Fata Morgana (chimerically) wrote,
Fata Morgana
chimerically

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This article discusses cultural awareness exercises such as discrimination based on eye color or other arbitrary things, which are meant to raise awareness - especially among the privileged whites in the group - of the hardships ethnic minorities face, and to provide an outlet for the anger of said minorities. It sounds like there are many problems with these sorts of exercises. Some leading figures make sweeping generalizations about race or other subjects which are quite alarming: whites are "logical" and value objects, Native Americans "learn through oneness," blacks are "intuitive," etc. Others select a member of the audience who is part of a privileged group and berate him/her. Some vilify the USA in particular, while praising the rest of the world, or vilify whites in particular, while praising nonwhites for simply existing in a world of inequity.

All, or at least all featured in the article, belittle individual experiences by insisting on the validity of their racial or cultural stereotypes, violate privacy by forcing participation and sometimes disclosure of information, and undermine dignity by belittling participants or making them belittle each other in discrimination games. This example startled me:
    In 1993, Ana Maria Garcia, assistant dean of Haverford College, proudly told the Philadelphia Inquirer of official freshman dormitory programs there, which divided students into two groups: happy, unselfish Alphas and grim, acquisitive Betas. For Garcia, the exercise was wonderfully successful: "Students in both groups said the game made them feel excluded, confused, awkward, and foolish," which, for Garcia, accomplished the purpose of Haverford's program: "to raise student awareness of racial and ethnic diversity."
Excluded, confused, awkward, foolish ... wonderfully successful?

These programs seem to feel the need to force people to change their opinions, to indoctrinate them - they don't trust individuals to change their minds on their own, or to have a thoughtful conversation about the issues at hand.

While I would generally agree (as I've expressed in other posts) that there are sometimes egregious inequities in the world, I don't feel at all comfortable with programs like these, however noble their goals are. In femsex we talked about the danger of accusing all thin women of having eating disorders. These programs seem to make the same errors. Are all white men inherently evil? Are all black women inherently good? Are all thin women automatically anorexic? Is my past worthless because it took place in a culture that was predominantly white? No! We can all have misconceptions and make mistakes, or have insights and do good. What is important are our individual experiences. "Cultural awareness" workshops should try to add to these experiences, not take them away.
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