BY ANNA MILLER
In the wake of growing liberal progress throughout the country—activist protests at award shows, Obama’s on-point State of the Union address, nationwide same-sex marriage legality on the way—it’s important to take stock of our current situation here at home. St. Norbert has been making significant progress, too. During this academic year we have had one forum in support of LGBT students, another forum for multicultural students and, to top it off, we’ll have two world-renowned feminists speaking here in April.
We’re going places, that’s for sure. But we’re not there yet. To improve the lives of diverse students on campus we must do more than stir a few profound conversations into a predominately white-heterosexual-cisgender-able-bodied-male-entitled-Christian-oriented campus. We must also work towards changing the collective mindset towards those with differences.
One way to achieve this goal is to think about our privileges as St. Norbert students. Privilege can be defined as an unearned advantage or right that only a certain person or group of people possess. Privilege comes in many forms—white, male, socioeconomic, etc.— and often goes so unnoticed that it is completely invisible.
Our privileges matter because as long as we have unearned entitlement due to some aspect of our identity, we oppress others who do not share that same identity. One example: as long as I am trusted more because of my white skin, another woman will be trusted less because of her black skin. Privilege creates a hierarchy of worth, one that we must destroy to make our world (and campus) a better place for more people.
Peggy McIntosh addresses this idea in her essay, “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack,” wherein she writes about all of the ways she benefits from white privilege. McIntosh got me thinking—how are we privileged as St. Norbert students? And, in the same hand, how does our position as St. Norbert students oppress others?
Below you’ll find a list of St. Norbert privileges. Some of these privileges I experience everyday on campus and others are privileges that have oppressed me. My suggestion is to take a pen and check off each one you agree with. Check your privilege and perhaps we can take our position as part of the problem and begin to transform into the solution.
- I can go into a women’s or men’s bathroom in Boyle because my sex is either “male” or “female.”
- I can speak my mind in a classroom without fear or being called “bossy” or “loud.”
- Norbert vacation days align well with the religious holidays I observe.
- People of my race have a pretty good retention rate at this college and it’s likely I will graduate after 4 years of education.
- I can walk across campus holding my partner’s hand without fear of repercussion or judgment.
- I am never the only person of my race in a classroom.
- I can complain about the De Pere police busting a party without being labeled Anti-American or Anti-government.
- When I flip through this newspaper, I will see pictures of people who look like me.
- I feel comfortable walking home from the bars at night because I do not fear sexual harassment or violence.
- I can access any floor of a dorm or academic building regardless of the number of stairs.
- I can afford to pay for my education at St. Norbert College.
- I never worry that my sexual orientation will make my roommate uncomfortable.
- When I share my experiences with sex or my sexual partners my friends don’t call me a whore or a slut.
- I can roll out of bed 10 minutes before my class in GMS and never worry about my physical ability to get to class on time.
- If a professor adds a $75 textbook to the syllabus, I know I’ll be able to afford the extra cost.
- When I fill out a St. Norbert application, my gender is listed as an option to check off.
- Our college campus reflects my religious beliefs and I can worship in multiple places among numerous symbols of my faith.
- Norbert does not have to arrange forums to discuss how I might fit in better at the school because I already fit in well.
- I am not asked to speak for everyone who is white/straight/middle-class/able-bodied/Christian.
- My gender is well represented in St. Norbert administration, board of trustees and commencement speakers.