Monday, October 28, 2013

Meanwhile, in the FIrst Year Workshops...

I haven't been telling you much about the weekly meeting of seminar fellows (peer advisers to the first year class) I facilitate. That's not because it isn't a great group, or because we haven't been having fun. This is the part of running the First Year Program I most enjoy - a broader range of students than I would otherwise meet, caring and sharing about the whole incoming class as whole persons.

Anyway, this is the second week of two on themes of diversity, a word used in so many ways it's in danger of losing all critical egde - aren't we all "diverse" in our own fabulous ways? We've tried to give the discussions content by stipulating that the first week focus on questions of privilege and the second on intersectionality. Privilege is hard to talk about, but people sort of know what it is. (A good starting point in getting beyond the canard that "everyone is privileged in one way" is here.) Privilege needs to be discussed because it's something its beneficiaries are usually unaware of benefiting from, and because determining what you should do with/about your privilege is often situational. (Don't do this.)

Intersectionality, meanwhile, is a long word with a little known origin - the double disprivilege of black women - that's new to most, and difficult to mobilize. Generalized it can get flabbily generic: "we all have overlapping identities! nobody is just one thing!" Establishing solidarity across marginalizations is important, but at least as important is realizing that forms of oppression and dehumanization cluster in predictable ways and compound each other in profound ways - kind of like privilege. How to link all these problems? One student found the cute explanatory diagram above which got our discussion going, but it was another's clever read on it which really took us places. Bob is oppressed for being stripey and a triangle, but he's also blue - which might be a very good color to be. Privilege and intersectionality in the same picture! Complicated and real... You can take it from there.

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