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Diversity

Intersectionality as the Norm

The term “intersectionality” was first introduced in a 1989 essay by Kimberly Crenshaw titled “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics.” Crenshaw used the term to argue how Black women are sometimes excluded from feminist theory because it often does not address the interaction of race and gender. Furthermore, she argues that because the intersectional experience is greater than just racism and sexism, any movement that does not take intersectionality into account cannot sufficiently address the way that different identities are affected. Today, intersectionality is used as an analytical framework to identify how the impact of systematic inequities regarding gender, race, sexuality, and class are interconnected and create overlapping disadvantages.

Intersectionality became a popular term following the worldwide Women’s March protest on January 21st, 2017. Many argued that the protests perpetuated “white feminism” which overlooks privilege and neglects the differing experiences of women of color, which was one of the reasons I personally did not attend. When I heard about the Women’s March I felt like my voice would not be a significant part of the narrative. Marked with pink hats representing female genitalia, the March would only touch the surface of issues that women of color face in our everyday lives. For many of us, and myself personally, we identify as women secondly to being people of color. Though women of color may identify as female, our oppression goes much deeper than our anatomy and stems from the colonization of our ancestors that has left the mark of systematic oppression on us. Analyzing intersectionality, which aims to bridge these divides, is about being an ally/accomplice for people of differing identities regardless if they overlap with your own; which is what I felt was absent at the Women’s March.

By allowing women of color to share space in areas of organizing and implementation of movements like the Women’s March, we can develop a more inclusive narrative and gain more visible support from people of different backgrounds. It is time we give women of color an adequate platform to share our experiences with others and understand how we can truly be united in the fight for women’s rights. We can create these changes by refraining from stereotyping and assuming the experiences of every individual. Though women of color may share similar experiences, the use of a single narrative can be damaging and further the concept of “the other.” We also need to stop tokenizing women of color and truly include them in the work by having them be the faces and voices we hear at women’s conferences and other organization events. We also need to start asking individual women of color how we can be allies/accomplices to them in their personal journeys. Not all women are comfortable, interested, or able to be directly involved in organizing efforts, however, that does not mean that they are unworthy of our support. And lastly, this is only the start. There are many intersections of race, gender, sexuality, and class and only when we start to implement a diversity of narratives into a movement will it catch momentum and truly bring about lasting change.

Amaris Holguin

 

Diversity, Heritage Month

Black History Month: Women with a Vision

Black History Month is an annual celebration to honor the achievements and recognize the important role of African Americans in U.S. history. In celebration of this month we wanted to share with you the incredible impact of five black women in U.S. history.

Marsha P. Johnson: Revolutionary Drag Queen

Marsha P. Johnson was born Malcolm Michaels on August 24th, 1945. At a young age she began exploring gender and sexuality by wearing dresses and reflecting on her emotional and physical desires; however, ridicule and disapproval from family and friends prompted her to hide her identity. In 1966, she moved from her family home in Elizabeth, New Jersey to Greenwich Village in New York City and legally changed her name to Marsha P. Johnson. As an African American self-identified drag queen, she began getting involved in the fight for LGBTQ+ rights.

In the morning hours of June 28, 1969, police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay club and refuge located in Greenwich Village. The raid incited six days of protest against law enforcement and served as the catalyst for the LGBTQ+ rights movement in the United States. Following the riots, Johnson, an instigator during the riots, joined the Gay Liberation Front and co-founded the Street Transvestite (now Transgender) Action Revolutionaries (STAR) a group committed to helping homeless transgender youth in New York City. She also continued her street activism as a respected organizer and marshal with ACT UP, an international direct-action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS.

https://www.biography.com/people/marsha-p-johnson-112717

Claudette Colvin: The original “Rosa Parks”

On March 2nd 1955, sixteen-year-old Claudette Colvin was riding the bus home from school when the bus driver ordered her to give up her seat for a white woman. Claudette, a member of the NAACP youth council, refused to move and was convicted of disturbing the peace and violating segregation laws. Though the NAACP supported Colvin’s action, they believed her age and skin tone would discredit her actions. In order to start a bus boycott, they asked Rosa Parks, the NAACP secretary, who was older and fairer skinned than Colvin, to commit the same crime. Nine months later Rosa Parks was arrested for the same offense and became the face of the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

In 1956, Colvin served as a plaintiff in the pivotal case Browder v. Gayle, which challenged the Alabama state statutes and Montgomery city ordinances requiring segregation on Montgomery buses. On June 5th, the three-judge panel, citing Brown v. Board of Education as precedent for the verdict, ruled two-to-one that segregation on Alabama buses was unconstitutional a critical action in the fight for civil rights.

https://www.nwhm.org/articles/girl-who-acted-rosa-parks

http://kingencyclopedia.stanford.edu/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_browder_v_gayle/

Mary Jackson, Katherine Johnson, and Dorothy Vaughan: The women of Hidden Figures

In 1943, two years after President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 8802 into law, prohibiting racial, religious and ethnic discrimination in the country’s defense industry, the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory began hiring black women to process aeronautical research data. One of these women was Dorothy Vaughan. Vaughan was assigned to the segregated “West Area Computing” unit, an all-black group of female mathematicians. In 1949, Dorothy Vaughan was promoted to lead the group, making her the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics’ (NACA’s) first black supervisor.

Mary Jackson graduated from Hampton Insitute in 1942 with a degree in Math and Physical Science. It took 5 different career changes until Jackson began working under the supervision of Dorothy Vaughan at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory’s segregated West Area Computing section in 1951. Overcoming the challenges that the segregation laws of the time inflicted on her, she became NASA’s first black engineer.

In 1937, at the age of 18, Katherine Johnson graduated from West Virginia State college with a degree In Math. In 1953, she began working at the Langley Memorial Aeronautical Laboratory under the supervision of Dorothy Vaughan. In 1962, as NASA (formerly known as NACA) prepared for the orbital mission of John Glenn, Johnson was called upon by Glenn himself to confirm the orbital equations that would control the trajectory of the capsule in his mission. The mission was a success and Glenn became the first American to orbit the Earth.

“These are American heroes. Without their brains, without their hard work and dedication to NASA and the long hours that they worked together, we would have not made it into space. We would have not made it into orbit.” – Janelle Monáe, who plays Mary Jackson in the film Hidden Figures.

https://www.nasa.gov/content/mary-jackson-biography

https://www.nasa.gov/content/katherine-johnson-biography

https://www.nasa.gov/content/dorothy-vaughan-biography

http://www.realclearlife.com/history/true-story-brilliant-black-women-nasa-from-hidden-figures/

As we think about the history of the impacts of African American, we must not only celebrated within February but throughout the year. It is also important to bring life to the many women that has also changed history as well within the African American community.

To stay updated on all our events for Black History Month visit our SDIS website https://www.stthomas.edu/studentdiversity/ or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UofStThomasSDIS/

Amaris Holguin

 

 

Diversity

The More the Merrier: Celebrations Around the World

By Amaris Holguin

Around this time of year about 92% of Americans are preparing for a Christmas celebration (Pew Research Center). But what about the rest of the world? Many celebrations observed during this season involve gathering with family and loved ones to honor religious, spiritual, and/or cultural teachings. In the holiday spirit of sharing, we would like to share a brief description of some international holidays and celebrations with you!

Hanukkah:

Also known as Chanukah, meaning “dedication” in Hebrew, Hanukkah honors the rededication of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem after the Maccabean Revolt in 2nd century BCE. Hanukkah is celebrated by Jewish communities world-wide on the eve of Kislev 25 on the Hebrew calendar. On the civil calendar, it generally coincides with the month of December.

One of the main rituals for Hanukkah include lighting the Menorah, a nine-branched

candleholder. The candle in the middle, known as the Shamash (“attendant”), is used to light the other eight flames, one for each night. Other Hanukkah customs include singing traditional Hanukkah songs, reciting Psalms, and enjoying Hanukkah meals with loved ones.

Kwanzaa:

Kwanzaa is a week-long cultural festival that joins communitarian values and practices of pan-African and African American communities. The holiday, celebrated from December 26th to January 1st, was created by Dr. Maulana Karenga, a professor of Africana Studies, in 1966. During the holiday, families and communities organize activities around the Nguzo Saba, The Seven Principles.

  1. Umoja (Unity)
  2. Kujichagulia (Self-Determination)
  3. Ujima (Collective Work and Responsibility)
  4. Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics)
  5. Nia (Purpose)
  6. Kuumba (Creativity)
  7. Imani (Faith)

On each of the seven nights, the family gathers to light a candle on the Kinara (candleholder). On the first night, the black candle in the center, dedicated to Umoja (unity), is lit and the principle is discussed. For the remainder of the holiday, one candle is lit each night and one of the principles is discussed. Kwanzaa traditions also involve feasts, music, dance, poetry, and narratives. The last day of the celebration is dedicated to reflection and recommitment to The Seven Principles as well as other central cultural values

Las Posadas:

Beginning on December 16th and ending on December 24th, Las Posadas is a religious holiday that commemorates the journey that Joseph and Mary made from Nazareth to Bethlehem in search of a safe refuge where Mary could give birth to baby Jesus. Though it originated in Spain, Las Posadas is generally celebrated in Mexico and some parts of the U.S.

During each evening of the celebration, a procession reenacts the journey of Joseph and Mary. The procession sings songs while the group representing the Holy Family asks for posada (lodging) at a series of houses and is turned away until the procession reaches the designated house and is invited to enter. The celebration is continued inside the home with prayer, song, and a feast. On the last night, Christmas Eve, the celebration is concluded with a midnight mass.

Eid-al-Adha:

Eid-al-Adha is an Islamic holiday celebrated by Muslims worldwide to honor the willingness of the prophet Ibrahim, also known as Abraham, to follow Allah (God’s) command to sacrifice his first-born. Because the Islamic calendar is based on the lunar calendar, the date of Eid-al-Adha varies greatly.

In the period around Eid al-Adha, many Muslims travel to Mecca to perform the Hajj pilgrimage, a mandatory once-in-a-lifetime religious responsibility. Communities also celebrate by visiting family and friends, and in some traditionally Muslim countries sacrifice an animal in an act known as qurbani. This represents the animal that Ibrahim sacrificed in the place of his son. Ultimately, the meat from the sacrifice is shared with friends, neighbors, and the poor, to ensure that everyone can partake in the holiday feast!

Diwali:

Diwali, also known as the festival of lights, is a 5-day celebration that generally takes place in autumn and is an official holiday in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and neighboring countries. The festival gets its name from the avali (row) of deepa (clay lamps) that observers light outside their homes to symbolize the inner light that protects from spiritual darkness.

During Diwali Hindus celebrate the triumph of good over evil, or light over darkness. In Jainism it commemorates the nirvana, or spiritual awakening of Lord Mahavira after his death. Sikhs use Diwali to mark the anniversary that Guru Hargobind Ji, the Sixth Sikh Guru, was freed from imprisonment.

Regardless of the holiday(s) you celebrate, we at SDIS wish you a Happy Holidays and New Year!

Sources:

https://www.unitedplanet.org/blog/2013/01/03/from-christmas-to-diwali-winter-holidays-around-the-world

http://www.chabad.org/holidays/chanukah/article_cdo/aid/102911/jewish/What-Is-Hanukkah.htm

http://www.officialkwanzaawebsite.org/index.shtml

http://www.history.com/topics/holidays/kwanzaa-history

https://www.britannica.com/topic/Las-Posadas

https://www.franciscanmedia.org/las-posadas-a-mexican-christmas-tradition/

https://www.timeanddate.com/holidays/muslim/eid-al-adha

http://www.diwalifestival.org/

Diversity, Heritage Month, Uncategorized

Native American Heritage Month – Thanksgiving Day

We’re often told that Christopher Columbus “discovered” America. What we’re not told is that he was responsible for the colonization of First Nations people, initiation of the transatlantic slave trade, and death of millions by murder and diseases. Many of his actions have lasting affects still apparent today. The U.S. Census stated that in 2014 the median income for American Indian and Alaska Native households was $37,227 compared to $53,657 for the nation as a whole. The Native population also lack educational resources and opportunities. Only 18.5% of American Indians and Alaska Natives 25 years and older obtained a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared to 30.1% of the overall population (Census Bureau, 2015). In 1992, Berkley, California, was the first city to declare what was once Columbus Day, Indigenous People’s Day. So far 55 cities have joined the movement and replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People’s Day/Native Americans Day, or recognize both. Minneapolis began recognizing Indigenous People’s day in 2014 and St. Paul followed in suit in 2015.

Thanksgiving is an American celebration in giving thanks and sharing a meal with family and friends. The idea of Thanksgiving of Pilgrims and Native Americans sitting at a table sharing meal and giving thanks, has been a story told to us for many years. In 1621, the Plymouth colonists and Wampanoag Indians shared an autumn harvest feast that is acknowledged today as one of the first Thanksgiving celebrations. When the Pilgrims came to Plymouth Rock, they were poor and hungry — half of them died within a few months from disease and hunger. When Squanto, a Wampanoag man, found them, they were in a pitiful state. He spoke English, having traveled to Europe, and took pity on them. Their English crops had failed. The native people fed them through the winter and taught them how to grow their food (Pacific News Services, 1999). The idea that the first Thanksgiving was some kind of cross-cultural love between two groups, as it has been represented, is also doubtful by historians, who say that the settlers and the Indians were brought together less by friendship than by the extreme of their common need. George Washington made his Thanksgiving Day Proclamation in 1789. In truth, our first president’s aim was not to rejoice, but pay acknowledgement of the survival of an imperiled nation (Huffington Post, 2011).

In the Native’s version of Thanksgiving, it is a beginning of the end. For the First Nation’s, Thanksgiving is seen as a time in remembering their ancestors, and of mourning for the lives that were lost. In fact, the end times began for Massachusetts Indians several years earlier, when British slaving crews unintentionally introduced smallpox killing over ninety percent of the local population, who lacked antibodies to fight the disease. (Huffington Post, 2011). So in this opportunity on Thanksgiving, it is a chance to give gratitude for this day, as well as reflecting. It is important to continue to educate ourselves on our history, and bring an accurate representation of Native American history into mainstream American culture. As these stories and history creates big impacts to us today, and challenges that the Native American communities faces still today.

Resources

http://www.history.com/topics/exploration/columbus-day

http://time.com/4968067/indigenous-peoples-day-columbus-day-cities/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/columbus-day-2017-when-is-it-date-holiday-meaning-why-veterans-us-cale-a7983641.html

https://www.census.gov/newsroom/facts-for-features/2015/cb15-ff22.html

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/richard-schiffman/the-thanksgiving-truth_b_1105181.html

https://www.alternet.org/story/4391/thanksgiving:_a_native_american_view

Diversity

Costume or Cultural Appropriation

Costume or Cultural Appropriation – By Amaris Holguin

The leaves are falling, the temperature is dropping, and Halloween is just around the corner. Many would argue that Halloween is the day of the year where you can be whoever, or whatever you want. However, it’s important to know the distinction between what is funny and what is cultural appropriation.

Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking intellectual and cultural expressions from a culture that is not your own, without showing that you understand or respect the culture.” This can be as simple as wearing a Dashiki without knowledge or respect to West African culture, and as serious as wearing a fake Native American headdress without any regard of its sacredness. It generally incorporates a history of prejudice and discrimination by perpetuating long-standing stereotypes.

On the other hand, cultural appreciation, understanding the significance of a particular practice/object/tradition and not undermining or destroying its significance or value, and cultural exchange are important aspects of living in a diverse world. For instance, at an Indian wedding someone may be asked to wear a Sari, a traditional female garment. This would be considered cultural appreciation. They are asked to participate in the culture by wearing traditional attire  and showing respect for that culture.

If you are second-guessing that your costume may be cultural appropriation consider these questions:

Does my costume…

  • Represent a culture that is not my own?
  • Include the words “traditional,” “ethnic,” “cultural,” or “tribal?”
  • Perpetuate stereotypes, or historical and cultural inaccuracies?

If you said yes to any of the questions above or are still unsure, you may want to go with a different costume.

For more information on cultural appropriation, check out the following resources:

http://www.refinery29.com/2015/10/95646/halloween-cultural-appropriation

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXejDhRGOuI

*

While the University of St. Thomas doesn’t have an official policy about Halloween costumes, the above information is offered to help students make informed choices.  Our convictions as a University call on us to respect the dignity of all human persons and we strive to create a community that is welcoming to all.  Educating students about how their actions could be perceived by others is part of how we create that community.”

 

Diversity, Heritage Month, Uncategorized

St. Thomas Celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month

hispanic-2016Hispanic Heritage Month is upon us; the celebration begins on September 15 and is set to continue for a full month until October 15. The purpose of the celebratory month is to recognize the contributions and vital presence of both Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and to observe their native heritage and contributing culture. The history of Hispanic Heritage Month has deep roots in the United States, the month long observation began in 1968, and always begins in the fall of each year. Originally the celebration was not a month long; in fact it was only a week. President Lyndon Johnson first approved Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968, and was expanded to a full month by President Ronald Reagan in 1988. Finally, Hispanic Heritage Month was officially enacted into law on August 17 of that year.

September 15 was not a date chosen at random; in fact the date contains a large amount of significance for multiple Hispanic nations. According to USA.gov, the date is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. They all declared independence in 1821. In addition, Mexico, Chile and Belize celebrate their independence days on September 16, September 18, and September 21, respectively. Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted to celebrate the fundamental contributions Hispanics have made to the growth, vitality and culture of North America.

This year at St. Thomas we once again celebrate and provide opportunities for the community to engage in the month-long celebration, details are available on our website.

As a Latina I fully embrace the necessity of this month. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I remind you and myself that “mi gente” are powerful and resilient. Hispanic Heritage Month is the month I get to celebrate all of our accomplishments. This is the one-month out of the year where I get to remind you, boldly, that we matter and that we extend a “bienvenida” to you as you help us celebrate. Hispanic Heritage Month is not about one community but rather is it about realizing and accepting how vast and complex our varied cultures are within the Latinx narrative. Latino/Hispanic Heritage Month gives us a chance to celebrate what each of our cultures bring to the St. Thomas community. I encourage all students, faculty, staff and the greater campus community to join us in celebrating  ‘la cultura Latina’ through all the events and programs on campus. We are very excited for this year’s events!

Diversity

2015-2016 Wrap Up: Thank You!

Today marks the last day on St. Thomas’ 2015-2016 academic calendar. And looking back, it is hard not to be grateful for the people in and around SDIS that have made this year as eventful, progressive, and fun as it was.

We saw bright, courageous multicultural leaders stand up for social equity on campus like we never have seen:

USGProtestStand

USGProtestPosters2

We were blessed by other powerful voices coming to campus, like Sister Outsider and Jose Antonio Vargas:

SisterOutsider

We turned up on a boat:

SDISBoatRetreat

Took advantage of opportunities to make change, large and small:

DorseyWay

‘Campus Way’ has been renamed to ‘Dorsey Way’ in acknowledgment of Father Dorsey. A small gesture working toward acknowledging St. Thomas’ diversity, and making it more inclusive.

And still found time to chill every now and then:

SylvesterChillin

A lot has happened this year, and we hope the momentum created by the actions in and around our office is carried into the fall.

Special thanks are in order for our full-time staff—Peggy Jerabek, Patricia Conde-Brooks, Brad Pulles, and Jessica Gjerde. This office serves many different functions for many different people, and the community and opportunity created between the four of you should not go unnoticed.

Thank you, fellow SDIS Interns—Cory Kemp, Abeye Cherinet, and Yaia Yang—for contributing to this blossoming community of students, staff, and faculty pushing to make St. Thomas a more inclusive, worldly community.

Most importantly, thank you to all students, staff, faculty, and local community members not directly affiliated with SDIS for participating or contributing to our efforts this year.

Whether it was attending a program, telling people about upcoming events, or simply stopping by the office to greet and thank those who were working there, the engagement with SDIS is what makes the office special.

You validate everything SDIS tries to do for the St. Thomas community and we recognize you, long list of contributors, for making the feeling around our programs and activity what it is.

Have a great summer, everyone! We will remain open throughout the summer, so stop by ASC 224 anytime before the Fall 2016 semester if you just can’t wait to be around us again!

Diversity

Green Card Voices and Jose Antonio Vargas

GreenCardVoices

Happy Leap Day! Today we’re using our extra day in the year to discuss immigration-related programming we have in store for you as we head into the spring.

Immigration to the United States is more than the sensationalized issue of undocumented immigrants from Mexico. Immigrants and the children of immigrants make up a significant percentage of the U.S. population. This is reflected locally where Somali, Hmong, and Ethiopian immigrants, among other groups, heavily populate the Twin Cities metro area.

Green Card Voices is a Minneapolis-based non-profit which aims to represent and connect immigrants, non-immigrants, and advocates across the USA by sharing first-hand experiences of foreign-born Americans. This is done through various video and photographic projects, as well as events such as panel discussions and exhibitions.

Starting today, Green Card Voices will have an exhibit in the O’Shaughnessy-Frey (OSF) Library showcasing images and stories of various American immigrants. The exhibit will be on our campus through March 11.

GreenCardVoicesLibraryExhibit

Part of the 1st floor exhibit. More coverage of the exhibit can be found on our Facebook (U of St Thomas SDIS), Snapchat, and Twitter (@UofStThomasSDIS) pages

Jose Antonio Vargas on undocumented immigrants

In related programming, we will be hosting activist and filmmaker Jose Antonio Vargas on April 25 for a discussion about the experiences of undocumented immigrants as opposed to documented ones. Vargas’ documentary titled Documented came out to critical acclaim in 2013, and he continues to advocate for immigration reform in the United States. A speaker you don’t want to miss!

We hope you stop by the exhibit while it is here. This week’s Purple Bench (March 4, 3 p.m.) will be on the topic of immigration narratives in the United States. Continue to look for updates on our programs and encourage others to engage with us as well.

Thank you for reading! We’ll be sure to have updates and new pieces up throughout the spring so keep coming back!

Diversity

Breaking Down Whiteness

WhiteNoDiversity

No, White boy, that is not true.

What’s Whiteness? What’s wrong with it?

Whiteness is a rigid ideal. It’s meant to racially categorize different Americans of European descent. But when we really think of White people, does it help or hurt to apply the same rigid understanding?

The article “What Is Whiteness?” written last June by Nell Irvin Painter in the New York Times points out these flaws in our understanding of race. “If you investigate that [European immigrant] history, you’ll see that white identity has been no more stable than black identity. While we recognize the evolution of “negro” to “colored” to “Negro” to “Afro-American” to “African-American,” we draw a blank when it comes to whiteness. To the contrary, whiteness has a history of multiplicity.”

Take a closer look at any dominant social group and you realize that it, just like any other social group, has its fair share of inconsistencies. There are poor White people, gay White people, White people with strong relationships to other racial groups, White people that support Black Lives Matter, and so on.

Breaking down the idea of Whiteness would be to breakdown the foundation of race. Belief in Whiteness, intentionally or not, is belief in a large, clean canvas which reduces non-White people to splashes of paint on it. This is how the idea of race works, but it’s not the reality of it. The canvas, the backdrop, is just as fragmented and awkwardly put together as the colors thrown on it to make it look pure in comparison.

Communities of color still need individualized attention, as American society moves toward greater integration and equity. Issues of identity among people of color, like how it is suppressed, made, or changed in relation to dominant culture, are all necessary to highlight. But what is implied when we call those of underrepresented racial groups the “diverse” ones?

Singling out people of color as the different ones says non-White is not normal. This viewpoint, ingrained in the United States’ public subconscious, doesn’t work with the popular notion of this country as a melting pot. More simply, it’s wrong.

Why should we break it down?

Estimates from the Census Bureau in 2014 are consistent with 2008 estimates made by the Pew Research Center which say the mixed-race population is growing faster than all racial groups and that White people will be outnumbered by other racial groups by 2050.

Pew.2050USPopulationEstimate

So…who are the “diverse” people going to be?

Continuing to view the White population as one large, uniform blob will only become a larger issue given time. 

Whiteness is too often viewed as bland or meaningless. These views don’t help to deconstruct it. Allowing people to think of White as the boring default gives White people a pass to not think about race. Painter points this out in the article saying, “The useful part of white identity’s vagueness is that whites don’t have to shoulder the burden of race in America, which, at the least, is utterly exhausting.” The full picture of racial dynamics can’t be considered without giving an honest look at Whiteness.

The protection of White identity is also mentioned in the book Whiteness: The Communication of Social Identity. Thomas Nakayama and Judith Martin explain how the history of racial formation in the United States protects White identity, proclaiming, “Whites just “are”,” and, “Whites, who have historically held power, have no need to define themselves.”

Viewing White identity as critically as the identities of people of color requires a joint effort. White people who have yet to take a glimpse at their racial identity have to willingly reflect with others further along in their formation of racial identity and work to shatter the plain backdrop. Understandably, many White people are not prepared to engage in that level of reflection. It evokes feelings of guilt, anger, and defensiveness toward perceived unfair treatment. It also threatens a White individual’s self-understanding, but is necessary in order for Americans to see themselves outside of strict racial categories in the future.

Why won’t it be enough?

Destroying race and removing its influence in society sounds cool and all, but the process would not be over should Americans succeed in getting rid of it. Even if we got past interpersonal issues of identity and social formation, it would not solve issues of race in institutional settings. A great example of this problem is Brazilian society, where the country embraces its multicultural and mixed-race heritage but fails to address socioeconomic gaps caused by cor (‘color’ in Portuguese, equivalent of ‘race’).

For instance, when asked to racially self-identify in a federal household survey in 2003, more than 130 answers were given across the Brazilian population, ranging from acastanhada (somewhat chestnut-colored) to rosa-queimada (sunburnt-rosy). Complexion weighed into racial self-identify more than heritage, demonstrating a common belief in the multicultural heritage of the nation. The wide variety of answers also indicates a much more fluid understanding of race relative to American public, a huge reason for the comparatively healthier race relations.

BrazilianRacialIdentities

The first quarter of responses to the survey

Despite Brazil’s acceptance of its multiculturalism, it clearly hasn’t solved the more deeply-rooted problems.

According to British news source Latin America Bureau, Black or mixed race Brazilians make up more than 70 percent of the national population below the poverty line. Non-white Brazilians earn an average wage less than half that of White Brazilians. Black Brazilians make up less than 10 percent of elected representatives, and only one of the 38 members of President Dilma Rousseff’s cabinet is Black. Likewise, in the private sector it is brancos (White Brazilians) who dominate senior positions. Around 97 percent of executives and 83 percent of managers are White.

That being said, removing race as a guiding principle of identity in this country is still a necessary step. Addressing systemic issues of race requires a collaborative effort, but active resistance from White people to delve into Whiteness and their identities significantly slows the deconstruction process down.

Why is it still worth it? 

Despite pain that comes with taking the first real hard look at how Whiteness works, White people stand to benefit greatly from shining light on the foundation of their White identity. Not only would it help White individuals see diversity within their group, those revelations would aid in having more accurate views of those outside of their racial groups. Breaking down something as homogeneous as Whiteness would make it easier to see how “Black,” “Asian,” and other racial groups are awkwardly lumped together.

Following from that, Americans being able to collectively dismiss current racial categorization would make the treatment of systemic racism easier. The guilt, shame, and defensiveness that usually accompanies reactions of some White people to the idea of White privilege would subside as White people collectively improved their understanding of racial identity.

Whiteness is the foundation of race. Though it seems unchangeable, it can be broken down and disposed of properly if Americans do it together. White Americans have a large role to play in taking a second look at Whiteness, and it won’t be long until it’s necessary for the social health of this nation.

Diversity

Why Do We Not Care?

For eighteen days, Black Lives Matter activists protested the Jamar Clark shooting by occupying the 4th Precinct police station in North Minneapolis (November 16-December 3). The protester’s demands include the following:

  • Release of the video footage taken during the shooting of Jamar Clark
  • Prosecution of the police officers involved in Jamar Clark’s death by a special prosecutor without grand jury
  • Bring federal terrorism charges against the men that shot five protesters outside the Fourth Precinct

The five men responsible for the attack were a band of White supremacists that had spent the last several days surveying the 4th Precinct occupation. They were looking for an opportunity to “stir shit up” according to transcripts of the group’s text conversations.

One of the shooters, Allen “Lance” Scarsella, is an alumnus of the University of St. Thomas. He graduated in May 2015. Scarsella is facing the most severe charges of the five men, including five counts of second-degree assault with a deadly weapon.

4thPrecinctShooterCharges

Meanwhile, the Mall of America is attempting to get a restraining order against Black Lives Matter to protect against another protest. Black Lives Matter-Minneapolis plans to protest at the MOA tomorrow if their demands are not met, regardless of a restraining order being imposed.

Between the national impact of BLM, proximity of these recent events to our campus, and alum involvement, it’s surprising to see these issues not being discussed or widely acknowledged on the University of St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus.

There isn’t an expectation for everyone at this university to publicly denounce this alumnus. There isn’t an expectation for anyone to join the protests or align themselves with the BLM movement. But why does it seem like our institution is so far removed from all of this? Between a faculty member being a prominent leader in the BLM movement (Nekima Levy-Pounds, Esq.) and the national discussion surrounding a recent alum’s harmful involvement, it’s hard to understand why these events, let alone racial injustices on a larger scale, are not being discussed on this campus.

Universities have not been proactive in addressing these recent issues. It should not take so much, especially considering the aforementioned recent local events, for the University of St. Thomas to begin listening to the concerns of its students of color. It’s strange. Understandably, not everyone is ready to directly confront their understanding of race or even their own racial identity. But our campus atmosphere and discourse remains unaffected when things of this magnitude happen.

An illustration of what UST looks like to the rest of the Twin Cities community

An illustration of what UST looks like to the rest of the Twin Cities community

College and high school students from the University of Minnesota and Southwest High walked out of classes and joined protesters the day after the shooting. These incidents are reverberating across the nation and hit close to home. St. Thomas cannot be the one pocket of the Twin Cities community that continues to neglect these issues.