Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Marx through Brown to Conservatism, part two

More excerpts from my blurb on a private forum:
The “diversity training” that was part of my job as a resident director at UM  was also a revelation. We were all broken into groups to do tasks together. First, we were shown a few short films about several people who were having different problems related to their “diversity.” Each group was supposed to come up with the solutions to one of the problems in the films.
Our group had the film about a young black undergrad pledging a traditionally white sorority.

No, it’s not what you’re thinking.

The sorority loved her, she seemed to fit right in with them, they shared her interests, and she really wanted to be there. Her problem was that all her black friends were angry at her for pledging the white sorority and not their sorority. It was such cognitive dissonance for them that she feared losing some of the social support she’d counted on if she joined the white sorority.
“Well”, I thought, “this is an easy one”. I hate these group things and like to get them over with so I just took the lead. “You know, she needs to sit down with each of her friends and talk about their concerns. Are they worried this sorority won’t accept them as her friends? Are they worried she’s getting involved in a group that has been tied to racist problems in the past? And if then they won’t support her, she can move on; she needs better friends than them.”
No one said anything. I wondered if a green tumor had sprung up in the middle of my face. Four of the people just stared at me, another had his head down and was fiddling with a piece of paper on his desk. Finally, one of the woman straightened up in her chair and said, “I can’t believe you would think she should join that sorority! Clearly, her friends need to put more pressure on her to make her stop!”

I should pause here to point out that there were, coincidentally, no black people in our group. So here was this white woman who apparently was comfortable with the idea of forcing a black woman to not join a white sorority. I wondered if I’d gotten into a worm hole and was talking with a parallel universe version of George Wallace.

I kept expecting someone to defend me. “But isn’t it her choice?” I finally asked, for the first time starting to second guess myself and wonder if I was missing something.

“But she doesn’t KNOW any better!” the straightened-up lady said. “We have to show her. That’s our job.”
Well, that was a relief. At least we didn’t have to make the other black students convince her to stay closer to the “colored” water fountains. We could tell her ourselves!

I was relieved when I realized the coordinator who was coming to hear our final answer was a black guy. He was pretty smart, so if he thought this lady was right I figure he could tell me why. But I was really expecting him to toss the other lady out on her ear and call her a racist bitch. Or for the lady to stand up again and say, “Kelly, you did really well in that role play.” He didn’t; she didn’t. He didn’t say they were right or I was right, it was apparently one of those things where there were no right or wrong answers.

(I assure you that Michigan has since corrected this oversight and now all the right answers are intraveneously pumped into the veins of freshmen as they repeat over and over, “tax the rich, tax the rich” during orientation week).

And we were done for the day.

It’s surreal to recall. We were at a large expensive tax funded university, most of us with parents who could afford to send us through, pampered and protected from things like “hate speech” and “the patriarchy”. And we made good use of our time to simmer and rage about our unfortunate lot. Our time was spent, in class and out, complaining that we lived in a society that was unfair and unjust, and wasn’t it cool that we, who never interacted with anyone in society, were the only ones who knew it. Mind you, I felt sorry for the guy who tried to challenge my shrill social work professor, but I still agreed with her.
So my first thoughts of conservatism as not a bad thing was my gradual realization that within liberalism there were a lot of sleazy ideas , as well as people more interested in forcing others to do what they thought they should do than in making sure others had opportunities to do whatever they liked.

more tomorrow

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