When I first came to the college which we attend (I guess I’ll leave it anonymous since this is a public blog), I think I was just excited to be attending an elite institution, known for its rigorous academics and high level of prestige. Since then, I have acquired a very different understanding of the school. Would I have come here if I knew what I know now? I’m not sure. But this is not a blog about what could have been, this is about how we all understand, cope with, and even work to improve the college environment which we must continue to face for the next year or so, all in relation to the topics we discuss in class.
Obviously, any one of us could probably write a hundred pages on our experiences at this school and the ways in which those experiences could have been better, so I intend only to comment briefly on a few things from the readings and from our discussion this week which I could see occurring here, and to then ask you all how we should respond to such things should they happen, if they have not already.
The first thing I want to comment on is the piece by Carmen R. Lugo-Lugo. I was taken aback at first by the student who asks her to cancel class, and then backs up his request with what, in his mind, was a perfectly logical explanation which essentially cast Lugo-Lugo as a prostitute, servant, and customer-service representative, hence the title of the piece. However, the more I thought about it, the more I was unsurprised at the white male student’s sense of entitlement, and the more I could imagine the same thing happening at our own school. It probably would never happen in an economics class, where professors are considered to be professionals who lecture, but in our Africana classes, I think a good number of students view the professors as unprofessional facilitators of discussions in which students talk about their feelings, or perhaps about the history of race, which of course has little bearing in our post-racial world (read with sarcasm). Attitudes like this are what make some of my classes really discouraging at times. Aside from the general assessment of Africana studies as an unnecessary subject of study, students become still more entitled and disrespectful around professors of color, especially women.
I’m sure most of you have encountered such overwhelming attitudes of entitlement in some of your classes here. When I see students roll their eyes during discussions, or blatantly refuse to follow the instructions of the professor, I try to call them out on it, but I feel like I can only do this so many times before I put a target on my own back.
The other incident, which we talked about in class, was the Duke Lacrosse Case. While the students involved in the rape of Crystal Mangum were undoubtedly privileged, white men, the fact that they were also varsity athletes adds an extra element to the situation. As I said in class, it feels like athletes are perhaps the most unreachable people on a college campus, the most entitled, and the least likely to be held accountable for their actions. The short exercise we did in class in which we all assessed our reactions to a hypothetical situation in which we overhear lacrosse players making racist and sexist remarks in a dining hall was very telling of the pervasiveness of such behavior. Most of us wanted to say something, but admitted that we ultimately did not feel comfortable with a confrontation.
What is dissuading so many socially conscious students, such as ourselves, from confrontation? When is confrontation necessary? How do we appropriately address similar issues, both minor and major, on our campus? Let me know what you think of these things as they relate to our own school!