UW-Green Bay’s Alexandra Ritchie’s first experience with racism was in first grade. At 12, she was diagnosed with clinical depression. Now, she’s shaping a powerful campus conversation. Alexandra expanded her story outside of campus, in an interview with Cami Rapson on Action 2 News at 10, tonight (July 30, 2020).
In this open letter to her campus colleagues, Marketing and Communications Recruitment Coordinator in UW-Green Bay’s Office of Admissions, Alexandra Ritchie expresses her personal pain over hate, stereotyping and the devastating actions leading to recent marches and protests across the nation.
She, and others, call on the UW-Green Bay campus community to seek understanding, serve as allies, and demand that as a campus, we do better, as Chancellor Alexander has requested from the four-campus community. Ritchie is working with the personnel across campus to compile a list of resources that help educate and motivate.
My first encounter with racism came in the first grade. A group of classmates staged a boycott of chocolate milk during lunches because it was “gross” like the color of my skin. I didn’t even know I was any different. Sure, by first grade those kids may have already been taught their biases from parents or other family members, but they were also born into a society that prioritizes white bodies and demotes ‘otherness’ to second-class. My otherness.
I’m tired of being tired.
Our unfair systems have deemed United States a level playing ground. In reality, Black people have been chained to the starting line, centuries behind the lead. When the shackles came off on Juneteenth we were suddenly supposed to be able to compete? The Civil Rights movement brought about change on paper, but how much change actually occurred in the hearts and minds of those in power? What systems were deconstructed and reconstructed to have us all starting in the same spot?
Systemic racism is hard to break, but it’s even harder to bear. The not-so-funny thing about racism is that the oppressed can’t always make the change; sometimes we can only demand it. After all, what oppressor listens to the oppressed? We need allies. When Black people and other persons of color ask for allies, we aren’t just asking for well-intentioned people to ask how we’re doing. We aren’t asking for people to be colorblind. We aren’t asking for a white body to be a megaphone for our anguish. We aren’t asking you to argue on Facebook with your racist uncle. All these things could help, but we’re really asking for you to educate yourself, embrace our differences, occupy the spaces that we haven’t been permitted in for over 400 years, and go to war destroying those systems that continually put a proverbial knee to our necks. If you aren’t uncomfortable, you’re doing it wrong.
Part of educating yourself is understanding your individual privilege. Privilege shouldn’t be a scary word or insult, and it’s not just for white people. Privilege doesn’t mean that you haven’t fallen on hard times. It’s an honest reflection of things to be grateful for, things that you have no control over that make your life even a fraction easier. Analyzing and accepting privilege is the first step to better understanding what systems you’re benefitting from that marginalized groups may not be. Those working in education are not only tasked with continually evaluating their own biases and privileges, but also imparting the knowledge of past generations onto the next, helping them develop critical thinking skills and inspiring a strong value system. Unfortunately, education itself, especially higher education, can also be a privilege.
So, how do we as a UW-Green Bay community fix that? Well, it starts internally, and it’s not just about not being racist. It’s about being anti-racist. We’re no longer just talking about individuals, we’re looking at the systems. Try need-based scholarships instead of merit-based. Fill courses with real-world applications for all walks of life. Provide access to resources to support all students, no matter their intersectionalities. Take care of the whole student. The whole staff. The whole faculty. Once we’ve established our internal anti-racism reform, we have to continue that trajectory into the rest of our community. And that starts with divesting from partners or companies who don’t hold the same anti-racism values as us. We can’t and won’t tolerate it.
Lord knows I don’t have all the answers, but to me, the goal should never be diversity. Diversity feels like a check box that we have to tick rather than the leveling the playing field. What I’m striving for is inclusion and equity. I want a UW-Green Bay that gives everyone a seat at the table, a voice, and the opportunity to shatter societal limitations and create the community and country that we so rightfully deserve. And we’re well on our way.
From the moment I interviewed at UW-Green Bay, I knew this place was different. The care and tenacity are unmatched. There’s a strong willingness to do what’s right, even if it’s unconventional or goes against what everyone else is doing. Every day I see the inner workings, the strides being taken and the leaders pushing the envelope. This place is unapologetically itself, and that’s just the kind of place to unleash a revolution.
Watch us rise.
Spring planning is fast approaching! If you are hosting any events, programming, guest speakers, film showings, book discussions or anything that is related to Black History Month for February 2020 and/or Asian Heritage Month for April 2020, please inform Multicultural Advisor Bao Sengkhammee. In addition, if you have any questions or would like to be a part of the planning committee for those months, please contact Sengkhammee at 920-465-2022 or email email@example.com.
The Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) office is taking event submissions for the Spring 2020 Human Mosaic. The Human Mosaic is intended to collect UW-Green Bay programs that relate to diversity. They welcome all four campuses, UW-Green Bay, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Marinette, to submit their diversity events. The Human Mosaic is distributed to UWGB students, staff and faculty at the beginning of the semester.
Please complete an online submission for each event. The online submission link is here.
The deadline submission date is Friday, January 3, 2020 at 4:30 p.m. If you have any questions, please contact Multicultural Advisor Bao Sengkhammee at 920-465-2022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UW-Green Bay is making progress on its goal to be a more diverse campus. Freshmen students gathered at the university union Friday morning, wrapping up the week-long Jump Start program. More via UWGB welcomes more diversity in freshmen class | WLUK.
St. Norbert, UW-Green Bay, Northeast Wisconsin Technical College and the Green Bay Area Public School District (SING) is hosting a Summer Professionals of Color Family Day, Friday, August 23, 2019 at Bay Beach Amusement Park (Main Pavilion) from 2 to 5 p.m. Employees of color and family members from the four educational institutions, are invited to enjoy the fun with outdoor games, attractions, food and drink, and a live DJ. Please RSVP with Stacie Christian at email@example.com.
The Fall 2019 Human Mosaic submission deadline has been extended to Wednesday, July 31 at 4:30 p.m. Register your event for the Fall 2019 Human Mosaic Submission. The Human Mosaic is intended to collect UW-Green Bay programs that relate to diversity. All four campuses are welcome to submit their diversity events. The Human Mosaic is traditionally distributed to UW-Green Bay students, staff and faculty at the beginning of the semester. Please complete an online submission for each event. If you have any questions please contact Bao Sengkhammee at 920-465-2022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
UW-Green Bay’s Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) office is taking event submissions for Fall 2019 Human Mosaic. The deadline submission date is Tuesday, July 9, 2019 at 4:30 p.m. The Human Mosaic is intended to collect and showcase UW-Green Bay programs that relate to diversity. Submission from all four campuses are encouraged! The Human Mosaic is traditionally distributed to UW-Green Bay students, staff, and faculty at the beginning of the semester. Please complete an online submission for each event. If you have any questions please contact Bao Sengkhammee at 920-465-2022 or email email@example.com.
Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs (MESA) office is taking event submissions for Fall 2019 Human Mosaic. The Human Mosaic is intended to collect and publicize UW-Green Bay programs that relate to diversity. Submissions are welcome from all four campuses. The Human Mosaic is traditionally distributed to UW-Green Bay students, staff, and faculty at the beginning of the semester. Please complete an online submission for each event. The deadline submission date is Tuesday, July 9 at 4:30 p.m. If you have any questions please contact Bao Sengkhammee at 920-465-2022 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.