GatorCast Ep. 16: Equity in the Community - Examining Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (Part 2)
By College Relations and the Office of the President, September 2, 2020
President Johnson: Welcome to GatorCast the official Podcast of Green River College, where we share conversations with the community about topics that are relevant to you. I'm Suzanne Johnson, President of the College. My guest today is Dr. Kathy Obear, Co founder of the Social Justice Training Institute. This is part two, of my conversation with Kathy exploring equity at community colleges. If you didn't get a chance to listen to part one, I encourage you to hop off and listen to that. But if not, enjoy the podcast today, have a great day.
President Johnson: One of the things I'm wondering about, taking it just a step away from specifically community colleges. Is something that came to mind as you were talking about your own life journey, your own life experience, growing up in a white middle class, fairly naive, sheltered. I'm using the sheltered word, you did not use the shelter word
Dr. Kathy Obear: Yes Ma'am.
President Johnson: Really but you used, okay. Life experience in the 60s of which I can absolutely relate to and identify with and, then going to, you know private higher education, right? Private liberal arts college, coming from a family where I was able to do that and then go on to get a Master's and PhD. And then becoming a faculty member at a predominantly white institution that was serving predominantly white students from very similar backgrounds to mine. And the different experiences I had in terms of understanding diversity, diversity of learning, you've spoken a lot about, student learning differences today in our conversation. And, you know, wondering about, the student experience and my experience in a classroom. And I just recall, and I went into faculty ranks, you know, the late 1980s. And I recall, having come from a background where going to college was not only a privilege, but a time period where you could have fun, explore ideas, take classes. Okay, yes, you might've had a major, but the idea that you were going to college to get a good job and a career really wasn't part of the narrative of my experience and my classmates' experiences. Although if you had asked us all, why were we going to college? We would have all said, well, because you have to, if you wanna have a career, right? But then, within the classroom, when I was a faculty member, I started running up against a very different perspective that I had had the privilege of not thinking about, which was the predominant answer I would get from students in my classrooms like, why were you taking this class? I need it for the major, because I'm gonna be, that. Right, they were absolutely seeing that their education was a means to an end. And it took me a long time to recognize that my perspective, was one about the value of education and what the role of a college education might be was absolutely based on a lot of my own life experience and privilege. Not that it's not an important set of experiences. And I want all learners to be able to have that experience learning for the sake of learning and so on. But I came to recognize that a lot of my view of higher education, had a lot to do with the privileged background I came from. And I see that that's something that is oftentimes a conversation in community colleges as well. It's like, what is the role and the value of education? What is the purpose of a college education? And, you know, is it for career? Or is it for personal enrichment and learning for the sake of learning? And, I think it's so important to leave the, or, you know, let go of the or,
Dr. Kathy Obear: Yes.
President Johnson: it's the and. It's the and right? That whole preamble to lead up to this question, is there something about those of us who go into higher education or is there something about higher education as a system that presents its own obstacles to, to creating, learning environments that produce equitable outcomes?
Dr. Kathy Obear: I'm loving this, you're having me think. As I'm listening to you, the classism in that, the class privilege, which is so related to white skin privilege. To be yet for me to be able to say, cause I so relate to everything you said. Higher end college should be about, love of learning and, learning to be a lifelong learner, without a focus on career development, I think is arrogant and only can apply to folks who may have a safety net so that when they leave, they can easily find a job, whether that's because of nepotism or relationship or connections, et cetera. So there's a real class gender, I think, privileged white men particularly, but also white women so, that's my first thought. I actually think four year schools could learn lots of community colleges about being career ready. And, it's not an either-or as you said, so how do we have people learn about lifelong learning? 'Cause in our lifetimes, well, tell me if you agree. I grew up believing that if I just got with one organization, I could move up, as far as I wanted to, if I was just working hard and I could be a leader of it someday, I watched people start out, you know, in a General Motors and then move up and live, be there their entire 40 year career. So that was the US, that was presented to me. And it's been a long time since that I think has been, and may never have been true for some groups. And it clearly is rarely true for anyone today. And so, helping our staff and faculty leaders realize that actually probably the best thing we can do for folks is give them a portfolio of skills and competencies, critical thinking, perspective taking, the ability to learn, media literacy, financial literacy. Yes, content in an area they can then use and go out and get a job. But these portable career skills, emotional intelligence, how do you work on diverse teams? How do you deal with conflict? When I work with faculty, I really support them thinking about what's the content of the core you're teaching? English, chemistry, and how can you, as you're teaching have students develop these critical skills that are gonna help them reinvent themselves as the world demands that people probably reinvent themselves several times in their lifetimes. Different careers, different types of jobs. So for me it is a both and, and the kinda privileged traditional higher Ed of, it's about lifelong, you know learning to love learning and that you can keep learning in and of itself. So privileged, as opposed to how do you wanna be of service in the world? So I actually extended from a job and I think that's what community colleges do as well. How do you wanna give back and be of service to others? Lawyer, doctor, teacher, Supervisor of Toyota Manufacturing, running your own automobile shop and what are the skills you're gonna need today and tomorrow so that you can be successful and help other people be successful so? Community colleges were set up to support folks in lifelong learning, enrichment as well as technical skills, as well as quote, academic skills. I think the rest of the country has a lot to learn from you all. I wanna make one more point. My brother ended up going to a school where he came out with electrical engineering was kinda more of a technical. He works, if I remember accurately fixing and running a shop that does all the AV for an entire school district K-12, so that students can be learning, right? Who's to say the role he has is any less or more important than the role I have in the world? And so part of this, is to also have faculty and staff and leaders try to just really challenge that, all that classism about which jobs are more important and better that we reinforce in the society through finances, you know, how much money you make, as opposed to, how you being of service? I want everyone to have, a really good income so they can live well. And, they feel that they're being of service and giving back in a way that meets their core values as well as leaves a legacy. For me, that's what I'd love higher Ed to do and help people get those values as opposed to, I want to make $500,000 as a doctor, but why are you doing it?
President Johnson: And so much of what you've described are so many reasons that I know staff and faculty here at Green River have chosen to be at Green River, as community college. It's certainly the reason I left private, you know, four year institutional, higher Ed culture, to come into community colleges. And it is the brilliance and the asset of the word, and right? Community colleges we absolutely have a multidimensional mission. We don't have, although certainly student success, is a single statement we can say, we're invested in. That can look, many different ways. Right, as you've just mapped out, whether it's career technical, transferring on to another institution and beyond for graduate degrees or have you continuing education and so on. That's one of the beauties of, and I think a collection of assets that make community colleges such a vibrant and necessary element of higher Ed currently, and, you know, moving more into the future. And having said that then, and knowing the work that we've done as an institution in diversity, equity and inclusion, and so many other institutions like Green River that were working on and toward and with in terms of improving these dimensions so that students come to our college and feel that they belong no matter what the diversity is that they present. I'm thinking that in your years of experience, the many years of experience, you likely have, some pretty sound advice or thoughts or perspective that you can offer to the different constituencies that are, part of what we call a community college as a culture. And I'm wondering, I'll throw out these questions and we can do them one by one If you're game. What specific message, would you have for people who are white, that work at community colleges? What would you have, as a specific message or messages for people of color who work at a community college? What is the message that you would have for students who attend community college? Let's talk about, those types of groups and we can divide them in different ways. You know, what sorts of messages would you have for faculty at Green River or other colleges similar to ours, or for the staff that are front facing to our students? How would you like to approach this?
Dr. Kathy Obear: My message would be, what's your passion and your values around working here at a community college? So I'd have them play with that, but let me just start with whites. If I was working with a group of whites, I'll do that and then say, it's critical as whites that we understand that racism has existed in this country for centuries, and they're still very damaging manifestations today. And as whites, it's one thing to understand racism. It's another to every day, have a racial justice lens as you're making decisions about how to interact with students, how to create a policy or practice, how to build a curriculum in ways that create a racially just campus climate, classroom, and dismantle racist attitudes, behaviors, practices day to day. So it's not enough, to not say something racist. How are you, an active partner with folk of color, folk that are indigenous, folk that are multiracial, biracial, an active partner in creating true racial justice on this campus? And, then my message would be, and if you're like me, we probably wanna start, internally 'cause I grew up hearing and unfortunately unconsciously believing many racist attitudes that I still stumble over today. And so, the work that we have to do as whites internally to heal and release racist attitudes, beliefs, that fuel behaviors that have racist impact. That's our work as whites, in whiteness affinity spaces, as well as in cross race conversations. At the same time, you wanna be doing similar work around other areas of difference and oppression. So we can create true inclusion and liberation and given the US context and the US history, if we don't start with race and really center race in every conversation we have, not to the exclusion of others, but to make sure it's always on the table, then many of our students will not have the equitable services and classrooms and the skills they need here to succeed much less when they leave here. The other thing I might say to whites is, I did this work, as I said, I was trained as a K-12 teacher and I was coming out of that patron-- I didn't know at the time, kinda patronizing, deficit model of, oh, let me help these poor students of color, which is a very different energy than I hope, and I believe I have today. And so this is not about helping people of color who are in a deficit model, it's about how to create systems that are truly set up for success of all, as opposed to the implicit racist bias that's in many policies and practices, even in how we interact with people and the microaggressions. So, long way of saying that's the kinda workshops that I do with folk. I'm ready to move to folk of color unless you wanna come in.
President Johnson: No, keep going, good. We're good.
Dr. Kathy Obear: So to folks of color, folks that are indigenous, multiracial, biracial, and you'll notice that I, pulled that out and we could get even more specific in that, sometimes when people hear the term people of color, whites particularly only hear black and indigenous peoples are so invisible in the US that I am challenging myself to name indigenous peoples more and more and my understanding of Green River is that, you actually, have a higher percentage of folks identify as indigenous and some other campuses I get to...
President Johnson: Yes, absolutely.
Dr. Kathy Obear: And then the invisibility of multiracial, biracial folks have a different life experience than mono racial people of color. So, what I'd say is, what would I say as a white person? That I'm committed to working with whites and working with folk of color, indigenous, multiracial folk to have authentic, engaged, sometimes challenging conversations to really be able to get everybody more skilled, to recognize racist microaggressions, those comments and behaviors that in the moment in a personally leave people of color feeling excluded, dismissed, not valued, to look at the policies and practices that were set up, probably by white people for white people, but we weren't conscious of it necessarily. And how even today, whites are saying and doing things and creating classrooms that are just not inclusive of folk of color, indigenous multiracial folk. And so, how do we, how do you use folks of color partner with whites to create a new system? And part of that, it's a little awkward saying this is a white person I feel, but I might also say, is as whites, we need to do our inner healing work around internalized dominance. The internalized beliefs that whites are smarter, better, our way is the right way, the only way. How, you know, whites speak and dress and act is what professional is, as opposed to, there's actually many variations of what professional could be that are culturally inclusive. And, that's just one example, that folk of color, indigenous multiracial, biracial folk might also have some healing work to do. 'Cause on the same racist system, many folks of color to survive, to support themselves, family have colluded, absorbed those same messages that white is right. And, so there's some inner healing work for folk of color as well and the language of that internalized racism, is some of the jargon. So there's internalized dominance or internalized white supremacy if folks can hear that language for whites to work and internalized racism, internalized subordination, for folk of color. And, how does a campus community or a community with your campus, create spaces, so that folks from the privilege and marginal identity can do that inner healing work so that then we can come together, have very productive conversations about the current dynamics of race and racism in a personally and in the climate and in the policies and practices. And then what can we do to un, undo all that and create truly inclusive organizations.
President Johnson: And if we, looked at this in a different clustering, of group memberships that we have on a college campus. What would be, particular messages that you have for our faculty, those that find themselves in the classroom, teaching our diverse student body?
Dr. Kathy Obear: Then I would, again, come back to your passion and what you wanna create. Why are you here instead of working someplace else? And are you willing to consider the possibility that there are a few other things you could be doing to truly creating classroom, advising, faculty interactions that accelerate student success for the full breadth of the students we serve and all their intersecting identities, so you open to that? And then I would say, let's start with sharing what you're already doing. It's not only faculty, but folks with different privilege identities. I think it's useful to start with strengths so, what you already doing and have people learn from each other and why are you doing it? And then what are some practices that you're beginning to wonder if they truly are as inclusive as they could be, whether it's by race or disability status or mental health status or class background, transportation status so. Let's look at, you know 20 generic common ways people teach at community colleges and advise, and let's begin to talk about whose needs are met by group membership and are there any, groups that may not have their needs met or have an unintended barrier, or an artificial barrier to success? And so I'd have them talk about it and practice, but mostly share with each other 'cause I personally find faculty and if you're listening, you might not agree, but I find faculty listen to each other more than they might to than an administrator or a staff member. There's a hierarchical class dynamic on most campuses. So, how can faculty teach each other? And so the message is if you truly wanna live up to your passion and the vision and the purpose of this campus, we have to be in continuous improvement. And there are so many, new ways that people are teaching and engaging and advising, that are happening all the time. So how can we research those and then see how many of those might work in our context and in your particular context? So we're modeling continuous lifelong learning for our students. We're doing it as faculty. Another conversation I might have is I'd have them take the group identity cards, remember that's like 37 different categories of difference. And I say, so when you started teaching, what were the differences of our students? And today, are there any other differences that you're seeing more and more of? So that they get grounded in how all these different intersecting identities and who are we truly serving? And then say, when you started teaching, whose needs were met, by the way you taught? And how have you changed your teaching practices to reflect that shifting needs of how people learn today and the different group memberships of folks? Do they see themselves in the curricula and in the visual images you have? Cause you note, data shows, it's part of your culture of caring if a student can see themselves in an administrator or staff member or faculty member and go, they made it, therefore I can. And if all we're showing to students, in this case, if I was teaching, if I'm just talking with them, you know, white men are mostly my authors and the images I'm showing are 95% whites my stories are mostly about whites, the folks of color and or folks who come from poverty or low income working class backgrounds, won't see them in my stories because even as I talked about whites, most of my stories will have a class privilege as well. So that would be, what I would do with faculty is, help them see what they're doing, what's working and what else is possible and what could be the outcomes if we we really shifted our practice.
President Johnson: So that's a lot to consider, you know. People have asked me, you know I was in the classroom for 25 years and, before I moved into administration, I've had the great fortune of, serving as president here at Green River. And people have asked me, most every term, you know, do you miss being in the classroom? And, the answer is, yes, on one hand, I don't miss grading. I don't miss grading exams and papers and so on. But I have found ways to, you know, have interactions with the students on campus, which sort of feeds me in a selfish way, right. Feeds me in terms of, being able to hear from the students. But I'm struck by, how diverse our student population is, far more than it was when all the years that I taught. And, I know, if I were an instructor contemporarily, there would be a lot of learning that I would have to be engaged in, right now to keep my classroom being in a space that, that all students had an equal opportunity to succeed, which would mean a lot of different ways of thinking about content than quite honestly, I didn't have to think about, you know, back in the late 80s, early 90s, based on the institution I was at. And it's a challenging, multi-dimensional role that faculty have. It's not just being the content experts, it's also exploring, the different pedagogy or approaches to how one can, can share the knowledge that they have to make it equally accessible to all their learners so. One of the things that is of such great value that I'm grateful for every day here, is our faculty who have chosen to be focused on teaching and instruction and committed to community colleges. So I'm hoping, that some of the suggestions that you're offering up, are helpful to some, and you've mentioned the identity cards and for our listeners, and this would be also true for the students here who are listening. We're gonna post the identity cards on our website, which is the GatorCast website. And you'll get information at the end of the podcast and at the beginning of the podcast, in terms of where you can find this on our website, but we'll have a link to the identity cards. And we'll also have a link to Dr. Kathy Obear's website, which has a variety of different resources for all listeners here, whether you're a student, an employee, a community member, or listening in our service area, outside of the state, whatever it might be, you might find some very helpful resources in terms of furthering your understanding of, and your work, your own personal work on diversity, equity and inclusion. So, check that out on our website, that'll be linked with this podcast episode. So, let's go back then to one other group, which would be the staff, right? A lot of our staff are front facing to students. They're not in the instructional role, they serve and play a vital role. And part of the student experience here on campus, are there additional messages or thoughts or recommendations you have for them in terms of working with their colleagues and working with our students?
Dr. Kathy Obear: So you reminded me how my mom was the secretary to a principal of a high school. And, I believe she knew most of the students, some of the family members and all of the teachers and staff. And so when a dynamic happened, literally the principal would say, June, come talk to me. What should I do? And he used her as a partner, a thought partner. What I wanna say to staff is you have so much insight into who our students are. Does your department utilize you as a thought partner? 'Cause often classism plays in where, I was working with one client system that was very committed equity inclusion, and the administrative staff, you know, secretary type roles were not included in the meetings and the trainings, the staff meeting, they weren't there. And I'm just like, how can you have a true staff if you're not utilizing the wisdom and input? And so the first step might be, to have the staff think about whose voices get heard? Who gets to be at the table? And as staff, amongst staff, are we being inclusive? And, with faculty, so a faculty department, how are the staff being utilized as thought partners and colleagues? 'Cause here's what I know, the staff in the faculty departments see and interact with far more students than most faculty ever do. And they have a pulse, on what are some of the issues 'cause students will be talking in the hallway and the staff will overhear. And so how can we have our administrative, as in Deans, Chairs realize how valuable different staff are and are we really using, giving access so that we partner and think things through. So that was kind of a pep talk to staff to realize how brilliant you all are and how much wisdom and insights you have that is underutilized. You talked about a community of care. I get to campuses and sometimes hear from students that the one person they know they can talk to is a custodian that they see operating around and they talk to them. And so I like to have people in service roles, whether it's custodian, administrative assistance, food service, police, campus officer, whatever the role is that is not necessarily thought of. It may be the registrar, that you come in and the first person you see as you're trying to pay a bill so, how can they realize that that interaction could make or break the difference and that student that day, deciding to stay at Green River or to leave? So many of our students have so many demands, pressures and difficult barriers and obstacles in their life outside of college and staff can sometimes be the one person who can make a difference in helping someone decide to stay. And, the other role of staff that's so critical, and I don't mean just Student Services, folks that are in Advising or Career. I'm talking about every staff member in Accounting, anybody that's student facing and interacting. How can we make sure they know all the different resources on campus? Because, the student who is thinking about suicide may not say it, but as a staff member, you might pick up on something. And so, if they're feeling a certain way, you might say, you know what? I have a daughter that just started going to the counseling center. I don't know if you've ever thought of it, but I've done it. Now, that might be an extreme example, but the idea of what are the resources for student success, whether it's the food bank, ways to get, loans for different things, transportation strategies, counseling, academic advising, what are all the different things? Cause I'm not sure all staff, you know, I think at a certain level quote and above, but are we really utilizing the ability of all staff to have resources and information that they can be supporting student success from their position in the campus? And I don't know.
President Johnson: It's such a good point that you bring up. And, I know that Green River, we've made a concerted effort to creating, you know, consolidated resource materials, not just to have, you know, accessible by the student, but to provide to all employees at the institution, recognizing exactly what you just shared which is, you know, a student can come into contact with anyone on this campus. And it might be that interaction that either makes their day or not. And down to, you know, we have custodians yap, we have grounds crew, they're out there working, cleaning up, making our campus and maintaining our campus on a beautiful level, we have beautiful campus. And, they're very observant. And they recognize when students are having difficult days and they do a wonderful job, of providing information to those students and I think any institution that works hard at getting the resources to every employee, no matter who they are, no matter what their role is, the more caring and inclusive it will be, in terms of getting those students to the resources. So oftentimes our challenge isn't that we don't have the resource, we have the resource it's whether or not the student knows it or that we know it, so we can get the student connected to it. So it's a really important point that you bring up no matter who, an employee is, no matter what group their identity is to, whether staff, faculty, exempt classified staff. And these are the categories that we have within our organizational culture. We are equally likely to be a support for a student, given the fact that we're on this campus, we can run into students at any point in time. And for the students, what message might you have to them in the context of diversity, equity and inclusion.
Dr. Kathy Obear: And it's one I was gonna go back to staff on, but this message goes for staff, faculty leaders are focusing on students is that having an inclusive campus where people can succeed based on their own merit, without artificial barriers is all of our responsibility. And as students, we are committed to accelerating your success and, you have a role as well in, paying attention to classroom dynamics, the dynamics and the different areas that you might be sitting, studying in the library, walking across campus, getting something to eat. And when you see a microaggression, somebody saying or do something that has someone feel dismissed, disrespected, you have a responsibility to speak up. And so, providing tools and classrooms, as well as other trainings for students to get the skills staff faculty as well. How do we recognize the un inclusive subtle daily dynamics that happen in your role as a student to be a part of this community, as we're also challenging everyone else, who's a member of this community, A. B, my message is, the work world has been changing for a long time. And for students to find meaningful life giving work, where you feel of service and are making the kind of income that will support you and other people in your life. That there's a whole set of skills that have been overlooked by most higher Ed. And those skills of working effectively on diverse teams, understanding dynamics of inclusion and exclusion, being able to interrupt interpersonal microaggressions as well as policies and systems and how to create them from the beginning that are more inclusive and how to change them. When you're in them and you find, that some people get more support needs met than others. So these are critical skills, and in addiction of that, I was just doing some research for another webinar I'm doing and, emotional intelligence or EQ has gotten a lot of more attention, especially in corporations the last couple of decades. I talk about it as a navigating difficult situations. When you're triggered, you have a hot button, but that core skillset of how to pay attention in the moment when you've been reactivated in some emotions and how do you navigate yourself so you can still show up and be useful. Cause for some folks, particularly with multiple marginalized identities, often a person or a system will only allow you one mistake if that, before they decide you're not fit. And that's how oppression works, where someone like me can make 10, 20, 30 missteps. And so, having people realize that these skills and capacities, are on top of or integrated with the content you're learning. The third thing I would say is, if you're more like me and you actually grew up with some class privilege middle-class or above, and you identify as white, that, and I could keep going able-bodied that, how can he learn about what are the daily dynamics interpersonal as well as the culture and systems dynamic that actually create barriers for folks in the corresponding marginal identity? Because a disbelief or myth, I often hear whites say, particularly young white men is the system is stacked against me, I can't get a job anymore. And the truth is if you look at the data, white men are still getting hired everywhere, as well as State Legislatures, Congress, Senate. So, the myth of reverse discrimination and all that is put out there, I think to undermine our commitment to equity inclusion, but the data shows, people in privileged identity are still getting hired, but here's what I wanna say to parents and family, as well as the students. If you have any thought that the stack now, deck is stacked against you, actually, your ticket to the future is learning these tools and skills about creating inclusion, interrupting oppression, and creating true respect policies and practices that serve everyone. If you can have those capacities in your privilege identities, organizations will see that you are different from most people in your different same groups. So if you're a young white man, a 42 year old white man, and you can talk about equity and racial justice, and really demonstrate how you do that, you will be hired far faster than other people in those same white male groups. And I could say the same for everybody. So, those are the messages for students, these are current career skills we need today, and we will need more and more in the future as our nation and the world continues to shift in demographics and the commitment to true equity.
President Johnson: It's a powerful message. And I think probably, one that applies not just to the students, but for all of us who work, whether it's higher Ed or any other organization, any of us who have multiple years ahead in terms of working. Important takeaways from what you just said. So let's just shift a little bit. We've been talking a lot about institutions, and what we can do, in our various roles. Turn it back to you. You've been doing equity work now for 32 33 years. How has this work changed? How has it stayed the same? What are the greatest challenges, frustrations? What's remained the same in this work?
Dr. Kathy Obear: I think what's remained the same is the need for us to, I call it work trifocals, 'cause I've literally worn them probably 20 years. There's three different lenses, we have to do this work. We have to help individual people, greater self awareness, more skills, motivation, and accountability to be a part of co creating inclusive organizations. But in order to do that, we have to help everybody understand that by group membership, we have differential life experiences. And that, somebody who's a new immigrant to the US is gonna have a very different life experience even if they're from Germany, where my heritage, Germany and France, if they're white and from Germany, they're gonna have a different life experience in this country, in this current context than I do as a US born citizen. And I could go down all the different diversity categories and do the same. So helping everyone understand multiple differences and what's the daily dynamics and how's the climate and culture and systems set up for some and not as much for others. All that has been the same. And then how do you, at the organizational level? So that's a third, you got individual group, how does our impact and privileged marginalized group impact how we can access fairly? And then systems, understanding systems. What has changed is more and more people are beginning to agree that it's the systems and the practices that need to change, the culture and the climate. In addition to interpersonal dynamics, that's critical, but we have to get, everyone aware, empowered, and responsible for creating, co-creating inclusive systems and not just leave it to a few people, whether it's an Equity Inclusion Vice President or the President, its gotta be everybody's job. More organizations are saying it and more organizations I believe, are taking the steps to move, to get people the skills and the accountability structures and performance appraisals into supervision so that, more and more folks see it's their role and they'll be held accountable to continue to deepen competencies and to make a difference in everything they do towards equity inclusion.
President Johnson: And what inspires you the most about this work?
Dr. Kathy Obear: I still have hope, if you had asked me yesterday after I read, Facebook and listened to the News, here in the US. I go in and out of despair and hope, today, I have hope, I've been talking a lot of people and doing several live calls like this where, I realized how many literally millions of people in this country and probably hundreds of millions around the world are committed to intentional equity inclusion and social justice. I'm not alone. I have a role to play. I have some talents to give, but there are so many folks I can continue to learn with and work with and leave my footprint, my legacy here. So what inspires me is when, I personally see that, how I've shown up in the work, I had a white person write me just a couple of weeks ago to say, your work with other whites and your work about raising our awareness and dismantling racism has inspired me as a white person to do more. That gives me hope and inspires me. I've had several folk of color say working with you has shown me what's possible for whites and the healing spaces you've co-created with other folk of color, have really helped us heal some of that internalized racism and empowered ourselves to be true leaders in this organization. So when I see small steps or big steps, it gives me hope. When I see organizational leadership teams really change their climate and how they engage each other and how they try to have an equity lens in everything they do, and they tell me stories about what's changing. That gives me hope, but I have to be honest, there are so much more work to be done. I thought we were making huge progress and one could argue there have been, incremental pieces of progress, but especially these last three years, I have seen so much reverting or backslap, what's it called? Going back to old. And I've seen the resurgence of white supremacist, antisemitic, misogynist, anti-woman, transphobic, I could keep going anti queer, blaming the poor, criminalizing, poverty. I could just keep going there's been, the voices of those who I want to be different, have gotten centered in so many ways and in mainstream. So, how do we do this work? And it's not a political issue in my mind, Democrat, Republican, actually, there's people on all sides of political spectrums that have racist attitudes, practices, classist attitudes. But how do we come together to really say, what are we about? Where do we need to go? How close are we? And how can we pool our brilliance and our campus as well as other places can we learn from, truly live up to the core values and mission of this organization, this community college? That's what gives me hope when organizations are committed to systemic longterm culture change and truly empowering and amplifying the talents of everyone, getting rid of oppression. That's what motivates me every day, but there are days it's hard to get out of bed.
President Johnson: So in closing, if and when you retire and I'm not sure whether retirement is on your things to do in life, what would you look back to? What metrics or measures would you look at to gauge whether, you would view your career as having been successful?
Dr. Kathy Obear: And I know people are different. But for me being of service and making change is what I use. And so, looking back, and have people change their lives, have systems changed because, in part of what I've been able to do in person virtually as well as the resources that I share and the handouts people can use and the books that people can get for free. So has my living on this earth left a legacy of tools and strategies and approaches and healing that others have picked up not to necessarily do it just like I did. In fact, I want them to do it better, build on what I've done, 'cause I've built my stuff on many people's work. And our people really do on the racial justice work, the dismantling of white supremacy. Those particularly are my passions these days. And the Social Justice Training Institute has, I've worked with some colleagues for over 20 years now. We've had several thousand people go through a very intense workshop that we do in the Institute. And I know, I was a part of, wasn't all about me, but I was a part of thousands of folks, much different on their campuses and in their organizations, creating greater inclusion and racial justice because of the work we did at the Social Justice Training Institute and some of the followup work that people have accessed for my personal work. So I'm prolific, and people can find at least two of my books free on my website and lots of handouts and lots of blogs and lots of free videos. And my hope is people will take the library that I'm leaving and add to it, because it's about individual and systems change. I've seen it happen. And I just hope my work has been one of many to contribute to truly creating equity inclusion, social justice, racial justice, moving the needle day by day.
President Johnson: Thank you so much, Kathy. And as a reminder to our listeners, we will have links and resources on our website connected to this podcast. You've been listening to GatorCast Green River College's official podcast, Green River College Auburn Washington. Thank you so much. And thank you so much again, Kathy Obear for your conversation today. And thank you listeners. We'll talk to you soon.