This post is the fourth and final in a series of blog posts written by the SSDP Career Services Diversity and Inclusion Intern, Jan Farias, for the Fall 2016 semester. The purpose of this internship was to analyze the SSDP Career Services Program and identify concrete ways that our organization can better serve marginalized communities.
Even though the individuals that make up Students for Sensible Drug Policy are involved in actions that range from direct action, to harm reduction, to policy and advocacy, we all share at least one common goal: to end the War on Drugs and replace it with a more compassionate and healing system. Because we are aware of the injustices in our society, we feel a responsibility to address them and make a positive change. We all want to make the world a better place.
However, unless we become aware of the ways that Students for Sensible Drug Policy perpetuates systems of oppression, we’ll never be able to bring justice to the larger world. There have been many meaningful efforts to bring more awareness and education about racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, classism, transphobia and other issues into SSDP’s conversations and actions and to support students that come from marginalized backgrounds. Most of us see the way in which drug policy intersects with the color of someone’s skin, gender, economic status, etc. and are doing our best in order to limit the amount of violence that systems enact on those people.
Yet, I still run into people inside and outside of the organization who have dedicated a good chunk of their lives to ending the War on Drugs, but do not see the value in trying to get students from diverse backgrounds to also participate. The argument against putting time and energy into diversity and inclusivity initiatives is that it’s “discriminatory” and favors a minority group. While I can intellectually understand this argument, I disagree that trying to engage more black, brown, trans, immigrant, disabled, and marginalized students in the political process and activism discriminates against students from dominant social locations. Trying to make an organization more inclusive, brave, and diverse should not be seen as a threat by students from who don’t come from marginalized communities. Instead of seeing it as a divide, students with privilege should instead question why they feel this way. It is common for people who occupy dominant social locations to feel afraid about diversity and inclusivity initiatives because when you’ve been at the top for so long, equity begins to feel like oppression.
We cannot deny that a social system built around domination, oppression, and submission exists. If we can make a personal commitment to challenge ourselves in becoming radically inclusive, we can have a lasting impact at Students for Sensible Drug Policy and other organizations we’re involved in. Making this organization a more kind and compassionate space for all people does not happen after one semester or a series of articles about race or gender— it is a continuous practice that is never really over. Recognizing that we are all complex human beings that can hold multiple conflicting identities is crucial in dismantling these harmful systems. Seeing every single person’s inherent worth and value, regardless of their identity, is the first step in ending the War on Drugs.