The Bates Student

The Voice of Bates College since 1873

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How Gender, Race, and Geography Play a Role in Sentencing

On Monday January 21, Chad Posick, a Criminal Justice and Criminology professor at Georgia Southern University held a lecture as part of the MLK Day events program called “At the Intersection of Race, Gender and Geography: Criminal Justice Sentencing in the United States.” Posick is situated in Statesboro, Georgia— a small, rural town outside of Savannah. Most of his research involves reaching out to rural communities to attempt to understand issues they face around poverty, unemployment, drug use, and sentencing.
“Today, I’ll be talking about prison incarceration,” began Posick, “Hopefully, what this will do is to get us a better understanding of sentencing overall in the United States, and maybe how we can go into these areas and try other types of strategies to one: reduce the prison population, and two: make sure those who receive any kind of punishment get the rehabilitation services that they need to move forward and not be plagued by a criminal record.”
Part of his research looking at jurisdictions around the United States is identifying disparities and biases in the Criminal Justice System. “What disparity on its own basically means is that there is a difference. There’s a disparity in the height of basketball players compared to college students, right? Does that mean that it’s a bad thing or a good thing? No, it’s just a disparity,” said Posick. “However if we think of bias, ‘is there a bias between groups of individuals?’ Well this is a difference that is due to some sort of preferential treatment or favoritism towards one group or one person over another. So disparity is sort of a neutral term where bias is a negative term.”
While a lot of research is being conducted on how race and gender influence sentencing, there is a lack of data collected on how geography works into the equation. Many of the issues that people living in rural areas face are different from those living in urban areas. According to Posick rural areas “tend to have a focus on natural goods and biodiversity, and mostly what you see that the norm context is is contact with nature and open spaces” while “Urban areas tend to be more focused on health, academics, engineering, working in factories, and the context is more contact with people. So there’s a little bit more individualism and isolation out in rural areas and a little bit more egalitarianism and working-with-each-other in urban areas.”
In the middle of the lecture, Posick showed a video of Natalie Collier, president and founder of the Lighthouse Black Girls Projects, deliver a speech called “Blurred Focus: The State of Black Women in the Rural South” – if you’d like to check it out, it’s on Youtube. During her speech, she highlighted how most of the numbers and statistics reporting disparities in the criminal justice system are conducted in urban areas, ignoring disparities in rural areas. Her speech gave voice to the experience of black women living in the rural south where there is little to no industry and limited access to homeless shelters and healthcare.
What Posick’s research attempts to do is provide a rural data set on the disparities in sentencing that should be added to the wider picture of the injustices of the criminal justice system. “What we’re starting to do is to look at state court processing data. So this comes from statistics that were gathered from 1990 to 1998…What’s good about this data is that it includes felony arrests as well as incarcerations of almost 130,000 individuals across 59 counties in the United States. So we can understand a little bit about characteristics of those counties as well as those individuals in those counties to examine incarceration and admissions into prison.”
His research has shown that regardless of race, ethnicity or gender, those in rural areas are more likely to be incarcerated for the same crimes as their urban counterparts. An interesting prospect in his research shows that the more diverse a county is the less disparity there is in the way that people are sentenced.
This leads into possible things that can be carried out to reduce discrimination in the justice system. In his talk, Posick focused on sentencing commissions—groups that try to understand issues and implement strategies to reduce bias in sentencing.
“We have to make sure we’re getting enough data from rural, suburban, and urban areas—all three of those to really understand this issue. And we need to analyze those data. So these commissions can be responsible for providing the funding and organizing the analysis of data so we have a well-rounded database on all the information that we can get on individuals and the communities they come from and then make sure to identify any disparities for any group—so it can be race, ethnicity, gender—but also narrowing it down by sexual identity, veteran status, all of those groups that we think may or may not be treated differently by the criminal justice system.”

Dive into February with a New Year’s Check-in

As January comes to a close, it’s a good time to check in with your New Year’s Resolution. How is it working? Has it been a beneficial addition to your life? Whether or not they notice it, most people have tossed their resolutions to the side by the end of January. However, depending on your goal, this may be the best thing that could have happened. After a few weeks of large and indulgent holiday meals, many people choose to start the new year with a new clean-eating resolution. A recent poll by Insider magazine asked participants about their resolutions and found that around 40% had goals that were related to healthier eating or dieting. Of those 40%, half of the diets mentioned involved calorie restriction and low-carb diets.
The Commons Healthy Eating and Wellness Society (CHEWS) theme of the month is Jump-Start January—named as such partially because many people believe that this new diet will “jump-start” their year; healthier eating will lead to other healthy choices in life, or possibly counteract previous unhealthy choices. While the staff of CHEWS certainly does acknowledge balanced meals may improve physical indicators of health, it may not target some of the root causes of “unhealthy” decisions.
The idea of trying to eat healthier is not bad in and of itself, but it can become dangerous when dieting is equated with health. For example, low carb diets may involve cutting out food items that may be high in carbs but are also high in nutrients—foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains. Low carb diets may also negatively affect athletic performance and lead to short-term weight loss rather than any significant weight and lifestyle changes. Calorie restrictive diets come with similar pitfalls.
Calorie counting can lead to an obsessive and unhealthy focus on the number of calories one eats, rather than the quality of said calorie. Insider Magazine provides a great example when comparing pretzels and almonds; while pretzels have fewer calories, almonds have more protein, fiber, and healthier fats. Any diet will come with some positives as well as potential negatives.
Nevertheless, regardless of the advertised merits of any diet it is important to understand what the short-term and long-term effects of that diet will be on your health.

#MeToo Means Who?

This Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in keeping with the theme of intersectional activism, Bates students explored the issue of sexual violence against marginalized groups and the ways in which we can support women as well as LGBTQ people whose stories have been ignored. So many people showed up for the “#MeToo means Who?” panel that the faculty had to find a larger space on campus in order to fit everyone. Once settled in the new room, Professor Melinda Plastas, Professor Emily Kane, Professor Carolina González Valencia, and Professor Leslie Hill, as well as Gender and Sexuality Studies major Paula Espinosa Alarcon ’19, led an interactive discussion, pushing the audience to reevaluate the power structures that enable sexual misconduct in this country and around the world.
The panelists began by asking the audience about their expectations for the talk and if there were any particular topics they wanted to tackle. Several people expressed interest in addressing the #MeToo movement outside the scope of Bates and other institutions of higher education, emphasizing events such as the Women’s Marches as well as issues of inclusivity. Professor Hill echoed these goals, saying, “There has yet to be a broad conversation about the #MeToo movement on Bates’ campus. And it is important especially to talk about it in a framework of intersectional feminism.”
Professor Hill then opened up the presentation by asking, “What are the structural, ideological, material, cultural, and social conditions that make people vulnerable to sexual assault and violence?”
Professor Plastas was the first to present on some of the historical conditions that have contributed to vulnerability. Specifically, she wanted to draw attention to the role that black women have played in speaking out against instances of sexual violence throughout history.
Professor Hill described the ways in which their stories have served as the centerpieces in efforts of organized activism. From the era of slavery to Rosa Parks’ activism during the Civil Rights Movement to the Free Joan Little Campaign in 1974 to the recent #SayHerName movement and Tarana Burke’s promotion of #MeToo, black women have been passionate activists and fought adamantly to end the culture of sexual violence throughout a variety of social and political environments.
Gender and Sexuality Studies major Alarcon then continued to speak about the power of social protest and pointed to the #NiUnaMenos (NotOneLess) movement that took place in 2015 in Argentina. The murder of 14-year-old Chiara Perez, who had been pregnant and was found buried in her boyfriend’s yard, sparked mass mobilization and soon an international movement through social media.
The hashtag became a platform for advocating gender equality issues like the legality of abortion, workers’ rights, and transgender rights. Alarcon argued that this campaign was a great example of intersectional activism due to its inclusion of transgender and non-binary voices as well the strategies it provided for other similar movements in other parts of South America.
Professors González Valencia and Kane then brought the discussion back to the United States and the ways in which cultures of unequal power are perpetuated by workplace norms here. Professor González Valencia, the proud daughter of a domestic worker, explained that Title VII laws have neglected to protect domestic workers since they only regulate employers that have more than fifteen workers. For example, domestic workers have no HR department to go to for help with language barriers, family issues, or reports of sexual assault. They are isolated in their work and struggle to mobilize for change without an organized community to lean on. Though nonprofits and advocacy groups have been springing up in the past three years, there is still so much more to be done to improve their rights.
We need to remember to stand up for those who are not in the spotlight and foster a sense of solidarity whenever possible. Professor Kane cited the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas, the National Farmworkers Women’s Alliance, as a great example of a group whose moral courage was a step toward building a network for change. In the wake of all the accounts about Harvey Weinstein, the Alianza Nacional de Campesinas wrote to the women in Hollywood who were sharing their stories to assure them that they were believed and had similarly been suffering in silence for a long time. Their letter, titled “Dear Sisters,” was incredibly courageous, as they were undoubtedly risking their present and future job positions in writing it.
To wrap up, Professor Hill asked the audience to expand on our considerations of vulnerability and examine the power imbalances that exist in the spaces we inhabit. “Work can’t only take place in the context of organizations, nonprofits, and institutions. We need to talk about what we can do to help those who are vulnerable get their voices heard.”

Military Service Knows No Gender

From the Kavanaugh scandal to the growing appreciation movement for Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, to the court’s most recent ruling in favor of the transgender military ban, there is never a dull moment in the nation’s highest court. On Tuesday, January 22nd, the Supreme Court agreed with a 5-4 majority to enforce the ban against transgender people in the military while the order returns to the 9th Circuit courts for further speculation.

The ban dubbed the “Mattis Plan” after former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, includes a series of detailed restrictions that dictate who can serve in the US military on the basis of their gender identity, claiming gender identity affects one’s ability to serve effectively and productively. The Pentagon released a statement claiming they will continue to operate under the Defense Department’s 2016 policy enacted by the Obama administration, which allows for active military participation regardless of gender and sexuality. The implementation of the Mattis Plan, however, serves as a major blow to US inclusion policies and activists who have been working toward making the United States a more accepting nation.

It is mind-boggling that government officials, or anyone for that matter, can make an unsupported judgment on someone’s ability to serve their country based on how they identify and express their gender. It is essentially the same as ostracizing left-handed people and claiming they are “possessed by the devil,” solely based on a part of their identity they have no control over. This idea used to be deemed acceptable and is now viewed as archaic and vulgar. The general population has come to realize that dexterity is simply the result of our neurobiology.

And despite common misconception – and, at times misinformation – gender identity is not a choice and is as much ingrained in who we are from the day we were born as the hand with which we write. Just as some great soldiers have been left-handed, plenty of transgender people have served in the United States military with valor and efficiency, proving to be vital members of war and defense effort.

It brings me deep sadness that institutionalized hatred is still commonplace in the United States, and that I no longer find myself surprised to learn about the passage of yet another exclusionary policy. I know change and progress take time, but events of the past few years leave me pessimistic for the future. For the entirety of Trump’s administration, the president has dedicated his time to undoing Obama’s policies of inclusion, and has essentially made a game out of doing everything possible to upset the “liberal democrats” he speaks about with such distaste. Trump’s presidency represents an era of exclusion, and it will take great effort to reverse such hateful policies. My hope for the future is that it will become self-evident that no one’s worth, validity or ability to contribute their talents to benefit our world is in any way diminished by their gender, sexuality, race, religion, or any other aspect of their identity.

New Golf Simulator Draws Praise and Ire

Merrill Gymnasium is home to a variety of facilities enjoyed by both the Bates community and the public. Recently, the athletic department has moved forward with the construction of a golf simulator in one of the two courts on the second floor, often used for racquetball and squash.

Previously, the golf team has not had a training space at Bates and regularly travels off campus for practices. This new training space will give them the flexibility to practice on campus without consideration for the weather or time of day.

However, while this simulator will surely be beneficial to the golf team, some students resent the athletic department for repurposing the court without consulting the student body. These students have criticized the department for converting a public space available to the Bates community into a private training area intended for a select few.

This new equipment allows golf to be played on a digitally simulated golf course indoors. It is composed of a large screen, net and a variety of projectors and sensors which aim to provide an immersive experience. Additionally, there is a mat which simulates a fairway surface. The simulator was funded by a donor which wished for the golf teams to have on-campus training spaces. As this is a highly technical and expensive piece of equipment which requires instruction to use, it is unlikely that people outside of the golf team will be permitted to use it once the construction is complete. Scott Lehmann, the Assistant Athletic Director for Facilities and Club Sports, maintains that the repurposing of the court is the best solution to satisfy all parties. He explained that there is no other space on campus which meets the dimensions and security requirements for the simulator. “There is minimal space on campus for a piece of equipment such as this,” Lehmann wrote in a statement. “The simulator needs to be secured due to the high tech equipment; it was designed to fit in a space like a racquetball court due to its dimensions, and it needs a certain amount of floor space for the special matting put down.” “The conversion of underused racquetball courts has been a common solution for athletics and recreation programs looking to maximize the use of existing space, re-purpose less utilized spaces, and modernize program offerings,” he continued. Lehmann explains that this is the best solution for the golf team’s interests, while still reserving the other court for public use. “We evaluated the usage of the racquetball/squash courts and felt that the usage was low. By converting a court for this use we are able to satisfy many constituents, still offer a space to play racquetball or squash, and create a space for two teams that do not have an on-campus training or practice space.” Despite this, some students are concerned about the conversion of the space for varsity use and the lack of transparency from the athletic department throughout the process. Jason Lu ‘20 and Gordon Platt ‘19 have been two of the most outspoken students in regards to these concerns. Their main problem with this project is due to the privatization of the space and the lack of transparency about the project from the start. “The sign says ‘Closed Indefinitely for Painting and Maintenance,’” Platt said. “This does not at all mean or suggest [that they are repurposing] this for varsity athletes.” While there will continue to be one court open for public use, Lu asserts that the demand for space will be too high to be satisfied by a single court, especially due to the recent increased interest due to squash and racquetball PE classes taught last fall. In his experience, most students aim to use the courts during similar times, between four and eight p.m. Walking over to Merrill to with friends and finding that there is no space for them, he said, is disappointing. Additionally, the racquetball PE courses taught last fall will no longer be able to be offered due to a decrease in space. “It’s pretty crazy because it is such a flexible and multi-use space—racquetball, squash, spikeball, lacrosse, and just a general stretch and warm-up room used by PE classes—down to a strictly varsity space,” Platt said. Platt also maintained that varsity athletes are asked about their opinions and usage of athletic spaces in the form of an end of season survey, while the rest of the student body goes largely unconsulted. “I don’t really feel represented by the athletic department,” he said. “It feels like students have to squeeze in the cracks of varsity teams [to use] these spaces.” “I cannot stress this enough,” Lu said. “I think finding a home for the virtual golf simulator is a priority. We should allow all of varsity athletes the ability to practice in the off-season. What I also want to emphasize is that finding these locations should not be to the overall net detriment to the surrounding community. Students should not have to fight each other for court time.”

Athlete Spotlight: Anna Barrow ‘22

Before going to bed, most Bates students probably are not thinking about waking up before six the next morning to brave freezing temperatures, rain, or even snow in order to work out for an hour and half knowing that they’ll have to go back and do it for two more hours later that same day. For members of the Bates Swim and Dive team however, this has been a reality since November. After winning the Maine State meet for the fourth year in a row, competing against Division I Dartmouth for the first time in program history and continuing to have swimmers racing season and even lifetime-best times each meet, the training is paying off. None of this is more true than for first-year Anna Barrow ’22. After swimming multiple lifetime-bests in the season opener at Wesleyan last fall, the walk-on swimmer was already accomplishing goals she had set for herself before the season began. Yet, when she was a sophomore in high school her future in the sport became uncertain. “I had a pretty major injury [tear in shoulder] that took me out of [swimming] for a year, then I was in recovery all of my junior year.“ When she couldn’t swim for those two years, she dedicated her extra time to helping others in her community as a student ambassador for her school, running the Volunteers of America club, and even volunteering weekly at her local hospital. Her love for community engagement is what brought her here to Bates in the first place. She said that “when [she] came here everyone was inviting . . . it was really special dynamic.” The “special dynamic” is also present on the team which is unique in the fact that swimming is such an individualized sport. Anna agreed with this statement, saying that “there’s such a big individual aspect to it . . .but also you have to work as a team . . . you can’t do it by yourself.” The women’s team record makes Anna’s statement ring true. Some of the women’s team wins this season have come down to few races where not only did first place matter, but also second and third. Anna reflected back to her senior year of high school when she was allowed to return to the sport and said, ”I fell in love with it all over again, and I was 100 percent sure I was doing this in college.” However, since many college teams had already finished recruiting for the class of 2022, she would have to be a walk-on; that was no issue in Head Coach Peter Casares’s mind. When Anna sat down with him at the very beginning of the season, she told him that she felt that she had a lot more potential than she had shown previously. She was right. Besides swimming lifetime-bests from the start of the season, her line up of events is also arguably one of the hardest combinations in the sport: 200 individual medley, 400 individual medley, and the 200 butterfly. The individual medleys in particular show Anna’s skill since they involve swimming all four strokes. Even more extraordinary is that she’ll swim all three of th ose events at the NESCAC championship meet. “I just didn’t really think this was how the season was going to go, but I’m super excited!” Anna’s open-mindedness about her swimming is exactly what makes her unique and fun to coach, according to Coah Casares. “It’s exciting [to work with her] . . .so many times swimmers anticipate their results and their abilities, and that’s to be expected based on hundreds of swims and practices. Her growth mindset coupled with her talent for hard work has already made an impact on her team. It’s a terribly unique combination at the college level–and yet shows us all just how powerful it can be. She simply wants to ‘see how things go’ first and foremost.” Anna’s story of dedication and resilience in order to continue doing the sport she loved proves that there is truly more to swimming than just staring at a black “T” at the bottom of the pool for hours. It’s the camaraderie, the cheering, the bus rides, the meals spent together. It’s the million little things that push these athletes to get out of bed and walk out into cold, knowing what awaits them for the day. The Bates Swim and Dive team next competes Feb. 2 in Worcester, Mass. for the Worcester Polytechnic Institute Invitational. After that, both teams tackle the NESCAC Championships held at Wesleyan (Feb. 14-17) and Middlebury (Feb. 21-24) for the women and men’s team respectively.

{Pause}: Cookies, Art, and Zero Expectation

Students are frequently told to prioritize “self-care” practices such as meditation, reading, or signing up for yoga classes instead of aimlessly scrolling through social media. More often than not, these activities feel time-consuming, particularly when already faced with homework, exams, and club meetings. Devoting a half-hour on a Wednesday night to secular meditation may seem particularly impossible, though for many students, {Pause} provides a simple escape from the intensity of college life.
Every Wednesday night at 9pm, attendees arrive at Gomes Chapel and are greeted with hot chai, a plate of cookies, and candlelit pews. After a brief introduction and the bang of a gong, students sit in silence, interrupted only by short spurts of music, poetry, dance, or other forms of art.
One of the program coordinators, junior Lila Patinkin ’20, appreciates {Pause} for its lack of expectation. A common issue for college students is feeling a constant pressure to find a place, a group, and an activity. She referred to the event as “a really wonderful break from that, and a time where you can re-center and think on something that you wouldn’t give yourself a half-hour to think about otherwise.” For Patinkin, {Pause} provides a space to forget about the social pressures of college and take time for her own thoughts.
Sophomore Abigail Kany ’21 also mentioned enjoying the lack of expectation put on {Pause} attendees. She particularly likes the fact that unlike most activities on campus, students do not have to interact with anybody while at the event. “Everybody goes into this space and you can sit next to people or far away, and it’s one of the only times during the week at college that nothing is expected of you,” Kany describes.
{Pause} has a similar calming effect on the other program coordinator, junior EB Hall ’20. She struggled with adjusting to Bates as an underclassman, and the event has not only given her something to be passionate about, but has also provided her with a space to focus on her own growth. “It has allowed me to be more centred and actually enjoy myself in college,” Hall described, attesting to the powerful ability of {Pause} to create an approachable meditative atmosphere for students.
What is special about {Pause} is that although its aspirations are similar to more classic meditation styles, it does not force students to dwell in silence. Threaded through the event are small snippets of art, which serve a dual purpose of breaking up the quiet and sparking guided thoughts in students. Although this past week’s theme was MLK day, other themes are more abstract, such as “crows” during the first week back.
Kany began attending last year, after hearing about the event from her Bates tour guide. She appreciates the prompts, although she admitted that her mind frequently wanders and moves to things that she had been thinking about during the day. “That’s what I like; I can think about things that I don’t really have time to process during the day, and I’m given an excuse to sit there and think about that one thing.” Similar to the program coordinators, Kany appreciates {Pause} because it allows students to take time to reflect.
Although devoting time on a Wednesday night may seem infeasible, and {Pause} is “kind of a weird concept when you talk about it out loud,” as confessed by Kany, the event is special in its ability to balance reflective silence with artistic entertainment. Looking for a way to quell the demands of endless people encouraging you to attempt “self-care”? Try giving {Pause} a shot.

Identity and Belonging in College

“Congratulations! On behalf of the President, Faculty, and Board of trustees of Bates College, we are pleased to offer you admission to the Bates Class of 2022.” For many students, opening the email or letter admitting them to college grants them permission to finally take a breath, and promises a successful future at a place they get to call home for the next four years. However, just because a student gets into college does not necessarily mean they will feel at home there. Along with college comes a new set of responsibilities on the shoulders of these students; there is the intensity of the classes, the obligation of sports and clubs, the 3 hours’ worth of work for every hour of class, the pressures of having a social life, the fear of branching too far out of your comfort zone, and the struggle to prioritize mental health and self-care. With all of this to think about, college becomes a vexing game of time management.

In the midst of this juggling act, some students are thrown a few more pins while tackling the internal conflicts that arise with the role of identity. Even at a place like Bates, where people are actively trying to make the college an inclusive and aware space, some people still face the difficulties with feeling like they don’t fit in.

A lot of the time, when college students are questioning whether or not different aspects of their identity fit in, they tend to wonder if college is even the place for them. In my own experience as a first-generation college student, there are a lot of times when college seems like a time to prove myself to those around me. Getting into college is a huge accomplishment for anyone, but for first-generation college students, it is more than just a personal achievement. Rather, it is a milestone for everyone in the family. While it is an honor to be the source of pride for your family, being the first person in your family to receive higher education can come with some obstacles. The most prominent obstacle is that first-generation students cannot benefit from their parents’ college-going experience. Sometimes I find myself questioning whether or not I’m good enough to attend a place like Bates. It can be hard to know who to turn to, but luckily at Bates, I have found many resources to rely on to guide me through these upcoming years.

Many other students can relate to the struggles of identity and belonging at Bates. The feeling of fear and uncertainty is one that can be applied to everyone in college. Whether you are unsure of who you are and who you will turn out to be in the next few years, or are feeling unsure about the next steps in your life as you commit to a major and graduate, there will always be people around you who feel the same way. Despite the complexities that come with identity and “fitting in,” everyone here at Bates College is here for a reason. Sometimes you have to think back to the moment that you opened up that acceptance letter and remind yourself that ever since you were accepted into college, you have had every right to be here and to be successful.

Maintaining Our Wild Tongues

Each year, the observance of the Martin Luther King holiday honors the life of an instrumental figure of the civil rights movement. It also acts as a day to celebrate our shared diversity and spread awareness of contemporary social issues. The theme of Bates’ 2019 MLK observance, “Lifting Every Voice: Intersectionality and Activism.” The title of one workshop under this theme was “How to Maintain Our Wild Tongues: Language Diversity and Language Rights in Policy and Practice,” and was derived from an essay by Gloria E. Anzaldúa’s called, “How to Tame a Wild Tongue,” in her provocative work Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza.
Faculty and students involved in the Bates Writing Center and Academic Resource Commons ran the workshop. In her introduction, Assistant Director of Writing at Bates Stephanie Wade said, “In my work I’ve noticed a big gap between what the research and what the policies say about language diversity.” The other facilitators echoed Wade’s observations and aimed to fill in the gap by creating greater awareness of language diversity staring with the Bates students and community members assembled at the workshop.
Sophomore Sarah Raphael ’21 began the morning by delivering a presentation on the roots of American English. Raphael discussed how geographic barriers allowed different dialects of Germanic English to evolve in Europe, and the effect the slave trade had on influencing the English language in the United States.
“It’s not a coincidence that we speak differently than [other] areas. We have ancestors from different parts of the world and they have influenced how we speak and how we accept the languages that we speak,” noted Raphael. Some surprising statistics were also shared, including: before colonization, there were more than 300 indigenous languages spoken by Native Americans, and over 70 million Americans speak a language other than English at home today.
The loss of language diversity directly coincided with the arrival of white settlers in North America. Stephanie Wade reported that missionaries and colonizers “[Connected] the practice of taking a land with taking the language and culture of the local people.” Many people have and still choose to ignore the influence of other languages and dialects on English, when according to Wade, “The English language at its core is a language that’s composed of many different dialects.”
One of these dialects that makes up the English language is African American Vernacular English (AAVE), formerly known as Ebonics. In an “MTV Decoded” video shown at the workshop, the show’s host Franchesca Ramsey explains the origins and stigmatization of AAVE in the episode, “Why Do People Say ‘AX’ Instead of ‘ASK?’”
According to Ramsey, AAVE finds its origins from slavery and communication between slaves who did not share the same language. Today, AAVE is commonly associated with lower and middle class black populations. Despite popular belief, AAVE isn’t “just misspeaking,” but rather has an alternative grammar system. Language stigma is derived from racism and classism which is fortified by mainstream media and academics.
Code switching is a practice that in the past has been championed by schools and used by members of society who speak languages or dialects different from Standard American English (SAE). Code switching is the idea that a person moves between two different languages or dialects based on their audience or the context of a situation. Although code switching can seem to honor diversity and legitimacy of different types of English dialects and languages, at its core it promotes a hierarchy of language.
For instance, a student may use AAVE in a social situation, but be expected to use SAE for a school presentation. Additionally, self-esteem issues have the opportunity to manifest.
Code meshing as a counter to code switching is the practice of moving between one or more languages or dialects in the same sentence or situation. Code meshing does not require the compartmentalizing of languages, and reduces the perpetuation of racism through language stigma. Wade sums up research regarding language diversity, “Literacy experts have come to the conclusion that home languages and dialects are inherently as valuable as the conventional English that is typically taught in school.”
The workshop concluded with the creation of a collective action tree. Participants of the workshop defined their values regarding language rights and proposed actions to generate their desired outcomes. At Bates we ought to be committed to the encouragement of the use of multiple dialects and languages, but members of the workshop see places in the community where the commitment can be strengthened. If you want to get involved in promoting language diversity in the Bates community or elsewhere, get in touch with the Bates Writing Center.

Unapologetically,Unconvincing Appropriation

I didn’t understand cultural appropriation until I found myself staring directly in the eye. The first few times I probably just ignored it, or maybe I didn’t even recognize it for the fear of being the creepy brown girl, sticking her nose in other people’s business. I let it go because I don’t have the privilege to claim other people’s business as my own and judge it, unapologetically.

I have heard arguments on the other side too, don’t get me wrong. I fully entertained them because I felt like I was obliged to be the bigger person, even if that meant letting other people walk all over me, as they plundered, looted, occupied, and enslaved what was not their business. There exists an argument that pulls at a “reverse appropriation” of Western culture by the rest of the world. It doesn’t convince me though, because I am well aware of imperialism, colonialism, and the Western-centric worldview that basically paved the path for this “reverse cultural appropriation” that became synonymous with modernity and development. I am unapologetically unconvinced because it has been pushed down our throats historically, in the name of being respected and noticed in a world that is obsessed with the idea of this version of modern development.

The reality of cultural appropriation hurts because there are sections of society that can afford to do/wear culturally associated things without ever going through the struggles experienced by the people from these cultures. We are supposed to “fit in” so we can prove that we are non-threatening as people and as cultures, while the people with whom we are supposed to be assimilating unabashedly dress “exotic” at our expense. If people were ready to acknowledge and learn from the history that affects the power dynamics around the display of a cultural “trend,” then they would be free to appreciate other cultures once they’ve had this learning experience.

Even when not being subject to explicit bias for our differences, fear has taken root inside our hearts. This insecurity and lack of confidence for just being ourselves is not our fault—it was etched upon us, and onto our very existence. This insecurity looks like the forgotten pieces of colorful clothing that lie in the back of my closet. It looks like the uncertain woman I see in the mirror who, just before she walks out the door, turns around and changes into something less conspicuous. It sounds like “well-meaning” compliments that refer to my culture as “costume.” It is the many questions I would get—if there was a special reason, some occasion, an event that I decided to put on “fancy” clothes? Clothes that I grew up in and around, but now rarely wear. It feels like the anxiety that comes with the attention I get—good or bad—makes me not want to stand out, but I wonder if I will have to burn the very back of my closet in hopes of that?

Now, in all honesty, I am a lot more privileged than a lot of my fellow people of color, either living away from their cultures or having had modernity creep up on them. I am a little more racially ambiguous, aware, in a more accepting environment and at a point where it’s getting easier to be unapologetic for being me; and yet this anxiety hasn’t left my side.

I don’t want to be called an angry-snowflake who is making an issue out of a non-issue. Working on bigger, more serious issues and speaking about this somewhat invisible but pinching experience are not mutually exclusive—and I don’t want to be told what is “more important” for me to focus on. I don’t want to be called “exotic” —I am not a different species, something rare, or for a show display—there are too many of us and we want to take our identities back.

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