“The world that you are inheriting requires a skill set”-Angela Park
As Anthropology majors, we are taught the differences between race and ethnicity: race being a more cultural/socially constructed concept, and ethnicity a concept backed by biological differences. What else is culturally or socially constructed? GMC had a very enthusiastically blunt speaker visit campus, Wed, January 25th to raise discussion about ‘diversity’, race, ethnicity, and power dynamics. She had much to say and students and faculty alike packed the Gorge to listen. Angela Park began with defining diversity as a word with many meanings, like sustainability.
A lot of people were wondering why GMC needed to bring a speaker regarding this topic onto campus…many already see our tight knit community as inclusive and accepting. But, when Angela through out the question to the crowd of why forums like these are important, a student stood up and replied, “why wouldn’t we want a more inclusive campus; why wouldn’t we want to make our campus better?” He compared this idea to a Neil Young song.
A little love and affection
In everything you do
Will make the world a better place
Park followed up with the notion that you cannot sustain any kind of diversity without inclusion and acceptance. The night went on with talk about dominant and subordinate groups and analogies of a ‘right-handed world’ and how a left-handed person copes or conforms. Every one of us belongs to at least one dominant and one subordinate group, and often times when with left with the upper hand we don’t realize or understand what it is like to be in the subordinate group. We might not even know that we have the upper hand because we don’t think about it. For instance, how often does a right-handed person think about being right-handed? She made sure to talk about her own experiences as a Korean-American and her own identities within the sub. and dom. groups. “The group walks into the room before you do,” Park said while making a point that inevitably people use their senses first (eyes, ears, etc) to make judgments…internalizing messages from society. “People are people,” she exclaimed…”Diversity is not an individual trait…there is no such thing as a diverse person.”
Angela is realistic and inspiring. Towards the last half hour of the forum the crowd was set free to join groups of around four (had to be people we didn’t know very well…which is hard to do at GMC considering it is such a small community) and work up a reflective conversation. The forum went on until 8:30 p.m. and
As a member of the Diversity Committee, I attended the meeting that took place in Richardson Conference room @ 4:00 p.m. Park urged us to think of our intent and the impact that we want to make. After being asked what our goals were for the next 6 months…Park advised the group not call our intent an initiative; this is “life work” and initiatives end; be actionable instead of visionary; gain the intervention skills, and “if you can’t use the words, you cant do the work…” be blunt and specific. We hope to host many more community conversations, and I think overall students are glad an activity like this took place on campus. Keith McDade, a professor and Chairman of Diversity Committee, invited anyone who was interested to come to a meeting and voice concerns/ideas/questions.