Check Your Shoes, Check Your Privilege


I walked to Peirce from my 9:10 class this morning expecting nothing but casual conversation and a few pieces of cinnamon toast. However, upon arriving, I was confronted with several boldface questions written out in chalk on the sidewalk. “WHO CONTROLS ‘OPEN DIALOGUE?'” one read. Another questioned my sense of fulfillment here at Kenyon, and yet another asked if my socioeconomic status affected the way I thought about food. My mind instantly filled with shame over my white skin and comfortable home life — did I really take enough time to appreciate the struggles some of my classmates face on a daily basis? Did I fully grasp our diversity as a student body?

The posters in Lower Rosse and McBride only added more volume to the bank of questions spinning around in my head.

Screen Shot 2014-03-31 at 3.07.04 PM

Hung up around campus, these plainly written questions range from tame to controversial, and are inspiring myriad reactions from the student body. Some mirror my own sentiments, while others combat the movement entirely. A few bold souls have begun adding their own comments underneath the posters’ slogans:

Captions, from left to right: "Anonymous, passive-aggressive pieces of paper are not the forum for this discussion," "Tokenism cannot become diversity because it is rooted in a false sense of identity. Diversity is real. It cannot be feigned. If people feign diversity, they're fooling themselves."

Captions, from left to right: “Anonymous, passive-aggressive pieces of paper are not the forum for this discussion,” “Tokenism cannot become diversity because it is rooted in a false sense of identity. Diversity is real. It cannot be feigned. If people feign diversity, they’re fooling themselves.”

Whatever you think of these posters, it’s obvious they’re attempting to send a message about “privileged” culture at Kenyon. I’m sure the Center for Global Engagement’s Dinner and Discussion tomorrow at 5:30 will provide more insight into the questions posed above. Check your Kenyon email for details.

25 responses

  1. This whole project is ridiculous.
    I personally wrote a response on one of these pieces of paper criticizing it, and the next day, the whole thing was gone. Clearly, whoever is putting them up is not willing to hear the other side of the dialogue. Just because this propaganda campaign is liberal, does not mean it has the right to not accept counter-arguments; removing the conservative response means that this is just a leftist power-play, and not a true open dialogue.

    A frustrated upper middle class, straight, white male, who is in no way responsible for the plights of the “underprivileged.”

    • I’m confused as to how is this propaganda? No statements or judgments were made, only questioned were asked?

    • how is it possible for you to have written a response and it disappeared the next day? this is the first day the questions have been up

      • I wrote my response late last night/early this morning. By 5:00 pm this evening, it was gone.

    • Since it seems that these posters appeared overnight, it also seems highly unlikely whoever is responsible for them saw your response and took it down. It seems far more likely that Campus Safety or Maintenance didn’t like where it was posted and took it down, or that a random person did. Don’t jump to conclusions, when you assume you make an ass of you and me.

  2. This is in response to the poster, Gracie Potter: “Shame over my white skin”

    what the fuck. fuck your ‘white guilt’ and understand the purpose of these questions and what they are trying to relay.

    • Hi, I’m not sure you understand the purpose of the questions yourself. The posters don’t seem to be outright attacking any specific person like you just have. The posters seem fairly ambiguous, leaving them open to individualized interpretation. It’s not much of a dialogue if we just attack each other. Gracie Potter is a human being on this campus. Your opinion could easily be expressed without attacking her.

      • Imagine if the tables were reversed, and if Gracie were of any skin color other than white and said she were ashamed of that skin color. People would be in an uproar.

  3. “Who picks up your mess? Who cleans up your trash?” Sean Decatur does– I saw him pick up a beer can on my way across campus this morning. Seriously. The president of the College picked up your trash.

    I don’t care if you’re wasted. Don’t throw your shit on the ground, or go around destroying property and expect someone else to take care of it.

  4. I might be jumping the gun here, but seeing this on our quiet hill makes me really proud to be a Kenyon alumna. (sorry, I know, I know, “you can’t sit with us” and all that.)

    Kenyon taught me to embrace inquiry. But with inquiry, we have to embrace the uncertainty of not knowing what is right and what is good, or what part you have in that dynamic morality. Feeling guilt, anxiety, anger, confusion, disillusionment with that inquiry– it’s okay.

    Question. Talk. Decide. Organize. Act. Change. Then change some more. But to start you gotta ask the uncomfortable question, agitate the water, and unsettle yourself.

    Keep questioning, you wonderful Lords and Ladies.

    Another question: Has privilege become synonymous with ambivalence?

  5. I don’t think this is supposed to be a “check your privilege” type thing as much as it is supposed to start a dialogue and make people think about things.

  6. Someone has too much time on their hands and feels too holier-than-thou. Since when did people stop going to Kenyon for the academics/community and start attending to participate in socially-progressive intellectual circle jerks?

    • Perhaps I’m not cynical enough to see your perspective, but I got the sense that the person or group that put these up came here for those exact reasons as well; however when they joined the community, they experienced moments that made them feel unwelcome or lesser than. In my opinion, I think there is value in asking these questions/thinking about them. We’re human beings. We need all the help we can get when it comes to remembering that we may be taking something for granted or underestimating the power of our words and actions.

    • I would say that this constitutes a “socially-progressive intellectual circle jerk” WAY less than those meetings held by Crozier/POV/Unity/&c. where the only people who show up are people who already agree with one another. If anything, by forcing these questions into the public eye (literally), the folks responsible have done more than any “dessert & discussion” I’ve ever seen.

      While a few of the individual questions are clearly loaded, confrontational, and packed with assumptions (e.g. the one that states flat out that we live in a “racial caste system”), thus seeming to close off any dialogue with folks who might disagree with the wording of the question, others are just plain fricking OBVIOUS and they’re ones we should be asking ourselves every day (e.g. “who picks up your trash”).

      For that reason alone I commend the poster(s) in question, and can only hope that they reveal themselves in an attempt to follow up this stunt with an actual discussion. Who knows – after this brilliant conversation-starter, people might actually show up & contribute who wouldn’t normally do so!

      • I agree with you. Some of the questions (“Is K-card money funny money?”) are nonsensical to aggressive, while others really are things we should be thinking about, like how AVI and Maintenance workers are human beings too. Best not to write off all of them because some are unnecessarily Social Justice Warrior.

  7. “Shame over your white skin”- you should never feel ashamed because of the color of your skin. This is why political correctness goes too far- people end up supporting the same things responsible for creating inequality in the first place. White liberal guilt at its finest here.

  8. Speaking as a white, middle class person, these signs did not make me feel attacked or shamed at all… it can be uncomfortable to be made aware of your privileged position in society, but that does not constitute a “power-play” or attack. People are allowed to ask questions.

  9. Pingback: Michael “Trixie” Kengama ’14 On The Importance of Dialogue (And The Purpose Of All Those Posters) | The Thrill

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