Sheltered Your Whole Life

“It’s something white people should make themselves do–go be awkward.”

Hold a Conversation

In addition to the questions below, please see How to use the questions for reflection.

Clarifying Questions
  • What does it mean for the speaker to participate in events—how is it different than just going to an event?
  • What made becoming a participant difficult for the speaker?
  • Why is meeting with her African-American classmate a “really positive experience” for the speaker?
  • What are some of the reasons the speaker gives for why she or other White students might not get involved with the Office of Multicultural Programs?
  • Why does she think White people should “go be awkward?”
Interpretive Questions
  • What keeps us from going and being awkward?
  • Do you agree with the speaker that we should practice it anyway—why/not?
Implication Question
  • What sorts of things can we do to help ourselves “go be awkward?”

Let us know how the conversation or self-reflection went. Email us or discuss the experience in our comment box.

Transcript for Sheltered Your Whole Life

If anything I would say that it’s more about changes that have gone on with me than with the university. I don’t know, I grew up in kind of an unincorporated area of Gary as a kid, and I was homeschooled until fifth grade. It was kind of awful like going into public schools and I was like the new person. Also, I was like really socially awkward, so like I got picked on quite a bit and that caused me to kind of just withdraw. So it wasn’t even that long ago when I started realizing I should just smile to people when I walk by them, like I shouldn’t just do that avoid eye contact and walk by people kind of thing. And so I started kind of just practicing it, I guess you could say, like doing it intentionally, people would for the most part smile back, and it was like more pleasant.

I’ve become a lot more outgoing and involved in campus activities. Not just involved in activities because freshman year I would go to a lot of stuff, but like now I participate and like meet people, rather than just going to have the experience and then going to back to my room or whatever.

I don’t know, I got to know a couple people from my African American History class last semester. One of them, I hadn’t really talked to all semester or anything, but he wanted to get together with me at the library to work on writing our final papers together, and I was like, “Oh, sure, that’d be awesome.” So we got together and we actually met like two days in a row to work on our final papers and spent more time talking obviously than working on the papers, but we actually both gave each other like feedback and thoughts for the papers and stuff. I think it was the first time I had talked to somebody who told me a little bit about the experience of being a minority student like in the classroom and, you know, that there’s only a very small handful of black professors on campus. I mean, I kind of knew that, but I hadn’t like thought about it and just hearing it from an African American student was interesting. I felt like that was a really positive experience for me.

I think my biggest regret of being at Valpo was not getting involved with like OMP earlier. OMP is the Office of Multicultural Programs. For students who are white, who are maybe starting to learn more about their white privilege or becoming interested in that or even just starting to have an interest in becoming more multicultural and learning about other people’s cultures, I think that it’s awkward if you’re doing that and your other friends are all white and they’re not at that place, they’re still kind of “head in the sand, I’m not going to acknowledge these problems,” and then you feel like they’re going to think you’re weird for wanting to go to a BSO event or something. So it’s definitely, if you have a friend who’s also like – “Yeah, let’s go to that. That’s awesome. You know, we’ll learn something” – if you’ve got a friend who’s into it with you like it’s so much easier to go to something like that especially if you’re not involved in OMP or whatever, it’s kind of scary because like you already know ahead of time that you don’t know anybody in those clubs, and so it’s intimidating.

I think it’s something that white people should make themselves do, is go be awkward. You know, see it as something that, you know, you’ve been sheltered from your whole life, and so you have to make yourself do it because no one’s going to make you do it. And you can just go to the main thing and be another white person with a bunch of white people, but if you go, if you’re going to those other things, typically people aren’t going to look at you and be like, “Grrr, you don’t belong here,” they’re going to be like, “Oh, okay,” you know, and they’re either going to ignore you or maybe think you’re cool or whatever, or think you’re at least trying, and, you know, they do feel like more white people should go to those things, and it should become more the mainstream where you don’t have to say this is the room where the African American studies are going to be talked about. African American studies are just going to be part of studies. You know, it’s just going to be part of it, and it won’t have to be labeled as something different necessarily, or it will still be under that heading, but it will just be included with everything else to where it’s not awkward and everybody’s there together.