Finding My Voice

Ronnie Coyle as a Young'un

Listen to the blog post by going to our Podcast page.

Hello my friends.

I have a very real topic this week. A topic that can be uncomfortable for many to discuss. A topic that can be hard to reflect on their own personal knowledge and skills. The topic, racial equity. 

Before I go further, I want to be transparent. I will be providing you with my personal experiences, and my actions to become a better listener and co-conspirator. More on that to follow. I will also provide resources and tools that I have been and will continue to use for my personal and professional growth. 

I identify as a person of color. I check the box that is labeled American Indian/Alaska Native. If the box existed, I would instead check Muscogee (Creek) citizen. 

“Race is the child of racism, not the father.”

Ta-Nehisi Coates

from Between the World and Me

To help me recollect and reflect for my post this week, I just finished a 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge. An amazing experience with many of my colleagues to better ourselves and our community. We read about, watched videos on, and discussed many topics such as, and not limited to:

  • Stereotyping
  • Blindspot Bias
  • Racism
  • Race Equity
  • Structural Discrimination
  • Whiteness
  • Racial Division
  • Intersectionality
  • Equality and Equity
  • Non-racist and Anti-racist
  • Ally and Co-conspirator
  • Detours
  • Color Blind and Color Brave

It’s a lot. I learned many things. I have many questions. What I do know is what I have learned to this point and what I will work on right away. The challenge was part of a 30 day course of self-guided daily activities that challenged us to reflect on our awareness about race, communication skills about race, and conflict management around issues of race. We also had 3 virtual meetings to share insights and create dialogue with other peers in a safe space. With Engagement Guidelines (page 3) established by Dr. Kathy Obear, we had open and respectful conversations.

First, I was asked to analyze how race has impacted my life experience and how has it impacted our community? While this is not an exhaustive list, here are some stories that come to mind.

Living in small town Oklahoma, it was not unusual for my friends to joke with me about taking my land. We knew a lot about one side of the story when it came to the history of the Oklahoma Land Rush. While most times I just ignored them, a few of my friends knew my triggers. For some reason they liked to get me agitated. Ugh.

Talking about Oklahoma History. In my high school Oklahoma History class, which was either fall of 1991 or fall 1992, the Atlanta Braves were in the Major League Baseball World Series. My classmates thought it would be clever to do the tomahawk chop and chant during class time for the whole school to hear. Unfortunately, I probably joined in due to peer pressure. Plus, I liked the team. 

Examples like these make me wish I knew more when I was younger. At least I know now. 

I still have a bit to explore to understand how race has impacted my community. So moving on with the reflection.

Next was to determine knowledge or areas of practice about racial equity (i.e. bias, historical narratives, Whiteness, interrupting dynamics of oppression, allyship, etc.) for me to learn more about.

During the past few years I have learned to reflect more on my experiences to understand my past. I have run into roadblocks, while also finding my voice. Personally, I want to use my stories to teach, and help, others with racial equity. I believe learning more about being a co-conspirator is my path.

Professionally, there are many opportunities. From our Professionals of Color to the Intertribal Employee Involvement Group I will learn much from my peers. I also believe we, as faculty, need to look at the industry(ies) and topics we teach to discover and showcase more diversity. Ethics and diversity is more than just a chapter, or section of a chapter, it needs to be a foundation for all we teach. 

Lastly, I was asked to name two specific actions I can take to address those areas I identified. Easy!

The first action is to continue listening and never stop learning. 

Then, to build on the first action, I will continue to speak up and share my stories. By educating others on my experiences and what I have learned, they will have the opportunity to listen and learn from a different perspective.

As I continue this work, I will be sharing more here in future blog posts. 

I am curious, what actions have you taken, or plan to take, for continued awareness and engagement about the dynamics of race, power, privilege, and equity?

To make sure you don’t miss a new article, could you do us a favor? 

First, go to the bottom of the Home page and Subscribe to receive email updates when we publish.

Next, follow The Start of the Trail on Facebook, as well as, Jessica, Molly, and me on Instagram. Links are at the top of the blog page.

Also, consider leaving comments on the blog posts. We would love to hear what you think and if you have any questions. 

Thank you for listening in. Be sure to check out the article for any photos and links we shared to continue this journey with us. 

Until next time, take care, and be safe! This is Ronnie Coyle

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