During an impromptu visit home to Eastern North Carolina in April, one of my dearest friends (and seriously one of my favorite human-beings) asked me if I had been “Libbed Out” by my social work studies at UNC-Chapel Hill.
Yup. “Libbed out”.
I assure you, I was just as confused by the statement as I am sure you are reading it. But that’s my friend for you; she has this amazing ability in coining some pretty phenomenal “-ism”s that make you think.
With further explanation, I quickly learned “libbed out” merely meant:
Oh. Well, that makes much more sense… Ish.
Let me take a moment to backtrack and explain that UNC-Chapel Hill is very much considered a “liberal” institution by countless folks in North Carolina and many other Southern states. UNC-Chapel Hill is also often viewed as being “out there” in philosophy and practice. I’ve even heard Carolina described as the “Southern Berkeley” in some circles. In fact, there’s an on-going joke that North Carolina doesn’t need a zoo – it just needs a fence around UNC-Chapel Hill.
To be transparent, I don’t really know what “liberal” even means. At least, aside from its dictionary definition of being “favorable to progress or reform”. The whole “liberal” versus “progressive” versus “conservative” versus “blue” versus “red” versus yada yada yada… Gives me motion sickness; it makes me dizzy. This is a fact something my dear friend and I share – we don’t really know what any of these words mean anymore because they’re just tossed around.
I mean, when we really think about it, do we really know what those words mean? Really though, how many of us actually learn the etymology of these words before using them?
“Libbed out”. “Liberal-ed out”.
Hm. What an interesting concept. I don’t know how I feel about that.
When initially asked if I was “libbed out”, I was much more interested in catching up and laughing at shared memories with a friend than opening up can of worms. Although, we did discuss the terminology briefly and came to the mutual understanding that we share more similarities in our beliefs than differences. After all, we’re good friends for a reason and know how to have a conversation, despite not agreeing on everything. How boring would that be otherwise?
Those who know me best have witnessed I’m an introverted thinker and my best responses require time and space. I need to marinate on most questions in order to answer appropriately, effectively, and well, cordially. I’m very guilty of saying regrettable things if not given time and space – ever been around me while I’m hangry? Here’s a warning: back away slowly and toss me a Reese’s peanut butter cup.
Call me old-fashioned but I’m a firm believer that conversations go further and are much more productive if people aren’t yelling and arguing with each other the entire time. Often, timing, additional research of a topic, space, and appropriate attitudes and behavior actually make for a better conversation. Granted, my mama has always told me to “think before speaking”. Thanks, Mom!
Now that a year of mental, spiritual, emotional, physical, and financial investment at one of the South’s (and nation’s) most “liberal” educational institutions and programs is behind me, I think I’ve marinated long enough. Based on my experiences at school and in the field, I’m ready to revisit the term, “libbed out” and unpack whether or not I fall into that definition.
So here goes. Here are 10 real-life circumstances illustrating what it may look like to be “libbed out”.
If being “libbed out” means:
- Owning the fact that my life and the way I think is unique only to me (turns out I’m the expert of my own experience and there’s no other Angela Krider who has lived my life – whodathunkit?!) and taking the steps to understand how that affects my interaction and relationship with others, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Having genuine conversations with folks of completely different life experiences and views and actually listening without judgment (or the need to respond), then I may have been “libbed out”
- Exchanging my use of the phrases “illegal immigrants” for “undocumented immigrants” and “Latino/Latina” for “Latinx” so communities I work with remember they are still human, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Intentionally utilizing personal pronouns (I go by “she/her/hers” by the way) in daily conversations so non-binary folks (which include some of my friends who have had a history of being dismissed and scorned invisible their entire lives) have a safe space of inclusivity and love, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Finding something incredibly problematic about being the sole person of color (or varying ethnicity, faith, etc.) in a classroom at a “liberal” program and school, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Asking follow-up questions such as “why” or “I only have this perspective; will you help me understand yours” or “can you unpack what you mean” with individuals holding different viewpoints and opinions than myself, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Desperately advocating and searching to find healthcare aid for children and families directly affected by strict immigration policies – like one of my pre-teens (who came to the U.S. on a recently expired LEGAL Visa) who did not qualify for any healthcare assistance despite having been continuously raped and emotionally abused by her biological father on American soil – then I may have been “libbed out”
- Spending countless hours learning methods and techniques to effectively promote prevention and effective treatment of suicidality, PTSD, depression, addiction, and other mental health issues, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Daily being humbled at my own privilege and protective factors (i.e., growing up in a multi-cultural family, in a non-divorce, faith-based household, in a predominantly non-white space, as a documented immigrant, etc.) and using such privilege to repair flawed systems and ensure a safe space for others to speak their truth, then I may have been “libbed out”
- Constantly realizing and finding something horrifically wrong with the reality that my life would be exponentially easier and safer had I been born a white, straight, American, Christian cis male, then I may have been “libbed out”
Lastly, if being “libbed out” means becoming more fully aware of loving people unconditionally – in a way mimicking a certain brown-skinned, Palestinian Jew, named Jesus truly loved people – then I have undeniably been “libbed out”.
But not by my university.
In all honesty, I would argue that my school and program still have a very long road ahead of them before I personally consider it “liberal”. This past year alone reveals to me that if UNC-Chapel Hill is the epitome of being “liberal” in North Carolina, then we have a lot of work to do. Seriously. Though it is true that UNC proves to be a well-recognized institution of excellence, it is also simultaneously true that it is not as “liberal” or as “perfect” (whatever that even means) as we think. I encourage you to have a genuine conversation with any person of color, LGBTQ+, and minority student studying at UNC’s School of Social Work. This year has been nothing short of an adventure.
[I’ve also learned not too long ago I have numerous [non-student] friends from the Latinx, Black, and Trans communities who view UNC-Chapel Hill as both an institution upholding racism and bigotry. This is a sad reality but a reality nonetheless. And at a “liberal” school? Impossible!]
The truth is if I’ve been “libbed out” it’s because of the front-line experiences and lives I have intentionally immersed and intertwined myself into. I can’t give the credit to the institution I pay to attend but I can give the credit of my now wider perspective and much larger heart to my family, friends, colleagues, and communities I have been welcomed into.
We daily toss words and terminology we barely understand into conversations. That’s part of the problem. I don’t know what “Liberal-ed out” really means. However, if being “libbed out” looks like:
widening my perspective and growing to fully grasp what radical love looks (while also actively acknowledging and questioning my own biases),
then yes, I would argue that I have been “libbed out”. And I am beyond thankful.
What about you? What are your thoughts on the list provided? I’m curious to know your perspective on how we can knock more walls down and have more authentic conversations about unity, progress, and reform. Maybe you didn’t agree with anything that was shared. That’s okay too. Meet you half-way?
Leave a comment or a message.
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed here are solely my own and do not necessarily represent the individuals, institutions, and agencies I am affiliated with.