Tag Archives: Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity

Why I Majored in CSRE

by Holly Fetter, ‘13

IMG_4494Holly Fetter, a Senior graduating with a B.A. in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, was asked to give a speech at the 2013 CSRE Commencement. Here’s what she said.

In case you haven’t noticed, I’m White.

I may have DJed a quinceañera and I might be an outstanding dancer, but alas, I am a person of pallor.

And, I’m a Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity major.

Given this unusual pairing, I always get one of two reactions from fellow White people who seem to forget that we have races and ethnicities, too.

The first is the classic, “Oh! Wow! That’s so… interesting!” This usually comes from confused people who are too polite to ask clarifying questions.

But the second, more common, reaction is a little more honest: “Race and what? Why are you majoring in that?” Given the apparent paradox of a White person studying race, this is usually followed by awkward laughter.

And most of the time, I just laugh along with them. Sometimes I’ll respond with a vague, “Yeah, it’s a great major.”

But as I reflect on my experience (at the wise, old age of 22), I realize that I’ve never really explained to anyone why I chose to declare CSRE – not even to my family.

So let me take this chance to explain to y’all why I chose this major, and why I now know it’s undoubtedly the best one at Stanford. Continue reading

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Why You Should Take CSRE 26SI

by Holly Fetter, ’13

One of the most distinctive factors that sets Stanford apart from other universities is its diversity — diversity of perspectives, experiences, identities, origins, beliefs. It’s a word that’s used so often that it almost lacks meaning, like “multicultural” or “entrepreneurial.” Even the Dictionary.com definition is wack — “Diversity: the state of being diverse.” Roughly half of Stanford students self-identify as people of color. Unlike certain East Coast institutions of higher learning, this campus has been open to all genders since its founding. 15% of Stanford students are the first in their families to attend college, and 75% students receive some form of financial aid. Yes, our student population represents a variety of different identities. We coexist in residence halls, student groups, frat parties. We’re a very “multicultural” mix.

But are we really equipped to handle our differences? What do we do when it gets messy? How do we deal when we’re not sure if our words are accidentally transphobic, or that our actions make students from different class backgrounds feel uncomfortable? It’s super important that we each go beyond being best friends or “colorblind” classmates, and make the effort to educate ourselves on how to be active allies in the face of prejudices, both subtle and overt. An “ally” is someone who supports members of community/ies to which they do not personally belong, through interrupting injustice at a personal and/or institutional level. Learning how to be an ally can help us through those awkward encounters with -isms and -phobias that might otherwise leave us feeling powerless and uncomfortable. Continue reading

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STEMarginalized (or Why I’ll Never Take Another Class Outside the Humanities)

by anonymous, ’14


My mother likes to tell the story of how I applied for Stanford as a hardcore biology major with a concentration in genetic engineering, then called her after one quarter to come out as a drama major. For perspective, I’d never been involved in theater in any shape or form before college. For her, this makes an amusing anecdote about the liberalizing/artsy big blue blob that is California. For me, it’s a sobering reminder of just how alienated I felt in the STEM courses I’ve taken at Stanford.

It’s not that the material is too difficult or uninteresting—I was actually really engaged with my biology, physics, and calculus courses in high school, and looked forward to working in labs and doing research when I “grew up.” My shift from STEM is rather due to the different approaches to discussing (or not) marginalized peoples in the humanities and sciences. Whereas most of my Theater and Performance Studies professors (and especially my Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity professors) regularly use examples and materials that validate and explore the experiences of people who aren’t at the top of the privilege food chain, my STEM professors often make me feel angry, invalidated, and anxious. In TAPS and CSRE courses, I can speak to and learn about the lived experiences of people like me (and unlike me!). In STEM courses, data which appear to be objective often show that marginalized groups are inferior to dominant groups, without including a discussion of the systematic challenges that can produce those data. Put another way, we don’t discuss confounders that happened before we began our study.

Let me give you an example from a popular statistics course at Stanford. Continue reading

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Nepantlera

by Aracely Mondragon, ’13

"Nepantlera" – Celia Herrera Rodriguez

quedan 4 minutos con 36 segundos en esta llamada

The process of calling my ‘ama
Acaso no vivo en esa llamada?
esperando desde el otro lado
viviendo en mi fantasía
que tengo alas y vuelo
muy pero muy cerca del sol
adonde abro mis colores
que bailo
con la mujer de libertad
prentendiendola
hasta cruzar su mirada
y otras más frías
hay a quienes
les molesta
todo mi revoloteo
me quieren enjaular
convertir mi jardin en invierno
y cuando eso pasa
solo sueño
que vuelo sur
y allí vuelvo a nacer Continue reading

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We are workers, we are not slaves!

by Adrian Bonifacio, ’13

The skyline of Hong Kong reads like an issue of Fortune 500. Samsung, HSBC, Phillips, Hitachi, COSCO—their buildings reach out from the bay as if to form the fingers of the capitalist invisible hand, now made so conspicuous by its flashing neon lights. Thanks to the boom in its economy after WWII, and especially after the 1980s transition into a largely service-based economy, Hong Kong has become one of the richest regions in all of Asia. But, as with many other developed capitalist economies, the United States far from excluded, inequality runs rampant. An article  published earlier this year exposes the literal cages some citizens are forced to live in. The article reminds us that poverty and desperation can be easily hidden from our consciousness by a high-figured GDP. In this way, the stories of another “imprisoned” population living within Hong Kong are also absent from our fields of vision: those of migrant domestic workers.

I shared my life with Filipina domestic workers for just under three months this past summer—singing, learning, laughing, rallying, dancing, picketing, and of course, eating. But the majority of the time I spent with them was spent being humbled. Continue reading

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The Port Econ Statement

By Peter “Shotgun” McDonald, ‘11

This is really long, but you’re going to read it anyway. If you think it’s rambling and pretentiousness, congratulations. I kind of agree with you. There’s no need to leave a comment indicating as such.

We are people of this generation, bred in at least modest comfort, housed now in universities, looking uncomfortably to the world we inherited, attending a university that helped create it, and capitalism is some bullshit.

When we were kids the United States was the wealthiest and strongest country in the world: the proprietors of a technological revolution, prevailers of the Cold War, an initiator of a mass cultural/entertainment force that we thought would distribute American influence throughout the world. Freedom and equality for each individual, government of, by, and for the people, of both the corporeal and corporate variety, — these American values we found good, principles by which we could live as people. Many of us began maturing in complacency.

This month will mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Port Huron Statement. Anyone who says that college students are incapable of understanding the complexities of the modern world has not read this statement. Whatever we understand to be the 1960s would not have happened without it. Two days after May Day, a panel of activists brought together for the sixth lecture in the Occupy Art series argued that radical change was not only possible but necessary, and there was no need, indeed no time, to wait to act toward it. This week, hundreds of students will take exams on economic models created in an era when phrenology and phlogiston were still accepted parts of science. Continue reading

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Why Transgender Awareness Week Matters

by Leanna Keyes, ’14


In the parody video “Sh*t Sorority Girls Say,” one (drag-costumed) man bubbily suggests, “Let’s raise awareness!” as if such a goal is silly or ineffective. And yet, in the face of the catastrophically cissexist* interview Barbara Walters conducted for trans* Miss Universe contestant Jenna Talackova, I’m reminded of just how far we’ve come and how very very far we still have to go.

Riese of Autostraddle already did a great breakdown of many of the reasons this interview was a disaster, so I won’t repeat her words–go read them if you have the time, they’re worth it. The gist is that Walters asked Talackova a string of questions that were extremely invasive without even realizing that she was being wildly inappropriate. It was the standard slew of clueless-interviewer questions asked to trans* people: “Which bathroom did you use?” “Have you had the surgery?” “Did your boyfriend know?” and the like, all framed such that Talackova’s gender is based purely on her surgical status and ability to be read the way Walters likes–i.e., read as cis, female, conventionally attractive–rather than being something that Talackova herself is allowed to determine. My absolute favorite quote from this interview:

“So if I saw you undressed you would look like a woman to me, totally? Yes?” – Barbara Walters

This is why we need Transgender Awareness Week. Continue reading

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Progressive Summer Opportunities

Looking for a meaningful way to spend your summer? Stanford activists share their most memorable experiences.

ACLU National Prison Project
Sharada Jambulapati [sharjam@gmail.com]

I helped in the office by responding to prisoner mail and conducting research on legal cases, prisoner rights, and state correctional budgets. I enjoyed being in DC with top lawyers working on prisoner rights issues.  I was able to visit local jail facilities with lawyers and attend congressional hearings featuring Justice Breyer and Attorney General Eric Holder.

Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Van Anh Tran [vananht@stanford.edu]

I worked mainly in APEN’s Development Office and learned a lot about the work that goes into fundraising for a non-profit organization and grassroots fundraising techniques. This organization generally worked with the older immigrant population in Oakland’s Chinatown and the Laotian community in Richmond, California. In the past, they had campaigns to prevent Chevron from expanding their refinery in Richmond (which they succeeded to do!) When I worked there, there were efforts to teach the very pivotal population of Oakland’s Chinatown to vote. Near the end of my time that summer, APEN was starting an effort to create a coalition among the various environmental justice organizations in California to develop a grassroots effort to combat climate change and affect state policy. Also near the end of my time there, APEN was starting a campaign to combat the Dirty Energy Proposition (Prop 23). As an intern, I wrote letters to potential donors and allies and was able to attend many, many meetings–from attending a workshop for the elderly in Chinatown to listening to amazing Asian American activists speak about their experiences during the 1960s in APEN’s partner organizations in San Francisco. I was able to attend many rallies and was able to do precinct walks (related to Prop 23). Continue reading

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How to Occupy Your Education

by Holly Fetter, ’13

When I tell people that I’m studying race and ethnicity, I get one of two reactions. The first, undoubtedly inspired by my pale skin, is the inevitable “Why did you decide to major in that?” The second comes from a more practical perspective: “What are you going to do with that?”

It seems that the dominant perception of a college degree is that is must be lucrative. It’s fine to use one’s undergraduate years to experiment with new hairstyles, narcotics, and sexual orientations, but the end result must be a good shot at a six-figure salary. College is only “worth it” if you gain some marketable skills.

As soon as I declared my love for interdisciplinary thinking, I felt that I had to make a decision — would I major in Econ and be ushered into Stanford’s college-to-consulting pipeline, or shun that world in favor of classes in which I could write about queer rappers and racist Halloween costumes? I entered sophomore year with a notion that these were two divergent tracks, and that it was imperative that I pick one over the other lest I spend my post-graduate years in some sad, unemployable limbo.

I think this dynamic helps explain the infamous Stanford apathy. Embedded in our campus culture is the notion that pursuing a pre-professional major and getting an activist education are mutually exclusive acts. Continue reading

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