- We start out with 8 people. We added 5 latecomers for a total of 13 people attending plus bell hooks. I can't help but wonder what happened to scare the rest. We had between 20 and 25 or so last month, maybe a bit more. Also, there were only two men in the room, including me (make of that what you will).
- At the opening, there was some expression of discouragement from bell hooks on seeing the world differently. The thinking here was in terms of balance.
- On a side note, an observation about the many artists here who do "mundane" work to pay the bill, eat, so on and to keep doing art.
- During the previous week (November 6, 2014), the college featured a convocation with writer Barbara Kingsolver. (This one was a really big deal. They even set up a second watching area in the library where they could stream the event. Personally, I skipped because Kingsolver is not really my cup of tea.). bell hooks and a few others described this convocation as "the middle-aged white women convo" (which is actually pretty accurate from what I heard and from the crowd we got at the library at that time). If nothing else, we think of language, and we could say those women clearly found their language there.
- Kingsolver did evoke white writers. Virginia Woolf and Charles Dickens look over her shoulder.
- White bourgeois, according to bell hooks. Working classes would not likely share Kingsolver's brand of humor.
- There is still a gulf separating black and white women.
- How do you express about being hurt with people who look like those who hurt you? Especially when trying to form new relationships in new places?
- To this day, places are still segregated: beauty shops, churches, funeral homes for example.
- The importance of spaces to open conversations even in academia. Talking about work is not conducive to discussing deeper issues.
- We talk a lot about diversity and inclusion, yet we find it very difficult to relate to someone who may be very different, even when that different one is trying to enter and learn.
- This idea of learning. When is it enough? Is it ever? Or perhaps not so much being enough for we continue learning over our lives.
- The challenge is the assumptions we make about people.
- For instance, the faculty convocation for bell hooks, and some other events, where you see a sea of whiteness. Some of us (and here I do mean us, including me) can feel not part of it.
- A question came up: how do we truly desegregate Berea College. (Yes, in spite or perhaps because of our history, we do have to ask that question and address it.)
- For instance, our downtown area is configured for tourists with money. (Heck, I work here, and I can certainly attest to it.)
- We do lack integrated spaces on campus.
- An observation came up during the book discussion about people here being and/or feeling overworked. Working after hours, over the weekend. (This is something I see a lot here. Certain bosses who are sending emails on Sundays from home are an example). Part of it could be the small town atmosphere where people submerge in their work (also, not much to do in the small town, so reinforces the people submerging in their work. Fine if they choose to do so. In my case, my weekends are mine, and once I leave on Friday after work, you are not hearing from me until Monday).
- Another question: has feminism become something for everybody and therefore meaningless?
- Intersectionality comes into play here. This is a difficult concept to understand.
- Feminism seems focused on male violence against women. Where does this leave, for instance, upper class women?
- Border crossing is not really discussed, the notion of crossing lines from one group to another. We are more divided by class than we acknowledge.
- The book is 20 years old or so by now. Yet it seems so little has changed since it was written. We also reflected on how people see it as relevant today.
- Again, language is a place of struggle.
- A good thought from the other guy in the group (remember, there were only two of us this evening): being aware of how little he knows. (I can certainly relate to that)
- Observation: the greatest diversity in the college is in the student body. Not too much diversity in the faculty, even less the staff.
- For the future, we hope to have more discussions on diversity.
- How do we exist in places where we may lack a voice or be valued? How then do we help foster change and dialogue?
Some of my impressions and thoughts after the meeting:
In the end, the discussion was good, but compared to our first meeting it was much more underwhelming. Maybe this was due to less people being there. And yet, I still sense a thirst for people to come into such spaces and discuss these topics. But for some of us, though it is claimed the space is safe, is it really safe? I often sit and listen in order to learn. But for me silence is also a way to avoid the land mines.
On the topic of being overworked, it's not so much that it did not happen elsewhere. It is that folks here seem to embrace it so much. I am sorry, but as I have said before, my weekends are mine. I rotate a Sunday at the reference desk here or there because I have to, but the rest of the time is mine, you all need to learn to chill (or find other hobbies to do in the small town).
As for the diversity thing, let me tell you. Being a Puerto Rican in Berea, Kentucky can be interesting. I may have mentioned (at some point, not sure if it was during the discussion or more likely I just wrote about it upon reflection) that I don't recall any person of color during my campus interview. It was not something I thought of at the time, but on reflection, it is interesting to ponder. Now, the students I met at that time were diverse in terms of gender and color. But for me, being caught between the history, the "story," and the reality of the campus and area, well, it can be a bit challenging, isolating, exciting, and other feelings. Like Fox Mulder, I want to believe.
Also on a side note, the whole town as a wealthy tourist playground makes me wonder a bit. Allow me a moment of bluntness here. I live here, and I work here, but I sure as heck can't afford a lot of what the artists here produce. However, a lot of people assume that I could afford such things because I work for the college; as faculty member, well, I must be well-heeled (I may have faculty title, but I am a librarian. I can assure you I am not well-heeled. Heck, I am lucky I have heels on the shoes I walk on to work). We are not all well-off academics is all I can say. I am very aware of my fortune (small as it is) and privileges that I do have, but as that wise man once reminded me, there but for (the deity of choice), go I.