Tag Archives: privilege

Of Michael Kors and Microaggressions

by Rukma Sen, ’15

PrintYou swivel gracefully on your Michael Kors clad ankles, and stare straight at me. Your eyes are blank, and they make me shrivel and curl up inside my head like a dead, nameless thing. We are at a meeting of Stanford’s undergraduate pre-professional community and I have just asked about financing professional schools. The kindly old man talking to us has just paused, and asks us whether we have questions. I do, “What about —- school debt?” I ask.
He isn’t surprised by the question, he merely nods and begins to answer but the other undergraduates turn around and look at me. There is the swish of dyed, coiffed hair and the Gucci, Chanel and Burberry women attached to these heads turn around to stare at me.

At once, I am otherized.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

On the Merit of Blurred Lines

by Surabhi Nirkhe, ’13

I am tired of discourse that divides brown from white, the oppressed from the oppressors, students of color from white students, and the underprivileged from the privileged. Tracing and retracing these lines prevents us from creating identities that are much more complex, often in the spaces where these lines blur.

In her recent STATIC article, Holly Fetter ended with a powerful statement that resonated with me: “unless we confront our fears and make active changes to educate ourselves about the perspectives and experiences of those in other communities, we’ll never be able to see past the illusion of isolation”. To me, the recent mixer held between Sanskriti, the South Asian student organization, and the Stanford Israel Alliance represents just that. I did not attend the mixer, but I have been a part of similar events at Stanford, and I can honestly say that experiences which have pushed me to interact with individuals from outside my community have been some of the most valuable.

I do not mean to say that I don’t hold opinions; I do and I hold on to them very strongly. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

FLIP Your Perspective Week Catalyzes Conversation About Class

by Destiny Lopez, ’16

FYPWeek2013“FYP Week was my favorite week on campus all year! More please!”

“It began on this traditionally tricky, sticky topic in an open, welcoming manner.”

These were some of the many positive responses to the second annual “FLIP Your Perspective Week.” For the second year in a row, Stanford’s First-Generation, Low-Income Partnership (FLIP) hosted “FLIP Your Perspective Week,” a week’s worth of events aimed at fostering cross-class conversation and empowering the first-generation, low-income community and its allies. FLIP Your Perspective week took place from April 8th to April 12th  and consisted of eight different events, each addressing different topics related to class. FLIP partnered with various student organizations to host a variety of unique events. Some notable events were “Race and Class at Stanford, Challenging Classism: A Workshop for Allies,” and “Classing the Line” (based on the “Crossing the Line” activity implemented in many Stanford residences). “FLIP Your Perspective Week” was well-attended by a diverse group of students: first-generation students, low-income students, allies, grads, undergrads, professors, admissions officers, and other special guests. The attendees’ feedback* was overwhelmingly positive. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

On Responsible Activism

by Heather Charles, B.A. ’10 + M.A. ’12

I am going to do what I always do in these conversations and state my credentials from the get-go. I am going to do this because I am white. And because I am white, and grew up extremely poor in an urban area where I attended some of the worst urban schools in the state of California in a community that is one of the most ethnically diverse in the nation and am living with a Mexican American man I grew up with who told his dad that he had no interest in learning Spanish because “he didn’t want to be one of those Mexican kids who can’t read English” and who is half white but knows he gets stopped by cops all the time because he is Mexican, I am intensely aware of how this whole speech and my mere presence in the activist community comes off, and came off while I while an undergrad, to the very communities that I work with. So demographically, when you ask me to be extra specific, I identify as working class, first. That’s the closest I can get to being honest. I do this because, when I entered Stanford I spoke a non-standard version of American English, and maintained the kind of wit that can only be learned on the playground and lot of people thought I was being a crazy asshole.  And I also do this, because I have the white privilege of not having to identify as my racial background. And because as a straight white woman I don’t have to identify as my sexual orientation either. But the fact of the matter is that the reality of my childhood more closely resembles that of poor folks who grow up in urban areas than it does the white peers I most closely resemble physically. On paper, people often assume I am black. This is because they are racist.

I am also an activist in urban education. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

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

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Our Twilight: Review of “Twilight of the Elites” by Christopher Hayes

by Lewis Marshall, PhD candidate in Chemical Engineering

America is not a Christian nation.

But America is a nation of faith.

In Twilight of the Elites, Chris Hayes (of Up With fame) explains that America has faith, more than anything else, in systems of meritocracy: systems in which people gain power, not due to birthright or personal connection, or appearance, but because of their skills. Are you good at your job? If so, you should be promoted. And if you stop working, if you stop improving, if you fall behind, someone hungrier and sharper and more skilled should take your place. We have built this idea into our educational system, our economic system, and our government. In American mythology, meritocracy is both salvation and moral obligation.

So when Twilight opens with the line, “America feels broken,” it’s disheartening. Hayes recounts the disappointments of the last dozen years: Enron, the Iraq war, the housing bubble, the great recession, pedophiles sheltered in the Catholic church and at Penn State, the failed response to hurricane Katrina. Has meritocracy failed? Have we failed to live up to our ideal?[1]

Twilight of the Elites doesn’t address the day-to-day politicking that led to these failures. Instead, Hayes creates a theory to encompass the whole broken decade: The Iron Law of Meritocracy. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , ,

Equality is not Justice

by members of Stanford Students for Queer Liberation (SSQL)

We are the group of students responsible for the “equality is not justice” flyers last week. Because we are interested in both raising awareness and increasing understanding, we collaborated on a brief summary of each topic listed on the posters.

This article is meant to be shared! However, it is not meant to be the last word on any of the topics below: our foremost goal is to encourage discussion within the Stanford community.

Interested in continuing the conversation? Please consider submitting your ideas to STATIC!

Fear is not governance
Here, we are referring to the illusion that control is gained through fear or fear tactics and, furthermore, that legitimate government rule can be claimed when the majority of the population lives in a state of fear. Moreover, we are addressing the fact that fear is a tactic utilized by the United States, whether conscious or unconscious. Consider, for example, the reaction you have when you see a police officer. Are you afraid or comforted? Why? Also consider jails, which – though they seem to promise safety – are also an implicit threat by the state.

Apathy is not neutral
When we say that apathy is not neutral, we mean that – in many cases – apathy is a privilege. When we choose not to educate ourselves or to do nothing, it is with the knowledge that our lives will not be adversely affected – and not everybody is in such a position.
Another implication of apathy is the fact that, when there is apathy on the part of the state, entire groups of people may suffer. When legislators pay less attention to the well-being of groups such as trans* people of color, for example, this does not represent a simple oversight: it reflects a lack of commitment to the survival of a group that is consistently persecuted in this country.

Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Trouble with Environmentalism

by Christina Ospina, ’12

Being “green” is one of the sexiest trends that has arisen in the past several years, made popular largely by increasing concerns over Climate Change.  People want to buy clothes made from organic cotton, use biodegradable laundry detergent, eat free-range chicken, invest in solar energy, and protest to save polar bears.  But we must ask: who are the people behind this movement?  Realistically, someone struggling to pay rent might not feel compelled to invest in solar power to avoid using electricity generated from coal-fired plants.  Today, the American environmentalist movement’s biggest challenge isn’t Climate Change, it isn’t over-fishing, it’s not rainforest degradation, and it’s not it industrialized agriculture; the main obstacle the environmentalism faces is transforming into a movement for all socio-economic levels.  Environmentalism shouldn’t be a movement for the privileged, it should be integrated in all levels and all communities that comprise the American population.

Historically, lower classes and minorities have been left out or overlooked in American environmental and conservation movements.  Just look back at the emergence of conservation with the Romantic movement in the mid 1800s, with influential figures such as Roosevelt,  Muir and Thoreau, who evoked imagery of the sublime in their writing and praised the powerful beauty of wilderness. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

A Guide to Hipster Anti-Racism

by Janani Balasubramanian, ’12

There have been quite a few articles floating around the net recently about hipster racism – that is, racist attitudes that are passed of as ironic and therefore excusable.  This can include anything from Urban Outfitters making “Native print” underwear to blackface to the colonialist attitudes presented in period dramas.  Racialicious presented a particularly great history of hipster racism and anti-racist responses to it. Here I want to delve into what I’m calling hipster anti-racism. It’s a term I’m using to describe those moments when (usually) white folks perform anti-racist/liberatory attitudes about a racialized issue in an attempt to appear subversive and often “hip.”  Unlike hipster racism, it is not a performance of ironic racism but actually a performance of anti-racist attitude as a signifier of hipness.  It is important to understand that hipster anti-racism can be performed by anyone, not just those we characteristically label as hipsters.  Hipster anti-racism is defined by by being 1) insincere, 2) momentary, 3) subversive for the sake of being hip, and not for a deeper dismantling of systems of power and oppression, and 4) present in rhetoric almost exclusively, with little indication of substantive shifts towards anti-racist behavior or action.

In other words, hipster anti-racism, like much of hipsterdom, is defined by its appropriation and lack of historicity. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , , ,

Metal Detectors or Medical Doctors: The Privilege of Education Itself

by Alex Kindel, ’14

When we discuss privilege, a few general types seem to come up more often than others. We frequently acknowledge our white, male, straight privileges, and depending on the space, perhaps cisgender, class, physical ability. I’d like to propose a category of privilege that isn’t as frequently discussed at Stanford: educational background.

For example, did you know what “units” were when you arrived at Stanford? Were you able to receive AP exam credit? Are you used to using textbooks as a tool for learning? Do you speak a language other than the language(s) you speak at home? Did you have high school teachers who were experts in their fields? Do you play an instrument? Was it considered “normal” or “expected” for you to apply to highly selective universities? Do you feel free to pursue opportunities abroad? Do you have generally positive memories of your high school experience? This is by no means an exhaustive list, but I believe examples are the best way to get started on thinking about the way our educational backgrounds influence our identities as Stanford students and the opportunities we feel able to take advantage of. Continue reading

Tagged , , , , , ,