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Excuse Me, But Your Privilege Is in Our Way

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There is a phenomenon on the campus of DePauw University called "The DePauw Bubble." It is when you get caught up in all of the things that happen at DePauw that you forget about the "real world." Yet, there is another phenomenon on this campus that many people are not aware of -- I call it the Privilege Bubble. This is when people are so enclosed in their privilege that they are not aware of the struggles faced by those not with privilege.

Here's an example: An African-American female walks into a math class and she is the only Black person in the room. As the professor begins to teach, the female raises her hand to ask a question and the teacher ignores her. Yet when the White male seated next to her raises his hand, the professor immediately calls on him. Here's another example: Two African-American males are walking home after a long night of studying. The Greencastle Police pull alongside them, asking them a billion questions about where they are going, what they are doing, and even questioning if they are DePauw students; yet when students are walking belligerently drunk and causing a ruckus, the police are not questioning them.

These examples demonstrate how a particular group of people has the privilege to freely move, behave, and/or navigate around this campus. This privilege is not only reserved for White people -- it includes those with a higher socioeconomic status, members of a Greek organization, heterosexuals, English speakers, domestic students, males... the list goes on and on.

I acknowledge that there are many people who fall into those categories. I myself fit into some of those privileged categories. The issue is not about having privilege, but not acknowledging or even recognizing it. It is an issue when the organizations of the National Pan-Hellenic Council and Multicultural Greek Council have to jump through hurdles in order to host a party because it is the same night as Bid Night. It is an issue when students who identify as LGBTQ are not able to be themselves, but are forced out of a fraternity house. It is an issue when the faculty of the School of Music only has one professor of color. It is an issue when a student of color is not given a fair Community Standards Hearing for an incident that was not even committed. It is an issue when those who lack privilege are silenced, pushed to the back, and told to "stay in their place."

What can be done to burst this Privilege Bubble? Honestly, I am not sure how. I do know that acceptance is not the first step. Those in privilege have already accepted their higher status without even realizing it, thus the issues we are facing. Desegregation obviously does not work because whenever students outside of the realm of privilege attempt to include themselves with the majority, they are not accepted. A good first step would be acknowledgement -- acknowledging that one has privilege whether it is your sexual orientation, race, class, gender or Greek affiliation. It is also the acknowledgment that privilege is power, thus those in privilege have the power to bring about justice on DePauw's campus.

DePauw's culture does not have to simply be what it is and yes, the solution is complex, but that does not mean you have to tolerate it. Being tolerant is just as bad or even worse than not acknowledging one's privilege. When one tolerates something, you see a problem, but do not intervene. Yes, denying the fact that DePauw is divided will only exacerbate the situation, but so will tolerance and unacknowledged privilege.