, look at what companies DO and NOT what they SAY.
    • For a case study on this, see the origins of #BlackoutTuesday and how far it strayed from the initial campaign by Jamila Thomas and Brianna Agyemang, two black women working in the music industry.
  • Ask yourself why you are posting anything at all:
    • What purpose is this message serving?
    • Who is this message serving?
    • Who is the audience?
Graphic from the @take.back.theinternet.
Graphic from the @take.back.theinternet.

Solidarity is the way.

Quick preface: If you’re reading this blog, you have probably gotten to a place of understanding with the difference between “Black Lives Matter” and “All Lives Matter.” The idea of Black lives mattering does not negate others’ importance. Rather it shines a light on the discrepancy between how certain lives are valued more than others.

  • The only way through is together. This is not a feel-good statement—it is a hard truth. My survival is tied to yours and we can only do the radical work of anti-racism by understanding that solidarity is key. This means allying with causes and movements that do not necessarily center your own social identities.
  • Deepa Iyer writes about the difference between transactional and transformational solidarity practices. She uses the case study of attending a rally: in transactional solidarity, one would attend a Black Lives Matter rally in support and return home to post pictures from the rally on my social media profiles. In transformational solidarity practice, one brings friends to the rally, learns more about the historical roots of the cause you’re supporting, engages in deep and meaningful dialogue, and shows up to more rallies on and on.
    • Transformational solidarity practice stretches the activist and the movement in beneficial ways. The actions taken in this practice have the potential to create meaningful change.

I know that was a lot. If you’ve read to the end here, then you might be feeling many different things. Offended, confused, validated, relieved, upset, guilty–and that’s okay. This is the time and the space for sorting through the discomfort of anti-racist work.

Please know that I write this with as much love (albeit tough) as I can muster. I believe in you.

Quotation from Lilla Watson, Aboriginal Australian visual artist and activist.

Thank you to the Mosaic Center for curating many parts of the following Resources list in their recent posting on myUMBC. As UMBC’s leaders in helping our communities embrace and affirm diversity and inclusion, the Mosaic Center is more important than ever. The Women’s Center is, as ever, in close partnership and solidarity with the Mosaic, and we will always commit to that. Thank you, Mosaic Team, for all you do to make the UMBC community and our world a better place.

Resources*

* There are a lot of resources below. A lot. This work is not being timed. There is no deadline. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Many folks feel an urgency to read! All! The! Things! And yes, this work is urgent but also must be sustainable. Take breaks. Breathe. Set SMART goals when it comes to reading, learning, and digesting so as not to burn yourself out. 

Books:

Readings:

Podcasts:

Collections:

Resources for white parents to raise anti-racist children:

UMBC Organizations:

More Organizations:

‘Pandemic: New Horizons’ or How Animal Crossing and Other Games Offer Comfort in Chaos

Kaitlyn is a junior Social Work major and is a student staff member at the Women’s Center.

Are you feeling isolated? Lonely? Lost in a chaotic world that doesn’t make sense anymore? Me too! At a time where we feel more out of control than ever, video games are something that I know many of us are using to keep us going. I asked some of my friends what games they were playing, and how it’s been helping them cope with the chaos. Everyone agreed that the games they were playing functioned as a distraction, and something that brought them joy. Others felt that it brought a sense of control.

In terms of control, I feel like we’re lacking a lot of that right now during this pandemic. I don’t get to visit people, go out to movies or restaurants, or even just stop by a Yankee Candle to get too many candles (when you think about it, the scented candle industry is hit pretty hard here). In Animal Crossing, I can feel control… I get to decide what I want to do, where I want to go, what flowers I’m going to plant, and even if I want to sell my prized oarfish or give it to the museum. Really, I just want to keep it forever. Regardless of my fish-mongering tendencies, it’s nice to build a world all your own where animals are neighbors and you have no-interest loans. It’s like a lucid daydream in some ways.

-Amelia

Rosie had some more…unique hopes for the games.

If I make my island in animal crossing perfect, then maybe one day I’ll get sucked into my switch and live out the rest of my existence on this island where I can play with cute animals.

-Rosie

Games can also be a great way to connect to friends during a time where a lot of us are feeling isolated.

animal crossing is my heart and soul. i can dress however i want, talk to the cutest little islander characters, and visit my friend’s islands! it helps me stay connected to the people i hold close in my life.

-Scout

While animal crossing is a popular choice during this pandemic, there are some other games that are getting people through too! Kay has been playing a lot of Stardew Valley in recent weeks.

Stardew Valley is a game you can’t rush through. It guides me in being patient and taking time to enjoy the game.You can slowly build relationships with the other characters in Stardew Valley. Every CPU character has their own personality, daily routine, likes and dislikes. Over time you learn more about the townsfolk!

-Kay

Autumn has been playing a lot of old school runescape. Her favorite part? The grind. They also find the game to be a good distraction.

It’s a massive time sink that I can play without thinking about much else.

-Autumn

Not only are video games a fun way to distract yourself from the terrifying reality that we’re facing, they can be really affirming too! In Animal Crossing for example, clothing and hairstyle choices aren’t confined to binary gendered options. You can design your character however you like, and have fun designing your character to be whatever feels best for that day. There are endless possibilities!

In ACNH, they default to they/them pronouns for everyone. That feels really really good.

-Amelia

I’ve been playing a ton of Animal Crossing lately. Hanging out with my cute islanders, listening to the calming music, and decorating the island all bring a little more peace to my life. It’s a strange and scary world right now, and it’s okay to feel every bit of that confusion or grief or fear. And, when all that feeling gets a little too overwhelming, it’s okay to escape for a while into whatever world makes you happy.  

A Mother’s Day Shout Out (Plus Some Action Items)

This post was written by Women’s Center director, Jess Myers as a tribute to our UMBC moms. Special thanks to the moms who provided photos to help curate our Women’s Center moms collage. Wishing happy thoughts to all our UMBC moms in your first and hopefully last quarantined Mother’s Day! 


Self-Care Content Note: There’s lots of reasons why Mother’s Day can be hard for a lot of different people. We see you and your story and your pain and hurt matter to us too. Be kind to yourself. Create boundaries in ways that feel right for you. Reach out to someone who can validate your real emotions that don’t require censorship.

Image with 6 different flower bouquets to represent various challenges for people on Mother's Day. Text reads: Thinking of you: Mothers who have lost children; Those who have lost mothers; Those with strained mother relationships; Mothers with strained child relationships; Those who have chosen not to be mothers; Those yearning to be mothers.

To those who may be hurting. We see you.


Okay, so let’s just put this out there. My mom is my favorite human being. So much so, I just got teared up writing that last sentence.

How else can I explain it? I remember one Mother’s Day when I was in high school. My mom and I were in the car to go visit my Busia (that’s grandmother in Polish). We were listening to the radio and a caller request came in. The caller explained that the requested song for her mom was “their song.” And, as caller requests go – she shouted out her mom, said she loved her, probably gave a woooo!!!, and then the song came on.

It was Celion Dion’s Because You Loved Me.  

It took all of three seconds for my mom and I to look at each other with the biggest “wows” on our faces (also mom upside down is wow). A love song. A love song for a mother and daughter. By then we had pulled up to my Busia’s house, but we just sat in the car, listened to the lyrics, and cried. And, that was the moment we too had a love song.  I am everything I am because my mom loves me.

IMG_6610

Jess and her mom with True Grit at UMBC’s Faculty and Staff Awards celebration in 2018! 

I could go on and on, but the point of this blog post isn’t to gush about mom (well not exactly). It’s about gushing about you, Dear Moms of the Women’s Center at UMBC.

To the moms who serve or who have served on the Women’s Center Advisory Board

To the Returning Women Student Scholars + Affiliates Moms and all of our student moms

To the moms who have spent countless hours in our lactation room pumping away

 To the moms who have served as staff members over the decades

To our Friends of the Women’s Center Moms

To the moms who have donated their money, their time, their skills to support our mission

To those who aren’t moms but support and champion the work of the Women’s Center because of the space and meaning it holds for moms

Thank you for you. Thank you for being a part of the Women’s Center community. In the words of Celine Dion, we are everything we are because you love us… you make us a stronger and richer community because we get to learn from you, benefit from your skills, and call you our friends and allies.

 


So, in honor of all these brilliant moms we offer some suggestions and action items to take this Mother’s Day weekend:

Virtual ways to celebrate or honor a mom in your life:

  • Plan a virtual Mother’s Day celebration. I know, the Zoom burnout is real but how can you get creative so it doesn’t feel like another work or school meeting? Send invites, encourage people to dress up or bring some fancy snacks to the call, or make it a game/trivia call. 
  • Not up for organizing something? Watch something together that’s already planned like Un Dia Especial con Mamá (Special Day with Mama) hosted by Creative Alliance, Somos Baltimore Latino, Nuestras Raíces Inc., and Artesanas Mexicanas. The live stream begins at 11am on Mother’s Day. 
  • Zoom again but this time with the kiddos! Give a mom you love the chance to take a deep breath by offering to entertain their little ones via Zoom by reading them a story or leading an activity.
  • Send or drop off a care package or meal.
  • Create a grateful jar. What are the things you’re grateful for when it comes to a special mom in your life. Write it down and put it in a jar so that gratitude can be called upon in times of need. This can be an individual or collective effort.  
  • Send some snail mail (or a text!). ! If there are people in your life that could benefit from feeling seen and appreciated on Mother’s Day, consider writing them a thoughtful note, reminding them you’re here for them, or simply drawing something that words can’t quite capture. As we reminded folks in the content note above, there are lots of feelings people can experience on or close to Mother’s day. Acknowledge and validate those feelings.
  •  This list not working for you? That’s okay! Let Google be your friend or let this simply be the beginning of a creative brainstorm session.

To help advocate for a mom in your life:

For those of us who aren’t moms, we may have no idea what it’s like to be a mom in quarantine. Even moms in quarantine won’t know exactly what other moms are going through. What we do know, though, is that at home and on the front line of this pandemic, women are essential.

So how can you learn more? Here’s a few recommended readings and podcasts. After checking out those, consider ways you can advocate for mothers in your own life and spheres of influence. As always, we appreciate your own ideas and suggestions in the comments!

 

Virtual Sexual Assault Awareness Month: Honoring + Believing Survivors’ Stories (Week 3) Round-Up

In the absence of physical space to learn, create, and come together, the Women’s Center is taking Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) 2020 online. Each week during April, we will focus on a specific topic/theme as it relates to sexual violence awareness and prevention (see image below). Together, via out social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, we can watch videos, read articles, and engage in other content for learning and skill-building.

UMBC’s Sexual Assault Awareness Month online calendar includes weekly themes to help explore important concepts related to sexual violence awareness and prevention.

Were you taking a break from social media last week? That’s great! But it doesn’t mean you have to miss anything. In addition to posting on social media throughout the month, at the end of each week, we’ll provide a round-up of all the content we shared along with some action items to consider doing.

We just wrapped up week three of SAAM and spent the last several days discussing the importance of believing and honoring survivors stories through the following content:

1. Have you heard of the Clothesline Project?  Every year students, faculty, and staff  make t-shirts describing their experience with relationship violence and sexual assault. Typically these t-shirts would be hung shoulder-to-shoulder on a clothesline for public viewing, as if the survivors are there themselves, telling us their stories. The Clothesline Project gives voice to the experiences of survivors, victims, family, and friends who have been affected by violence. This year, we are creating a virtual Clothesline Project as a way of continuing to honor survivors stories.  Submissions can be found on our social media.

2. Take Back The Night

Take Back the Night is an annual event that brings awareness to sexual violence and creates public space for survivors of sexual violence to share their stories. It’s something many of us look forward to every year as a time for community, strength, and healing. It would have been held on April 16th.  Although we couldn’t come together in person, we still wanted to honor the stories of survivors at UMBC. Watch this video to learn more.

3. Chanel Miller’s book “Know My Name”

Chanel Miller’s book is a powerful memoir of strength and survival. Read her words and honor her story, and the stories of all survivors. 

Important Take-Away:

Listen to Survivors stories. Without judgement and without questions.

Believe Survivors. No matter what they were wearing, what they were drinking, or what they did afterwards. Believe them. 

Now that you’ve got some good items in your tool kit, what will you do with them? Here’s some Action Items:

  • Watch a movie or TV show centered on survivors’ experiences.  “The Hunting Ground” and “Unbelievable” are unflinching looks into the reality of the sexual assault crisis in the United States. “Nanette” and “Rape Jokes” are hilarious comedy specials that critique rape culture from a survivors perspective. 
  • Listen to Chanel Millers “Give a Damn Speech”. Delivered at the Glamour Woman of the Year awards, her speech is an important reminder to not just believe survivors, but give a damn about them. The speech can be found here.
  • Reflect on how you interact with the survivors in your life. Take what you’ve learned and implement it!

Follow the Women’s Center on myUMBCFacebook, Twitter, and Instagram for SAAM updates and information throughout the month of April. You can also stay up-to-date by following #UMBCsaam 


Throughout this time of distance learning, campus staff are still here and available for support. Do not hesitate to reach out for questions, concerns, or care.

On-Campus Resources Available for Virtual Support: 

To report a complaint of sexual misconduct or discrimination, please submit this online form

FEMINIST KILLJOY ALERT: Stop Making Fun of Black and Brown Girls

Nandi is a Junior, English major, student staff at the Women’s Center, and member of the Retriever Poets slam poetry team

(Still from Girlhood (2014))

  Picture this: It is 7:25AM in your high school. You are a student there again (I know, bare with me). You are barely awake, as is the natural order of things. Then, from the stupor of the morning a voice rings out clear as the lunch bell, “GIRL BYE, YOU PLAY TOO MUCH. SEE YOU, BESTIE”. She strolls into homeroom, late like every day, in pajama pants with an Arizona iced tea firmly in hand. You wonder how she can muster up the will to socialize outside of polite grunts at this hour, and you decide that you’ll just never get it. She is extremely friendly with the teacher while she expertly swoops her baby hairs into little parabolas. Everyone in the room seems on edge. She is so outside of the norm that nobody quite knows how to handle her, so most just settle on annoyance. But really, what makes her so different? Perhaps it is the fact that on a girl who already operates at about a 7-9, darker skin just seems to turn everything up to 11. 

     Navigating the school system as Black and Brown girls is no easy task. Especially at a predominantly white institution (PWI) that seldom gives you the space to express yourself fully. Seizing the little opportunities that you get to be yourself is so crucial to staying afloat in a system that, due to varying forms of segregation in most places, was built specifically to exclude you. For a lot of girls, and women, that may look like having your favorite snack in your bag, doing beauty rituals every day, or laughing as loud as you possibly can whenever the mood strikes. But again, you are at a PWI so how is all of this being filtered through the white gaze? 

     Recently on Tik-Tok, the latest video format social media app, teens have been making a barrage of memes about the “Hot Cheeto Girls” at their schools. The jokes range from harmless self-roasts reliant on the Hot Cheeto Girl as a framing device, to downright racist depictions by white teens. Now, memes are memes, but examining the origins of our humor opens us up to exploring our internal biases and unspoken beliefs. The beliefs presented here are somewhat obvious and representative of known implicit biases in the school system. People feel that Hot Cheeto Girls are extraordinarily loud, which is underscored by the belief that these young women should be quiet. Classmates find them mean and abrasive, and we know that Black and Brown women are consistently seen as far more aggressive than their white counterparts. Hot Cheeto Girls are stereotyped as “ghetto”, which places them right in the cross-hairs of ALL the violent discrimination that the term evokes. 

     Being up against all of this racism, misogyny, and misogynoir and still choosing to be your authentic self takes a lot of confidence. The double-edged sword here is the fact that expressing this confidence daily renders these young women hypervisible. Hypervisibility is the way that people of color are subjected to higher levels of surveillance and judgement, which results in more focus on their shortcomings and failures. Constantly being under the microscope in this way is damaging because it carries over into other areas of life. Being conditioned by the school system and their peers to see themselves as too loud, too disruptive, too aggressive, and deviant just by way of existing in their bodies contributes to lower self-esteem overall. In short, it just isn’t fair to be the butt of everyone’s joke. 

(from @whorati0 on TikTok)

     I think that there should be more jokes in praise of the Hot Cheeto Girl. I think that we should recognize their inherent joy and infectious laughter. I think that working to cultivate more genuine self-expression in schools at every level is something that we should do more. This world, so wrapped up in oppressive, normative fallacies, would be far more equitable and inclusive if people took the time to challenge their biases before making fun of what is strange to them. Recognizing women of color’s voices, especially when they are loud and excitable, as valuable and vibrant is a small step that all of us in academia can take to realize this goal.     

Do Better: From A Non-Disabled Person’s Perspective

My hopes are that the following is both a call out and a call in.

I am a non-disabled, white, college-educated, young adult and I’ve had a difficult time vouching for myself in many environments such as in the classroom, workforce, and even day to day moments in life. I am among a majority privileged group who are more readily given a platform from others within the privileged and majority group. As a social work major, I have been taught to use my power to amplify the voices of marginalized people. Today, I want to use this platform to talk about accessibility.

What is a “disability?”

According to the Americans with Disabilities (ADA), a disability is defined as, “A physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of the major life activities.” However, a truly accurate definition of a disability is difficult to produce. There are many variations of what type of disability, or disabilities, a person may experience such as:

  • Visual disabilities
  • Auditory disabilities
  • Cognitive disabilities
  • Neurological disabilities
  • Physical disabilities
  • Speech disabilities
  • Sensory disabilities 
  • Psychological disabilities

There are as many differences between the experiences of each person with a disability as the differences between people who are non-disabled. Every person is different and it’s important to be as inclusive as possible to these differences.

What is the ADA? 

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal civil rights law that was passed by Congress in 1990. Its goal is to provide protections for people with disabilities against discriminatory behavior. It is divided into 5 Titles: I. Employment, II. State and Local Government, III. Public Accommodations, IV. Telecommunications, and V. Miscellaneous Provisions. Each of these titles attempts to ensure that people with disabilities are provided the same opportunities and rights as everyone else. There have been amendments to the ADA to clarify the definition of a disability. Even so, the revisions made over the past 30 years have not been expansive enough to fully include all those who experience a disability. 

Though the ADA exists and applies to all entities in the US, many environments believe they do not need to comply with ADA requirements. Some people believe that folks who report ADA violations are purely looking to gain money from a lawsuit. Others believe that it’s too expensive to create accommodations for their facilities. There are many other reasons for this, but ultimately each one is ableist. 

For example, rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft have been known to deny people with disabilities service. This mistreatment of people with disabilities is harmful to say the least. 

over it smh GIF by iOne Digital

What is “ableism?”

The Merriam-Webster definition of ableism is “discrimination or prejudice against individuals with disabilities.” However, ableism is more complex than this. Think of it this way

“Structural ableism assumes that there is an ideal body and mind that is better than all others, and ableists build a world in which this ideal can thrive and others cannot.” –Hanna Thomas & Anna Hirsch

Ableism is a mindset. Non-disabled people have set a norm that there is a right and wrong way to be as a person. The language we use to discuss people with disabilities is often harmful and has been created without folks with disabilities in mind. 

Some people are intentional about their ableist actions whereas others do so while unaware. Beyond individual actions, though, are the systemic inequities that do harm at structural levels and trickle down to individuals.

To undo these harmful patterns, it is imperative to be aware and intentional when talking about people with disabilities. Not all people with disabilities have a visible disability nor are they required to disclose their disability status with anyone. In fact, almost 20% of the U.S. population reported having a disability in the 2010 census

It is imperative for folks to shift their perspective when thinking of giving accommodations to people who are different than them. Rather than viewing differences as a challenge, know that every person has value and should be treated as such.

go team fist bump GIF by Cartoon Hangover

How is the ADA enforced?

Through lawsuits and settlements. This means that many establishments can get away with not being ADA compliant until someone reports them. Once an individual reports an establishment for an ADA violation, they are first interviewed to determine if the discrimination is evident before any action is taken. Only those who have thorough proof are considered when attempting to get justice. 

Additionally, the ADA requirements are not widely taught in architecture school. This furthers the creation of spaces that are not ADA compliant. 

There are gaps in our legal and education systems. People with marginalized identities are often left behind. Statistically, there is a high rate of intimate partner violence and sexual violence among people with disabilities. Our services must be welcoming and inclusive to vulnerable communities.

What does all of this mean?

When in a position of power, it’s essential to keep all of this in mind. Advocates must acknowledge the aspects of their identities that are privileged and learn how to properly understand folks who are different from them. You can follow the ADA requirements and still be exclusive. If you are a professional, you hold a position of power and it should be in your best interest to hold an inclusive and accommodating space for all potential patients, clients, students, or whoever you work with. 

“A completely accessible group does not exist. The important thing is that groups keep learning and keep thinking about how people might be excluded.” -Liz Kessler

Listen to people with disabilities and be sure that they are a part of the conversation. It’s better to ask someone what they may need from you than for you to make assumptions or ignore them. Your actions do have consequences and the people you work with deserve the most accommodating and inclusive version of yourself. 

joy love GIF by caitcadieux

Resources

If you are considering filing a complaint the following are some resources: 

Maryland State Level Complaint Process

Federal Level Complaint Process

Someone’s First-hand Experience Filing 

Advice When Filing

To learn more information as a non-disabled person:

Do These 39 Simple Things to Make Your Student Life Opportunities More Accessible

Increasing Neurodiversity in Disability and Social Justice Advocacy Groups

Create an Inclusive Movement

Microsoft Accessible Events Guide

Accessible Syllabus Guide

UMBC Specific Information:

Connect with Student Disability Services

____________________________________________________

Note: This is from an non-disabled person’s perspective. Please reach out to the Women’s Center email with any recommendations or requests for revisions at womenscenter@umbc.edu.

____________________________________________________

Things They Didn’t Tell Us: Recovering From Microaggressions

KayThis post is written by Kay Hinderlie, a student staff at the Women’s Center. Kay is a senior at UMBC, majoring in psychology.

Imagine it’s the first day of your semester. After locating your class, you find a seat and reach into your backpack for your class materials. You check to make sure your phone is on silent, to keep your goofy ringtone from interrupting the lecture. The class begins and you finally look up from your desk. You look around and are quick to realize the situation you’re in for the rest of the semester. In the class, everyone looks pretty similar, and you’re the only one in a wheelchair, that has kids, of a different skin color, wearing a hijab.

giphyujuu

If you have a marginalized identity (and experienced something like the situation above), you’re probably familiar with microaggressions. They are usually a comment or action that subtly and often unconsciously or unintentionally expresses a prejudiced attitude toward a member of a marginalized group (Merriam-Webster). By now, you might be tired of having to speak for your whole race and/or ethnicity, frustrated by the task of constantly re-explaining your pronouns, exhausted by not being taken seriously in a class as a woman in a male-dominated academic field. In these moments you may not feel comfortable with confronting the person (or people) committing these microaggressions. Speaking up could cause resentment, especially if the aggressor is in a position of power. 

For me, as a queer person of color, handling microaggressions has often taken the form of de-escalating the situation in the moment, and though it’s a necessary survival skill, I forget to tend to the ways microaggressions have personally affected me. I’ve been taught how to handle microaggressions from a young age, but I’ve never been given a blueprint of how to heal and bounce back from these instances.

This brings me to the onus behind this blogpost: How can marginalized groups heal from the effects of microaggressions?

People who experience microaggressions can benefit from learning how to recover from them. Victims of microaggressions can learn to process the effects of the things said or done to them, and let go of the burden put on them by their aggressor. Though microaggressions can be broad and general, developing coping skills is a personal journey that involves individual decision making and finding what fits best for you. There’s no one way to heal from a microaggression; it looks different for everyone. One could cope using mindfulness and meditation, by journaling, reading, drawing, doing arts and crafts (links below). It’s important to find what works for you to help process microaggressions and feel good about yourself. Trying coping mechanisms is often a process of trial and error, but worth the effort. 

giphygrowth

Through learning some of my own coping mechanisms I’m more able to let go of the weight felt by microaggressions. For example, I like to watch anime when I feel overwhelmed, not only because of the drawn out fight scenes that are fun to watch, but because even though most of the anime I watch follows the “hero’s journey” archetype. The simple and predictable nature paired with the individualized character development in each story gives me a chance to take a break from overthinking. Watching anime, laughing at it, being in awe of it allows me to calm and collect my thoughts and feelings.

During the times when people may feel actively marginalized in their identities, it’s important to find an outlet to express their frustrations and disappointment. Whether facing social, psychological, or physical challenges, the burden of being marginalized in any way can be large, so it’s important to find space to release burdens and be validated and uplifted by others. These spaces can look like many things: a group of friends, family members, a therapist, forums, social media (Twitter and Tumblr are some good ones), journals, blogs etc. For the sake of your mental health, it’s important to find ways to vent and take the burden of carrying marginalized identities off of your shoulders by receiving empathy and validation from others.

giphyhxh

Sometimes we’re lucky enough to have and share spaces specifically designated for people looking for empathy in their identity. UMBC, for example, hosts many spaces on campus where students can find a feeling of security to let out their frustrations and concerns. Places on campus include the Mosaic Center, the Pride Center, and the Women’s Center. 

Regardless of where you are and what resources exist, your ability to build and maintain resilience has to be prioritized.

So it’s a new semester, you’re the only person who looks like you in the classroom. I can’t guarantee that microaggressions will happen, nor can I guarantee that they won’t. Whatever happens, I encourage you to find support. I see you. I believe you. You matter.


Resources:

Safe Spaces in Maryland

APA on Microaggressions

Harvard Gazette- Impacts of Microaggressions

 

Introducing… Bri Gumbs, Program Coordinator!

The Women’s Center is pleased to introduce Bri Gumbs, pronouns she/her/hers, as our full-time program coordinator and the newest addition to the Women’s Center professional staff team! Please help us give the warmest of UMBC welcomes to Bri! Below is a short bio so you can learn a little bit about the newest member of our team! You can meet her in-person when you come into the Women’s Center as she will be one of the first people to welcome you into our space. 

portrait of new staff member Bri; a person with long brown hair and a wide-brimmed hat smiling.Bri, identifies herself as an unapologetic queer, multi-racial Latinx, womxn. Born and raised in San Diego, CA Bri has devoted her work to being an educator, femtor and advocate for increasing and improving access, representation and retention for students with underrepresented identities in higher education by using an intersectional feminist framework. The revolutionary work of Audre Lorde, The Combahee River Collective, Marsha P, Silvia Rivera and Gloria Anzaldua continues to inspire and motivate her to be an agent of change. Bri hopes to empower others to speak their truth, mobilize and cultivate community care and joy in their various communities. Bri loves her two cats and her extensive hat collection! Bri expresses her truth through zine making, personal narratives, affirmations and through the various community programs she continues to create and facilitate. Bri holds a B.A in Psychology with a minor in Counseling and Social Change and a M.A in Student Affairs.  

Our 2019-2020 Staff!

As we enter into the 2019-2020 school year, we are excited to introduce you to the brilliant, creative, and driven UMBC students working in the Women’s Center! Please take a minute or two to read through some short bios below, and hopefully, you’ll be able to meet and make friends with each one of these lovely folks working with us over the school year. group photo of the Women's Center staff membersKaitlyn Kylus, Social Work, she/her

Headshot of KaitlynHello! My name is Kaitlyn and I’m a junior this year. I’m majoring in Social Work with a minor in Psychology, and I’m super excited to be working at the Women’s Center this year. I can’t wait to meet you all!

I’m also the Secretary of We Believe You and the Vice President of UMBC Debate Club.In my spare time you can catch me painting, watching cat videos, or taking a nap. Feel free to come say hi, and if you have pictures of your cat, please show me!

 

Kay Hinderlie, Psychology, they/them

Hi folks! I’m Kay, and I’m a senior at UMBC. I am pursuing a BA in Psychology with a minor in Gender and Women’s Studies. When I’m not in the Women’s Center or in classes, you would probably find me watching cartoons or taking napping. I love trying new things! I’ve taken up playing video games and listening to podcasts less than a year ago. If you see me around, please feel free to say hi!

Morgan Mullings, Media and Communication Studies, she/her and they/them

Hi! My name is Morgan and I’m a senior here at UMBC pursuing a BA in Media and Communications major with minors in English and Cinematic Arts. I am a poet, photographer, and aspiring filmmaker and most of my work stems from my own identity and experiences as a woman of color. If I’m not working at the Women’s Center you can find me watching Ghost Shark (2013) with my friends. I am also a huge stationary nerd and I worked at commonvision so ask me any question about a piece of paper.

If I could be any mythical creature it would be a unicorn that only speaks in quotes about intersectional feminism.

Sam Hertl, Social Work, they/them

Hello! My name is Sam and I’m a Social Work major with a Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies minor at UMBC. I’ll be working in the Women’s Center this year to fulfill my senior year Social Work Field Placement. I’ll be helping facilitate the discussion groups Between Women and We Believe You. I am passionate about advancing gender equity especially with a focus on the trans and genderqueer community. I’m looking forward to the connections I will be making and the knowledge that I’ll gain while a part of the Women’s Center community!

Additionally, I’m a big animal person (please show me pictures of your pets)! I’m an RA on campus, an aries, an artist, and an activist. Feel free to chat with me anytime!