Equity Week Calls for Reckoning with America’s Violence and Racism

More than 500 faculty and students attended last week’s virtual 2021 Equity Conference, learning how we can connect for co-liberation. Though speakers presented on a variety of topics, most touched on our need to reckon with America’s violence against Blacks and the country’s systems of racism, sexism, and trans- and LGBTQIA-phobia before we can heal and solve these challenges.

President Charles Toombs and Associate Vice Presidents Sharon Elise and Margarita Berta-Ávila framed the week’s sessions by discussing CFA’s work in disrupting and interrupting racist and unjust systems in the CSU, and validating the experiences of faculty and students of color (photo). 

“We will fight for a fair contract and we will fight for social justice,” Toombs said. “This is love work. We do this work with love.”

One of the more emotional discussions of the week was Rev. angel Kyodo Williams urging us to be present with discomfort within our bodies because it gives us perspective on racism, sexism, trans- and LGBTQIA-phobia, climate injustice, and capitalism. If we can’t be with ourselves, we can’t trust ourselves, she said.

Dr. Fania Davis spoke with attendees about restorative justice in higher education. Instead of avoiding conflict, educators should lean in so that people and communities can learn and heal. As Dr. Davis says, “If crime hurts, justice should heal.”

Dr. Tara Yosso presented on the community cultural wealth that is often unrecognized and unacknowledged in schools and universities. She urged us to lift as we climb the ladder.

Racial equity scholar Dr. Shaun Harper reviewed his work rooting out racism in higher education, highlighted the importance of decolonizing curriculum, and warned that universities underprepare students to talk about and deal with racism.

Acclaimed author of There There Tommy Orange talked about how the CSU can be more inclusive of Native American and Indigenous students. Orange also emphasized the importance of Ethnic Studies in high schools and in higher education to help us reckon with history, praising CFA’s advocacy for a CSU Ethnic Studies graduation requirement.

Comedian Jenny Yang uplifted attendees with her sharp wit on racism, sexism, politics, and unionism.

Takeaways from Dr. Loretta Ross’s joyous session (photo) on Calling in the Call Out Culture included: Have fun fighting for human rights! Give call-out feedback with love, respect, and compassion. There’s a lot of hope in young people. Ross encouraged attendees to break up with shame to help America reckon with and heal from discrimination and violence against people of color. 

“Our speakers/teachers this past week really advanced our understanding of what we need to ‘connect for co-liberation.’ We want to ‘hold each other’s hearts in our hands’ as we lovingly ‘call people in’ (instead of calling them out),” said Elise, CFA Associate Vice President of Racial and Social Justice, South. “We need to help each other transform our pedagogies to ‘value the community cultural wealth’ we and our students bring to the university. We need to be sensitive – oh, so sensitive – to the intergenerational trauma we carry and to the fact that even asserting our very identities as BIPOC people is an ‘act of resistance.’ Let us ‘face who we are as a nation’ as we ‘reimagine and revision safety for healing,’ not policing. And, along the way, let us remember to celebrate our selves, be deliberately joyous, and laugh together.”

Much gratitude to all of our Equity Week’s powerful presenters, thought-provoking panelists, and diligent ASL interpreters. We’ll post session recordings in the next week. For books by Equity Week speakers, visit Malik Books.