In honor of Black History Month, this month we will be featuring blog posts from some of our educators who discuss topics like race, intersectionality, and language and how it intertwines with sexual violence prevention. [Blog 3 out of 6.]
To Be or Not to Be Inclusive: A Contemplation on Black Representation
By Tiffany Mitchenor
When asked the question: “What can we do as a society to include folks from the Black community in the sexual violence prevention education conversation?”, I ask that we consider this not being a matter of inclusion, but rather a matter of intersection. “Inclusion” denotes that there is an inherent in-group, a default group, opening their doors to those that are viewed as marginalized, and offering them a place on their pre-established team. “Intersection” denotes an overlapping, that various groups of folks from varying backgrounds meet on neutral ground to take a stance on a common goal. That goal, in this case, being sexual violence prevention education.
I think the way that this intersection occurs is through equal representation. Folks from all walks of life must show up to the table, so to speak, and everyone who shows up to that table should be handed the mic and an equal amount of time to contribute to the conversation at hand. Representation comes in the form of Black sexual violence prevention educators facilitating conversations, perhaps alongside non-Black educators, and having the ability to relate to all students, while also empathizing with students of color through a deep level of kinship. Representation includes Black survivors who are willing to share their stories alongside non-Black survivors, as a means of visibility and support to other Black folks, and perhaps as a reminder that everyone has a voice and a place in this discussion, even when they may feel silenced.
Representation includes ongoing outreach efforts to Black communities, in which Black folks are given resources that directly correlate not only to sexual violence prevention but to their daily struggles of oppression, microaggressions, sexism, homophobia, racism, etc. acknowledging these intersections, as none of these things operate in a vacuum. The way to recognize and highlight Black folks in the conversation is to turn down the volume on amplified voices of privilege while increasing the volume on muted or ignored voices. When people feel and see that they will be heard, they are more likely to join the conversation and speak.
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