Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I got soul

It's Black history month, as everyone out there probably already knows. In honor of this fact, our lily-white (okay, not entirely; I have anecdotal evidence of at least four black students—only half of whom are African, not African American) campus has planned appropriate events. This is preferable, at least in theory, to past years, during which the majority white student body has found it appropriate to mark the occasion with performances involving the un-ironic use of blackface. The ire with which these have been greeted by progressive faculty and community members of a variety of hues is completely mystifying to the students, who insist that "they didn't mean anything by it" and are thus freed from the necessity of understanding the form's troubled and--um, RACIST--history.

This year, the committee who plans and implements such things has apparently gone to great lengths to avoid the appearance of cultural stupidity--um, insensitivity--among us. So far, no white rappers, Blaxploitation film fests, or basketball tournaments appear to be scheduled.

Instead, we have, I kid you not, a "Soul Food" station in the cafeteria. Most of our students are biologically, culturally, and politically Bland. The most popular choices at our cafeteria are usually the generic Chinese food, whatever has been fried, and the pre-wrapped jello servings. I'm just not sure I see our blond lasses bellyin' up for chitlins, greens, hogs feet, or whatever else the administration thinks classifies as "Soul Food." Angel food cake would be more appropriate. And Wonder bread.

This is a school located, despite its best attempts to convince its student body otherwise, in a somewhat gritty, down-at-the-heels town with a small but highly visible black population--visible mostly for their persistent and perverse attachments to crime and poverty, at least according to local media. Visitors' directions to campus prominently feature a circuitous route deliberately designed to avoid anything resembling an integrated neighborhood, so that the parents can be assured their little darling will encounter Diversity only in the safely constricted confines of a lecture hall, and only when the Diverse himself boasts an SAT score just as mediocre as that of their own child.

I've been here long enough that I no longer remember what it was like to have challenging discussions about real racial issues; a genteel and suppressive silence reigns here. Students are generally allowed to continue believing that things like discrimination and poverty were problems "back in the day," and that only a pessimistic perversity prevents their faculty from realizing that and getting with the program.

Now, pass me some of that sweet potato pie!


At 9:44 PM , Blogger Cheeky Prof said...

If it were not for the fact that you identify yourself as living in the Pacific Northwest I would swear we were at the same institution.

Can't wait to see how things play out next for Women's Herstory month.

At 7:26 PM , Blogger Dorcasina said...

well, we've already had the vagina monologues, but yes, I do fear the worst. I really am in the NW, though. Perhaps they'll do a "Women of Pseudo Liberal Arts" calendar in honor of women? Most of my students feel feminism is both unbecoming and passè, so it's either that or some sort of collective makeover.

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