Breaking news! A white boy complains about the coloured kids hanging out together!

7 04 2009

I rarely read the Tufts Daily, but as I was waiting for my friend in Dewick, my curiosity got the better of me. Unfortunately, I was reminded why I don’t like reading the Daily. Well, maybe just the columns.

Will Ehrenfeld has a column called “Stuff Tufts People Like,” which I am sure is a rip off of that “Stuff White People Like” website that was actually funny. This particular piece was not. It was titled “Cliques.” It seems harmless enough, but it actually turned into an attack on the culture centers, but not ALL of them. Just the Group of Six, which includes the Women’s Center, LGBT Center, Africana Center, International Center, Latino Center, and Asian American Center.  I knew I was going to hate this article as soon as he mentioned his “curiosity” at the signs that International students or coloured students may get on their doors freshman year.

Then he says “Tufts people love belonging to a minority group or, at the very least, a group that at one point has been discriminated against. I’m going to call this a thirst for victimhood.” I added the bold myself. I honestly could NOT believe he said this! First of all, it is not like people who are in marginalized groups CHOOSE to be discriminated against. I’m pretty sure most of us would enjoy to not have to be automatically disadvantaged in so many aspects of life because of our gender, sexual orientation, race, or country of origin. I think it’s very wrong and OFFENSIVE for him to just assume because people who participate in activities at a culture house that they may identify with just want to just BATHE in their victimhood, loving every minute of it.

He then admits that he is a privileged white male himself and “tried pretty hard to find a maligned group that [he] could be a part of, but [he’s] a straight white male from Connecticut, [doesn’t] identify with any religious sect, nor [does he] have particularly outrageous political views.” OK, fine. Great. This isn’t helping his point at all. It just shows how he is in a position to NOT be able to understand what it’s like to be in a marginalized group and recognize the necessity, or even just the benefit of these houses. I’m sorry that your personal thirst for victimhood wasn’t quenched because you’re not a part of a group that’s been oppressed.

Will also seems to be selecting which groups he is picking on. Yes, all those centers exist, but there are also other houses dedicated to a particular culture. For example, Tufts has a German House as well as a Hillel; there are countless (well it feels like it!) culture clubs that are mostly comprised of those who identify with that culture. Why does he choose to ignore these? Tufts obviously is supporting the other culture clubs and houses. The lack of acknowledgment of other efforts that Tufts makes the column more frustrating and infuriating.  I think he has this all wrong.

Perhaps he spends too much time with his white friends and looking at other students, wondering why HE doesn’t have “different” friends. What he writes makes it seem like he thinks that people of different backgrounds do not interact. He says,

The interesting thing isn’t wanting to belong to a group of similar peers; psychologically and sociologically, it makes sense for a minority individual to seek out other minority group members within a larger group with whom they can identify. My concern is the self-segregation of these cliques, where groups typically don’t mix and “outsiders” aren’t welcome. We can have diversity, but it’s meaningless without social interaction.

I know from my personal experience that as a minority that it is practically IMPOSSIBLE to not socially interact with someone outside of your race/gender/orientation. WE HAVE SOCIAL INTERACTION. I think one part of white privilege is that you CAN more easily spend most of your time with people of your own colour and you don’t have to worry about others looking at you and point and exclaim “self-segregation!” Perhaps we go to schools with the same name, but the Tufts I experience is one where people of all backgrounds and identities interact and befriend each other.

Will tries to and fails at justifying why he thinks what he is saying is true.

I’m not talking about affirmative action or anything to do with admissions — it’s the orientation process and the Dean of Students’ Office’s explicit focus on encouraging cliques that concerns me.

I don’t think that having centers available automatically causes cliques. Also, I have heard of many people in OTHER orientations (Wilderness, the volunteer one) complain that it can be “cliquey.” Having the centers will not FORCE anyone to form a “clique.”  I applaud the Dean of Student’s Office recognizing the needs for these places. Will’s experience of going to two events (one held by the LGBT center and another sponsored by the Africana Center) is FAR from enough for him to even have an educated opinion as to why these centers are apparently unnecessary and creating “cliques.” Nothing is being pushed and no one is promoting self-segregation. It’s just really easy to look at a group of minorities together and accuse them of being self-segregating.

Also I think it is important to stress that it can be important for some people who are minorities to have a safe space where they can feel comfortable. I also know that they DO welcome people that may not have the same identity and love it when they do come and participate in the events.  Also, I think Will was struggling to think of something to say for his column, however I think a not-so-great side of him came out when he claimed that people who identify with a marginalized group just LOVE to play the victim.

He writes a disclaimer in the comments of the online version of his article. He seems to be missing the point. There is meaningful interaction amongst the students. This issue has been brought up many times before by many white people who don’t understand the necessity of these centers and groups. I think he is held back by his own assumptions and prejudices. The events ARE opened up, but people often think that they are not welcomed because it’s hosted by a particular group. He’s not bringing anything new to the table.

This column was not done correctly. I think using the words “victimhood” and implying that people who are Black, Asian, Female, LGBTQIA, Independent automatically go into “cliques” just riles people up. It makes me doubt how legitimate his argument may be because of his word choice and how he articulated his thoughts. Also, he wrote like every asian will be friends with each other in this clique and NO OUTSIDERS ALLOWED! His point of view is very otherizing and he just. doesn’t. get it.

Anyway, I’m going to close this out with a message to Will Ehrenfeld: Your male, white privilege is showing. I highly recommend reading this, titled “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Maybe it’ll open your eyes.


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8 responses

8 04 2009
Joe V

Harsh, personal attacks on a writer are fine — actually expected. But to make them anonymously? That’s just cowardly.

Will’s point is that Tufts’ focus on creating groups based on race, ethnicity or some other trait does as much to create social divides as it does to heal them. And by the way, by using “white, male privilege” as an insult, you sort of reinforce his point about how people at Tufts take pride in being from some non-dominant social group.

8 04 2009
wpe88

I’ve read the book about white privilege you mention at the end. I’m sorry you found my column so offensive but in all honesty, the idea wasn’t to antagonize any group, but simply to raise awareness of the cliqueishness that does exist here and which is encouraged by the Dean’s office.

-Will

8 04 2009
Jezzabel

This blog was an incredibly fair assessment of the article, and I don’t consider it a harsh personal attack in the least, the nature of features articles are that they reflect mostly on the author, more so than a news article or even an op-ed. I don’t understand how Will could be familiar with white privilege yet so blatantly exercise it. Also, its interesting his lack of ability to see the difference between him, a white male, feeling unwelcome at a culture activity, and the fact that many of the people who participate in culture groups may feel unwelcome in other activities, and will feel unwelcome in many things throughout their lives because of their race, gender, or sexual orientation.
Ok, I understand that Will wants more meaningful diversity and interaction on campus, and that sometimes it seems that we don’t have a diverse campus because we have active cultural groups, and therefore friend groups are sometimes based on these. However, cultural groups do have a purpose on campus, and their primary purpose is not to recruit white males. Again, Race in America. Take it.

8 04 2009
Offended and surprised

By your logic, Will, wouldn’t the Dean have to abolish all clubs? I know you are a member of the Tufts Democrats; should the Dean get rid of that club, too, because not everyone can identify with it? What is the difference between a club geared toward political views that not everyone shares, and a club geared toward issues that affect certain minority groups? Both are open to those who do not share their views or sex/race/sexual orientation, as the case me be, because both serve to keep the dialogue open on these important issues. What is the difference between suggesting that the Asian American Center is “cliquey” and therefore shouldn’t exist because not everyone at Tufts is Asian and suggesting that the Tufts Democrats are “cliquey” and therefore shouldn’t exist because not everyone at Tufts is a Democrat? Also, I am surprised that you, as a self-professed “liberal,” don’t understand the importance of having organizations devoted to issues affecting women and minorities. I personally have close friends who are actively involved with the LGBT Center, the Women’s Center, the Asian American Center, and the Latino/a Center. They have invited me to events at those Centers numerous times and although I am neither LGBT, Asian, or Latina, I felt very welcome and I learned a lot. My friends who are involved with these different Centers are far from cliqueish. We all have friends from a variety of backgrounds. Perhaps the reason your experience at Tufts has been so limiting is because you chose to make it that way.

11 04 2009
Can’t you at least TRY to see past your white privilege? « The Gender Blender Blog

[…] light of last week’s “Stuff Tufts People Like” column that angryblkfeminist covered well and this blatantly racist bias incident, I have overheard people casually talking about how the […]

16 04 2009
Jason

Hm. Personally, I appreciate the point he makes, despite the WAY he makes it.

Let’s take everything BUT race out of the question. GBLT people have similar experiences and a need for support; people from different cultures and countries would probably want to be able to discuss their home country/culture.

Race is purely a physical thing. Now, I can’t comment on America, but here, race is like hair colour. And a blonde’s club is, frankly, a rediculous idea (and would mostly attract bottle blondes, IMO.) Now, for true racial balance- that is, to look at a black man and literally just see a man who has different coloured skin- there can be no palaver made over race. There can be no segregation on race, whether chosen or enforced. Race is a genetic code which affects how someone looks and it should be treated as such.
If we want racial equality (which we do) we can no longer factor race as ANYTHING but physical. Until that day comes, race will affect how people are treated.

…My opinion, there for your consideration. 🙂

20 04 2009
angryblkfeminist

Race is not a purely physical thing. Race is a social construct. While you may think that race is just like hair colour in England, I assure you that there is still (individual and institutional) racism that exists in your country. It may not be as severe here or the same (obviously, since our countries have such different histories), but it’s there.

Race is NOT a genetic code. It is a social construct. If we want equality amongst all peoples we have to realize that race is a social construct and NOT a biological/physical thing. White men in the past tried to spread the lies and prove that it’s physical.

Race is not a consistent thing; there is no set guidelines of whom fits into what category. The concepts of whom fits where varies by person, by culture, and over time.

You say that “GBLT people have similar experiences and a need for support“. That could be applied to people from different cultures. Because race is a social construct, black/asian/latino peoples are at risks to discriminations, prejudices, etc., that a white person would never have to worry about. How is it harmful to provide a safe space and resources for marginalized groups?

22 04 2009
Jason

I will agree that at present, racial minorities who may be (or are) discriminated against do need support and “safe spaces” as you put it. However, I’m also strongly of the belief that in time, they will need to be abolished, to ensure that equality can happen.
Perhaps my issue is more with the need for them, and the cycle that goes along with it- whilst these clubs, these “safe spaces”, are present, it will serve to isolate the different racial groups, and make it harder for them to be viewed as just have different physical characteristics and colouration.
That, of course, brings up the question- when do we abolish them? Can we actually get to a point where they’re no longer necessary whilst they’re still present?

As for racism in England- well, I’m sure you’re right, and that was a generalisation that was based purely on my personal circumstances. I have never spoken with someone who displayed racism, I have never known anyone- or known anyone who knew someone- who was a victim of a racial attack (that I’m aware of.) My closest friend growing up was English, but she was not caucasian- she was of mixed race. And to my knowledge, neither she nor her brother have ever been attacked, verbally or physically, for that.
Perhaps I’ve been very lucky to not witness racism- well, that goes without saying, it’s a hideous mindset, but perhaps what I have perceived is far from the norm. Perhaps I am luckier than most Brits with my experiences in this area.
I’ll admit that it was a generalisation I should not have made without doing more research, and I apologise for that. I should have stuck a “from my experience” somewhere in there.

As for my GBLT point- let’s say there’s a community which is 100% accepting of all race, all sexualities, and all genders, including trans. A none-caucasian person would be treated the same as anyone else, would be raised the same as anyone else, and would likely have very few issues. However, say, a gay/bi person, would very likely still have confusing issues with who they want to be with, who they’re attracted to, etc; and will need to work it out. And as for trans- well, regardless of how accepting the people around them are, the trans experience is not easy, as I’m sure you know. The operations can be exceedingly painful, and the results aren’t the same as if you were born that gender.
In an ideal world, where gender, sexuality, and race do not matter, racial groups would be entirely unnecessary, but GBLT groups would still be beneficial.

Apparently, my last post wasn’t very well-written; I hope I’ve cleared up the messages I was trying to get across. (That’s what I get for writing at stupid hours.)

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