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A truly shocking moment

Michaela's picture

I really enjoyed our class today--getting to discuss these different terms, on our own terms, is something that I think is incredibly important, especially in a class with as much subjectivity and nuance as our own. I really enjoyed hearing from other students about their experiences that intersected with these topics from Pratt's and Cook-Sather's essay. It's an opportunity to hear and cherish the so-called "student voice" in a way that feels very genuine, and to really discuss social issues that I feel are too often otherized and glossed over in many other social science classes. 

What comes with the student voice, too, is the realization that we all have incredibly unique and compelling stories--some of which are surprising to me. In discussing just this topic, the diversity of personality and backstory in each student's voice, Uninhibited and I were thinking about Pratt's point about the classroom as a contact zone (heterogeneous cultural backgrounds) versus a so-called "safe-zone" (homogeneous cultural backgrounds). Ours is obviously closer to a contact zone, but could one ever have a "safe-zone", especially with the diversity of opinion among people of even the most similar ethnic, cultural, religious, etc. backgrounds? There is no one "woman's story" or a "Latina story"--so how can one presume to be similar enough to everyone else in their "safe-zone" to convey homogeneous stories? On the other hand, in a contact zone classroom, how can tokenism be avoided when asking for a story of someone from a particular background. I told Uninhibited about reading "Freedom Writers" and how outraged I was by the idea that a single black student in a classroom could be asked to share the so-called "black perspective" on any particular issue? I was shocked to hear that at Bryn Mawr, uninhibited herself had been asked a similar question by a professor! If at our liberal arts college that I consider to be very accepting and working towards greater diversity, how can we be fostering a classroom culture where this sort of thing occurs? Am I ignorant to think that this was an isolated incident? 

I am incredibly grateful for this class for allowing us to open up to one another on an academic basis, but also to get conversations going about these charged dynamics of being in a multicultural, multi-storied atmosphere.