The Gustavian Weekly

Learning through the discomfort - The Gustavian Weekly

By Georgia Zutz - Staff Writer | October 30, 2020 | Opinion

If you are uncomfortable, you are learning. Those seven words that my own mother has uttered more times than I can count have taken on a whole new meaning this year.
Coming from a high school surrounded by cornfields for miles and graduating with a class of 99 percent white students, I felt as though my own cultural awareness and education was in my own hands, and that I was becoming an informed individual by my own work. Gustavus and my fellow individuals on campus have shown me that I still have much to learn, and that awareness and appreciation of others and their identities requires an ever-changing and continuous education.
I’m sure much like you reading this, it has been a year of heartache and anger, or at the very least, discomfort. As a young white, cisgender, heterosexual, and physically abled female, I cannot truly experience what it is like to hold any other identity other than my own. The discomfort, due to racial tensions or systemic inequities that some have experienced for the first time, has been the backdrop of everyday life for others.
America has hit an inflection point, and I believe that the actions this country and our campus take in the next short few months will make or break the conversation we are currently creating. Topics of racism and injustice can be difficult for anyone to discuss, but we must use this discomfort we are experiencing to keep having conversations, leverage our best intentions and keep positive actions from extinguishing.
The passing of the Racial Justice and Inclusion resolution by our Board of Trustees is a historic step for the College, but we need to continue to do more.
The acknowledgement of racism on campus is not the same as actively striving to be an anti-racist college, and from here on, it is up to every single individual on campus, no matter who they may be, to do their part.
The goal of me writing this is not to act as some sort of leader to tell you, the reader, what to do, but rather to remind you that the choice to use the tools of the world is in front of you.
At the end of the day, I hope you are listening to me, but more importantly, I want you to listen to the people who have been speaking out about the injustices happening on our campus and in our country. And I am asking you to take action.
Gustavus is striving to create safe spaces and environments for conversations and action to be taken, and the responsibility to bring those spaces to life is upon students, staff, faculty, administration, and the greater Gustavus community. Those actions can be creating physical classrooms to discuss student perspectives, having conversations among roommates and friends, correcting both your own and others’ language in a respectful manner, and simply taking the time to explore BIPOC narratives through books, music, podcasts and more. Even though it is impossible to step into the shoes of another individual, we all have the ability to listen to others and to uplift voices that have gone unheard for far too long.
Creating systemic change in both the Gustavus community and our world is going to take time, but we can no longer treat this as an issue for tomorrow.
In order to make the most of our time and efforts today, we have to walk a fine line between allowing grace and time for developments to be made, but also holding each other and our systems accountable, and making sure our words are being backed by our actions. It is uncomfortable to do so, but breaking a cycle of tradition that is deep rooted in inequities and supremacy is going to be a process that brings on a few headaches at the very least.
Throughout all of this, it is healthy to have questions and concerns. We must use our critical thinking and analysis skills in ways that we may have not encountered before.
We have learned that racism is present in more ways than we normally believe, and we have found out that the world hasn’t always been as kind as we wish it would be. I hope that we accept this truth and choose to see it as a history to learn from, and that we may use it to help create a world that secures the basic human rights and inclusion of all individuals.
Of course, creating this world is not going to be a simple task, and we will continue to find new barriers and discomfort to overcome and utilize. I question what I am doing to make a difference, even as I write this. Is this enough? Am I even doing this correctly? Am I adding fuel to the social issues of this country? Or am I doing my part to quell some flame that needs drenching? I realize that it is perfectly normal to experience these doubts, but that it is up to me to find their answers, and then to make a difference.
If you feel uncomfortable reading this, it’s okay. We’re learning.

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