Another requirement for my Leader Advancement Scholarship and Leadership minor is HDF 110 Oppression: Roots and Impact. This class was meant to examine the roots and impact of different forms of oppression within a social context. This topic has been fairly new to me ever since I started college. I believe that CMU does a great job of educating students on topics concerning oppression, discrimination, and privilege. Where I come from these topics were not addressed or talked about, I grew up with almost a blind eye towards these issues. I knew they existed but was not educated about their severity or significance. When I came to college these subjects where all of sudden being discussed frequently and I can’t say I was totally receptive of it. I understand now why this conversation can be uncomfortable for many people.
In the class we discussed the history and forms of discrimination related to race, ethnicity, gender, social class, sexual orientation, disability, and religion. We talked about the different types of oppression within these groups and how the oppression can impact human development. I learned about the various ways individuals or groups intentionally or unintentionally help maintain systems of privilege and how many of these systems are socially constructed. This course opened my eyes to many issues that I was blind to such as the types of oppression experienced by people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community. As a class we watched the Mississippi Burning which was not an easy movie to watch by any means but was a powerful representation of what people experienced in the 1960’s. We also watched Philadelphia and were able to get more insight about the types of discrimination against those with disabilities and the LGBTQ community. Our professor organized a class trip to the Ziibiwing Center in Mt. Pleasant, MI where we were guided through exhibits, stories, and the history of the Saginaw Chippewa Indian Tribe. Living so close to this group of people and calling myself a “Chippewa” have boosted my interest in learning about the tribe and its culture.
The most important thing I took away from HDF 110 is the four ways people can proactively address issues of privilege and oppression:
1. Accept it, acknowledge it
2. Pay attention
3. Learn to listen
4. Do something
These are strategies I can use to work towards ending discrimination and oppression in the systems surrounding me. Instead of denying my privilege and making excuses as I have in the past, I am now able to see how I can use it to ‘do something’ and give voice to those experiencing discrimination and oppression. I can share the knowledge I’ve gained from this course with others who used to be just like me – unaware of the problems and unwilling to admit that they exist. I hope I can influence those around me to accept the problem, pay attention, learn to listen, and do something.