Diversity’s borders

Studying abroad doesn’t meet the diversity requirement at St. Cloud State. Living in a foreign country — especially in Western Europe — wouldn’t expose students to the right sort of multiculturalism:

Students will identify unjust, de-humanizing, and oppressive policies and practices of individuals, authorities, and social institutions within the dominant culture and their impact on the treatment of various disenfranchised groups.

Michael Lopez construes another paragraph, translating academese into English.

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Comments

  1. Sean Kinsell says:

    And if they went just about anywhere but Europe, they might find out what gender/sex/race oppression looks like when it’s the real McCoy.

  2. I’m glad Lopez translated. But he has dreadful, uneducated,ignorant taste in movies.

  3. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Even in translation the course sounds bereft of content. I suppose that is what bureaucrat/educator speak is meant to do.

  4. Kathy Sherman says:

    I couldn’t figure out how to post a comment to Lopez’ translation, so I emailed him. Here is what I said:

    “Affective” is a synonym for “emotional.” So “cognitive, affective…” refers to “thoughts, feelings…”

    I was surprised at [Lopez’] parsing of “affective” the way [he] did, since I’ve heard many mental health professional use the term “affect” when describing the way someone presents themselves emotionally. So I looked up “affective” in my Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary software. Here is the definition for “affective”: adj. 1. relating to, arising from, or influencing feelings or emotions: EMOTIONAL (affective disorder) 2: expressing emotion (affective language)

  5. Sean,

    I’m not sure what you mean by the phrase, “they might find out what gender/sex/race oppression looks like when it’s the real McCoy.”

    Are you saying that, because America has less extreme versions of discrimination than some other nations, that it’s therefore less “real”?

    To what degree, then, is discrimination real or not? And how do you determine that?

  6. SusieQ, there’s quite a contrast between a woman whose career isn’t advancing, and therefore speculates about a glass ceiling, and a woman being stoned to death because she accidentally exposed her forearms in public. The Taliban are still burning down schools for girls every chance they get. That takes oppression to a whole new level that we actually don’t see here.

  7. Walter E. Wallis says:

    People who cannot differentiate between cutting off a child’s allowance and cutting off his arm need to look inward before they look out.

  8. Steve LaBonne says:

    Some of these stories about required “diversity” courses are starting to be creepily reminiscent of the required courses in “Marxism – Leninism” in Soviet universities.

  9. Laura et al,

    I’m well aware of the extremes of discrimination. But would you be willing to wager, as I’m assuming Sean is, that the glass ceiling is any less “real” than any other experience?

    Notice I’m not saying less traumatic, less devastating, less brutal.

    My point is this: I want to know how Sean determines what constitutes a real discriminatory experience. Anyone who conflates that question with trivializing extremes is simply not reading me right.

  10. Sean Kinsell says:

    SuzieQ,

    I have a problem with the word oppression more than anything else. Discrimination in the US? Yes, indeed. A glass ceiling? Economists and social scientists have found evidence that women’s own choices when they move within striking distance of the highest echelons tend to help keep them out, but I wouldn’t argue for a second that the exclusionist Old Boy Network flat-out doesn’t exist in any form.

    Japan, where I’ve spent my adult life, has a real glass ceiling for all but the very most prodigiously talented women: federally-mandated maternity leave exists, but companies generally find ways to shove women off the management track after they have their first child. My boyfriend has been told to his face that he will not be promoted up management track unless he marries and has children. Ethnic Koreans whose families have been in Japan for generations (often because their ancestors were relocated here by force by the Japanese) were not allowed to hold many civil service posts until within the last decade. And this is happening in Japan, a democracy with a constitution written under American auspices. I’m not omniscient by any stretch, but if I’m inclined to laugh out loud at the idea that Americans are hammerlocked by “oppressive” social institutions, it’s not just because I’m talking out of my ass.

  11. Sean Kinsell says:

    Oh, and I didn’t mean to evade your (SuzieQ’s) last question: determining what constitutes “discrimination,” especially given how the word is thrown around nowadays, is not a trivial problem. Something tells me, though, that a program devised by people who assume that the most important project is riffling through society for “unjust, de-humanizing, and oppressive policies and practices of individuals, authorities, and social institutions within the dominant culture” is not big on nuance and real self-examination.

  12. Richard Cook says:

    SuzieQ–

    You say extremes, but, in that country that may be the usual punishment or treatment of a woman or ethnic minority. For shame for bringing your Western-centric view to bear.

  13. Sean didn’t say “real” discrimination, he said “real” oppression. If not getting promoted, possibly because you’re female, is real oppression, then we need to come up with another word for what is routinely and sometimes legally done to women and other groups in countries like pre-war Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

  14. Laura wrote: If not getting promoted, possibly because you’re female, is real oppression, then we need to come up with another word for what is routinely and sometimes legally done to women and other groups in countries like pre-war Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

    Might I suggest “chattel slavery”?

  15. Sean,

    I appreciate your points. The original link clearly states that a public university is attempting to redefine the term “diversity” to fit a particular world view. That’s silly.

    But whenever the phrases “real oppression,” or “real discrimination” are bandied around, it’s time for a sharp look at who’s talking. What constitutes injustice – and therefore political attention – has historically been marginalized by dominant groups, at least until a groundswell of the electorate forces action. It wasn’t the goodwill of American men that finally gave Olympia Brown, Susan B. Anthony, and other (white) women the right to vote: it was the fact that they walked a gauntlet of rotten vegetables and refused to be quiet. They were not called “oppressed.”

    It’s interesting in this case, though, how the terms “diversity” and “oppressed” have conflated. No longer are the experiences of any group synonymous with the west considered valid cultural encounters. No, the only “real,” diverse worlds are those plagued with poverty and violence. “Real” oppression exists only somewhere else.

  16. I’d say it was the goodwill of men that gave women the vote. The suffragettes fought hard to persuade those goodwilled men to take action.

    I’d like to see Americans learn more about other countries and cultures before deciding whether they’re best put into a box labeled “America is evil” or “foreigners are oppressive” or whatever. I believe in making judgments, but not as the first step.

  17. Sean Kinsell says:

    “No, the only ‘real,’ diverse worlds are those plagued with poverty and violence. ‘Real’ oppression exists only somewhere else.”

    Hmm. I agree 100% with that first sentence, but I think the second one is wrong. The standard line nowadays seems to be that the realest, oppressivest “real oppression” is done by our own social systems. Privileged men in other countries are scolded in general terms for being “patriarchal” (the most egregious sin of our times). But unless things have changed since I was a comp. lit. major in the early ’90’s, the idea seems to be that “real oppression” is caused by Western thinking and Westernization of foreign countries. I’m not saying that I think the West is incapable of oppression–there are those minor matters of colonization and slavery–but I do think that the idea that the best way to see “diversity” and “oppression” in 2003 is by staying at home in St. Cloud is nuts.

  18. Slavery originated in Africa, the same place evidence suggests the human race as a whole originated. It has been with us since the beginning of human history, and it apparently shows no signs of going away.

    Since current PC is suppressing everything about the history of slavery in America, very few Americans really understand what slavery is like. But white Americans didn’t invent it; black Africans were enslaving each other when the Europeans got to Africa. The Roman Empire, with it’s continent-spanning roads, was built on slavery – most of the slaves in Rome itself were whites, not blacks. The Greeks also practiced slavery. Even the ancient Jews practiced slavery. That the Jews were also themselves enslaved is irrelevant; slavery was a common practice in the ancient Middle East, where the victors often enslaved the losers.

    In much of the world, many peoples still believe that the strong have the right, by virtue of their superior strength, to control the weak.

    What does this have to do with the topics being discussed? Well, I suspect that many who whine about ‘oppression’ and ‘diversity’ don’t know much of anything about either the current or the historical basis of that oppression. But that doesn’t seem to stop them from try to dictate what others’ opinions should be.

  19. Oh, yeah. One more comment about slavery. My maternal great-grandfather was a slave. In the late 1800s, he was captured by the Sabinal Indian tribe in a raid. He was 12 years old, and lived with the tribe for 3 years before he was able to escape and eventually return home.

    So even our ‘good and gentle’ Native Americans practiced slavery.

    By the by, not that it makes much difference, but I’m Osage on my father’s side. The Osage were driven out of Georga/Florida/the Carolinas and forcibly relocated to barren, worth Reservation land in Oklahoma. Then they struck oil on the land, and the whites wanted it back… No, don’t email me asking for money – we missed out on the headrights….