The first SEGL SAFE Club meeting was held during lunch on April 22 in the Lacy Room. Students, faculty and a few visitors sat with me and my co-founder Lebanos to discuss internalized stereotypes.
SAFE Club, which stands for Students Actively Fostering Equality, is an optional, independent, student-created club. The idea of it blossomed from a conversation between Lebanos and me. On the walk home one day, I had asked him if he felt like his peers acted differently around him based on his race. He noted that some people, for example, quote rap lyrics around him, but he did not feel it was based on race. He told me that it was based on his character, and it’s how people can relate to him. The inspiration for my inquiry came from my discovery that I had intimidated my friends on the first day; I was curious if that feeling had any racial implications and if my friends of color also wondered if there were any racial bias in their interactions with their peers early in the semester (or even now).
To start the meeting, the group defined stereotypes as expectations that people set for you based on preconceived notions; internalized stereotypes were defined as an individual’s effort to fit the expectations outsiders place on them. As people shared their experiences, we delved into two circles of conversation; one about being defined by stereotypes and one about being defined by passions (as Toella noted). For example, one student spoke about how her love for Ronald Reagan was constantly thrown at her as the topic of conversation or as a joke, rather than held as another aspect of her character.
We have had tough conversations like these during dinner, or on the walk home from Union Station. However, a fifteen minute walk from the train station is not nearly enough time to have a complete and thorough conversation. Lebanos and I wanted to create a space where we could learn from each other and satiate our curiosity. That’s not to say that our SAFE Club meetings end with a large consensus; it is important to accept lack of closure.
It surprised me how open my peers were during our first meeting. We were eager to share our ideas, ask questions, and listen. The SAFE Club meetings will continue every Friday. We are excited to hear what the community has to share.