Allies at MIIS is a research-cum-practice initiative of the Center. The initiative seeks to motivate members of the Institute – faculty, staff and students – to become better allies for racial equity and thus contribute positively to building a more racially equitable campus and beyond.
To join the Allies at MIIS Study Group in Fall 2019 email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Allies at MIIS is a research-cum-practice initiative of the Center for Conflict Studies. The initiative began in spring 2016, in response to growing calls for acknowledgment of explicit and implicit racial bias in academic life and the need for deeper conversations about racial equity on the MIIS campus. These voices at MIIS are not unique or sole ones in academic circles. In the U.S., where many experience race in much of their social, political and economic interactions, students and academics in educational institutions, especially those of higher learning, are the loudest in demanding that we bring conversations about race more to the forefront and develop tools to deal with race-related conflicts.
Conversations about race are, however, never easy to have.
It is uncomfortable and challenging for everyone involved and it makes individuals vulnerable, no matter what position they take and interests they support. It is therefore with much courage and a passionate desire to bring change that CCS, through its Allies at MIIS initiative, has taken on some of the responsibility for making the campus and all its related environments a more racially equitable space.
By racial equity, the initiative means an environment where:
(a) all identity groups based on race, ethnicity, religion, language, sexual orientation, gender identity/expression, disability status, age, physical attributes, class, cultural background, nationality and more are affirmed;
(b) institutional structure and systems are equally accessible and serve members of all of the above identity groups;
(c) everyone uses a racial equity lens when identifying problems, proposing solutions and making decisions.
An ally is someone who breaks the silence around racism.
At the Center’s annual conference in November 2015, “Breaking Down Shades of Color: Power, Privilege and Potential in Race Conflicts,” keynote speaker Ericka Huggins encouraged attendees to be agents for change and peace.
An ally, she explained, is someone who speaks with privilege but together with the person who is disadvantaged, unrepresented and voiceless. An ally, she added, is someone who stands up when needed but steps back without a need to take credit. She concluded by saying that an ally is someone who would break the silence around racism and not become a part of the problem; that is, they would become an antidote to the disease of racism. The Allies at MIIS initiative embraces these ideas expressed by Ms. Huggins in their understanding of who is an ally. Most importantly, the initiative believes that one must earn the title of Ally; it is not an association one can choose to belong to or an honor one can claim.
The Structure of Allies at MIIS initiative is as follows:
The various units of the structure and our work are described below:
Study Group: This group will engage in researching, reading and discussing topics related to racial equity. This group is comprised of students, faculty, staff and alumni.
Student Working Group: As the second level of potential student participation, the Student Working Group is the activist group that engages in identifying and acting on instances of racial inequity on campus.
Outreach Activities: Allies at MIIS will host and organize various activities and events.
Primarily, how does one become a better ally?
Allies at MIIS will work primarily amongst members of the MIIS community but will also engage with others such as the broader Monterey community, Middlebury College community, other higher education campuses and institutions working to reduce racial inequity. The initiative seeks to:
(a) persuade members to affirm the existence of racial inequity, the first step in ensuring racial equity;
(b) encourage members to acknowledge that experiences of racial discrimination both subtle or explicit are real, thus ensuring that no one feels unheard;
(c) facilitate members to develop the racial equity lens so that those who have power and privilege may be able to identify patterns instead of problems, look beyond the individual to the system, and seek creative solutions;
(d) motivate members to become better allies for racial equity and thus contribute positively to building a more racially equitable environment on its campus and beyond;
(e) support existing safe spaces and create new ones where conversations about race happens thus making our community a better and stronger learning community.
Core Values and Approach
Core values have evolved over the period of two years of existence of Allies at MIIS, and its many members have contributed to its various revisions.
We have three core values as a member of Allies at MIIS:
Self-Reflection: Constant self-reflection on one’s values, beliefs, ethics, privilege and power and how one may become a better ally before expanding the allies’ communities
Social Justice: Pursuing racial equity as an integral part of social justice means we are willing to engage in chaotic social change; it means we are ready to tackle structural inequality and believe firmly in justice, which we understand as fairness and equity
Courage: Initiating difficult conversations, speaking up when witnessing discrimination, and intervening in situations; most importantly, the courage to be ourselves (this includes acknowledging biases and prejudices and owning up privilege) and being clear about our positions
These three core values are sustained by other values that complement, supplement and support them. They are:
Integrity: Having strong moral and ethical principles and being willing to stand up for them under any circumstance. Also, being willing to continuously self-evaluate
Learning: Taking the responsibility to constantly grow by acquiring new knowledge, skills, and behaviours
Innovation: Willing to take risks, learning from past mistakes and willing to constantly think, accept, and lead new ways of dealing with race conflicts
Accountability: Being reliable and personally responsible for owning a problem and acting on it and this while knowing full well that your actions will affect many; also means you are answerable for your actions
Responsibility: Taking ownership by ensuring you know acknowledge your privilege, your part in the structural violence that is racial inequity
Collaboration: Working with others who have similar goals but also taking a stand against working with those whose goals directly contradict ours
Advocacy: Being able to advocate for those who cannot advocate for themselves; giving a voice to the voiceless
Humility: Knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses and being able to help others without seeking anything for oneself
Respect: Giving all experiences, values, thoughts and behaviour due consideration
Our values and approaches are represented in the figure below:
Our approach is broadly five-fold:
Communication: Commitment to initiate, contribute and engage on all matters related to racial equity and in a variety of different ways
Agency: Acknowledging the role that each one of us plays and the burden we all share when operating under structures of racial inequity;
Critical Empathy: Having empathy for all sides of a race conflict but supported by critical thinking that involves seeking, analyzing, and evaluating multiple perspectives
Active-Listening: Being fully present and listening to the content of what is being said including body language and then respond. Avoid focusing on tone and other cultural ways of communication that might lead to tone-policing
Privilege: Accepting that everyone has privilege; that privilege is a relational concept and that we are all guilty of using and abusing privilege whether intentionally or unintentionally