Reflection

In some cases when a professor asks me to write a reflection on a class I panic, how on earth will I ever write enough?  The class wasn’t bad, it wasn’t good, it just was.  When you asked us to reflect on this class I also panicked, except for completely opposite reasons.  How could I reflect on this class in a concise meaningful way?  This class was the best.

For four months this class has taught and challenged and made me think more than any class I’ve ever taken.  I feel like this class could be cross listed for so many different subjects and that is perhaps one of its strengths.  We covered a lot of material this semester, but none of it felt superficial.  Each unit I walked away with new knowledge about the subject matter, but also about myself.  I came to this class angry at all the problems and injustice in the world, many which seemed to have gained steam in the months leading up to January.

As certain civil liberties seem to come under threat, a class like this is more important than ever.  It highlights what minority “other” groups have experienced and are experiencing.  On the flip side it shows how the dominate mostly white culture has silenced and shut out these smaller voices since we decided they were “other”.  Maybe five new voices won’t change the world, but five new people now have a deeper grasp of the discrimination and struggle “other” groups have.  Hopeful those five new voices will be less complicit in the racism, sexism, homophobia, and all other forms of oppression in our society.  As white people we hold significant power and now I think we can better harness it to push for a more open accepting society, because we know that we are far from there.  You promised us this class would make us mad, well it didn’t disappoint.  I leave with the anger and frustration I came with, just I now have better words to express it positively for change.  Not only from the articles we read, but also from my classmates I have learned so much and had my eyes opened to so many different experiences.

Closing note: I have a very vivid memory of us sitting at dinner near the French Immigration office in Paris and talking about my hopeful Art History minor provided I didn’t fail the Sorbonne class.  I offhandedly asked you if you would be teaching a 300 level in the spring.  You replied yes, you were.  Back then I was happy that I would get to take a class with you.  If I could go back to that moment now, I would get up and dance on the tables.  Thanks for putting together a class that thoughtfully taught and challenged me so immensely.

Katelyn Kiner – Hope College – 2017

 

Concerning me.

I entered into this class excited to learn about a new facet of Art History that I had not had very much previous exposure. And this class has changed me. Each class period I was confronted with my own personal inadequacies and I have to say that I was not impressed with who I was/am. But this is great, the more I am aware of my own short comings, prejudices and privilege the more I can work to overcome them.

Taking this class has helped me realize more of my end goal for what I want to do in my life. There has not been to much blending in the past between art history and the performing arts. I want to be a part of this fusion, but I want to use my research that I have done on my paper to help bring out this fusion. Ideally in the future there will be an equal representation between all races in theatre, and that it will be a natural thing for art historians and theatre majors to be the same people.

How to Reflect

Liked we discussed in the group, I think it’s really difficult to nail what I learned or thought of this class in just 1 thing.

One of the things I learned was how important it is to be open minded and to not be so closed off. It’s so important to LISTEN. Sometimes that’s all we can do. When it comes to the “other” that’s all we can do but at least it’s something. I think it’s important to be informed and not live in ignorance of everything that is outside of the “western” culture.

I really enjoyed having time in my life to be intentional about thinking about issues and politics from a variety of perspectives. It’s so important be knowledgeable and informed on everything. Especially the hard things that challenge and push us.

Hannah Van Dyke, Class of 2017

On the Charge to Produce a Summation of this Course and Experience

Knowledge is power. And education is the key.

Without the pursuit of education, people would continue to stereotype, to generalize, to rationalize, and to live in a happy little bubble where “the other” does not exist and everyone gets along perfectly. Education shatters this perception. Education, providing that an individual possesses a willingness to learn, allows us to become aware of how “our” culture innately creates an “other”, to understand another’s viewpoints and experiences, and learn the multiple forms “otherness” takes.

I know that without this course, people, discussions, and personal growth I’ve experienced this semester, I would still be the same person who didn’t think racism existed beyond her grandparent’s generation. A girl who was angry about workplace inequality and wage gaps and other career-related issues, but only as they related to herself. A woman ignorant of the injustices going on around her, and happily oblivious to the “other” culture, as she was not a part of it. But through this class, which covered conceptual ideas of otherness, how otherness is perpetuated by a “dominant” culture, where otherness is seen in contemporary times and throughout the history of art, I have learned so much more than I bargained for in the beginning.

And that’s the point, isn’t it? That in order to create change, one has to be aware and open and educated. In order to pursue action, one must understand what the history, context, and understandings are of both sides of an issue. In order to better this world, one needs to be willing to be a life-long learner, and to dedicate themselves to educating themselves and others. Education is the key to understanding and sustainable action. And that’s what this class was able to share with me through so many different approaches; that while knowledge is power and knowing facts and viewpoints is important, education is the key to change, as it incites a call to action to educate others.

This is how we got here. Now how do we get out?

The two articles had an interesting relationship with one exploring how we got here and the other trying to find how we get past here.

Michelle Alexander traced the history of race in America from a time where black and white men worked as equals, to where an increasing need for labor caused black people to be targeted as lesser so as to make slavery permissible.  I thought it was important she spoke about this thoughtful act of taking a section of the population and making them subhuman – 3/5th a person.  Even today I think many white people want to forget this, but it is important that we do not. Then from slavery to Jim Crow.  I remembered the first time I learned how this change had been for the worse for so many former slaves.  They were worked just as hard, except for now they had to afford housing and food, etc. on a pitiful wage.  Then Alexander examined how society saw the death of Jim Crow, but the rise of mass incarceration.

The second article by Tavia Nyong’o looked the place of racist kitsch in today’s society.  Some images and stereotypes that have carried over and others that have been erased.

What I found most interesting is the story of another author who recounted the story of his son’s indifference to the images of racist kitsch.  This author (Manthia Diawara) says “[his son’s reaction] is challenging me to stop being the custodian of these stereotypes, to distance myself from them, and begin enjoying the humor in them.”  However I wonder if it is possible to do that once you already have a negative response?  Or is society’s only hope at progress the next generation’s indifference to yesterday’s racism, because they have not experienced?

I am highly unqualified to respond to this, but I do hope that it is.  In this front change comes far too slowly, but there is hope that each successive generation will pick away at the injustice of the current system.  History shows that the frightened racist individuals will quickly implement a new system, but we can hope and work hard that this one will also be “less total, less capable of encompassing and controlling the entire race.”

Katelyn Kiner – Hope College – 2017

Preservation Through Transformation

In reading the first chapter of Michelle Alexander’s book The New Jim Crow, “The Rebirth of Caste” I was struck by two sentences. First, in discussing how the social rhetoric and hierarchy has been restructured but not destroyed since America’s beginning, she quotes legal scholar Reva Siegel in saying this process is “‘preservation through transformation'” which is how “white privilege is maintained.” Secondly she wrote, under the heading “The Death of Jim Crow”, that “In the absence of a massive, grassroots movement directly challenging the racial caste system, Jim Crow might be alive and well today.” While this idea of a racial hierarchy is in direct conflict with the American Dream of “rags to riches” and “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps”, it is nonetheless true that the racial caste in this country prevents specific groups of people from achieving what others in a higher caste can accomplish. This racial hierarchy is the result of hundreds of years of “preservation through transformation” of white privilege, from slavery to mass incarceration, the language and rhetoric changing with each restructure to reflect the appropriate language and beliefs of the time, each time making the disadvantages of being a POC seem more equal and appropriate to what their white counterparts experience. In spite of this, I am not hopeless about the state of our nation’s caste system and would still like to believe that we can do better. However, reflecting on the intensely public turmoil that our country has been struggling with for the past year, I cannot help but think that Alexander’s words hold true not only for the past dismantling of Jim Crow, but for the solution to mass incarceration, that it will only be through a major grassroots movement that these problems will be overcome.

“New” Jim Crow

Elizabeth Stuart, Hope College 2018

Reading these essays about race sparked the same sense of hopelessness that I feel when learning new information about racial injustice. I have been lucky enough in the fact that almost every academic course I have taken in my college carer (minus the studio classes) I have had at least one segment in the class that focuses solely on race. Race has become this defining issue within America. The uneducated, or less educated members of society seem to believe that if one person of another race is able to succeed like Oprah, or Obama, then this small measure of success makes up for every other injustice that the race has faced in our justice system.

Mass incarceration based more on the guilty parties race has become a norm. The difference it seems if someone convicted of a crime and the severity of the punishment they will receive is solely based on the accused race. We can even look back at the Stanford rape case of last year. If the man had not been a white, college educated, athlete who went to the same school as the judge, and had white parents in positions of some authority, would he have gotten off with as small of a sentence as he did?

Race will continue to be an issue until every single person is actively trying to change their learned prejudice against others.