Campaign dedicated to recognizing privileges and engaging allies
Eddie Solis Jr.
THE SANTA CLARA
February 19, 2014
It is easy to ignore privilege when you are on the receiving end of it. A three-week program at Santa Clara aims to focus on the issue of privilege within students’ lives without trying to guilt or shame anyone, but instead, by inspiring students to be allies and empowered individuals.
“Many students here have been raised in sheltered homes,” said freshman Brian Meier. “Many haven’t had extensive exposure with people less privileged than them. It can be difficult for students to accept that they’ve been granted better opportunities compared to less fortunate people.”
For a university like Santa Clara, where the largest racial demographic is white, privilege can seem like a non-issue. Going beyond race and class, privilege can include one’s gender, sexuality, physical and mental abitilities and religion. For some, these are everyday aspects of life that can go unnoticed, but still offer benefits.
That is why the Multicultural Center and Santa Clara Community Action Program collaborated with a variety of clubs, programs, students and academic departments to address all the aspects of privilege.
“For us to claim to be a university that cares about social justice and important issues in our world, the first step is to make sure that students realize there is even a problem,” said Associated Student Government President Anaisy Tolentino.
Inspired by the “Check Your Privilege” campaign at the University of San Francisco, “Beyond Guilt: Solidarity Through Action” was designed to go past the recognition of privilege or the shame connected to it. Instead the campaign focuses on finding ways to defy it and support others in less fortunate positions. The campaign is packed with discussions, panels, movie screenings and other events.
In order to get Broncos thinking about how privilege works in their lives, each week focuses on a theme meant to encourage reflection, learning and action.
This week’s theme is “Claiming Privilege,” in which students have the opportunity to acknowledge and understand how their own identities may benefit or challenge their lives.
Last week’s theme was “Defining Privilege.” Student talks offered an introduction into the language of identity with words such as “microaggressions” and “intersectionality.”
These terms provide students the right language to discuss the subject. A microaggression includes assumptions about a person based on stereotypes. A microaggresion may seem harmless, but repeated exposure to these interactions can be frustrating and ostracizing. Intersectionality is the way in which a person’s many identities may intersect, challenge or compliment each other.
“When we talk about privilege in normal, everyday conversation, people can feel crippled, self-pitied (and) ashamed from that and they don’t really know what to do with those feelings,” said Multicultural Center Director Max Nguyen. “We hope to inspire. There is something you can do and it is possible to learn what privilege is about. Claim those privileges, as well as take actions and use your privilege as a way to amplify the voices of the marginalized.”
Addressing privileges can be an uncomfortable subject. Student panel participant Adrian Chavez urged that being open to others’ experiences is a huge step toward progress.
“Everybody has different experiences to bring,” said Chavez. “We all have experiences — people of color, transgender people, people of different socioeconomic backgrounds. When you’re willing to listen to those different experiences, it creates a better sense of understanding. That creates a better sense of community.”
While programs like “Beyond Guilt” facilitate dialogue, students can contribute to the cause on a smaller level. Participants urge that a large part of understanding comes from the personal interactions to be had.
“You’ve got to be willing to share those experiences, be willing to start on the individual level,” said Chavez. “It may be a small start, but it could make a big difference.”
Contact Eddie Solis Jr. at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (408) 554-4852.