“If you stick a knife in my back nine inches and pull it out six inches, there’s no progress. If you pull it all the way out, that’s not progress. Progress is healing the wound that the blow made. And they haven’t even pulled the knife out, much less heal the wound…” -Malcolm X
Glendale Community College (GCC) was first established in the 1920s in the city of Glendale, California. Life in Glendale during that time was very different than it is today. In the 1920s, and through most of the early 20th century, GCC was a White campus in a White community that was a sundown town where non-White folks were not welcomed except as workers during the day. Since then, we have seen some progress both in the city and on our campus. The population has gradually changed and there is now more diversity in the campus demographics since GCC’s establishment. So, why do we bring this up? Although progress has begun, we need to focus on healing the wounds caused by the blows of systemic and institutional racism, and discrimination against marginalized people. GCC’s campus climate is a top priority and efforts need to continue to ensure a more inclusive, accessible, and equitable environment where our students, faculty, and staff can thrive.
GCC is filled with faculty and staff who, along with their many duties and busy schedules, prioritize work in diversity, equity, inclusion, accessibility (DEIA), anti-racism, and social justice. This is something for us to be proud of and feel optimistic about, but we have much more to do. DEIA work is continuous and cannot be achieved by simply knowing the right terms or attending workshops; implementation of these practices is crucial. Additionally, fully including and listening to those from marginalized groups is essential to healing.
We encourage you to think deeply about your own efforts in DEIA and to consider how to better engage in creating a shift toward true equity and anti-racism. If you are part of any marginalized community, we want you to know that you are not alone and that reaching out and making connections is important in self-preservation and in flourishing to your fullest capacity. When you feel that you are alone in discomfort, remember that community is important and can provide a source of empowerment. As a campus, we need to support self-empowerment by making space for the voices and ideas of those from marginalized groups, and to fully accomplish this, we need allyship.
If you are an ally, we urge you to consider what it means to be a true ally. Many of us fall into both categories of being from a marginalized group(s) and being an ally to others. Creating environments where marginalized students, staff, and faculty feel safe, involves self-reflection and identifying within your own practices where there might be a need for adjustment. We hear terms such as “safe space” or “brave space” but we want to encourage a deeper conversation about what that actually means to marginalized people. It’s not enough to say that spaces are safe; they need to be safe.
Being a true ally isn’t about thinking that you have all the answers, nor is it thinking that you’ve done enough work. The work will never be complete, it will be ongoing, and we will all make errors as we move along; but even through errors, we will learn. A true ally will listen and leave space for those who have historically been left behind or left out. Consider that those from marginalized groups live with wounds that can easily be opened in spaces that perpetuate assumptions and biases, even unintentional ones.
We can look at the challenges that we continue to face as opportunities to improve. We need to combine our efforts and move toward allowing spaces to feel inviting and safe. Where people can voice their concerns about their environment while being on campus and know that those concerns will be addressed and valued.
Change is not easy or fast; it takes time on all ends. Whether we are staff, faculty, administrators, or students, we need to be respectful to ALL as we all go through these changes. Believing in diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility for all those who come to our wonderful campus, means working together and uplifting the voices of those who have historically been silenced. GCC has the potential to be one of the best community colleges not just in California, but we can strive to be the best in the nation. We should recognize the remarkable work that is being done and embrace all the wonderful aspects while still striving for improvement.
We started with a quote from Malcolm X and we’d like to end with a quote from the scholar, Dr. Christopher Emdin: “To understand that if we have to learn with each other we should also learn about each other so we can bring each other up.” We need to learn from one another by listening and making changes as needed. We need to be willing to change from what we were in the past and work with each other to help create a GCC that we are all proud to call our home.
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