Written by Kory M. Saunders
Edited by Emily Merson, Executive Director, AIFS Abroad
The new legislation in Florida and Texas is reducing and prohibiting funding for initiatives like Access, Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (AIDE) at risk. This sentiment is radiating in other states across the United States as well. I recognize that I live in a state that does not prohibit diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, and work with an organization, AIFS Abroad, that fully supports these efforts. This has many in the global education industry thinking a lot about how to support our fellow colleagues whose positions and programming are being threatened. It also makes us think of the hard-earned progress that colleagues have made to support all students with an emphasis on increasing participation from those of marginalized communities and the impact this could have. During a meeting at a recent conference, a colleague asked me how they could support DEIB practitioner colleagues. If they were wondering what to do, I am sure others are as well. Here are the suggestions I have been practicing lately.
1. Do Your Own Research on Legislation. Before reaching out to a colleague, it is helpful to know some background information on the situation and legislation. There is enough information from a simple Google or Instagram search that can lead to articles and videos about what is currently going on with current legislation so that you are prepared. For example, Diversity Abroad just released a statement, “Championing Inclusive Education: Diversity Abroad's Response to Legislation Curtailing Diversity and Inclusion Efforts.” LinkedIn is also a great resource to look up information and to see how other colleagues and practitioners from many different industries are approaching this new legislation. It is important to do your research so the colleagues you are trying to support don’t have to explain what is going on to you. This happens far too often and could unintentionally cause more harm than help. You may not have all of the details and that it okay but having background knowledge allows you to develop a greater understanding of the situation without putting an undue burden on them to share it with you. There is so much information out that you can do your own research in preparation to show up for them.
2. Check In On Your Strong DEIB Friends. Reach out to your colleagues and let them know that you are there to support them. LinkedIn is a great way to do this if you and your colleague are connected, as it may be safer platform for the colleague than a work email. Asking questions on how to best show up for them could be helpful. As it allows your colleague to articulate what they want or need rather than having to make assumptions and potentially causing more harm than good, especially in situations where legislation is threatening programs and careers. Someone’s current career could be in jeopardy. Helpful questions could look like:
How can I show up for you during this time?
What do you need?
How can I support you?
What does support look for you during this time?
3. Don’t Just Ask What They Need. Do Something. It is not only important to ask what someone wants or needs, but it is that much more important to take the actions to follow through. Whether that is active listening if the person says they need to talk or assisting/ collaborating with programming that you may be able to offer that they no longer can. For example, AIDE is health and safety so there are ways in which I could potentially be incorporated this into programming that would be more widely accepted because of the overall theme. Whether it is participating in an advocacy event that can raise awareness or amplifying your DEIB colleagues voice with their permission. Be ready to take action if you agree to do so. It is also important to communicate if and when you are not able to do something or follow through in the way that they requested. Instead, it may be good to provide alternatives or show what you can do that aligns with the support that your colleague requests.
Being open and available in offering authentic community with your DEIB colleagues goes a long way. Be intentional and be purposeful as you look to support your colleagues. We are all in this together.