Salvete. My name is Miriam Patrick. I am a Latin teacher in a public high school in Georgia. I serve on the American Classical League (ACL) task force for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). I am one of the people who have spent the last 48 hours working on, arguing about, and considering the statement ACL published and the longer statement that ACL will publish soon.
I am writing this post for a few reasons, including the continued work I and others are doing on this matter. I am also writing this post because, as anyone who knows me will tell you, I believe that the work must be done for social justice and anti-racism, and I believe that every one of us MUST do that work. As of late, I vacillate between emotions: anger, sadness, hopelessness, hopefulness, determination. It was with all these feelings that I, and a few others, approached the ACL about a statement of solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
In the past, the ACL has been criticised for making no statement or for making a statement too late. They’ve been scolded for making vague, incomplete statements that feel more like a pat on the back than a commitment to real action and service. As a member of the DEI taskforce, I know this. I’ve voiced this.
The ACL has further been criticised for comments and promotional materials that were racist, out of date, and elitist (to say the least). The DEI immediately took on those materials and made critical suggestions, and they were subsequently removed. The most recent criticism of these materials included quotes from these removed works, but did not include the work done to remove them. This is not a defense of those materials. This is, however, real work; real work that is being done nearly continuously.
I have been on the DEI task force since its inception. I wanted to serve on a proactive task force. I want to enact change in a community that I both love and in which I see faults. And for a while I did not feel that we were accomplishing that, and I still have questions. For our first year we were reactive, responding to emails and complaints, working with the ACL to go over past materials, and answering calls to action from people within and outside the ACL membership. I expressed my anger and frustration on this and I was asked by team members, colleagues, and friends to give it more time. And, so I have.
It has not been easy. There is a tool of self understanding shared with me recently by my department head. Here is a link. I encourage everyone to take it. I have the voice of the creator and I will do whatever it takes to make sure that things are done the best way they can be done. I know this about myself and I have always walked away from my work with the DEI asking myself what could have been done better, what could have been stronger, what could I have pushed for more. This is not exclusive to me. I know many of my colleagues on this task force feel the same way. Why then, you might ask, is it taking so long?
The ACL is a very large, very old ship. It carries many people. It wants to carry more. This ship has built within it, much like our country, systems of oppression and systems that ignore the very voices of the people it carries. This is the way it is. This is also the crux of what must be fixed. The people in the ACL are part of a ship built to include racism and oppression, as are all people in the United States. They… WE… in order to change the build of the ship, must do the work that starts with learning how to fix the ship. While we do that, we must carry and push the ship. It is a large ship. It is an old ship. It will take much more than a statement, more than papers, more than lifting it out of the water just to see all the parts. It will take action. White people, I’m speaking to us. Our colleagues and friends and beloveds of colour live a reality every day where the very system works against them. The ACL should not replicate that system. The ACL should be a place where their voices are listened to, honoured, and lifted. It’s time to rebuild the ship.
To be clear, this work isn’t a pipe dream. It is real and ongoing, if slow moving. Is it enough? No. Have I left? No. Have others left? Yes. Some. Some have chosen to leave and some have chosen not to join. This is their choice. If this is what they must do, then I understand. However, I also understand that as a member of the ACL, one who has benefitted from it and from the white privilege I have, it is up to me to do this work. So, here I am. To this point, I’ve made a number of suggestions or calls to action to the ACL. I have put them below my final words.
The ACL has a lot of work to do. Trust me when I say that it is happening, if slowly. There is a group of people actively working for change. There is also a process that must be followed as per the governing documents. There is a lot of criticism and judgement going around. It is not all inaccurate. It is also missing an integral part of this whole conversation: the work. For action to be taken, someone must stand up and do it.
P.S. Below you will find the list of tangible actions I made to the ACL early yesterday morning. I am publishing it here. Just as the ACL could do this, so can each of us. Before anyone takes a voice of extreme criticism and exclusion, consider doing the work we each must do.
1. Statement of solidarity that does not speak to "all lives matter" or take the focus away from BLM.
2. Make donations to groups actively working for this cause. NAACP, EJI, Southern Poverty Law Center, BLM, are just a few. There are others as well.
3. Lift up BIPOC voices. This is really easy, free, and can do a lot of good work.
- Reach out to the BIPOC membership. Ask them for their twitter handles, blogs, websites, etc and feature them on the ACL website and social media.
- Find out which BIPOC members are publishing research, novellas, etc. and feature them in the Outlook, on the website, and on social medias
- If BIPOC members have small businesses that are appropriate, share them on the website and social medias
- If and when BIPOC members share stories of racism, white supremacy, etc. about our community, share that story in the Outlook, on the website, and social media.
- When BIPOC come to the ACL with stories, concerns, etc. the ACL should believe and support them.
- Lift up voices of BIPOC content creators where appropriate. These can be novellas, videos, tutorials, podcasts, audio, etc. Share them on the website and social media.
4. Provide resources and make a call for white people in the ACL to do the work. This includes people in leadership on the ACL board. There are plenty of books, resources, etc. They don't need to be Latin related. They need to be socially justice minded. I can recommend a few if you all would like.
5. A detailed apology for times the ACL didn't rise to the occasion and how, in detail, it will be fixed. Transparency is really important. Finished and polished products are amazing, but communities of colour need to see us do the real and hard work.