What does it mean when a white woman tells a Black woman to be civil?
You would assume that the woman being told to be civil was out of control. That they were yelling. That they were using profanity. That they were not giving others a chance to contribute to the conversation.
Unfortunately, none of this has to be true when you are a Black woman in our society. All that is required to be deemed uncivil is an opposing stance.
On Wednesday, September 11, all seven student governments were invited to meet with Vice President of Student Life A. Scott Weber and Vice President for Finance and Administration Laura Hubbard. The purpose of the meeting was to provide updates on the transition to FSA. This forced transition was sprung upon student government leaders during the final week of classes, last semester. Carrie Woodrow who directed the Administrative Review of Sub Board I (SBI), that lead to the recommendation to dissolve SBI, gave the presentation.
Throughout the presentation, student government leaders asked questions of Carrie Woodrow, Christina Hernandez, Laura Hubbard, and Scott Weber. The updates covered were on the new University Safety Shuttle, University Ticketing, and a legal clinic proposed by the Undergraduate Student Association. At the end of the meeting, students were given the opportunity to ask additional questions.
At that time, I asked UB Administration to make the report of the administrative review committee available to the student governments.
When Mike Montoro, the Student Representative on the UB Council echoed a desire to see the completed report of the administrative review committee, UB Administration sat silent. Mike then asked why the report of the committee was never released. In response to this question, I quoted Carrie Woodrow who stated during the May 6 meeting that providing the actual report would “muddy the waters”.
As soon as I said that, VP Laura Hubbard told me that I needed to be civil.
There is a history in this country of Black women being silenced by being told to be civil.
When Black women speak up and express a difference in opinion, they are called loud, combative, aggressive, they’re accused of having an attitude, and told to calm down or be civil.
Nothing about how I’ve acted in the four months since the university forced all seven student governments to transition to FSA is uncivilized.
Sticking up for the rights of not just graduate students but all students is not uncivil.
Reiterating what was said in past meetings by UB Administration is not uncivil.
Asking tough questions of people who literally work for the students of the university is not uncivil.
Questioning authority and criticizing institutional structures is not uncivil.
As the Graduate Student Association President, one of my primary concerns is fighting for the most marginalized students on campus. I am a voice for students on campus who don’t have access to UB Administration. As a Black woman at a Predominantly White Institution (PWI), I know how it feels to not have my voice heard.
I know how it feels to be expected to ignore or forgive racial microaggressions and acts of overt and covert racism. I ran for GSA President because I wanted underrepresented graduate students to know that someone was fighting for their rights. That I would advocate for them in the face of adversity no matter the consequences. This is not the first time I’ve sat in meetings with UB Administration intent on si- lencing me and other minority voices.
VP Hubbard’s coded comment for me to be civil wreaked of respectability politics and tone policing.
I implore all UB Administration to stop trying to silence the voices of students that oppose their actions.
I implore VP Hubbard to think about her inappropriate comment to me and whether it would be something she would say to a cis white male student government leader.
My intersecting identities of Black and woman in combination with my assertiveness is something that makes VP Hubbard uncomfortable.
To quote a recent post from NoWhiteSaviors on Instagram:
“Do not let people gaslight you into believing it’s about your *tone* or *delivery*. It is about what you are saying, not how you say it. They will call you aggressive when really it is the act of holding them accountable for their dysfunctional behaviors that feels aggressive”.
I will not allow VP Hubbard to make me believe that advocating on behalf of the students of UB is uncivil.
I will not be silenced.
Graduate Student Association President
This letter remains in the shape it was sent in and has not been altered.