Critical Reflection

As I look back on this course, I feel that a lot of the readings and learning materials have left me with some valuable information that I can carry on with me in the future. One of the major resources I gained from was A Different Mirror: A History of Multicultural America by Ronald Takaki. It dealt with the perspectives of minority individuals in America including Native Americans, African Americans, Irish, Chicanos, Chinese, Japanese, and Jews. It incorporated quotes from individuals, songs, photographs, and more. The imagery provided me with a better sense of what it would have been like to live in America as a minoritized individual at that time. I was able to learn about the histories and experiences of multiple ethnic groups and the attitudes people felt towards them. I was able to take a lot away from this book because it helped me to understand how much history plays a role in how individuals of a certain ethnic group are treated today.

Readings for Diversity and Social Justice (4th edition) was also a key learning resource for me. This book was filled with a wide range of social oppressions from the standpoint of promoting social justice. Some of the sections we read were on racism, religious oppression, classism, transgender oppression, and heterosexism. Within these topics, I was able to understand the interconnectedness of oppression and everyday life.

This course also introduced me to some theories used to approach different scenarios and situations relating to current issues in higher education. Black Feminist Thought, Borderlands, and Transdisciplinary Applied Social Justice were some of the theories I was able to learn about. By the end of this course I was able to offer intervention suggestions for the issue of retaining diverse faculty through the lens of Black Feminist Thought. These learning materials have resonated with me and I feel confident that I will use the information that I have gained to aid in my practice and become a better student affairs professional.

Racial Climate

A couple weeks ago we were asked to respond to the incident where Jussie Smollett was attacked by homophobic racists. We were prompted to offer ways we, as student affairs professionals, could support students after an incident like this. Initially, it was hard for me to think about how an event that did not happen on the school’s campus would even affect students at all. I think the perceptions and experiences of the universities racial climate can go beyond just the students, faculty, and staff though. If there is a significant event that occurs that threatens a particular group of people, I can see how that could translate to the student population. They might fear that a similar experience could happen to them on their own campus.

As it turned out though, this whole situation turned out to be a hoax. This story did catch a lot of people’s attention though because of the intersecting issues. It was an attack on a gay black man. The issue I see with this Smollett story is that it might make it harder for victims or students of hate crimes to see justice in the future. This is a challenge that we have to face as student affairs professionals. It is our responsibility to balance sensitivity and skepticism and resist the temptation to make everything the narrative of black victim vs. white oppressor. We can’t be afraid to question a student’s claim of victimization while not completely dismissing it. Smollett saw an environment worth exploiting. He took advantage of pain and racism to promote his own career. I think it is our job to have a real dialogue that is open to hearing student’s sides and acknowledge the complexity of the situation. If not, we might run the risk of another hate-filled hoax and real victims might suffer from it.

The occurrence of this event and learning about the real issues that people of color face has prompted me to dig a little deeper in myself and try to identify with the suffering that these people face on a daily basis. Not the fake stuff we see on social media and popular culture to either slander someone’s name or promote others. I’m talking about the real examples of racism and oppression that happen in people’s day-to-day life. I’m especially interested in student’s personal accounts now and I think that is also the result of taking a multicultural issues class.

Racial Academic Autobiography

It is difficult for me to think about race throughout my educational experiences because I don’t even remember there being a variety to think about. From Kindergarten until third grade I went to a private Catholic school. I can remember perfectly how every single one of my classmates were white. I recently found one of my old class pictures, and sure enough, 25 little Caucasian faces smiled back at me. Obviously this was something that I did not notice at the time. I always assumed that was the norm. Even the faculty and the staff lacked diversity. The principal, the teachers, the office staff; all white.

In fourth grade I transitioned to a public elementary school. Right away I noticed there to be a littlemore racial variety within my classmates, although it was still minimal at best. The faculty remained all white as well. I didn’t start seeing more diversity until middle school. I saw the biggest an increase with Hispanic students, but from what I recall there were maybe three African American students total. If I had to guess I would say my middle school was 90-95% white students.

With every educational transition I made, there seemed to be more diversity among students. In high school there started to be a more even mix of white and Hispanic students. There were a few more black students, but looking back I do not remember there being very many Asian/Pacific Islander students. After reviewing my senior class yearbook I would break the students down into 85% White, 8% Hispanic, 5% Black or African American, 1% Asian, 1% other/unknown. I then directed my attention to the faculty section of my yearbook, and yet again 100% were white. Even all of the foreign language teachers were white which I thought was a little interesting.

College was where everything changed for me. I saw a drastic increase in racial diversity. I am happy to say that I saw this switch in not only the students, but in the faculty as well. Going to Oregon State University, I had my first experiences with non-white educators, and that was quite refreshing. I looked at OSU’s faculty ethnic diversity breakdown and I saw that it is “on par with the national average” (“Faculty Ethnic Diversity at OSU”, 2018). I have included an image of the breakdown below.

When I was younger, I did not learn much of anything about race, other than that there was no variation of it in my schools. With every year, I did see an increase in racial diversity and I think that has a lot to do with the size of my school was growing, and with more students you are bound to see more diversity. I was surprised to see that this didn’t much affect faculty. I now know that Oregon and the area I grew up in, Albany, are not very diverse places. I looked up the demographics for my hometown and the population is 89.29% White compared to the national average of 73.35% (“Albany, OR Demographics”, 2016).

This is pretty significant to me, but this is something I can even notice on my own. When I have traveled to other states, sometimes I am blown away by the racial diversity. That is why I love travelling and I want to do it more! Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a little “white bubble” here in Albany… for lack of better words. I can only hope that I do get out and see more of the world and I remain hopeful that Oregon will grow to be a more racially diverse state that will have a wide range of pre-college faculty racial diversity.

This first piece of art is supposed to represent how over time and throughout my education experiences I saw more racial diversity. You can see as time goes on the tree grows new colorful branches and grows more life. This is my interpretation of what my education experience were like. With every increasing year I saw more life and color.

This second piece of art shows my gradual understanding that no matter what race we are; we are all human. If you peel away the layers of skin, you cannot see a difference between all of us. This picture is showing people of different races standing behind an x-ray machine. We can see that they are all the same. If I took away their racial labels and asked someone to identify which race each one was, they would not be able to do so.

Family History

Father’s Side:

My great grandparents moved to the U.S. from Germany. Their original surname was Von-Horn but they dropped the “Von” to americanize it.

At one point in time, when my great grandpa was younger he was a professional boxer.

During the Great Depression my great grandparents owned a supermarket, so they were very lucky and did not have to struggle with rationing or finding food to eat. Later in his life, my great grandfather worked on processing the chocolate chips that you find in ice cream.

Everyone on my fathers side were devout catholics. They never missed a mass. This transitioned to my family and I grew up going to catholic school.

Mother’s Side:

My great grandparents moved to the U.S. from Russia, but they told everyone they came from Romania. Throughout my grandparent’s and my mothers childhood’s they thought they were Romanian. We only recently found out they were Russian.

Once my great grandparents moved to America, my great grandfather started driving semi trucks and my grandfather followed in his footsteps. Both my great-grandmother and my grandmother were housewives.

My great grandparents, grandparents, and mother were all Lutheran, but my mother became catholic when she married my father and that is the religion my family practiced growing up.