Our Wednesday class was slightly different from the usual classes we have. Mohammed Bey, the Director for Multicultural Education, spent an hour in our in our class doing group activities with us and talking about racial injustice in our society.
For the group activity we were supposed to move around in lines and figure out a way to switch sides of the lines we were in. Some of us were not allowed to speak, and some of us had to look down on the floor, which made the communication a lot harder.
Unfortunately we were not able to work it out, but I think the purpose of our group activity was to see what it was like to get different “positions” in the group, and what it was like to not have the same rights to communicate and to be heard. I think this put our class into similar situations to what many oppressed people in South Africa have experienced, being treated differently and having different rights.
Some girls who were not allowed to speak during the activity said in our discussion afterwards that they felt very frustrated because they were not able to have a say in anything. For those who were allowed to speak, only a few girls actually spoke up. I was one of them who was allowed to, and although I did a little, I certainly did not contribute as much as others.
We discussed that too- what would have happened if the girls who talked more were not there? Would we not have moved around at all?
I believe it is a very common behavior, especially when working in groups, to rely on others when you are unsure about something. You rely on those whom seem to know what the group is supposed to do simply because of your own insecurities. And if there is nobody else to rely on, you obviously only have yourself to trust.
We also talked about how we are all affected by many environmental things in life that shape us, our thoughts, and our behavior towards racial issues. We talked about our own experiences of when we have reacted to something that happened around us that we thought was wrong. Even if I was not able to come up with a specific example, I still feel like there has been many occasions when I have heard just a simple comment that was racist or unjust.
We also talked about what we can do in those situations. Mohammed Bey asked us why we think white Americans, or even any American, can be treated with more respect in South Africa than let’s say – a South African? I think this is the type of question that we should keep in mind when we go to South Africa.
We also took our last map quiz during the class, and I remember how we, in our first class, talked about how Americans are known for not knowing the world map too well. Professor Gallay asked us in our first class “Where is Iraq?” and even if I knew that it is in the Middle East I must admit that even as a non-American I sometimes get a little confused where certain countries are located on the map. The map quizzes have also taught me the geography in Africa which was probably the continent that I was most unsure about.