Mentorship and teaching can't be practices based on ego trips. As it is now, they mix frequently and result in really toxic cultures of gatekeeping and inequity. Effective mentorship seeks to cultivate the best in ALL mentees, and I think professors and mentors should sit with some questions as they consider their relationship with students and mentees:

How are you advocating for your students/mentees? Beyond the direct classroom/learning space, how are you helping ALL your mentees grow in their praxis? When you pass on opportunities, are you selective of who and why? (Examine the whos and the whys) What do you deem as "beyond your purview" as a professor/mentor, what traits in prospective students/mentees do you dislike or make you uncomfortable and why? Are any of these things tied to race/class/sexuality/gender/productivity capitalism? When you decide or realize that you either don't have the time or aren't the right growth figure for a prospective student/mentee, do you absolve yourself of responsibility? Do you actively point them in directions that could be more beneficial for them? Is your criticism constructive? Do you teach them to advocate for themselves? Is your concept of what is "beneficial" for students/mentees rooted in racism/classism/exploitative capitalism/sexism/etc. rather than personal growth? When you want the best for your students/mentees, are you projecting your own hopes for their future, or do you wait to take cues from the best things within them?

There are more and more questions. If you think this is too much to consider, think again. Mentorship is deeply important and is a huge cornerstone of how generations of practitioners come into their own. Dismantle performance hierarchies or meritocratic approaches to help. It is no longer enough to go into teaching and mentoring for "feeling fulfilled." Teaching and mentoring is not about YOU.

If a student or mentee calls you out for abusive behavior, your responsibility is to listen and sit with the consequences of that behavior. It is not on the student/mentee (or anyone else) to do the labor of fielding your wounded ego or repeated pleas for forgiveness. If you are in any position of relative power or influence, you must be THAT MUCH MORE CAREFUL about your actions and THAT MUCH MORE REFLECTIVE on your own motivations. Take responsibility for when your power and influence and privilege blind you to behaviors that are abusive to students/mentees, particularly those who are of minority (esp. BIPOC), queer, different socioeconomic classes, etc. DO NOT give into the kneejerk reaction of discounting and discrediting the experiences of students/mentees.

If you are confused and wonder how to be a better advocate (esp. as a non-BIPOC/straight/cis person), resources have always been spoken to us. Interrogate your confusion—have you been listening when BIPOC and queer communities speak? Are you seeking for someone else to do hard work and tell you what to think? If you are wondering how to decolonize racist educational institutions, how many young professors have been hired that reflect an actual commitment to diversifying curricula? Are you willing to make space in learning for people who have not been heard? Even if it means you lose opportunities? Are you willing to make sacrifices on a personal level so that students and mentees of the future are able to learn from people who look like them and who tell stories and truths that have not been heard? (And if you aren't, why aren't you? Examine the deep rootings of ego and how inflexible it makes you, even in the face of a decolonial future. How have you become rooted in the things that you value and have those rootings become harmful to others? Practice detachment.)

There is no glory that comes at the expense of others. We all stand on the shoulders of people who have worked on hands and knees to pave roads for us.

thoughts on responsible mentorship
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