Welcome to the fall 2020 semester: Intersectionality and colllaborations matter
After completing my first year in the role of University Diversity and Inclusion Officer, and given the extraordinarily anxious and uncertain historical conjuncture that we are experiencing, writing this welcoming note for the beginning of this fall 2020 semester is not an easy task. I do believe it is always crucial to feel welcomed, not to mention, in this specific moment of multiple local, national, and global crises.
I would especially like to welcome our incoming and ongoing student population. Many of our incoming, first-year students were born around 9-11; and with all the pain and trauma that surrounds not only that day but the years following that moment. They finished their last year of high school amidst a global pandemic, generalized lockdowns and political upheavals and unresolved demands. Now, they initiate their higher education having to face not simply the usual anxieties of this new, college phase in their lives, but burdened by the decades, centuries-old legacies of racial injustice, colonization, sexism/misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia and classism.
Yet, I am also constantly inspired and learn from the accumulated wisdom of this new youth that knows that imposed categories, such as stereotypes and classifications, are to be challenged, while also embracing a capacity for complex understandings of multiple forms of systemic discrimination. In the words of the great Audre Lorde, “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives”. Consequently, if alongside the personal disquiet and national turmoil that we are experiencing, there is also a recognized distinctiveness of this moment, in terms of optimistic possibilities, that moment, our moment, has to be one of strong and evolving collaborations around the issues of not only diversity and inclusion, but critically, equity and social justice.
Our moment also requires direct acknowledgement and understanding of our intersectionalities; that is, “the multiple and intersecting forms of structural discrimination that individuals and communities experience”, alongside race/ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, social class, immigration status, disability, language, age and other. That is, precisely, the focus of our work—collaborations and intersectionality.
University Diversity and Inclusion Officer