The work at #BlackDoctoratesMatter is all about supporting the academic and psycho-social experiences of doctoral students by way of understanding how leadership through the pursuit and attainment of doctoral degrees can further support historically marginalized communities. Understanding the racial and cultural experiences of doctoral students is an essential aspect of this work. And, for many of us, studying these experiences provides opportunities to better serve our country. For those of us interested in studying racial and cultural issues, thinking through reactions to the 2016 presidential election outcome have been painstakingly familiar about the racial/cultural divisiveness in our country. Since Election Day, November 8, 2016, there have been reports of lynching threats, haunting images of people in blackface, fear of racial violence, and talk of the election outcome being a type of “whitelash.” All very disturbing but not surprising for those of us who study these kind of issues.
Outcomes related to election results have sparked national and institutional responses. For example the American Association of University Professor released a statement outlining its organizational concern about sentiments expressed by supporters of who are biased against policies supporting social justice and awareness. College and university presidents all over the country are releasing statements about ways their academic communities are responding to this election with careful guidance about how to engage in respectful conversations and to be vigilant against acts related to racial indifference. Overall, a few important themes emerge about the nation’s response to the election that align with the research and practice goals of #BlackDoctoratesMatter. They include: continuing efforts to build community to strengthen initiatives focused on racial and cultural uplift; reflecting on our racial/cultural awareness work in new ways; and, identifying/implementing strategic plans regarding the future of this work.
In light of the impending change in presidential leadership, community-building efforts must shift, yet continue to support goals of fighting against racial inequality and injustice. Through these efforts we learn about and understand that we, as a nation, have witnessed and lived through these transitions. Community-building efforts under-gird our value systems related to facilitating racial/cultural equity, and individual and collective sense of restoration. Moreover, this is time for critical reflection on our research and practice as they relate to an impact on political engagement in our communities and families. It’s important to think about how we can extend ourselves in ways haven’t before to translate our vision to address racial/cultural crisis.
New research and practice endeavors come from re-thinking, re-centering, and re-purposing strategic plans for racial and cultural engagement. In many ways, during the last week, many Americans in favor of unjust and cruel behavior towards historically marginalized groups are more visible and vocal. Movement towards restorative justice must continue to make space for communities that are underrepresented, undeserved, and oppressed to combat, manage, and, cope with these ongoing developments. Many of us continue to express our frustration, anxiety, and despair regarding the outcome of this election. Let’s also work on finding new opportunities to strengthen our research and practice agendas and to share successful stories about our resilience; especially with our most vulnerable community members.
To read more work by Dr. Pamela Felder click here!