Resisting White normativity

February 26, 2021

It is such a struggle for Black people to show up and be their authentic selves, especially in a White cultural world, in a White culture dominant institution, it is so hard for Black people to just show up and just be. And for me, like I'm freeing myself of that. And I want to free others at the same time of, you know, within their racial identity to be themselves. Like, of course, like in the board room...I meet with the board in the next couple of weeks, I'm going to be as professional as possible. I'm not going to drop words like "dope" and "what you ain't gonna do is," like that's my other vernacular. It comes out at Saint Mary's, but not while I'm giving a presentation. But I can still be my authentic self, or try to at least show up and be my authentic self. And I'm trying to do that more and more, and so I want to free others to be their authentic selves, too, and not feel as if they have to wear so many different masks, when they come to work at Saint Mary's, or when they come in as a student at Saint Mary's, or feel as if they have to hide their voice or hide their culture. I don't want that.

I remember — it was about a year ago, because I was vigorously trying to finish my dissertation by the end of the month of February — and so I stayed after work every day and went on the weekends to my office, and would stay till midnight to finish. And my office is next to the Office of Multicultural Student Services. And I remember being in my office and would hear the students in there just laughing and just, like so loud and just, you know, being themselves like having that space to be themselves. And so, I walked in and they got quiet, and I was like, "No, I came to tell y'all that I love hearing you guys just laugh and be happy, and don't like don't quiet down like this is the student center. Yes, there's some offices in here, but this is the student center. And if anybody come in and tell y'all that you're too loud, you come get me so I can tell them no, they can be as loud as they want to." Because they, you know, have tried to be someone else in the classroom or in the dorm just to kind of fit this mold or not offend anyone. And like no, be your authentic self. Like I want to free our students I want to free employees to be themselves and try to show up as authentic as possible as they can every day.

That is a whole other conversation about Whiteness and White supremacy and White normativity — just Whiteness being presented as the norm. And having to fit into that mode. And we have systems and structures that are in place with Whiteness as the dominant culture and as the norm. And so, it's not the fault of Saint Mary's, you can insert another school and it's an issue there. You can insert Notre Dame and there's an issue there, you can insert Holy Cross or Ivy Tech, IUSB, and it's the same issue. You will hear the same stories, no matter what institution you go to, if it's a PWI, and so it's just not a Saint Mary's thing, it is a world thing. And it's just not a higher ed, it could just be any organization.

Dr. Redgina Hill

Dr. Redgina L. Hill is the executive director of inclusion and equity at Saint Mary’s College.