As many of you are aware, academic departments, colleges, and disciplines still operate within a sociopolitical environment that reifies the myth of meritocracy, privileges whiteness and racial hierarchy, and espouses individualism as part of a construct of white racial dominance. Now more than ever, we need intentional and methodical anti-racist professional development to navigate the dangerous conditions of racism in our society, particularly within the context of community engagement. Anti-racist practice in higher education is essential for navigating the perilous times we’re living in.
Recently, a Campus Compact anti-racism community of practice brought together community-engaged higher education professionals seeking ongoing, co-collaborative experiences that invite dialogue and deeper understanding as a way towards anti-racism and racial healing. Many answered the call to engage in this reflective space for transformative learning with the hopes of building a wider network for anti-racist practice that operates within and outside of our individual institutions of higher education.
Inviting people from many institutions to meet virtually and co-create a space for dialogue about their experiences within their institutions allowed us to reimagine what it means to be with and within a community committed to anti-racism. Connecting that dialogue to the literature about systemic racism, especially Critical Race Theory within education, provided participants with a conceptual framework for reimagining their own institutions to respond to the current needs of our society. Introducing the theory and practice of community organizing also allowed participants to begin envisioning how they could catalyze needed change.
Those individuals contributing to the practice of anti-racism in higher education (faculty, staff, campus and system administrators) benefitted from the knowledge of this process, particularly those who are committed to incorporating an anti-racist framework and methodology in their work as higher education practitioner-scholars. In Anti-Racist Community Engagement: Principles and Practices, the contributing authors share their work as a call to action that cuts across institutions and is adaptable for addressing critical needs for racial healing and social-emotional growth.
An important idea we must consider now is the goals and expectations for continuing the interactions after we leave a space of an anti-racist community of practice. Continuing our commitment to this engagement will promote greater success in disrupting racism and white supremacy in our social circles. We can’t stop now. At the end of our time together in the anti-racist community of practice, we became better able to understand actions that are necessary for disrupting systems of racial hegemony. My personal hope for everyone is to feel empowered to do the necessary disruption once they leave the anti-racist community of practice space. Anti-racist community engagement is difficult only when we attempt to be anti-racist while still using characteristics of white dominant culture. As Audre Lorde once said, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.”
Read the full experience of “Working Against Racism through Cross Institutional Communities of Practice” by pre-ordering your copy of Anti-Racist Community Engagement today!