Class Reflection #4 – Free Passes

I really enjoyed class this week. Time flew by as we switched from topic to topic and I really felt as though I was probed to think about how I will be welcomed while in South Africa. At the beginning of class, we met with Mohammed Bey who made us attempt a critical thinking game, followed by a short discussion on diversity. After that, we had our second map quiz and then discussed the progress of our service projects and fundraising.

Diversity_Mar202013_8The most though provoking portion of the class was definitely the beginning, which was led by Mohammed. We started by playing a critical thinking game. During this game, we all lined up on pink sheets of paper. Half the class was facing one direction while the other half was facing the opposite direction. (Essentially, the two groups were facing each other).

The point of the game was to get all the members of the class on the opposite side. Mohammed explained the point of the game and then the rules. While there were a variety of rules to this game the most inhibiting factors were yet to come — Diversity_Mar202013_5some members were told that they were not allowed to speak, others, including myself, were told we were allowed to speak but had to look at the floor for the entirety of the game, and the rest of the group members were allowed to look around and speak freely.

This game proved to be rather difficult to say the least. Ultimately, Kristyn and Alison took control of the progress of this game as they were two members with no restrictions. They actively tried to direct people to figure out how to succeed. Unfortunately, we were not able to complete the game. Nonetheless, the process itself was very informative.

handsFirstly, I learned that group communication is integral to the success of a group. Mohammed explained the value of working together explaining “that when a genius and group of diverse and random individuals are given a critical thinking problem, the group will ALWAYS solve the problem better than the genius.” Why is this, you may ask? Because the diverse group allows for a variety of ideas and opinions to come forth, that one individual, or a group of same minded individuals, might not have thought of. In addition, it allows people to bounce their ideas off other group members to come up with the best option. In comparison to the genius or a group of similar people might struggle to view the problem in ways more apt to solve it. In terms of diversity then, it is integral to accept and utilize the diversity in the world. Rather than discriminating against others for their differences, it would instead be more useful to capitalize on our differences in order to solve problems in different ways and approach situations more productively.

The other integral aspect of this game, were the restrictions put on certain members of the class. As previously stated, some members were not allowed to speak at all during the game. Others, were able to speak, but were not able to look up — making it hard to offer any useful suggestions to the process of the game. Ultimately, there were three people who did not have any Opressionlimitations and were basically in charge of leading the group. This process symbolized the power of diversity in the world, as well as discrimination surrounding diversity.

A seemingly pointless game demonstrated the frustration endured by those people oppressed on a daily basis. It made me wonder how people would be able to live with these restrictions for an extended period of time.  I became frustrated and ready to end the game within minutes, wanting desperately to be able to function in our group once again without this debilitating limitation. Luckily for me, when the game was over, I was able to immerse myself in my community once again — without restrictions, limitations, or any other source of oppression. However, as Mohammed pointed out, many around the world are not so lucky. I cannot imagine being deprived of such basic human rights on a daily basis.

south-african-and-american-flagUltimately, this process made me think keenly about how I will be welcomed as a white, American girl in South Africa. In the end, I think as much as I try to prepare myself for this beforehand, it is something I will never be able to truly prepare myself for until I am in the country and experiencing it firsthand. However, one thing I have definitely taken away from this class… and one that I intend to take with me in South Africa… is the fact that I, in a sense, have a free pass.

Mohammed brought my attention to the idea of the “free pass” and it something that really stuck with me. What I mean by this,  is the idea that, because of the color of my skin, and the country I am from, I am granted rights and privileges that many around the world are not. With this in mind, I am able to travel to South Africa, aware of the fact that any injustices I face there will only be temporary. This sense of temporariness is the key to my point. I will have to “rough it” at certain points of my time in South Africa, however I know this will only be temporary. In comparison to the children and people we will be working with who may have to face these hardships and injustices every day — something I could not feasibly imagine.

I hope to take this with me while in South Africa to better understand the situation of the communities we work with. In addition, I believe that if I am cognizant of this fact, I will be more inclined to work my hardest for these people, as I know that I am helping to make a difference in their lives … lives that as much as I try to empathize with and relate to, is one  that I could not possibly imagine living.

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