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Race, Class And Gender: In The Grinnell Community

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Race, Class and Gender: in the Grinnell Community

Grinnell College is a school known for its diversity and academic structure. This was very important to me during my college search. I was looking for a school that would uphold the ideals of diversity and equality. After visiting Grinnell for three days and talking extensively with Grinnell Faculty and students, I was impressed by the cultural and ethnic diversity Grinnell had to offer, the self governance attitude, and by the liberal mindset of the students and faculty, and thus I chose this college precisely for these reasons. During the past few weeks, I have observed how, despite Grinnell's outward manifestation of diversity, this institution is actually quite un-diverse in both the racial and social stratification of the campus.

Unobtrusive Participant Observation is a method in which a researcher can gain information on a society and the individuals in a society while remaining, as much as possible, an un-influential observer of the interaction. This method allows a researcher to access information and quantitative data while removing, to a degree, the bias of the observer. However I think problems can arise when the researcher is connected intimately with the society they are observing. In my case, I found it rather difficult to remain an un-influential observer since I am so closely connected with the Grinnell Community. Although this method yielded interesting and provocative information about the Grinnell community, the collection of data was limited to an extent, to my close friends; thus any analysis and conclusions I make in this paper regarding race, class and gender are only specific to these individuals, and should not be construed as the opinion of the Grinnell Community.

Data collection consisted of both direct conversations with individuals about issues of race, class, and gender and indirect ones in which I listened to but did not participate in. During lunch and dinner I focused mainly on indirect conversations by sitting at larger tables where I could hear more conversations around me. For direct conversations, most of the participants I observed were close friends, but I also had conversation with more distant acquaintances. In addition to taking notes on conversation, I also explored how environmental factors and specifically architectural planning at Grinnell structure race, class, and gender.

My first observation dealing with race was at Burling Library. As a first year student we get a chance to take a tour of the Burling library. On the tour I noticed that the tour guide was naming small sections of the library as the Black Library and the Latino Library. I found that this was an example of how whiteness always and unquestioningly constitutes the norm in society. There is no such category as White Library because the assumption is that the main library is the white library. It is the standard by which other races must define themselves and be defined by the standard. This is specific incident that enforces this hegemonic white belief of American Society. By failing to conceptualize white as a race, these Black and Latino libraries segregate and conceptualize Black and Latino as a race different from the norm, different from the "regular" library.

Another incident regarding race dealt with derogatory comments. The incident happened when I and one of my Caucasian friends, 19 years of age, were traveling to Burling library on a Tuesday night in his car. There was a Rap artist named Kanye West playing on the stereo and in his song he uses the word "nigger" a lot. Now my friend who knows this song front to back was embarrassed because I was in the car and he "accidentally", as he put it, said "nigger". He thought I was made at him because he is Caucasian and had said "nigger". First I assured him that he was safe and that I was not going to beat him up. Then I asked him why he got so up tight when he said the word. He told me that he thought Black people were the only ones who could use that word.

The next largest social structure mentioned throughout the conversations of Grinnellians dealt with gender roles and gender issues in the college



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