The following reflection is from Magnolia Garcia Garcia, a Pace University undergraduate who participated in the POL297L Global Politics of Disarmament and Arms Control class in Fall 2021. Students were given service learning assignments with disarmament advocacy organizations working in and around the UN and New York City. Magnolia’s assignment was with the network of organizations that planned the 2021 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum on Race and Intersectionality.
The 2021 Humanitarian Disarmament Forum (HDF) focused on intersectionality, specifically regarding race and racism in the humanitarian disarmament community. Working with the amazing planning team of the event was rewarding and fulfilling. The members of this team included Hayley, Isabelle, Farah, Ousman, and Clare, some of them working with the Campaign to Stop Killer Robots and others with Soka Gakkai International.
There were many things that this civic engagement experience taught me about myself, the disarmament process, and international politics.
One thing that I learned about myself is that I could keep up with work and the conversations that were being had. I had gone into my civic engagement position with some hesitancy and nervousness, since I had never done work at such an international scale and never with NGOs that focused on disarmament and the complexities that come into play with it in regard to intersectionality.
However, once I had joined in on the first meeting through Zoom, I was pleasantly surprised at how welcoming everyone was and how I actually could provide input and participate in the conversations. I expected intellectual conversation and words that I wouldn’t know. But luckily enough I was able to talk about some of the same problems and topics that I have discussed thoroughly in my university experience.
In studying history and political science, race is a topic of importance. It shapes a lot of our current society. As a person of ethnic background; being the child of Guatemalan immigrants, I had not expected the humanitarian disarmament community to be free of the racism that permeates everything in this world. But I am now more acutely aware of how those in the disarmament community face these issues.
During the Forum I heard about what white people are doing to use their innate power to uplift and amplify the voices of Black and Brown members of the community. But I have also seen how concepts of white guilt and performative allyship are realized when these same white people feel the need to be congratulated or thanked for doing this supposed uplifting. These are the same issues that I think most fields deal with, that most people of color who work with white people experience.
The last thing I learned was that my interests lie with international politics. I have always been inclined to focus on the grander scale of things, seeing how all issues are intersectional and how as human beings we are all connected regardless of the separateness of imaginary boundaries of nation states makes us feel.
As a notetaker for the forum itself, it was great to hear the perspectives of people in various continents around the world. It’s not that I didn’t know about the obvious international perspectives of international politics. But my civic engagement experience gave me my first direct experience with those perspectives. This makes a full circle with my first point about learning about myself, I felt comfortable and able to interact with all these perspectives. My civic engagement experience was the first time I had allowed myself to really think about a potential future doing international work.
Though I am still learning and coming into myself and my abilities, I believe that I have the potential to one day work in international politics. The people I had a chance to work seemed like regular human beings and they treated me as part of the team. During one of our planning meetings some of them even said that “I had a future in diplomatic relations” after I had said something along the lines of “that’s how the cookie crumbles.” Though what I said had nothing to do with international work, it still made me feel good about myself and my future. I don’t come into contact with diplomats and people who do international work so often, so to have someone who was joining the Zoom from Geneva herself say that I felt proud of myself!