Prejudice but not pride

Screenshot of slideshow Lizeth Tello | Lariat

Dr. Edward R. Curammeng, Ph.D from California State University Dominguez Hills presented a lecture on critical race theory through Zoom on Friday, April 29.  During the presentation, he discussed his definition of what critical race theory is and how it affects students.

To begin, Curammeng discussed what exactly were race and racism.  He stated that both are social constructs that are often not acknowledged enough, which is why racism is such a huge problem.

“These are social, historical, political, economic and cultural constructs based upon things like race.  We can think, in its most simplest form, that race equals skin color and phenotype. That differs from ethnicity.”

The two terms get confused with each other a lot and based on what one person’s race or ethnicity is, they might be subject to certain stereotypes and prejudice, mainly nonwhite people.

As for racism, Curammeng defined the term as “the belief in the inherent superiority of one race in order to justify unequal social arrangements and is tied to institutional power to enact those unjust social arrangements.”

The discussion of this definition led to the conversation of what he called the “four I’s of oppression,” which involved ideological, institutional, interpersonal and internalized oppression.

Ideological oppression occurs when one group of people believe that they are better than others in some way.  They might associate positive qualities with themselves but only associate negative qualities with others. For example, the ideas that Black or Latino people are dangerous and that poor people are lazy are a few examples of ideological oppression.

Institutional oppression is when companies and institutions adopt and manifest these concepts of ideological oppression.  Some examples of this is the gender wage gap or when a building is constructed without wheelchair ramps, which is ableism. The three-fifths clause was another example of institutional oppression.

Interpersonal oppression happens all around us and is easiest to recognize. It occurs when people discriminate against each other.  It can take the form of violence, microaggression, prejudice, stereotypes and harassment.

Internalized oppression stems from all the other types.  It is when people internalize their own narratives of their perceived inferiority due to the influence their environment has on them. All four types of oppression are interconnected.

Later, the attendees were invited to share their own ideas and experiences with these types of oppression.  Some students and faculty discussed how some groups of people are afraid of speaking out on the subject of oppression, while others may have no problem addressing it.

One student shared her experience with sexism within the classroom, stating that when in a group she is often not taken seriously by the men, even if her work is the most correct.  Another film student observed how people tend to repeat the ideas they see on television and that can further magnify societal problems of oppression.

TV is not the only thing people are influenced by.  Everyone subconsciously absorbs the information around them, that can come from other people, reading material and even community influence.

Each statement provided insightful looks into the lives of students and how oppression and racism affected their lives.

On May 13, Pete Murray, a Saddleback humanities instructor and one of the hosts of the “CRT” event, invited attendees to another Zoom meeting to meet and further discuss their experiences of oppression in further detail.

Multiple new perspectives were shared, including stories from Latinx/Hispanic and Black students and their struggles with discrimination within the learning environment at Saddleback and the perspectives of international transfer students.

One of the attendees was Efren Rangel, the EOPS/CARE & CalWORKs coordinator.  He shared his experience working with EOPS and how being the minority can be unintentionally oppressive in its own way.

“For me even at the program with EOPS, we have one male counselor and myself who’s the coordinator,” Rangel said. “But the rest of our staff are all female. So with that, there’s that— I kind of feel like maybe someone should be in this, maybe a female should be in this role because how do I look?  I’m the male coordinator that kind of oversees the program. It just— I feel like I don’t belong there, like someone else should be in that seat.”

Such feelings are rooted to issues like gender roles and culture.  Especially within the Latinox/Hispanic community, Rangel discussed how Latinos face a lot of struggle regarding gender roles and the way they learn.

He stated that Latinos are bilingual and therefore they learn differently than others.  Spanish is usually their first language and when they’re at school, whatever they read is constantly being translated in their minds and that can make it hard to process things and the material might have to be read at least 2-3 times.  It is often assumed that it is a result of a learning disability, but Rangel says that is not necessarily always the case.

“Students aren’t being successful for X, Y and Z right? Well, let’s look at our policies,” Rangel said. “How are they geared towards a certain race than the other races?  Blaming students for not passing courses, well, why are they not passing courses?  You can easily blame the students, like ‘Hey, the student’s not coming to school’ but not understanding the cultural and racial background of the student.”

He stated that institutions are often geared more towards “a white race of European Protestant male kind of framework.”  They don’t consider the struggles of nonwhite people or what might be going on at home.  It all depends on their culture.

Rangel believes that Saddleback offers a lot of great programs to help colored students, but he admits that the institution could work on properly dispersing that help in a way that would benefit students even more than it already does.

Another attendee that discussed their experiences at Saddleback was English student Ricc Waddell.  He believes that Saddleback could stand to improve their diversity within the staff and faculty. He had observed that every single one of his instructors were white and he has yet to come across a Black counselor.

“If one does not see themselves represented as academic authority figures, the subliminal message is that Black people cannot be professors,” Waddell said.

He mentioned that Black history is not properly taught at Saddleback and that it ought to have a Black studies department.  He stated that the Black Student Union at Saddleback had protested the lack of one in the 1990s, but nothing came of it and nowadays, there are not enough Black students to protest again.  The Black Student Union is also no longer a current club option at Saddleback, presumably due to a lack of members, with it only appearing in the list of past clubs.

“Lectures on CRT are merely optics,” Waddell said.

Though the “Critical Race Theory” workshop did address some important topics, Waddell believes that more ought to be done to address the issues of oppression rather than just merely talking about it.