Like every senior on the way out of Claremont, I’ve been faced with unfortunate questions of life after college. While being more than 2 minutes away from laundry, food, and friends is terrible, being close to non-Claremont people has been the most difficult.
I am speaking, of course, of a sort of a “Claremont-mentality” that students tend to develop here. This mentality has been characterized, perhaps not without an element of truth, as “elitist”, “stifling”, and “overly-PC”. Yet, as soon as I stepped into a summer job away from campus, I found myself missing the “PC-ness” of Claremont.
The reality of people outside of Claremont made it difficult to connect with co-workers and to make new close friends on those jobs. Raising these issues in conversation in best cases often only leads to a polite, surface acknowledgement. I became frustrated, and sometimes even angry, at the inability of others to meet the expectations that have been set in my mind.
I had almost forgotten how much of a privilege it is to be able to attend a school like ours, to spend weeks in socially conscious training, and to volunteer time for our interests. For all of us, strong financial and social support from our schools, families, and friends allow us to have the chance to analyze issues that are not directly related to making it by. How can I then expect the same from people that have not had the same opportunities?
If we regard the circumstances that groups are in as a consequence of social constructs that influence their lives, then it’s hardly reasonable to blame people for their lack of knowledge on the very ideals that we value dearly. I would argue that they are victims of an educational system that fails to teach cultural sensitivity, gender multiplicity, and intersectionality from an early age. Awareness of the circumstances that led to a person’s opinion is important, and may even lead to more productive conversations. At the same time, systematic change need to happen within our educational system before deeper progress can be made.