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Some dark and light...

S...'s picture

I've been pretty despondent about academia and Bryn Mawr lately. I'm so disappointed in the handling of race at this college. In thinking about the social literacy I hope to gain from my college experience, and the kind of community I wanted to join, I settled on Bryn Mawr as my university of choice. I came here because I thought it would be a place that was a bit better at dealing with systemic oppression than most colleges. It's an institution, and those are always problematic. However, I hoped bryn mawr would be a place that does better.

In some ways, that's true. White cis women (including myself) enjoy a relievingly easy and privileged experience at Bryn Mawr, as compared to the world at large, where we are socially and systematically dominated by cis (white) men. I benefit from that. I get the relief of freedom from some aspects of the patriarchy on the BMC campus. But what the hell, Bryn Mawr?Yes, BMC handles most queerness, esp. in white cis women, well. But What. About. Race??? And. Class??? As an institution founded on the explicit exclusion of POC and non-upper-class people, we have got to do better at both recognizing and working hard against that legacy. I'm still learning how to do that. 

This class, Unsettling Literacy, has disappointed me in some ways. I'm saddened by the way our two professors have handled many conversations that include race. Not to mention the incident that got one of our professors suspended from the class (and rightly so). I'm saddened by the entire Education department at Bryn Mawr. Exclusively white women? Really? Are you serious? In this course we've explicitly addressed the "White Lady Bountiful" trope of the white female teacher. The self-aggrandizing, savior complex of the white female teacher is exactly what I hope to avoid, as a white woman interested in education and teaching. How am I supposed to learn other ways of being when, quite honestly, from what I've seen, in the BMC Ed department I'll be taught only by people who seem to perpetuate this racist trope. Maybe not always, but enough for me to be extremely wary of continuing down this academic road. 

Okay, so there is the frustration. A lot of emotion and disappointment bubbling up. 

But there is some good. I think that, despite Bryn Mawr as an institution appearing to lowkey heavily discourage healthy race relations and racial justice, I have personally learned and grown in my first year here. I'm learning to confront my own whiteness and privilege and identities. 

This is in part thanks to the readings for my classes. For all my disappointments, I've certainly learned from the Unsettling Literacy readings, as well as my other class' readings.

However, the major credit for this growth I offer to my peers. I've learned incalculable amounts from listening to and talking with fellow Bryn Mawr students. Classmates and hallmates and lunch buddies etc... you are unbelievably insightful and complex. I've learned to question more, to listen more, and to do more. I certainly haven't "arrived" in terms of social and racial justice literacy. No one ever does. But you all have helped push me miles farther along in this process than I could have reached alone. It's one thing to believe myself a progressive, aware person, while living in my own bubble. It's another to speak to you all every day and learn from each other, moment to moment, confronting our shortcomings, privileges, beauty, power, love, with hungry minds. Our community isn't perfect. Not by a long shot. But it's filled with some amazing humans, and I'm grateful for that.