What kind of world do you want?

“If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.”

I believe it was Malcom X who coined this provocative and relevant thought (and if my citation is inaccurate, I’m sure Malcom X said this at some point, while living this philosophy as his truth). And it’s so accurate, right?

I am obsessed with great content, and especially when that content assists in creating real and raw perspective. For example, when Kerry Washington accepted the Vanguard Award at the GLAAD Awards this past weekend. Pause and listen to her speech. This speech is incredibly valuable, and something which should be replayed over and over – there is a lot more we can be doing, and a lot more inclusion we should be observing. I’m curious to see how Kerry continues the dialogue.

Outside of this speech, and, of course, the previous posts I have used to articulate my thoughts on activism or the current reality in my home state of Oklahoma, I want to pause and show some appreciation for my alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma. This past week, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UCO launched a campaign, advertising The Tunnel of Oppression, which is a phenomenal simulation to help students better understand privilege and oppression, and how these concepts impact everyone. Check out the posters below:

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Asians..

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Black Men...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Disability...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Muslims...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Gay Men...

UCO Tunnel of Oppression - Native Americans...

First, I want to thank these brave students for “coming out” in these posters. Whereas many people of color are already “out” as noted by race (being, “color blind,” is not a thing, and all of that), sitting with these search items is a heavy and intense moment – a reality faced by any oppressed or marginalized individual. Next, I want to highlight that these, “Societal assertions,” are very real and are played out for people every single day. And this should not be a surprise. In fact, if you gasped at the items listed in the search bars above, I challenge you to think about your surroundings a bit more critically. This is certainly the case following the OU SAE incident, and has been a theme in a lot of the conversations I have had with friends and colleagues now two weeks after the release of the video. We must challenge a little harder, and push a little deeper.

And this starts with inclusion. How are you integrating inclusion into your conversations and into your personal and professional engagements? As Luke Visconti argues, and I tend to agree, it is so much more than simply asking (expecting) baristas to talk about race in the 20 seconds they have with a customer at Starbucks. If we want inclusion, diversity, equity, multicultural understanding, etc. to be something that is espoused and enacted, it must be something that is integrated through every fiber of an operation. As Visconti points out, it must start from the top (and in the most, see-someone-to-be-someone, kind of way).

One year ago, I was a cluster facilitator at LeaderShape, a leadership retreat for college students. The university where I was working did a campaign to advertise this opportunity, and passed around various flyers reading, “I see a world where ______.” Individuals could write in what kind of world they see. For example, “people have clean water,” “cancer is fully treatable,” “we find peace,” and, “everyone has a puppy,” were a few of my favorites. When I filled out my own flyer to be hung on my office door, I thought long and hard. What kind of world did (do) I want to see?

And, today, I ask you this same question, among others:

How do you see the world? What kind of world do you want? What kind of contribution can you and will you be willing to make? Do you dare?

Engaging,

Michael

*I see a world with liberty and justice for all.

My love letter to incoming freshman…

*photo courtesy of the University of Central Oklahoma

*photo courtesy of the University of Central Oklahoma

I came across a photo of Old North this morning, posted by my beloved alma mater, the University of Central Oklahoma. Old North is the oldest building constructed for higher education in the state of Oklahoma (Oklahoma-territory back then, if my Tour Guide roots are serving me correctly), and just so happens to be a building I walked by for four of the best years of my life.

I sat at my desk for a few minutes and just stared at my screen. In that one minute of reflection (I do this a lot, force myself to be still, quiet, and just be), many college memories flashed before my eyes. Specifically, my first day of college, ten years ago from this very day. Ten years is a long time. In ten years I have seen many friends lose parents, lose their own lives, develop new families (sometimes even for a second attempt), and change and grow multiple careers.

My first class of my freshman year (ten years ago from today) was a class titled, “Lessons in Leadership.” On a leadership scholarship (yes, those exist), I, along with 25 of my freshman-peers, was required to take a leadership class with the President of the University. I walked in, in what I am pretty sure was khakis and a sweater vest, books in hand, and headed for the front row. I remember an upper-classman in the same scholarship program joke with me, “Looks like you’re ready to teach this class.” I always did dress beyond my years, which is quite comical because now it’s like a winning lottery ticket to see me in a tie, let alone a suit. But, in that moment, I started college. It began. And, as many seniors are reflecting today, I would probably, if offered, go back to that very moment if presented the chance.

In lieu of rewinding time, I have summed up my thoughts in this note to those starting college today, or soon for others:

To those starting college today (or insert whichever day makes for, “the big day”),

To those privileged individuals who have the opportunity to attend college, I challenge you this: acknowledge your privilege. You are entering the world of scholars, leaders, world-changers, almost-professional athletes, researchers, and other folk who generally just want to learn, know, acquire, and be more. You are one of these folk. You are more.

As you select and attend classes, navigate your social balance, and re/consider new and old friendships, I challenge you to take care of your college. Show up for class. Invest in class. Show up for non-class. Get involved, be active, and leave a print – a positive impact. Look around and listen. Challenge yourself to stop making assumptions and give others a chance – give yourself a chance. Free yourself, and free your mind. Do something unconventional.

As you learn more about yourself and your newly established freedoms, be mindful of the world outside of your intercollegiate-bubble. Be curious. Be adventurous. Take care of yourself, and take care of others. Take care of your campus. Show up. Pick up. Fail. Know that “high school you” won’t cut it in higher education. You have to be better, do better, and aim better. But, fail. And learn. Grow, always.

When you look ahead, remember that, at some point, you will soon be looking back. Be proud of what you see in that rear-view mirror. Create the outcome you hope most to achieve. Believe in yourself, your surroundings, and “your people.” Invest in your people. Invest in yourself. Education is a powerful thing, and our privilege allows this huge opportunity of knowledge and future-success. Do not take this for granted. Now, go. Do. Be.

Most sincerely,

Washed-Up Alum

Good vibes and good love to all those starting a new journey today, and/or soon. Take a mental picture, frame it, love it.

In bronze and blue,

Michael