If there’s anything 2020 taught me, it’s that you can’t take anything for granted, especially your health, time, or energy. While the pandemic made us more connected than ever, it caused many of us to spread ourselves too thin. Although the pandemic is ongoing, a new year still brings the potential for change. One of my new year’s resolutions is to practice more self care.
One way of doing this is by distancing myself from things that don’t serve me. Here are just a few things I’m not wasting my energy on in 2021.
People who invalidate, undermine, or question my experiences
In 2017, I wrote a blog post about being POC in Classics where I talked about an experience I had with a colleague in my department that sat with me for months. A colleague directly invalidated my feelings of uncertainty about applying to a predominantly white institution abroad. This happened in my first year of graduate school.
In fall 2020, similarly valid concerns raised by WOC in my department were questioned and ultimately sidelined to foreground concerns raised by white students on an unrelated topic.
Just because you haven’t had the same experiences as your BIPOC colleagues doesn’t mean that their experiences aren’t worth listening to.
People who tone police
Two of my favorite blog posts of 2020 were Against Cop Shit and Against Rigor by Jeffrey Moro. In “Cop Shit,” he defines the term as “any pedagogical technique or technology that presumes an adversarial relationship between students and teachers.”
While these posts were specifically about equitable pedagogy, I’ve found over the last few months (and years) that they also apply to a culture of interaction in Classics departments. In both scenarios, there is someone who believes they are the arbiters of “justice” in the classroom or the department.
BIPOC students and faculty – especially BIWOC – in these departments riddled with cop shit are much more likely to be chastised for having an “emotional” reaction to, well, literally anything than their white (male) colleagues.
Even if the reaction was perfectly warranted.
Random trolls on the internet
We already spend enough time on the internet these days. Why spend more time engaging with people who use their time to try and start fights with strangers?
Trying to please everyone at the expense of my own mental and emotional well-being
Many months ago I tweeted that you don’t need to be friends with every person in your department or program. I still stand by it.
You should, of course, try to be civil. But it’s okay to choose a group of people because you feel most comfortable with them. It’s okay to not attend every social event under the sun.
You don’t owe anyone anything.
Sometimes the best form of self care is to take a step back and reevaluate your relationships and other commitments.
Encouraging BIPOC in Classics to join departments, institutions, or field projects that aren’t working towards being more inclusive
Many years ago, I believed that I wanted to do a PhD in archaeology because I wanted to inspire other BIPOC to join the field. But 2020 showed me that sometimes the departments that seem shiny on the outside are actually not the best environments in which BIPOC can thrive.
Before we can bring more BIPOC into our courses, departments, and institutions, we need to make sure that they will support them.
It inspires me that many people are making changes toward more inclusivity, but there’s still a lot of work to do. This isn’t something that you can devote only half of your attention to. It’s also not just a trend that will fizzle out in a couple of months (I hope).
This is serious, ongoing work. It’s not enough to just accept BIPOC into these spaces. You must be sure that they will want to say. Trust me – leaving a toxic department is just another form of self care.
Institutions that aren’t actively working to change the status quo
We are past the time for statements of solidarity. This is especially true for those used by departments and institutions to pat themselves on the back for being woke.
What we need now are solid action plans and accountability. There are many plans that were developed over the last few months. If your department or institution is behind on this, here are a few that might inspire you:
University of Michigan Museum of Anthropological Archaeology Black Lives Matter/Diversity Equity Inclusion Action Plan
Johns Hopkins University History Department Anti-Racism Action Plan