Category Archives: aversive racism

Barney’s Why so Racist? Classist? – On Discount Designer Stores

So I’m sure most people have now heard about the young black man who is suing the NYPD and Barneys. While buying a $350 Ferragamo belt he saved for he showed his ID when using his debit card (they keep saying debit so I assume he used his pin as well) and left the store, only to be stopped by 2 undercover cops  a couple of blocks away because he didn’t look like someone who should have that much money.

Here’s a link with quotes from the young man.

Then the young black woman who was stopped after buying a $2500 purse came out.

Then a black actor talked about what happened to him at Macy’s in June.

Barneys has released a bullshit statement that is a non-apology basically stating that their clerks didn’t have anything to do with it and they’ve hired someone to look into their practices.  Since this has been going on for decades ( look at this HuffPo article quoting a man who had it happen to him 2o years ago at Barney’s.) I doubt anything will change. They’re blaming the NYPD who apparently has undercover folks in the district’s stores all the time because of shoplifting/fraud. Last I saw the highest demographic of shoplifters was white women in their 30s-40s but that was a while ago so perhaps the statistics have changed? I sincerely doubt it. I have no idea about the statistics for credit card fraud.

Whether the stores or the NYPD are at fault (I’m sorta leaning toward NYPD) I’m not at all surprised that it was Barneys & Macy’s where these incidents occurred. These sort of discount designer stores with intense pretensions of frou-frouness often have this assumption of class based on outside factors including clothing and race (which is an assumption many of us deal with on a daily basis in the real word). However in actual high end boutiques and/or designer stores (especially in NYC) you don’t usually get the same assumption of class and monetary worth based on physical appearance. Most stores like those have learned the hard way that you can never really tell how much money someone has by the how they look, act, dress.

I’m not saying I think they’re better politically, in fact I’m pretty sure it’s a purely capitalist motive. Those sort of really expensive boutiques don’t do the briskest business especially in this economy. They rely on every sale and on brand loyalty/returning customers so they really cannot afford to alienate anyone. They also have regular customers who save to have that one great basic piece.  This is not to say that you might not encounter a whole host of other aversive racist behavior there but in my personal experience high-end boutiques are less likely to assume they know your monetary situation based on what you look like or how you dress/talk/act.

We shouldn’t ignore the fact that a lot of people also can’t afford to shop in those high-end spaces. There is after all a reason discount designer stores exist, for those of us who save for that one brand piece . So it’s a horrible, capitalist catch-22 that you might get treated better in the stores you can’t afford to shop in. And I say might because there are always exceptions such as Hermes’ treatment of Oprah Winfrey. Though that was also outside the US which means very different economics and race politics were in play in that interaction.

All the same Hermes really took it in the teeth for that whole thing. I would not be surprised if Ferragamo gives the young man the belt for free or some sort of gift certificate or something just to clearly separate their brand from the stink of Barneys/NYPD issues. They have a real chance to take this bad business for Barneys and turn it into good business and publicity for themselves.

But in the end while I’m saddened by all of these incidents I’m not surprised at all, that anywhere at anytime in the United States of America they could happen. Most People of Color in America live with the knowledge that our monetary existence is subject to a lot of suspicion and doubt at the best of times and these are not the best of times. I also think there could be a lot of aversive/unconscious/conscious racism/classism at play here around the expectation that “that sort of person” should not have the money/clothes/car/life that they do especially when you do not.

These incidents are not all recent either. I don’t know when the gentleman’s incident with the belt happened but Kayla Phillips had her altercation back in February, actor Robert Brown’s incident happened on June. I don’t know if these people only came forward after the incident with Christian and the belt came to light or if the media only picked up on their suits after the first one blew up but either way it’s telling.

It’s either:

We as people of color expect to be treated this badly by society, know how often those expectations are fulfilled and are afraid to stand up without other people around ( and I’ve noticed this in myself, when racist incidents have occurred I will turn to other people that were around and ask them to confirm my experience as if I can’t trust myself or know I’ll need outside <preferably white> validation if I choose to talk about it – but that’s a post for another day).

The media doesn’t care for one person of color being mistreated or even two, it has to be a mass of them (and even then if it can be ignored it will be).

Maybe the saddest part is that both the above things are true I just wonder which is truest in this case.

(I didn’t notice the resemblance of this title to my older post: Glee, why so white? Thinking this might become a series of posts. The ” (BLANK), why so (fucked up) ?” posts. Hmm, maybe. )

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Why I Hate Brokeback Mountain…

So this is a post that’s been sitting in the back of my mind for a long time (years and years) and since I’m making the attempt to get back into blogging regularly I figured I’d pull it out of the back of my mind and shove it onto the blog.

I hate Brokeback Mountain.

This has nothing to do with it being a queer movie. It has to do with the fact that the narrative around Brokeback Mountain has been one of love and railing against the unfairness of a heterosexual world. The tragedy of it all, the romance of it all.

The infidelity of it all.

My main issue around this is the fact that if you had two men of color, especially black men, engaging in a clandestine affair with one another to the ignorance of their wives? I doubt there is any way in hell it would be called a romantic movie at all. It would have been called a movie about folks on the down low. The commentary would have been dissected on Oprah and in the media as a betrayal of women, as the reason that HIV is so prominent in the African-American community and a whole host of things that men on the down low get accused of all the time.

But somehow in this instance it’s become this ultimate romantic movie with this horrible tragic ending. The characters of the wives are rarely brought up in discussion, when most people discuss the film the fact that the characters are married is barely touched upon in terms of betrayal. It’s discussed in terms of the way that they are trapped by an unfeeling society and expectations.

Perhaps as men on the down low are? Trapped by fear of rejection and ignorance of their existence not to mention a dollop of self-hatred. Yet somehow the cute white boys are a tragic love story while the millions of men who are involved in down low culture are vilified.

This isn’t a defense of being on the down low. I don’t agree with keeping relationships secret when they may effect other relationships whether that be physical or emotional. My issue is the way that the framing of this movie has happened.

As a love story I believe the movie fails. As a commentary on the different ways we view sexuality when it’s tied to race it says a whole lot.

If you want a good movie about being gay in America that deals with race and family expectations and is even directed by Ang Lee try The Wedding Banquet.

P.S. – I could also bring up the fact that I think that in the original short story two of the characters (including one of the main pair) are actually latino. Not so in the movie

P.P.S. – The Wild West has always had a very large queer undercurrent and this was not the wild west even it was 1970’s Montana where people were at the time living openly as gay couples. Yes, even in Montana.

Glee, Why You So White?

So Gwyneth Paltrow singing Cee-Lo Green. For all the reasons this hurts and why it should not be even in the most hellish of nightmare worlds, go here: A Few Things About Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘F*ck You’ As Performed on Glee for an excellent, intelligent and hilarious take on why it is so not okay. I’ve dealt with a lot on Glee (I’m looking at you Matthew Morrison and your incessant need to rap) but this is the first time I’m pretty sure I won’t be getting the songs on my iPod. So the part of the post linked above that seems to be causing the most drama up and in the comments is this part:

The song is off-limits for white people
Unless! Unless you really want to match Cee Lo sound for sound. First off, the soul-pop package doesn’t mitigate this song or its message; it mainstreams it. It’s subversion on steroids, and watered down to high-school pop it’s about as subversive as Reader’s Digest. More technically, I guess there’s nothing keeping Paltrow from actually rhyming that “if I was richer/I’d still be wit’ cha,” (hello, Amy Winehouse!), but her whitening of the phrase is kind of… well, disgusting. Let’s face it: Gwyneth Paltrow singing any variation on “F*ck You” is like Pat Boone singing “Tutti Frutti,” and maybe even worse: At least he didn’t have to dance with Cory Monteith and Chris Colfer.

Okay so the inevitable response to such queries as this is to scream “If you said black people couldn’t cover white songs that would be racist, so this isn’t okay! It’s reverse racism!” Okay first of all that’s a straw man argument that has nothing to do with the initial reasons given for why it’s not okay. Second of all, racism (as many people have said over and over) is privilege plus power. Black people as a group have never had enough power to enforce a nation-wide prejudice on white people in the west which continues through media to this very day.

Ignoring that let’s address that argument as if it’s valid. See the problem is that it’s only valid if equality is the base and we don’t live in an equal society at all and Glee certainly doesn’t exist in a universe of racial equality. See when this season started I was already a little put out that football coach Ken Tanaka and glee member Matt Rutherford were written out of the show and essentially replaced with white folk. Beiste for Tanaka, Sam for Matt. This is no comment on the characters of Beiste or Sam (both of whom I actually enjoy) but to show the whitening of the show in terms of diversity, one of the things they were initially praised for.

In the midst of this look at the guest stars they’ve had on the show so far: Eve, Kristin Chenoweth, Idina Menzel, Neil Patrick Harris, Barry Bostwick, Meatloaf, John Stamos, Johnathon Groff, Britney, Olivia Newton-John, Josh Groban, Cheyenne Jackson and now Gwyneth Paltrow. With the exception of Eve they are all white and Eve doesn’t even get to sing during her entire one episode appearance. How many songs has Kristin Chenoweth had on the show so far? More than Tina, one of the “main characters” that’s for sure.

So why can’t we have some Broadway legends of color? Some Jennifer Holliday, Stephanie Mills, Rita Moreno, Lea Salonga, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Audra McDonald, Taye Diggs. Shoot at this point I’m willing to accept Carol Channing’s sketchy claim to some black heritage and cheer for her as a guest star. Or even some actors/musicians of color? Jennifer Hudson, Halle Barry, Jennifer Lopez, Janet Jackson, Enrique Iglesias, Lenny Kravitz. You could just prop Whitney Houston up in the corner and have her bust out some ‘Greatest Love of All’. Shit, why couldn’t Cee-Lo himself play the substitute teacher and sing his own damn song?

I’ve watched Mercedes get slowly pushed aside, until she is the only glee club member without any kind of romantic interest, or urge at all if the show is to be believed. The relationship between Tina and Mike crosses the line from cute to stereotype so many times it makes my head spin and the treatment of Santana, especially in this last episode with the whole Puck/Artie storyline has drifted far into the overly sexualized latina stereotype.

The way the characters of color end up sidelined so much has resulted in many, many songs by artists of color being sung by white characters on that show. The reverse is hardly ever the case. When Mercedes is given a whole song to sing it is most often a song already done by a black female artist. She doesn’t get to cross that barrier ever (with the exception of Rocky Horror which she got crucified online by Glee fans) while characters like Mr. Schuester and Artie do so on a regular basis. This is not a case of there being a basis of equality that has suddenly changed. This is a case of people beginning to notice that the show is getting more and more white and monolithic in terms of race.

Glee does not rest on a base of equality, just as the world itself does not. To argue the charge of reverse racism you basically have to prove that all things being equal the world isn’t already slanted against People of Color and other oppressed groups. I’m not saying that individual members of an oppressed group cannot be prejudiced but the charge of reverse-racism is erroneous and detracts from the overall question I’ve started to have with Glee, a show I love and would like to continue too love, Glee why you getting more and more white?

And don’t even get me started on the conflation of white, young boy and gay that happens on the series, that’s another post that will be going up later this week.

Appropriative Racial Politics VS Pseudo-Liberalism in Glee

So I am addicted to the new tv series Glee. I talk about it with friends and never miss an episode. Last night’s episode was…interesting in terms of racial identity.

Warning Spoilers Ahead

Continue reading

We Don’t Get This.

So while I was rejuvenating last week and re-finding inspiration and all that hippy-dippy shit I saw something that made me angry. It was this:

Now let’s ignore for the moment that this latest in the way too long line of “Seth-Roganesque/40-Year-Old-Virgin/SuperBad/socially-awkward-boy-meets-beautiful-intelligent-articulate-girl-who somehow-falls-for-his-dumbass/storyline-that-was-already-done-and-done-better-in-the-eighties/just-playing-to-socially-awkward-guys-who-live-in-their-parents-basement-to-try-and-convince-them-that-no-really-totally-smart-funny-with-it-girls-are-just-waiting-for-you-to-drag-them-to-the-depths-of-mediocrity-really-would-we-lie?” films shows that we’ve reached a point where even the illusion of diversity is totally unnecessary. Watch that trailer. Try to spot a Person of Color anywhere in the cast or background. I saw it 20 times this past week and I couldn’t see one but I might have missed it, so please let me know if you spot one because it seems to me as if there are no People of Color in that weird pastiche of the 70s/80s/90s these movies are all set in. Okay *deep breath* leaving that behind. What really annoys and angers me about these films is that People of Color don’t get to have these narratives.

We don’t get to have the fun summer of growing up film, we don’t get to show our childhoods on screen unless they are somehow tragic. In discussing this with one of my housemates she said the closest film she can think of is Roll Bounce – I’ve never seen it (How many of you have? Or even heard of it? I remember hearing a little bit of something and then it was gone like a whisper in a wind storm) but from what she told me about it it does sound like what I mean. Now obviously that means that sometimes the story does get lit for production, one could maybe argue that Love Don’t Cost A Thing (a remake of 80’s Can’t Buy Me Love) fits the mold as well. But overall the stories of Youths of Color tends to center on Boyz In The Hood  or Hustle & Flow where the story can be about how bad the ghetto is and how hard it is to try and rise above that and we almost inevitably end up dead or right back where we started thereby allowing the audience to feel sympathy for us and at the same time not have to deal with the idea of relating with a Person of Color on an equal level.


(In this one there’s at least a couple of Asian side characters)

And it’s not that the story of the ghetto and the particular intersection of  -isms that result in ghettos don’t need to be explored or aren’t true for some people but that should not be the only stories we get. I want the wild night out story of our own. I want to see the spectrum of People of Color experience on the silver screen. I want to be able to see a film that has the growing up story of a young middle class Latina girl, one where she’s not sexually assaulted, abused, arrested, demonized. I want to see a movie with an all Asian cast but that’s not about overachieving drug dealers (Better Luck Tomorrow) hell we can’t even get an Asian cast when the actual people the story is based on are Asian (21).

Now one could argue there’s no market for these films but that’s a massive oversimplification that ignores the critical and box office success of such films as Waiting To Exhale, Eat Drink Man Woman, Harold & Kumar, Soul Food, Like Water For Chocolate and Independence Day. Now the last may seem like a stretch from what I’m talking about but it fits as well because when I say “We Don’t Get This.” I’m not only talking about the frat-boyish/awkward-teen/buddy-buddy movie genre. I’m talking about the fact that we don’t get a huge diversity of characters so to have a Sci-Fi film where the two heroes are and African-American man and a Jewish man was a huge deal. In all of the movies I list Actors of Color were allowed to play roles that are usually not written  for them and they received praise for their portrayals.

So why don’t we see more films like those?

Because audiences are taught not to expect anything but tragedy from films featuring People of Color. We are conditioned by society in general and media depictions specifically to accept that People of Color can only fall into one of two roles, the ridiculous sidekick or the tragic hero who dies winning/lives on without any changed circumstances/without fulfilling their dream. Even when we prove that stories about us can be hits, that we can be a box office draw it doesn’t seem to open the door for other films that stretch the perceptions of People of Color. It doesn’t get us our own Sleepless in Seattle or When Harry Met Sally. We still get the occasional non-sterotypical role green-lit but it doesn’t happen that often and when it does happen it rarely gets the promotion or press coverage that it deserves. Yet, I could not turn around without seeing a commercial for the hot-crap-on-screen that is Adventureland.

The movies I listed are exceptions (excluding for Like Water For Chocolate which is definitely a tragedy in my mind) but simply look at the movies that People of Color as actors win Oscars for – Sidney served as labor for some German nuns for no pay. Halle had to play the tragic poor beat down by life black woman and Denzel had to die in war and play a crooked cop, Whoopi was the comic relief/fake-psychic. And I’m not at all saying that they did not deserve the awards they received what I’m trying to get across is that audiences are more comfortable praising us and awarding us accolades is we play a certain role. If anything the actors mentioned deserved to win more than one Oscar a piece for other fantastic roles that stretched their acting prowess.

The sad part is that I like these kinds of films. I would almost definitely enjoy Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist if I were to see it. But I can’t help but wonder when we get to run around Manhattan all night having a good time? When do our crappy summer jobs get chronicled?

Cut #999

This is another post with thoughts sparked off stuff that’s been said within the same discussion that inspired my post: Unnamed Privilege: College Education

Okay, so something I’ve been seeing in the recent Cultural Appropriation debate and really whenever race is discussed is the waiting for “The Big Betrayal”. What do I mean by “The Big Betrayal”? Well, what I mean is that moment where someone says something so racist, so problematic, that anyone with the slightest ounce of sense has to pause and say, “Wow, that was really racist.”. There are plenty of people, both white and POC, who will never ever call something their friends did or said bigoted until they get that clear a signal. As long as the comment has some wiggle room then friends will try to give you the benefit of the doubt and that’s all well and good, hell, it’s what friends are supposed to do but the problem is that “The Big Betrayal” is not all there is when it comes to racism and other oppressions and without that “Big Betrayal” hurt and anger often gets dismissed as being “too emotional” or “reading too much into it”. 

Many POC are warned, sometimes explicitly, sometimes not, by relatives and friends that it’s all well and good to have white friends but to watch out because they could turn on you. Now does this mean that all white people would do this? No, of course not. I’ve seen plenty of white folks in the recent discussion that were great anti-racist allies. Does this mean that white folks and POC can’t be friends? Again: No, of course not but what it does mean is that white friends who don’t understand race and all it’s implications may hurt you deeply, consciously or unconsciously. It’s not about a friend you’ve hung out with for years one day turning on you and yelling a racial epithet or trying to beat you up or anything of that nature. No, it’s about the smaller things. As my friend and housemate Jackie put it “People can die by a thousand cuts.” and it’s much more painful that way.

It’s about silence when someone says something racist when we’re in a group, leaving me to stand alone and isolated as the sole “overly-emotional” POC if I choose to bring it up. *cut*
It’s about the “Well, he didn’t mean it that way” that shows me that someone else’s comfort means so much more to you than my hurt. *cut*
It’s about taking the easy road and implying that I’m overly emotional and dismissing any point I may have rather than insult you’re other (read:white) friends. *cut*
It’s about the disbelieving stares of instant denial when I talk about something racist that happened to me that day. *cut*
It’s about patronizing or staring at me like I’m lying or crazy when I name an interaction we just had as problematic. *cut*
It’s about not backing me up when I publicly discuss race but emailing me privately to voice your support. *cut*
It’s about knowing that I cannot discuss something with you that affects my life everyday for fear that you’ll ignore what I say or divert the conversation making the pain worse. *cut*
It’s about wading into a discussion on race, saying something stupid being hurt when people call you on it and then flouncing off in a huff thereby making a good segment of the conversation about you and your pain. *cut*
It’s about you, having spoken out against other oppressions now using your privilege to attempt to silence me or other POC. *cut*
It’s about you accepting the pats on the shoulder and comfort for your pain while I get anger and hate spewed at me for mine. *cut*
It’s about having this conversation over and over again and feeling like nothing changes and no one learns anything. *cut*

Despite what’s been said and insinuated by certain people in the latest cultural appropriation “discussions” – Talking about race “all the time” (maybe it feels that way because it’s only when we get loud and angry that you actually hear us?) is not fun. Experiences of being singled out by police or being treated poorly in shops are not fun to relive and retell. These stories and our feelings are not made up for shits and giggles or to get attention. We talk about this stuff because it happens and to speak openly and honestly about it can sometimes lessen the pain but when we reach out to talk about things we find problematic or offensive all we get is insults (“orcing”? no that’s not racist at all!), mocking and accusations that double and triple and quadruple the hurt…

Do you still wonder why we’ve been warned?

A couple of useful links:
Ven ve voke up, ve had zese wodies by Ciderpress. Ciderpress talks about the pain of the recent discussion where it turned, the false assumptions of catharsis, fallacies and responsibility.
‘Check my what?’ On privilege and what we can do about it by Andrea Rubenstein. Not about the current discussion but a useful primer for many people around privilege, what to do, making mistakes, listening and more.

Addendum Link:
Drowning in Apathy by Tempest talks about the apathy that can steal over you when you have these same conversations over and over and no one seems to be listening at all. I feel you Tempest.

Unnamed Privilege: College Education

This post was inspired by some drama going on. See my vow to try and stay more connected with the internet over winter break has failed. I realize that while I’m out of class (which ends this week, emo!tear) the last thing I want to do is increase my stress level by dealing with idiocy online.  So all that is to say that I only know the gist of this drama as opposed to all the intimate details because I could not bring myself to wade through the hot mess but from what I’ve heard and the few posts I have read the basic gist is:  Elizabeth Bear made a post about Cultural Appropriation on her livejournal, a conversation happened in the comments of that post about Bear’s own problematic portrayals of POC and some of the wording in her post, Avalon’s Willow wrote a very interesting open letter to Elizabeth Bear regarding her work, it then became pile on Willow day and somewhere in discussing the difficulties of race and writing one of Bear’s friends and fellow author Sarah Monette jumped in with a defense that basically accused Willow and other criticizers of being “too emotional” and pointing out, without an evidence I might add, that they were coming from different directions one an academic, critical thought perspective and one an emotional perspective.

One guess which side she thought she was on and which side she thought Willow and other POC in the discussion were on. 

Okay aside from that sounding like the whole  “You are interrogating this text from the wrong perspective.” craziness from Anne Rice’s rant on Amazon.com when folks didn’t like one of her books it is such an incredibly problematic defense that it really shocked me to realized supposedly educated people felt completely comfortable throwing that into that discussion.

Note: When race is part of the discussion accusing someone of not being “educated enough” is a big hot button issue. Many People of Color grow up constantly reinforced with the idea that not only do we not belong in academia, we should not even try because we just aren’t smart enough. So to be having a discussion of race where a white person rolls in and basically tells a group of People of Color: “You’re complaints are invalid because you’re not smart enough” well it’s not exactly the best tool in the anti-racist’s arsenal is it?

And I assume I don’t really have to get into how “too emotional”, “too angry”, etc., etc. are silencing techniques used by the privileged to keep the oppressed from speaking about their situation honestly. Because it’s such an arbitrary judgment it can be used even against a completely rational argument and still be assumed valid by others because of the oppressed’s position in society.

But as I said because I’m not up on everything that went down and I don’t right now have the mental strength to wade through a bunch of fuckery I present you with some great links so you can read all about it should you want to. For more of a rundown of what’s going down I recommend:
http://rydra-wong.livejournal.com/ – she has multiple posts with links on her journal
http://seeking-avalon.blogspot.com/ – Avalon’s Willow’s open letter and other posts about it
http://aqueductpress.blogspot.com/2009/01/great-cultural-appropriation-debate-of.html – A round up of links
An awesome idea that’s come out of the hot mess: http://yeloson.livejournal.com/530108.html – The ReMyth Project

I’ve written a lot about cultural appropriation and will again but right now I rather post about a privilege that is never really acknowledged or when it is it’s only paid lip service too: the privilege of being college educated. Now it’s a fact of life that often those who have degrees are given preferential treatment in careers, social interactions, bureaucratic situations and just in general. People who enjoy this privilege often try to write it off by claiming it has to do with intelligence and being educated and not just the idea of ‘going to college’. This leaves me with one question. Who decided that colleges were the arbiters of intelligence  and the only way to acquire knowledge?

I wonder who it was that decided that other ways of learning – reading on your own, being in a more group learning environment, or just learning as you live your life – were somehow inferior. Doubtless those who could get into places of further education* went along with and perpetuated the belief that only those that exited the college system were worthy of respect. The thing is that most folks know that’s not true, most of us know people who’ve never gone to college but are among some of the smartest people we know.

I’m saying all this as someone who has seen my estimation in people’s eyes go up because I’m in grad school. And yes there is a part of me that revels in that because I worked hard to get into grad school but then there’s the other side of the equation – the automatic assumption that I deserve more respect for attending further education comes with the flip side ideal that anyone who did not go to college does not deserve that level of respect and in fact that they deserve less for never going to college.

The idea that some who doesn’t have a degree or didn’t attain a degree lacks the ability to read critically, to think through problems, to be a knowledgeable or intelligent person is prevalent and supremely problematic. And the idea that everyone who gets through college is smart is patently false. I’ve been to college so you can’t pull the wool over my eyes, a lot of my undergrad experience was dealing with total and complete idiots in my classrooms. So why do we cling to the notion that my decision to go heavily into debt for the benefit of a piece of paper somehow elevates me above people who needed or wanted to work right after high school? Why am I somehow more worthy of respect?

The privilege of being college educated intersects with a lot of other privileges.

The racism that is blatant in academia can not only stop people from attending college but can drive them away or funnel them into other majors professors deem “more appropriate”. 

The sexism that continues to convince women that they are worse than men at math and the sciences.

The classism of being able to afford college or it even being in your life plan after being constantly bombarded by societal messages that you as a “low class” person you could never walk through those ivory halls.

The unnamed privilege of being an American citizen and having more and easier access to places of further education.

Of course the above are all more complex and there are many more -isms both named and unnamed that intersect heavily with the idea of college.

All the bullshit that happens in the world at large happens at college but on a smaller scale which is not always a good thing. Professors can still be sexist, racist, heterosexist, classist, isolationist, stupid or any other number of things, like within all groups of people there is a range of belief and action. My point is that college is far from a bastion of all things good, lovely, smart where people go in uneducated lumps and come out cultured geniuses.  And most who go through college know this but still fall into the perceptions of society. 

The fact is that were all affected by this attitude. It, as with many privileges that lack “-ism” names, is hardly talked about or acknowledged but it’s there and like all oppressions/privileges it can be internalized and is always self-perpetuating. My decision to even apply to grad school was hampered by continual doubts that “someone like me” didn’t belong in grad school. Even now I can’t tell you what exactly “someone like me” meant in my head but growing up we all are bombarded by ideas of what makes a “true college student”. 

So what can we do? The same thing we should do for all privileges that we possess, deal with your prejudices, be aware of it and when you might be using it, do your best to bring it up in certain situations.

What should we not do? Claim that somehow being college-educated makes us better than anyone else. You may know more about a subject than someone else but they probably know more about a different subject. To put it in a different perspective, had I rolled into a discussion and said that by virtue of being male I was right and all the women in the discussion were in the wrong because my experiences as a man shaped me into a decision-maker. You would laugh and mock me heavily but there are people who really think that. 

Having a degree does not mean you can think critically, or that you’re smarter than anyone else. College is an experience like any other in life – you can take the time to actually learn some things or you can skate through and not bother. Just because you hold the degree doesn’t mean your opinions are more valid than anyone elses.

 

 

*further education  – I use this term instead of higher education because I feel the term higher education is really hierarchical and problematic. Of course further education has its own problems as a term, still involving the idea of out-distancing someone else but at least the verbiage doesn’t automatically bring to mind ideas of being above others so until I find a better term I use this one.