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please step forward, please step back

I would like to address the demonstration that we did in class today 10/28/08. I felt as though many people in the class felt a little confused and could not get a feel of where the discussion was going. While watching this I couldn’t help but think of the implications of the confusion. The exercise called for us to step forward or step back depending on the questions. The questions were aimed at positions of power and of oppression only examining the polices in place in American history .
While I think if our room allowed for more space the simulation could have been a great start for conversation concerning how past privilege and the power of intersectionality only leaves room for confusion with the current generation of essentially making these issue hard to deal with currently.
One reason I assume people were not sure where to step is that many of us due to the way our ancestors enter the country don’t have access to know exactly what their experience was in this country. Furthermore some people like me are not even able to trace back my official origin past migration to the united states of America.
I felt as though some were even offend by the simulation saying that the exercise did not account for the intersectionality of race and class in America. but personally I think that was the point. Without dealing with intelligence, education or any personal makings if these individuals we see a real life illustration of individual staring points would be in America. if we want to believe it or not.
I think what needs to happen is we begin examine what it means to have minorities and immigrants quietly moving towards the back of the class. While others get to take a few more step forward.

Comments

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2htD63

Yes, I was one of the participants in that step forward step back demonstration. My confusion was based on the fact that I did not know my family's history except for some of the obvious ones about being slaves and such. But it was informative also because we learned each other's history. I was able to learn more about what my history could be and what was good or bad in my history that made me who I am today.

I agree there were a few flaws with this exercise. One the starting point was not equal, and the room was not laid out to allow individuals to move freely. The participants were forced into a narrow bottleneck. Also there was a sense of confusion throughout the group. I was happy I was not selected, because I don't know enough about my heritage to answer the questions and I would have been forced to guess, as I am assuming many did. But with these flaws, I feel the demonstration is show us something. There were a few people that made it all the way to the front, whom were not oppressed, which is similar to reality, also there was a heavy middle section of those somewhat oppressed and a smaller back section of those always oppressed.

I was a little bit confused during this exercise. It would've worked much better if we were all in straight line, that way, we would've all started in the same place. Sometimes I wasn't sure about the question and I really didn't know if my ancestors had certain things. I stepped foward in some of the questions because I just assumed that my great grandparents had certain things because I am white. I have a little Native American in me, but I didn't move back for one of the questions about reservations because I am barely Native American at all. I think that some of us were a little hesitant to step foward because it was a little embarrassing to show others how our ancestors were much better off than others' ancestors. The question that asked "Whose ancestors owned slaves?" didn't apply to me because my ancestors weren't in America during this time. But if they were, I possibly would have had to step foward.

I agree with your points. Many of us don't know under what conditions our ancestors came into this country, but we do have an idea. So in a sense, this activity may have been confusing to many of us because we had to decide to step forward or backwards based on assumptions or limited knowledge that we had about our ancestors and their position in society as/when they arrived to the U.S. I have done this activity before with different questions, and I believe it is helpful in observing who is the most like you (based on the questions) and who is least like you. Many times I have noticed race is not always the key factor in this activity, which I believe is important to note.

You have some great points. I have to agree that there was some confusion, but some of the confusion in my opinion, is the lack of participation. Some students did not put in the effort to move forward and I believe it is becuase in today's society people want to believe that everyone starts off equally, despite the historical advantage many people have. I must concede that everyone has faced some sort of inequalities because of various factors (immigration,culture, etc), but one has to admit that whites are supposed to be further in the front than minorities, becuase (let's just face the facts) race is the determining factor of where you stand in society. Someone may be from Spain or Germany or even France and still will have the advantages that an African or Middle Eastern person wouldn't have. When we are willing to accept this reality check is when the confusion will subside.

Sorry, I posted that comment stated as anonymous!
thanks,
emily shain

I think that it’s fascinating the guilt/ privilege/shame we as individuals feel from the historical legacy we inherit. This was represented in the simulation, as well as the discouragement of not having a say in how political history has shaped the advantages and disadvantages we have in our ancestry. I also thought it was fascinating that at least some point everyone had a moment of time when they had been the one in power and then a time as a victim.

I thought there was a great deal of confusion as well. But something that was not very confusing was who was standing in the front of the line and who was standing in the back. It was clear enough in that sense. I thought the exercise at least accomplished that much. It was difficult to know when to step back or forward because the questions were very open, and i agree that if we would have had a bigger room the distinction would have been more clear.

I think you have some interesting points. One point i took from the demonstration was that there is a struggle for a lot of people to reach the front (of the class, in one's society, in the job market). There is all of this confusion of where one belongs and how everyone fits into a society. I think this demonstration proved that some individuals can move easily forward while others struggle.

You have some great points. I was part of the excercise and I think I would have been way towards the front however, there was just not a lot of room and I wasn't gonna start pushing people out of the way. lol.
I agree with you the the exercise simply was letting you see how privelged or dispriveleged you are just simply by your ancestory/race. I think the results would have been very clear cut if there was more space to move, and we all started at the same spot...Great observations friend!