Monday, March 6, 2017

A daily routine

I approach each morning with a certain tension. I pick up my phone (a terrible way to start the day, you’d think I’d have figured that out by now, I definitely do not recommend it.). I skim twitter, the New York Times, and whatever else has accumulated overnight. It isn’t that there wasn't oppression or ordeals before - but I (perhaps delusionally) thought I knew the shape of them. Now there is a certain wild card feel that I can’t quite shake.

But maybe it is just because I hate going to the obvious place - people who are marginalized will be openly targeted for the foreseeable future. And it is on us (us reading this, us who are privileged in one way or another, us who can leverage something in a given moment) to hold the line. 

Today, a few shoes dropped (how can there be so many shoes? There are so many shoes.).


We’re back with another immigration executive order. Marginally modified, still full of poorly constructed policy. And by poorly constructed I mean - illegal, immoral, unconstitutional, racist, sexist, xenophobic..Not based on any sort of reality, but certainly a prop in our current administration’s political theatre. Our institutions and departments continue to try to figure out what impacts will be throughout our communities. I notice no one seems to be headed anywhere to protest, although fundamentally very little has changed from the first immigration executive order. (Update - I see people outside the White House, and I’m grateful to them.)

The Supreme Court has declined to hear a case (Grimm v. Gloucester) that it had originally agreed to hear in October. The Trump Administration has recently rescinded guidance from the previous administration that provided support for students to use the bathroom appropriate to their gender. Guidance from the Obama administration said that discriminating against transgender students could result in the loss of federal funding. SCOTUS bounced the case back down to lower courts with the shift in position. It would have been the first case around the rights of transgender people for the Supreme Court. It also vacated a ruling in favor of Gavin Grimm, a transgender boy who had been supported by the lower court to use the boys bathroom in his school in Virginia. I stand with Gavin and wish him the best in this ongoing struggle. 

And, icing on the cake, the University of California, Berkeley decided that they couldn’t possibly be in compliance with the ADA, and instead would remove/firewall a significant portion of online content rather than come into compliance. They claim it is too hard (read: expensive) to provide captioning for MOOC and other online course content, amongst other issues. Clearly budgeting access at the start was an exercise far beyond the great and generous minds there. 

Where to start.

I have a science deadline. I want to fix everything. Or shout out the window all day. But the world is going to keep moving, and I’ve learned that I can’t check out for big blocks of time. I have students who have projects that need to move forward, I have deadlines, and students struggling which much larger issues than my NASA deadline. Door closed/news off is only an option in very small doses.

So what do we do? The world has struggled with injustice and oppression for a long time. And it can feel incredibly overwhelming. So today, like the other days, I pick a piece and push back. I pick a piece of my proposal, and I write. I do some of the work to support those minoritized people being targeted today. I continue with the local organizing work that feels like building real and permanent structures of change. 

What can you do? You can check in with your department or institution - Do they have resources in place for international students in the face of shifting and unstable travel policies? Can you make sure everyone who needs them has access to that information? What is the situation like in your building for bathrooms? Can everyone use a bathroom without stress, anxiety, or danger? Do you know where bathrooms are that are single stall, or gender neutral, or accessible for people in wheelchairs or with other mobility challenges? Do you know if your local online courses are accessible? How do you handle access in your classrooms or meetings? Do you not only know the policies, but have good resources to proactively support broad accessibility - not constantly thinking of access as remediation, but as a design question at the start?


It is a lot. I can’t do it all at once, and neither can you. But we can commit to picking up something nearby and getting involved to do some work. We can trade off with our science work when we can - and know that when we have to take a break from things, other people will step up and carry the load for a while. I can’t do everything every day (although this knowledge appears not to stop me from sometimes trying) but I can also build in ways to keep the despair at bay, and move the world inexorably in a forward direction. I try not to succumb to the voices of self pity or the exhaustion, because I know my privilege is vast. I can have crummy days (can I ever) - but they don’t shift the fact that the work needs doing, and I need to do at least some of it. And I’m grateful for all of you who see this isn’t above and beyond, but part of the job. 

ETA: Thanks to a colleague for pointing out I had used "transgendered" instead of "transgender" which is the correct usage. I should have caught it, and didn't - and next time will remind myself to double check the GLAAD media reference guide when I'm not sure.