Segregation still exists in the world
What an effort, Ms. Rankin and the Stater, chapeau claque!
As one of those (liberal?) writing instructors who never seem to get tired of harassing students with discussions, essays and lectures on taboo, I would like to share some of my observations in — and outside the classroom. (Bear in mind that I am an immigrant, white and opinionated as hell, who grew up in East Germany under a totalitarian regime.)
Since I moved to the United States in 1997, I have lived in many locations in Northeast Ohio, in places as different as downtown Cleveland, Cleveland Heights and Cuyahoga Falls. During my two-year stint in downtown Cleveland (51 percent black; 38 percent white; 11 percent other), I occasionally had to listen to comments that I wouldn’t want to repeat here. As a result of these confrontations, I realized (1) how much I had miscalculated my own sense of difference and (2) that it would be hard to survive in a place as segregated as Cleveland without a strong, clean and handy prejudice.
In the common Kent State writing classroom (more than 90 percent white, less than 10 percent other), where I was struggling to get students interested in standard (critical-thinking?) topics such as multiculturalism, pop-media and whatnot, I noticed that whenever we approached a hot-button issue such as religion, politics or race, students would cringe and disappear behind their textbooks. Even after showing staple (awareness?) flicks such as American History X, Bowling for Columbine, 1984 and Boyz in the Hood, students remained extremely hesitant to talk. The sometimes unbearable silence seemed a fair price to pay to keep our collective sense of prejudice intact.
I knew I had to change things. Currently, I am basing my classes on suburban sprawl, urban design and inner-city revitalization, and I do get students more “involved,” mainly by approaching the same old taboos more indirectly. The results are often fascinating while sometimes shocking; recently a student (an A student for that matter) responded to the question whether there is a link between suburban sprawl and segregation by saying, “I think that segregation is a thing of the past; we have learned how to deal with it in school (a predominantly white suburban school, in his case).”ÿ
I would argue that it isn’t so much how we trod the line between presumption and prejudice, as Rankin suggests, but rather how we extend our heavily guarded collective comfort zone that can help us break down racial and social barriers. It is not that we can show how well we have been trained to act politically correct, but rather that we can assure the “other” that we understand how to live with him or her, first and foremost, by stopping our preposterous flight to evermore socially fortified and ethnically cleansed castles in the air.
Doctoral candidate of English
Don’t demonize KIC for my comments
It is an unfortunate truth that people say things in jest that get taken out of both context and proportion. Such a thing happened in the KIC office last week during a conversation about why Lil’ Sibs weekend coincides with the first evening of the Jewish holiday Passover. Would you storm into the registrar’s office and demand an answer to your question? You would probably have a bit more tact. Calmly approaching the desk, awaiting the attention of one of the employees and clearly stating what’s on your mind. KIC is a student organization, yes; however, we run a professional office. So, naturally, when the young lady in question stormed in and started railing at my coworkers and me, I was thrown for a loop and in turn was tactless. The way she addressed her question, being an observant Jew myself, I could not believe that she was serious. So, I responded sarcastically. It was a mistake; I should have kept it in, but I didn’t and now here we are. I do believe that the situation could have been rectified without making it a public matter, however my comment heated the young ladies and they were inattentive to what my two advisers were attempting to communicate. Let me summarize: The university has something going on on campus every day of the year, save national holidays. It is therefore difficult for us, as a student organization to find dates to fit our big programs. Initially we were going to have Sibs weekend the 25th and 26th; however, that coincides with Relay for Life, and we didn’t want to steal their thunder. Our only option was to move it ahead a week, so the timing was in no way pre-meditated as to isolate a certain group of the campus population. I was tactless, and that was wrong, however, I didn’t realize until too late that my comments had offended the young lady. In the future, if we can avoid defaming large organizations in lieu of confronting individuals I believe that the university as a whole will benefit. In conclusion, to the young lady who came into our office to raise a concern; please continue being a conscious, active member of your community. You are exemplary. However, what we all must remember is how to approach different situations with professional reserve and understanding. In light of that, I apologize to you and to the greater university community who feels wronged by my comment. Please do not demonize KIC for my sarcasm.
VP for leadership development for KIC