Courtesy of Kimberly Schmidl-Gagne

Hunter Oberst
News Editor

Award-winning, nationally-recognized expert on racism and racial justice, women’s rights and human rights Loretta Ross was the latest guest of the Sidore Series at Keene State College.

Ross is a visiting associate professor at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts, in women and gender studies and has appeared regularly in major media outlets to discuss contemporary issues.

“Her work emphasizes the intersectionality of social justice issues and how intersectionality can fuel transformation,” Associate Vice President for Diversity and Inclusion Dr. Dottie Morris said.

In her webinar, Ross introduced the idea of “calling in the calling out culture.” The webinar was attended by members of the Keene State community as well as guests from Australia and the United Kingdom.

Ross said she herself was first introduced to the “calling out” culture when she joined Facebook.

“I stayed on Facebook and discovered how mean people were being to each other and I was appalled so I asked one of the young people I was working with at the time why people are saying things they wouldn’t say in real life,” Ross said.

Ross said her coworker told her about this “call out” culture and Ross, who had 45 years of racial justice and human rights activism under her belt at the time, figured she could do something about it.

“I had a lot of experience talking to people who I wouldn’t bring over for dinner,” Ross said.

Throughout her career, Ross said she had spoken with incarcerated men who had raped and murdered women as well as neo-Nazis and Klansmen. She said she was told by Rev. C.T. Vivian that when you ask people to give up their pain, you have to be there for them when they do.

“The reality was that he was right,” Ross said. “Because once you get to know people under the hoods and behind the swastikas, they’re just people too. They’re just regular folks who have a bad solution for their pain but their pain is real. And you have to take their suffering seriously to see the humanity underneath the hoods and emblems.”

Another topic Ross brought up in her presentation was the idea of blame vs. responsibility. “No one alive can be blamed for the system of white supremacy we have. You weren’t around when it was created in the 1600s but we all bear a responsibility for ending it,” Ross said. She continued by comparing it to moving into a new house with plumbing issues. The person that moved into the house isn’t to blame for the neglect to the house, but if they want to enjoy that house then they are responsible for fixing it up.

Ross added that in order to combat white supremacy, people need to reevaluate the calling out process. “Avoiding the shame and ousting punishments that are replicating the prison industrial complex and value the relationship for everyone being on the same team because everyone wants to be heard, valued, respected, liked and appreciated,” Ross said.

Calling in an individual is a call-out done with radical love to achieve accountability, according to Ross’s presentation.

“Both calling in and calling out are accountability processes, but a call-out is a public shaming of a person and a call-in is that I choose to seek accountability for the harm that I think you’ve done by paying close attention to who you are and being able to put aside my reaction to who you are and investigate why you feel it is necessary to cause that harm in the first place,” Ross said. “It starts by giving each other the benefit of the doubt.”

After having seen Ross’s presentation, Program Manager for Provost Kimberly Schmidl-Gagne said Ross provides different approaches to work out differences among different peoples.

“It’s been a rough year,” Schmidl-Gagne said. “There’s been so much going on with the pandemic and social justice struggles, economic struggles. We don’t agree. Our global interactions have become really rough. We are combatic with each other. [Ross] provides a different approach to solving those differences.”

Schmidl-Gagne said the biggest takeaway from the lecture for her was that there are other options in how to deal with someone being confrontive with you. “In conflict you get tight and tense,” Schmidl-Gagne said. “We want to have that perfect comeback…we’ve got to find different ways to talk to each other.”

The next edition of the Sidore Lecture Series, “Burnout,” will be on March 29. Dr. Emily Nagoski will discuss why women experience burnout differently than men and talk about how women can minimize stress and manage their emotions to live a more joyful life.


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