Transformation Through Intentional Identity Exploration and Education

Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 11.49.58 AM

Although it is challenging for others to engage in difficult conversations about race, imagine how I feel on a day-to-day basis. I cannot speak for all people of color, but I don’t have a choice about when I can turn on or off my racial sensors. As a young Black woman born and raised in this country, I struggled with understanding and developing my own personal sense of belonging. I felt that no matter where I turned, America didn’t love me. I recall standing each morning during school to recite a pledge to a country that showed me day in and day out that I am less than. I am now in a position to change the world and I intend on doing just that. So yes, things are hard but people can do hard things. Simply having support and knowing that change is welcomed helps share the load. But how do we get there?

Jermisha Frazier's mindmap (03/21/19)

I spent hours at a dry erase board trying to articulate the connection between exploring identity and the advancement of social justice. In my mind, it was obvious; Systems oppress individuals, and individuals make up and design systems. My intuition tells me that if an individual finds peace and understanding within themselves, then they may find value in uplifting and celebrating difference. The most challenging part of the process was identifying factors that influence individuals’ actions which negatively impact Black and Brown communities. To tackle this, I broadened the scope of the essential question used in a racial professional development series I facilitated for High Tech High Chula Vista’s staff. How do I explore my role in unintentionally supporting systemic oppression?

About halfway through my M.Ed program, I recall our class beginning with a simple ice breaker. My cohort (of predominantly white educators) were instructed to share the last song we played. My anxiety immediately increased because I was afraid that my colleagues would think I was inferior if they knew the music I enjoy. After a long conversation to convince myself that all parts of me deserve to be in the room, I overcame my fear and shared the song at the end of class. As previously stated, white supremacy is a problem ingrained in our systems. Eurocentric standards run deep in the original framework used to design almost all social constructs including professionalism and even fashion. There have been moments when I questioned if settings were appropriate for me to use the term “girlfriend” or if I should conform to heterosexual norms by using gender neutral terms instead. Society has trained me to associate certain parts of my identity with ignorance and unworthiness when in reality, it does neither. Imagine if everyone believed “it’s okay for me to be me and them to be different from me without one being less than another.” There’d be no value in white centric standards or expectations. Traditionally marginalized communities could exist freely in all spaces, even those designed with the comfort of our Christian, heterosexual, cis male, Caucasian counterparts as the center focus. How can that become a shared reality?

High Tech High Chula Vista's Teacher and Staff appreciation week (05/08/19)
Toni Morrison once said, “white supremacy is like a profound neurosis that rarely gets examined for what it is…if you can only be tall because somebody’s on their knees, then you have a serious problem” (TheAntiIntellect, 2012). It is my intent to design a process of deep intentional reflection, education, and identity exploration that encourages disruption of oppressive norms. I piloted this theory with a group of 30 undergraduate students in the Southeastern Louisiana University chapter of NAACP. I used the session as an opportunity share my story of maneuvering in white dominant professional spaces as a young, queer Black woman. I facilitated an experience that gave participants space to freely discuss their familiarity with feelings of isolation, exclusion, and confusion. We shared frustrations, stories, and most importantly, implementable strategies to prevent those feeling from surfacing future situations. The program concluded with an activity encouraging individuals to give themselves permission to be the most authentic version of themselves no matter who’s in their company. All members of the human race should not feel ashamed of our race, sexual orientation, gender, culture, or any other aspect of our identity that doesn’t harm ourselves or others. Assimilation, code switching, and potentially racism as well can be disrupted if ‘different’ was the new expectation and we got comfortable being uncomfortable. It is my mission to shift societal norms to actually reflect the same diversity of this 21st century world we all inhabit. My pilot has evolved into the framework for a series of seminars to support both young and adult learners become actively anti-racist by exploring identity and increasing self awareness. Feel free to reach out to me to learn more.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.