An opinion piece on how Difficult Dialogue in Power, Privilege and Difference can make an affect on the culture at Texas A&M. I attend Texas A&M and I am pursuing a degree in Telecommunication Media Studies with a double minor in Film and Journalism.
Within the “conservative” walls of Texas A&M University's upbringing, there has loomed several instances of corrupt officials and in recent news, an unveiling of a secret group of former students with a hidden agenda: “Bringing the Aggie back in Aggieland”. This group is called the Rudder Association; they have been tied to the falling of Draggieland, the censorship and ban of print on the Battalion, and the “changes” to Fish Camp. The claims they have made for their efforts are a simple ruse for the shady actions of a more conservative university. People from all walks of life have been attempting to change the status quo on campus in College Station. The organizations that are going under were created to help individuals who did not feel they exhibited what it meant to be an Aggie feel more at home in the skin they projected. Granted, this university was built initially to be an army base only for men, but since then it has transformed. Unfortunately, some principles remain the same. There needs to be a class that each student must take to minimize the damage a secret group can have on the future of this university. Difficult Dialogues on Power, Privilege, and Difference provides necessary but missing content and lecture for every individual in society. This class should be a college requirement. The impact the class has on each student and the interaction each student has coming forward is larger than it seems.
This class allows individuals to open their world views and take into account other perspectives that would be disregarded in any other situation. There are several instances where this class has created better at handling different views and engaging with said views in an operable environment.
In an operable environment, such as the practicum sessions, before there was an engagement of dialogue with one another, the professor had the group share certain identities that were salient to each individual which allowed for a more inclusive group. The professor did not establish right from wrong when it came to identities, they simply just said what you believe is what you believe, but you still must respect those with opposing views. Oddly enough, after participation in the activity, the environment felt safer to breathe and operate in. One of the interesting aspects of the class is the introduction of this feeling called Sonder. It’s become this understanding that the realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. This feeling runs rampant in this class as it should for all individuals in this world. That was a surprise the longer this course went on, and continued to delve into the hidden beauties of understanding the depth of the individuals around; this was felt most deeply when the privilege for sale activity took place. After reading through the options, I never realized how far the privilege pillars go down in this world. I’ll return to the first journal entry that I wrote in this class: When it comes to Texas A&M University, I check all the boxes (that usually should be a sign to run in the opposite direction, but I still chose to attend.
When I originally entered this classroom, I knew my privileges would aid and betray me in a matter of time. Then we went over the Privilege, Oppression, and Difference lecture where my mind began to question more about who I am and the complexities of my minority status. I know my privileges, I am passing: when individuals see me in a store, they interact with me under the presumption that I am a white American. Then, when certain individuals learn of my background, a certain barrier has entered. This nuanced barrier is where I see a slight tug of a purse or the closing of an open stance. These actions have only been done to me by white individuals. The quote in the lecture that affected me the most was, “The ease of not being aware of privilege itself… to be white in America means not having to think about it.” (Johnson, p.21). I am more than sure these individuals were unaware of what they were doing but their implicit bias, carried them to commit micro-aggressions which unless correct by a minority, will likely occur repetitively. This is why Texas A&M University needs a mandated class such as this one. As a smaller community, we can affect society for the better by learning of our privileges and how we can stop the oppression that is produced by individuals in power to minority groups in different sectors of society. By doing so, we can learn more and find what we identify with from this class.
In this class where I have left a lecture and felt I resonated with something I never thought of before entering the classroom. Salient Identities was the first lecture I felt a “Woah. I never thought of this”. I knew I held my heritage and culture at a higher level, but I realized I hold the privilege and oppression of a whole community in my hands. In a way, this class affects the way I think both in and out of the classroom and allows me to take in my surroundings and observe and learn through them A course like this that all students must take to be considered an “Aggie” and graduate from this university.
The information that has been useful to me the most is the way we should interact with individuals who in no way share our beliefs, and still produce a beneficial dialogue. We learned of how we should interact with different individuals and read the room we enter, understanding ground rules must be created and differences are not left out, they should be brought to the table. Learning about Capitalism, Class, and the Matrix of Domination was also a lecture I never delved into before this class. As a minority, I knew more about this situation than my classmates because of my obligation. I do not hold the luxury of not understanding various micro-aggressions or the paradox of privilege. However, for the majority at a PWI, this is monumental information that can aid their journey in becoming an ally for many communities. This is not saying this class would be an automatic pass of “Oh I took this class so I understand oppression.”, but it is better than not having anything at all. This class has changed some individuals in my opinion already on how they interact with others. The versatility of this class will help the students who take it for years to come.
My hope through saying that this class could be the reason that the Rudder Association disassembles in the coming decades; because people learned of the atrocities that can come when individuals do not know what power and privilege stem from. An Aggie does not lie, cheat, or steal. So, an Aggie should not lie about attempting to bring conservatism back to the university by initiating the falling of Draggieland. An Aggie would not cheat incoming students the inclusivity and acceptance that derives from Fish Camp. An Aggie would not steal the truth from the students by censoring the Battalion. Variations of this class could be an option. There are multiple ways to be an Aggie. This could change the way Texas A&M is forever.