Trans*forming A Mule

I

This is an essay about gender.

II

If we are to truly understand gender as socially constructed, we must first recognize that gender programming and performance (i.e., socialization) begins at birth and informs how we engage each other in our daily lives. Gender is more than the clothes we wear, the pitch of our voices, and much much more than our body morphology. Gender is informed by and intersected with race, sexuality, social class, and disability.

[Before I go any further, I should pause to acknowledge that the ideas of many others inform my thinking in this post. Some of those sources I will name as they come up, but most of which I won’t be able to, because they are so ingrained and entangled in my mind that I no longer can pull them apart to tell what came from who. Here is a list of those influences, in no particular order: bell hooks, Zora Neale Hurston, Audre Lorde, the compilation This Bridge Called My Back edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Judith Butler, Michel Foucault, Sarah Smith Rainey, Michele Wallace, discussions with Z Nicolazzo, Allan G. Johnson…]

III

Foreground yourself.

In the word processing program that I use, I can insert a picture and choose among various options for how that image should appear relative to the text or other images around it. If I set it as “foreground” then I am putting it in front of other text/images such that if they overlap, then what is foregrounded appears on top of the rest.

I have been told lately, “foreground yourself.” Essentially, among the overlapping roles I hold, pulls on my time, and needs for self-care, I have been strongly advised to put myself in front of all the rest. To see my needs first and foremost, on top of everything else. I heard that advice and was mystified about how to enact it.

This is gender in action, gender as performative (thank you, Judith Butler).

IV

I need…

Need, needs, needy, needing, and neediness are gendered. To be seen as “needy” is definitely gendered (as feminine which equals bad in case you were wondering). Neediness is a state of lack, of want for something that you do not have. It is weakness as it’s portrayed in pop culture. Those “in need” are usually portrayed as women and children. It’s central to why our society refuses to accept a man as being in need of public assistance. Men are defined as “not in need” but also as the ones whose “needs” must be met (by women and children).

To assert that *I* need and have needs and am in need is being subversive.  I am violating the gender norms assigned to me because I do not fit within the category “man.”

V

“All you/I need to do is stay Black and die.” I’ve heard this my whole life.

All I need to do is stay Black and die.

[I’ll leave for another blog post, perhaps, a critical race-poststructural analysis of the directive to “stay Black” grounded partially in the ways in which one can become not-Black, perhaps similar to Monique Wittig’s concept of lesbians as not-women.]

This was a proclamation of resistance when an I was the subject – denying anyone else’s right to force me to take any action I did not want to take: No, I don’t *need* to keep my hair long and straight to be sexually attractive. No, I don’t *need* to focus more on getting married than I do on my education and career. No, I don’t *need* to accept somebody denying my worth and value and authenticity just because “everybody has issues.” I rebuffed many an external constraint on my self-determination by flinging back that response with all the certitude and attitude my grown-ass womanish Black self could muster, as in “Excuse me?? No, all I neeeeeed to do is stay Black and die!” Yes, cue the neck roll, eye roll, and teeth sucking along with the implied dare to keep on talking.

VI

All you need to do is stay Black and die.

[And here, I could do a different blog post about how Blackness is surveilled and policed such that people who are deemed Black, stay Black, and die as Black in ways appropriate for Blackness. And in that post, I would give a shout-out to Michel Foucault.]

This was an indictment of my selfishness when a you was the subject. The speaker denied my assertion of my desire to do something other than what was being demanded of me in that moment so that I could perform to satisfy someone else’s needs that were more important than my own.

What was being communicated was some version of the following: No, you don’t need time for yourself really. No, all you need to do is stay within the respectable bubble of Black-womanness (i.e., don’t be queer or trans* or womanist or too educated or not educated enough) that has been erected to make your Black-womanness palatable to White folks and stay small enough to be subservient to others’ interests and wear your mask and die with it on. Oh and while you’re at it, you can also disappear and be of no consequence and leave no mark so that no one ever knows your pain, your need, your want, your desire so that you don’t infringe on those who are really important. And the I that is the dominating Other is watching you to make sure that if you step out of line and forget your programming that you will be brought back in line (thank you, Michel Foucault).

VII

This is still an essay about gender.

VIII

So, I engage in lengthy episodes of anxiety-ridden angst about whether it is permissible for me this time to put my needs, my neediness, and my need up front. This is about gender and my gender socialization and how I have been socialized NOT to EVER foreground myself. As Zora Neale Hurston’s character Nannie asserted in Their Eyes Were Watching God, the Black woman is the mule of the world, made to bear others’ burdens and fulfill others’ needs, not to have any of her own.

[Nanny]: “Honey, de white man is de ruler of everything as fur as Ah been able tuh find out. Maybe it’s some place way off in de ocean where de black man is in power, but we don’t know nothin’ but what we see. So de white man throw down de load and tell de nigger man tuh pick it up. He pick it up because he have to, but he don’t tote it. He hand it to his womenfolks. De nigger woman is de mule uh de world so fur as Ah can see.” (2.44) [Retrieved from http://www.shmoop.com/eyes-were-watching-god/race-quotes-2.html]

How many have gained their freedom, had their autonomy recognized, had their needs met by crossing over on the work of women of color (thank you Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa)? Like, everybody except women of color. Hello somebody…

IX

But I am not a Black woman, though I was raised to be one.

And so if I’m really going to show up as an AFAB (assigned female at birth), genderqueer, non-binary trans* and MOC (masculine of center), then doing so must mean doing more than wearing a badass suit and bow tie, unlearning the practiced (and unnatural) feminine pitch of my voice, and slinging a prosthetic phallis between my thighs in order to trans*form myself from the mule I was trained to be to become the person that I am. My gender identity and expression is not kink.

But it cannot mean picking up another’s load and then passing it off to a Black ciswoman to carry because I have deemed myself, as not a woman, to be higher than she.

This is the gender knot that must be unraveled (nod to Allan G. Johnson).

No, it must mean refusing to pick up someone else’s burden (to NOT be Simon the Cyrene for someone else’s crucifix), but to foreground myself, my needs, and my neediness as legitimate, valuable, necessary and NOT as a weakness to be squashed so that I can remain some kind of superhero (nod to Michele Wallace there, thank you). It must mean wresting the right to make my life matter for me and to me, to put myself first, to say that I need to do more than stay Black and die to be alive in this world.

This is about self-preservation being subversive and countercultural and militant and necessary (thank you, Audre Lorde).

X

This is an essay about gender. This is an essay about race. This is an essay about social class. This is an essay about trans*gression.

This is an essay about freedom.

Transgressing Gender: Another Level

Transgressing Gender: Another Level

Today’s post is the (edited) text of the opening keynote speech I gave at the University of California, Davis this past Saturday, December 1st for their “Ain’t I a Woman” Empowerment Conference.  It was the first time this conference had been held in 40 years.  It was last held as the first official event of the Women’s Research and Resources Center (WRRC) at UC-Davis.

Act One – Sojourner

“Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that ‘twixt the Negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what’s all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain’t I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain’t I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man – when I could get it – and bear the lash as well! And ain’t I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother’s grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain’t I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what’s this they call it? [member of audience whispers, “intellect”] That’s it, honey. What’s that got to do with women’s rights or Negroes’ rights? If my cup won’t hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn’t you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can’t have as much rights as men, ’cause Christ wasn’t a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain’t got nothing more to say.”1

It has been one hundred and sixty-one years to the month since Sojourner Truth first spoke these words in Akron, Ohio at the Women’s Rights Convention being held at a local church.2  Perhaps it is fitting then that your keynote speaker this year comes to you from Ohio, albeit the opposite side of the state, to address this body at this empowerment conference.  Perhaps it is also fitting that I am the one to deliver this year’s speech, seeing as how I, like Sojourner Truth, disrupts, and possibly even transgresses, what it means to be a Woman.

Let me explain.  This convention on women’s rights that took place in 1851 was held in a church, which is neither irrelevant nor incidental to the situation.  Prior to Sojourner Truth taking the floor – and she did take the floor – several Christian ministers, all men, from various denominations, including Methodist, Baptist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, and Universalist ministers had spoken and dominated the discourse.  Frances Dane Gage, who convened the meeting in Akron, wrote that women did not typically speak in public.  I would argue that furthermore speaking publicly in church was not encouraged for women and that therefore the setting of this convention in a church did as much to silence women from speaking out about women’s rights as did any general social norm about women speaking in public.

Gage wrote in 1863, 12 years after the incident, that Sojourner had walked into the church with “the air of a queen up the aisle” and decided to take her seat on the pulpit steps. For those of you not familiar with traditional Christian church architecture and layout, that would be like her coming to the front of this auditorium and sitting right here [pointing to bottom of podium perhaps], facing you in the audience.  It was a bold act.  And from the moment she came in, Gage recalls that people began imploring her not to allow Sojourner to say anything to the crowd lest their cause, women’s suffrage, be lost on account of it getting “mixed up with” abolition and Negroes.

Recall that in 1851, we are still a decade before the first shots were fired in the Civil War and the South seceded from the Union.  We see Sojourner here in Akron before the election of Lincoln to the presidency and his pragmatic and strategic use of emancipation and the Thirteenth Amendment to cripple the South and set off Reconstruction in the aftermath of his assassination in 1865.  At the moment that Sojourner Truth enters that Women’s Rights Convention in Akron, Ohio, John Brown, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass and other fervent abolitionists were working in Oberlin, Ohio and other cities along the Underground Railroad to render slavery all but dead by the time the Civil War begins.3

What is not dead, nor close to dying, not in 1851 and seemingly not even in 2012, is the idea of Woman naturalistically defined.  As Simone de Beauvoir wrote women are not born, but one becomes a woman.4  Sojourner Truth asks repeatedly in the first paragraph of her speech, “Ain’t I a woman?”  The answer that came back really was a resounding “no” as the cult of true womanhood that was at its height in the second-half of the nineteenth century, ascribed the title and status of “Woman” based on race and social class criteria that Sojourner Truth would never meet.  Even by 1913, when the women of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. would become the only Black women’s group, just a couple of months after its founding, to walk in the women’s suffrage march in Washington, D.C., the vote, having been secured and quickly undermined for Black men, was primarily still promoted as a fundamentally White woman’s right.

Sojourner Truth deftly undermines the patriarchal argument against women’s suffrage on biological, intellectual, and theological grounds.  She not only challenges her own exclusion from the circle of women whose rights were being argued for, but she also successfully argues for the expansion of women’s rights using the same worldview of the men who were objecting to those rights.  Gage later exalts over how Sojourner won the crowd over to their cause and notably does not use language that would include Sojourner in that cause.

So, no, Sojourner, you may be female, but you sho’ ain’t a Woman in 1851, not in the minds of your audience.  Which leaves me wondering, would Sojourner be a Woman today in 2012?  Am I, or anyone else who flaunts gender boundaries and binaries, a “Woman” in 2012?  Perhaps we ought even to ask whether becoming a “Woman” is something anybody should want.

Act Two: Gender Performances

But first let’s return to Simone de Beauvoir’s assertion that a woman isn’t born but becomes.  This can be because one’s biological sex is not equated to one’s gender.  Gender is not inherent in our biology; our hormones, reproductive organs, and sexual desires do not dictate, or necessarily inform, our gender.  We come to gender through the omnipresent socialization that is begun at birth and even before birth.  As soon as a woman is found to be pregnant, information concerning the sex of the fetus is demanded – ostensibly so that people know what to buy the child, what colors, what kinds of clothes, what toys.  After the child is born, these accoutrements are required so that people know how to treat the baby.

I will never forget an interaction I had with a woman when my daughter was about 6 months old (she’s now 13 years and 6 months, so that lets you know how much this stuck in my craw).  I was out for Sunday brunch, my daughter was wearing a Tigger outfit.  She had very little hair at the time and it was brushed down – no bows, no ribbons, no headband squishing her tender skull, and there were no earrings in her earlobes.  I had taken her into the restroom to change her diaper and a woman also in the restroom began to remark on how cute he was and that he was such an adorable little boy.  I corrected the woman twice, “it’s a girl actually.”  She immediately took umbrage with me, chastised me for not marking my daughter appropriately as a girl, so that unsuspecting, well-meaning people like her would know how to properly address my child.

I didn’t realize before this moment that perhaps Tigger – and all of Winnie the Pooh’s characters except for Kanga – were meant for boys and by adorning my helpless child in Tigger’s costume, I was violating her gender coding.  Was I trying to pass my girl-child off as a boy?  Cast my daughter in the role of a son?  Had I disrupted the natural order set in place by God Himself at the creation as those ministers in 1851 tried to claim?  Indeed, I was a bad mother, because I had failed to make my child’s sex – and therefore presumably her gender – publicly visible for inspection and appraisal.  I’m reminded of Foucault’s Panopticon; we are constantly under surveillance as a means of control.6

Becoming a Woman means fulfilling a set of naturalized expectations for comportment, pedigree, beauty, and social graces that have been reserved for White middle-class and upper-class women and to which other females – of different races and pedigrees – would seek to emulate and thereby (hope to) be granted the status of woman.  This is what Judith Butler argues in her essay on performative gender5, that gender is not merely performed as though it was an individual act, but rather gender is rehearsed before a public audience in such a way that it is no longer a private commodity to be traded by the individual, but rather the result of a public, communal construction.  Gender – the binary of masculinity and femininity – reflects, communicates, and seeks to promulgate a social status that is meant to support patriarchy and heteronormative privileges with the cooperation of religious authorities.

Consequently, when gender is constructed under the auspices of interlocking systems of oppression – patriarchy does not stand alone but works in concert with heterosexism, racism, classism, ableism, and religious dogmatism – who becomes woman and who becomes man reflect the narrow social constructions of those oppressive structures.  The social norms that have been developed to enforce compliance are hard to resist and often become co-opted even by people trying to transgress gender binaries and gender role conformity.

What do I mean by this?7

Masculinity and manhood still have naturalized, rehearsed performances that rely on the oppression of women and femininity, and the assumptions of women’s incapacity and second-class citizenship.  I see this when I look at television commercials for men’s hygiene products (e.g., Axe), as well as in ads marketing soft drinks (e.g., Dr Pepper Ten), even in commercials for website hosting (e.g., GoDaddy.com).  Men are socialized to relate to women as objects, whether of desire, protection (more the territorial than nurturing kind), or manipulation.  Regardless of how benign the objectification may be, it still reflects patriarchy.  Ultimately, how masculine-of-center lesbians and transmen perform and embody masculinity reveals how little work our society has done to change our performative gender acts.  In addition, it challenges masculine-of-center lesbians and transmen to consider their gender performances as opportunities to truly transgress patriarchal gender as manifested in hegemonic masculinity and hegemonic femininity.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen masculine-of-center lesbians and transmen relate to women in ways that reflect the worst patriarchal behavior I’ve seen in cisgender men.  I had a masculine-of-center lesbian once tell me that while moving boxes with a transman, he said to her, “Let me get that for you; this is a man’s job.”  Although she set him straight, it was his easy recitation of this familiar gender performance of the role “man” that is most troubling.

The same kinds of habitually rehearsed gendered norms happen at the other end of the gender continuum.  In those performances, cisgender women, effeminate gay men, and transwomen often default to “being a woman” as a rationale for their indecisiveness, love of shopping, chocolate, and Oprah, and supposedly superior nurturing skills.  This is how women are supposed to behave, think, look and departing from that usually has social consequence.  For example, it’s often considered “cute” when a girl is a tomboy as a child, but as they get older, they are expected to drop that performance and become what they really are – a woman.

Thus we perform a gender whose definition has been so rehearsed and become so “natural” that we can hardly think our way out of these performances.  This brings me back to the questions that ended part one of this speech: Am I a woman?  Should I, or anyone else, what to become a woman?

Act Three: Gender Transgressions

In order to answer these questions, we must first consider our context.  We are in the United States in 2012, particularly in northern California (as opposed to Danbury, CT or rural Alabama) and these are all factors that are significant.  Although the common setting of the United States and the year allow some social norms to be recognizable in otherwise variant parts of the country, local culture does add contour to the act.  So, with that in mind, consider that you were preparing for a theatrical role as the part of Woman.  What would you need to portray Woman as realistically as possible?

  • What would her costume be?
  • How would Woman speak, what vocabulary would be used, the pace and rhythm of speech would be set with what in mind?
  • What is the timbre of Woman’s voice?
  • What gender pronouns would Woman use?
  • What are Woman’s props, biological and otherwise?
  • How long is Woman’s hair?
  • Would Woman be the lead role or a supporting cast member?
  • What is Woman’s sexuality?
  • What would Woman’s backstory be concerning Man?
  • What is Woman’s motivation in the play?

Consider how much the patriarchal messages we’ve learned have informed our Woman.  Is there any part of her that patriarchy has left untouched?  What do your responses say about your own gender performances?  Take a moment and share with the person you introduced yourself to earlier.

Given this modern day performative Woman, what would be said about Sojourner Truth?  I know that I don’t see Sojourner or myself much at all in this character.  Some things fit, a lot of other things don’t.  If I reject the role of performative Woman, then what am I?  Ain’t I a woman?  Do I want to be?  As Monique Wittig has argued, “lesbians are not women” because woman has meaning only in heterosexual relationship to men.8  Take note of whether you assigned your Woman to be heterosexual and likely to be in the supporting role relative to a lead character that you assigned as Man; heterosexuality is used as a site for the practice of patriarchy.  Yet, gay and lesbian relationships can also be sites for the practice of patriarchy inasmuch as the people in those relationships still engage each other through a patriarchal relationship dynamic manifested in rehearsed, naturalized (i.e., performative) gender acts.

The reality is that in the theater of lived experience, most females do not fulfill the role of Woman as scripted and rehearsed with 100% precision, 100% of the time.  Yet, have I done enough to disrupt patriarchal rehearsals of womanhood by changing how I dress or speak only?  Given all that I have argued above, I would say no.  However, if I act too far outside the rehearsed, naturalized norm that is Woman, am I affecting transformation within the rehearsed performances of Woman-hood that are happening constantly everywhere around me?  Alas, I have no clue.

But, just maybe, if enough people “act out,” perform ourselves outside the rehearsed Woman and Man roles, perhaps Woman and Man will become empty categories and several new dynamic, evolving, innovative genders will take their place.  Now, that would be truly transgressing gender.

[End scene. Exit stage left.]

______________________

Notes:

1 The text of Sojourner’s speech was found online at the Modern History Sourcebook collection, http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/mod/sojtruth-woman.asp.

2 More information about Sojourner’s speech and Frances Dane Gage’s enhanced description of the setting and reaction of the crowd can be found online at the Sojourner Truth website, http://www.sojournertruth.org/Library/Speeches/AintIAWoman.htm.

3 For further discussion and critique of Lincoln’s role in emancipation, the Thirteenth Amendment, and the end of slavery, please read this excellent critique of Spielberg’s film Lincoln by Aaron Bady in the Jacobin, “Lincoln Against the Radicals,” http://jacobinmag.com/2012/11/lincoln-against-the-radicals-2/.

4 Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex, 1949.

5 Judith Butler, “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory,” 1988. Available online at http://www.mariabuszek.com/kcai/PoMoSeminar/Readings/BtlrPerfActs.pdf. There is also a great short video clip of Judith Butler speaking about performative gender available on YouTube: http://youtu.be/Bo7o2LYATDc

6 Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, 1975.  You can read more about it at the Foucault.info website, http://foucault.info/documents/disciplineAndPunish/foucault.disciplineAndPunish.panOpticism.html.

7 These next two paragraphs are adapted from my article in the third issue of TRUTH Magazine, “Gender Transgression 2.0.” Information about the magazine is available at www.truthmagonline.com.

8 Monique Wittig, The Straight Mind, 1978.

Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders Today

This summer I have had the pleasure of teaching a cohort of incoming first-year students at Bowling Green State University who are participating in the Sidney A. Ribeau President’s Leadership Academy (PLA). These twenty-five students are merit scholars, mostly from Ohio and Michigan (Detroit, in particular). This racially diverse group (mostly either Black or White) spends their very first summer at BGSU getting an introduction to college, taking classes in writing and communication, leadership, service-learning, and information technology and library skills. For the past four years, the summer session has also had a workshop series on diversity. This year, the diversity component is a class, four sessions of 90 minutes each, and is being graded along with the other classes they are taking.

This is my first year teaching in the summer program and I’m their instructor for the diversity course. My objectives are simple (or so I thought): to expose them to issues of difference and diversity beyond race; to help them see each other’s diversity and the ways that systematic privilege has differentiated their lives; and to set them on the path toward allyship and acting as leaders amongst their peers for promoting pluralism and social justice. We’ve completed two of four sessions and the twenty-five students in my class have taught me a great deal about how much they don’t know and haven’t been taught.

For instance, the terms privilege and oppression were themselves foreign concepts to many of them. They seemed surprised to consider that biracial and multiracial people don’t have to choose one race or the other and that race itself isn’t a biologically determined fact but a social construction – like gender. And then they didn’t know the difference between sex and gender – although this is hardly surprising since most adults don’t know that and the terms are consistently conflated in the public discourse, including survey items (see my forthcoming article in TRUTH magazine for a more extended discussion of this). We spent nearly forty-five minutes in Q&A expanding their dichotomous assumptions to include intersex and transgender people and ideas like androgyny so that they thought of sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation as continuums instead of binaries. Explanations begat more questions, which begat further explanations and further questions. Finally I had to just stop the discussion because I had to explain an assignment that’s due on Tuesday. And then that prompted more confusion.

Students weren’t confused because I was trying to force them into believing some kind of liberal ideology that didn’t reflect their realities. Each of them could name the social groups they were members of and, for the most part with the exception of social class, they knew whether those social groups were privileged or marginalized. There was no rejection of the concepts, no refusal even to recognize that groups they weren’t members of were marginalized. (Whether they believed that marginalization was unjust is a different issue that I didn’t have time to dig into – yet.) Most of them just had never had anybody talk with them about any of this before, in a class, before this summer. They aren’t just confronting these kinds of issues in my class either; the leadership class instructors are also delving into these issues as they introduce them to Astin’s Social Change Model of Leadership (here’s a book by Susan Komives based on the model) that PLA is based on.

All this got me thinking about when is the right time to start these conversations. I hesitate to make the argument that multicultural competence is one more thing that K-12 isn’t doing right and should be doing. Sorry, you won’t catch me beating up on K-12 educators. Yes, exposing young children to diversity and teaching them that they don’t have to be afraid of difference and they can stand up to bullying and unfair treatment can be taught in elementary, middle, and high schools. AND there are lots of good teachers out there who are doing just that in classrooms across the country (check out this great example of a school in Oakland, CA that introduces the concept of gender diversity, though not without controversy).

However, that’s not the end of the line and higher education has a duty and responsibility to continue students on that journey. Research has indicated that understanding diversity beyond superficial, dichotomous, value judgments requires both psychosocial maturity and cognitive complexity that is simply not present prior to college for most young adults (Baxter Magolda & King, 2005; Chickering & Reisser, 1993; King & Shuford, 1996). Moreover, groups like the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) assert the need to include knowledge and appreciation of diversity and skill with relating across lines of difference in their essential learning outcomes and a plethora of research demonstrates the positive growth and development associated with exposure to diversity-related experiences in college (Bowman, 2010; Denson, 2009; Pettigrew & Tropp, 2006).

Yet, all too often whether to include any focused discussion on diversity, multicultural competence, and social justice is subject to debate and academics from different disciplines struggle to agree upon what constitutes appropriate language, pedagogy, and outcomes. Recently, I had a conversation with a colleague at another institution during which she explained that multicultural competence wasn’t a required part of the curriculum that was taught in the honors program there although it was included as a learning outcome. It seems that for some administrators and faculty in colleges and universities, diversity and multicultural competence are not seen as learning outcomes, but rather as recruitment goals and retention tools.

If we don’t deliberately equip college students – of all ages – with the multicultural awareness, multicultural knowledge, and multicultural skills needed to effectively live and work in an increasingly diverse global society, then we cannot say that we are preparing good leaders, or leaders at all. That equipping must begin early in their college experiences, yes, even their first semester on campus. Therefore, battling through the frustration, confusion, and blown lesson plans is worth it to help get at least this cohort of students a little further in the journey toward realizing a just society. Hopefully, some of this will stick and as they continue through their time at BGSU, they’ll build on the foundation we’ve laid this summer. Hopefully.

References:

Baxter Magolda, M. B., & King, P. M. (2005). A developmental model for intercultural maturity. Journal of College Student Development, 46(6), 571-592.

Bowman, N. A. (2010). College diversity experiences and cognitive development: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 80, 4-33.

Chickering, A., & Reisser, L. (1993). Education and identity (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Denson, N. (2009). Do curricular and co-curricular diversity activities influence racial bias? A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 79, 805-838.

King, P.M., & Shuford, B. C. (1996). A multicultural review is a more cognitively complex view: Cognitive development and multicultural education. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(2), 153-164.

Pettigrew, T. G., & Tropp, L. R. (2006). A meta-analytic test of intergroup contact theory. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 90, 751-783.

Coming this week…

Now that I’m back from vacation, I’m ready to keep my blog rolling. [And you thought I was blogging from Atlanta! ;-)]

Coming up starting this week will be reflections on Elizabeth Warren’s interview in HRC’s Equality magazine; Stonewall and the intersections of race, class, and sexuality; race and gender in sport; and the idea of “a fair balance.”

So check back in Monday, Wednesday, and Friday or make it real easy and click the link to follow my blog!

Enjoy the rest of the weekend and stay cool.

For peace and justice,
Dafina

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