Student Concerns: Culture in the Classroom

Student Concerns: Culture in the Classroom

“But what’s wrong with Julianne Hough’s costume?,” a friend tweeted referring to the celebrity’s blackface when she dressed up as the character Crazy Eyes from “Orange is the New Black.”

I explained how it was culturally offensive to don blackface makeup and how if she’d just dressed up as the character, sans bronzer, the costume would’ve been effective and not considered racist. “Oh, I had no idea. Thanks for explaining, sorry.”

This Halloween was a holiday that, despite it being 2013, saw many offensive, cultural appropriative and sexist costumes, from blackface to someone dressed as a Boston Marathon bombing victim, to the typical “Mexican” and “ghetto girl” costumes that keep appearing every year despite the different “I’m a culture, not a costume,” campaigns.

While my friend asked out of curiosity and understood how the costume was offensive, the costume still sparked much debate on social networks and the internet, and many people, including Marquette students, didn’t understand “the big deal.” The popular “Marquette Confessions” page has also seen its fair share of ignorant comments from people making fun of what feminism is to making blatantly racist statements about other students.

Aside from “Intro to Sociology” during my sophomore year, a behavioral sciences requirement for my college, I haven’t taken any classes that have dealt with such topics. Most of what I’ve learned about feminism, cultural appropriation, racism and class differences has been because of my interest on the topic and through blogs and websites like Tumblr and Reddit. It’s sad to see students who are pursuing a degree make offensive statements.

As a Jesuit institution that has as one of its mottoes ‘Cura Personalis,’ that’s ‘care for the person,’ in case you haven’t been paying attention, it should seek to educate students better about these issues.

Sure, there are speakers and organizations on campus, but they aren’t sought out unless people are interested in them. If I, as a journalism major, am required to take a statistics course because it’s part of making me a well-rounded student, I feel like incoming freshmen should be required to take a one-credit course that touches upon topics such as gender, race and class.

It could be an online course, much like AlcoholEdu, or a one-credit course during the first semester, but either way they’re important topics that need to be covered if we really want to be a diverse, inclusive community. True, it’s not a definite solution, I mean, how many of us skipped our way through AlcoholEdu? But it’s a start and if it gets a few students talking and saying “Oh, I had no idea, thanks for explaining,”  it’s worth it.