Saturday, April 30, 2005

Minority Cultures

So, Mount Holyoke College has, until recently, set aside funds for what we call the ALANA students. ALANA = Asian Latina African and Native American. It's a form of affirmative action, but I believe it is more than that. Affirmative action is, as defined by good ole, "A policy or a program that seeks to redress past discrimination through active measures to ensure equal opportunity, as in education and employment."However, while that may get us ALANA students INTO college [as, I, too, have unwittingly benefited from being a student "of color"]-- we don't realize that being branded as an ALANA student sets us apart in the eyes of the college and our peers, and thus makes the road to equality a little hard to follow.

Recently, some ALANA alumnae from Mount Holyoke contacted all "alumna of color" in an attempt to get a feel for whether or not there would be support if they established an ALANA alumnae group. They had us fill out a survey, asking whether we'd be for or against the establishment of such a group. Below is my answer for the why or why not section:

"I do not believe in separating ourselves by the color of our skin. I know that ALANA is a way that people of "minority" races to bond, find common ground, seek support, etc. However, despite my feelings that one should always remember your cultural background, how often do we, as "ALANA" members wish that we weren't distinguished by our ethnicities, but by who we are? Doesn't establishing an ALANA group then automatically set us apart and readily supply a 'group' name for those who would be looking to single us out in the first place? How many of us would rather not be seen as "that Asian/African/Latina/Native American chick", but seen as [insert your name here]?"


Isabo said...

It's an interesting situation. I agree with what you say, but then again it is sad that you even have to have this conversation/survey, ya know? damn people for judging surface qualities

Lyndsey said...

I agree. I have ALWAYS been uncomfortable with the concept of ALANA. Essentially, ALANA by definition means everyone-who-is-not-white. It's goal, though a noble one with good intentions, can never be met because ALANA actively seeks to single out non-white students AND segregate them in certain situations such as Orientation. Why do non-white students need a separate orientation? When I got the letter in the mail I read it and drew the following conclusion: they want me me to arrive early with the other minority students and learn about why I'm oppressed and different and deserving of special attention... needless to say I was quite offended. Later I realized ALANA is supposed to be a positive thing and blah blah blah. But ALANA attempts to group different minority groups together who have nothing in common except that they are 1) not white and 2) are probably oppressed by dominant white culture in some fashion past and present... even then said oppression has been historically different for each minority group and all face different problems socially, politically, etc. Therefore, the only thing all ALANA students have in common is #1: we are not white. And THAT is not a good basis for singling us out.

Lyndsey said...

P.S. The separate ALANA Orientation has been done away with starting next school year. Not sure why, but it probably has to do with financial issues. To think progress can only be made when our college decides having a separate orientation would be too costly. >_<

P.P.S. I'm coming home on the 13th! :D