We can only improve and see change in our work by bringing others along and working together.
Sometimes it is Hard to Recognize Our Privilege.
As an African American male in a predominately white profession and
campus community, it can be easy to always speak from an
underrepresented or underprivileged place. However, I have to be mindful
that I come from an educated family, I’m physically able-bodied, I’m a
male, a Christian, my first language is English, and I was born in this
Let’s check our biases at the door, or at least be aware of them.
Ever participated in an implicit association activity or test? They
tend to show that we make connections much more quickly between pairs of
ideas that are already related in our minds than we do between pairs of
ideas that are unfamiliar to us. However, just because something may be
unfamiliar doesn’t mean that the association doesn’t exist. Let’s not
assume a family doesn’t have means to make an education at your
institution feasible. Let’s not assume because someone has served on a
committee (or hasn’t) that it means they are more or less capable. Let’s
not approach the situation as though everyone has equitable opportunity
for positions or experiences. Let’s not assume that our Code of Ethics and Professional Practices is the only ethical framework that keeps us focused on the students we aim to serve.
Let’s also be mindful of our perspectives. As a person who is very
passionate about leadership, I can easily narrow my lens on who I think
is a leader or who is demonstrating leadership qualities. We are all
unique individuals, thus we seek different qualities and offer different
perspectives. The truth is, there isn’t one model of leadership, there
are alternatives and variations. We have to approach challenges or
situations with an open mind and be willing to listen to other
perspectives. Regardless of how long one has been in the profession or
served in a position, we never stop being a sponge. There is so much
information and education to soak up.
In How to Be an Inclusive Leader, diversity and inclusion
expert Jennifer Brown confirms that “pushing to address root causes and
biased practices does not come without risk. And risk goes up when you
become more public, moving from awareness, to action, to advocacy.” As
we continue to navigate uncharted territory, let’s continue to challenge
ourselves to move from awareness to actionable ways to find solutions
and to advocate for appropriate change. Let’s think critically about how
we approach and communicate with one another. Let’s pause and take time
to respond to each other with respect and sincere care to understand
the perspectives of others while still holding people accountable.
Whether we are trying to assist prospective students, supporting
colleagues in their professional growth, or seeking systemic change, we
have to be able to sit side-by-side to navigate the new future together.
We can only improve and see change in our work by bringing others along
and working together. We can only come together if we are willing to
sit down at the same table. And we can only come to that table and
navigate challenges if we are willing to be vulnerable, to listen, and
be aware of our own privilege and bias.
NACAC Board Director Delorean Menifee is director of admission at Butler University (IN).