why so sensitive.

I attend a graduate program that prides itself on its focus on social justice. sometimes it can feel overwhelming as I struggle with my own limitations in knowledge and self-awareness.

Other times it is incredibly powerful as I become more aware of the dominant paradigms in our society and feel that I am developing the skills to bring them down and create a more equitable society.

I came to this program because of the social justice focus, but I was thinking of a different social justice. As a former AmeriCorps member with an anti-poverty organization, I was committed to fair living wages, affordable housing, universal health care (check…ish), ¬†reformed education systems, and a complete destruction of a capitalistic society that devalued the existence of so many people in our country. I came to this program and I was learning about cisgender/transgender issues, feminism, racism, ism ism and I for a moment I thought, no no, this is not what I signed up for. This is not going to help me create conditions where people can earn enough money to fed their children and live to their full potential. But now I am learning how all of these systems are inextricably linked and to bring forth any change, something radical must happen.

I resisted at times because it was difficult realizing my own biases and discomfort. I didn’t want to go there. I didn’t want to shut down people or judge them or condemn them. Really, I didn’t want to be judged. I knew I had a lot of work to do. That the society I condemned was in me and I was in it. I held the dominant paradigm within my own consciousness and I benefited from it in a way the kept me from fully deconstructing it. But I am moving past that stage, into a new realm of consciousness. There is always some struggle as we move through our own stages, wether that struggle be external or internal.

Sometimes, though, I still feel like this:

http://whatshouldwecallstudentaffairs.tumblr.com/post/26418678289/how-sensitive-people-are-after-their-first-diversity

This came up recently when I was looking at a project at my alma mater. It is a civil debate wall that asked the question “should people of African-American descent support same sex marriage”

It popped up on my Facebook wall because one of my friends liked a link to the page. I read the comments and of course was drawn to read the wall. I learned the program was being sponsored by the african-american studies department and was being led by faculty members. doesn’t matter. I was pissed.

I was disturbed, I was also confused. It touched a nerve, especially as a member of the black community. I know my experiences as a black person are complex because I am also a women, I am also straight, I am able bodied, I was raised in a Christian home in a lower middle income lifestyle. My identities create each other and none of them can be singled out. I do not have the same opinions as anyone that shares the same identities with me, because all of my identities make me me. I am me because I am and the reality I live in is created in my interactions with others and the society I live in.

I have been ruminating over why this question bothered me and how to articulate it well. My initial thought is that it would make me uncomfortable as a student, but only if I had been taught to critically evaluate institutions and their actions. Otherwise, I just might roll around in simple thinking that says, “oh this is sponsored by a department and a faculty member, ohahhaha ok then we’re good.”

There are homophobic black individuals, there are also homophobic Republicans, and white people , and asian people and GAY people. So that’s where I am, still dissecting all of this and wondering where my disgust is coming from…and what I’m going to do about it…

 

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