selves and avoid action-oriented, change-making work. How do you respond to the notion that justice work should be a responsibility of all, and not just those who are in the position of the oppressed?
Trina: I believe self-work is the responsibility of all. I believe everyone has a place in justice work. But I do not believe everyone is meant to be a social justice educator. With that said, I agree this work is not reserved for those of marginalized identities—it’s too exhausting and it’s not sustainable. Leslie: What would you share, by way of advice or encouragement, with your colleagues, practitioners and educators, around the country?
Trina: When it comes to giving advice or encouragement, my response would depend on who is reading this. But something I remind myself of is, “Be kind to yourself. Be gentle with yourself.” This is especially true when my own dominant identities cause me to make mistakes and unintentionally cause harm to others. As much as I need to find peace by forgiving others while holding myself accountable for my own mistakes, it’s also important for me to forgive myself-- and then do better next time. As Maya Angelou says, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” And that’s my commitment. Leslie: As I continue to reflect on the stories from
my research, I continue to see more clearly. I have a responsibility to boldly look at myself and how I show up in my communities. I have a responsibility to create safe spaces and invite dialogue and conversations about privilege, justice and personal responsibility. I have a responsibility to listen loudly to others’ stories and experiences. Documenting conversations is one of the ways I am choosing to speak up both on my home campus and in regional and national circles. I leave you with two questions: What is your role and responsibility in this conversation? How will you engage in a meaningful process of self-discovery and self-work to actively contribute to the conversation?
Howard, G. R. (2006). We can’t teach what we don’t know: White teachers, multiracial schools. 2nd Ed. Multicultural Education Services. James A. Banks, Series Editor. New York: Teachers College Press. Webb, L. J. (2012). Making meaning of whiteness: Life experiences that inform culturally conscious student affairs leaders (Doctoral dissertation, Colorado State University).
Why this research? Often general practitioners are not comfortable talking about inclusion and diversity, especially around topics of power, privilege and bias. This interview was prompted by Trina and Leslie’s desire to increase access around these tough conversations, particularly for those who work with students. Trina and Leslie are committed to creating spaces that welcome dialogue, regardless of knowledge, competency levels and various ways of knowing. Having vastly different backgrounds and experiences, they hope to share their stories and experiences as a mechanism to broaden the conversations taking place on campuses and in professional circles.
Leslie Webb is the associate vice president for student affairs at Boise State University where she provides support to student involvement and leadership, sorority and fraternity life, student media, career services, housing and residence life, multicultural and international student services, campus recreation, and assessment and planning. She has a Ph.D. from Colorado State University, a M.S from Western Illinois University and a B.A from Central Washington University. Her interest lies in staff development and increasing critical conversations around personal responsibility for change. Trina S. Tan is a graduate student at the University of Vermont in the Masters of Education in the Higher Education and Student Affairs program. She is from southern California where she got her Bachelors of Arts in English and was involved in statewide advocacy efforts as a student leader— issues ranging from undocumented student awareness, multicultural collaborations, and dismantling the “model minority” myth around Asian American Pacific Islander students. Before moving to Vermont, she was a grassroots organizer for President Obama’s reelection campaign.