A short blog article (Unpack Your Knapsack) from an Assistant Director for Residence Life at The Ohio State University, Aramis Watson, inspired me to go reinvest time each day to burst my own bubble. In the blog post, Watson was encouraged in a RA class to question her own biases and predisposition to see the world of social justice from only one perspective; her own.
As Watson says, “There is an assumption that when you work in student affairs that you come with a built in appreciation and beyond surface level understanding of diversity…” She could not have hit the nail on the head with any better effectiveness. We have a tendency, in our profession, to assume that we have a level of expertise in diversity depending on how many years we have been in the field; as though we arrive to social justice clarity by some sort of prolonged diversity osmosis. A complete impossibility; it is more of a marathon of work performed by the social justice runner where difficult stretches of road continually battle against the runner and the finish line is forever moving.
It is my experience that most competent social justice workshop facilitators, motivators, and educators would admit and even declare, as almost a disclaimer, that we all have work to do no matter our level of comfort with the topic of diversity, multiculturalism, and social justice.
One way we can help others to challenge themselves in facilitations or even day to day discussions is to unpack our own biased knapsacks. While the term “knapsack” in reference to social justice education is widely used in various tactics, the concept is consistent; break out of yourself and your privileges to better understand others. Some questions to begin would be who are you, from where are you coming, what are your privileges, what was your upbringing, and what do you not know? There are literally hundreds of questions you can ask yourself to learn why you think the way you do.
These questions can be asked on a daily basis through any interactions you may have; why not do so? A favorite of mine is to catch myself assuming I know something about someone because of how they look or how they act; a natural experience but something to challenge. I try to ask myself why I am thinking the way I am? What from my past has led me here? Will this person have a conversation to educate me on who he or she is?
In my opinion, the best source of diversity education are the people around us; not just one facilitator. There is so much diversity around us; find some and educate yourself by bursting your own presumption bubble as often as you can.
Do you challenge yourself on your own biased predispositions? Tell us about a time your assumptions were defeated and how you looked at life differently.