A Beginner’s Guide to Privilege

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This guest post by Madison Miller was originally posted on the Women’s Center at UMBC blog. 

In addition to working at the Women’s Center as a student staff member, I also serve as a Resident Assistant in a first-year residential hall on campus. Recently, my paraprofessional staff and I have been exploring the topic of privilege by participating in meaningful discussions about the different forms that it can take on in our society. These conversations and shared experiences of my fellow staff members have encouraged me to dive into a deeper, more personal investigation of privilege and how it relates to my identity and my unique life experiences.

For those who may be unfamiliar with the concept of privilege, a dictionary definition classifies it as a unique benefit or immunity available only to a particular community or group of people. Yet what the dictionary definition fails to mention is that privilege is neither earned nor deserved by any specific group that reaps its benefits. In reality, privilege is innate; it is a birthright that is automatically given to those who hold membership in a certain group or community. Privilege takes on several forms in society relating to identities such as gender, ability, class, race, and sexuality. It should be mentioned that one may simultaneously experience a certain level of privilege in one area of their identity while also experiencing a lack of privilege in another area. Privilege, or the lack thereof, isn’t also always necessarily visible to the eye of a passerby. Yet these privileges are often at the root of social inequalities that exist in our society today They may also cloud and bias our viewpoints of who don’t share the same privileges as ourselves, causing us to make unwarranted assumptions and conclusions about others. Therefore, it is important that we have conversations with each other in order to better recognize and effectively deal with our own unique privileges. Continue reading

Why I’m Spreading the Word to End the Word

A guest post from ThuyVy Duong, who works with SUCCESS (Students United for Campus-Community Engagement for Post-Secondary Success), a partnership of UMBC and the Maryland Department of Disabilities. SUCCESS is the first 4-year college experience for young adults with intellectual disabilities in Maryland.

My name is ThuyVy Duong and I pledge to not use the R-word.

Every Monday and Wednesday, I teach a service learning class for the freshmen SUCCESS students. There’s Bryan, whose cooking skills would certainly earn him Gordon Ramsey’s approval. Behind him sits Cedrick, lover of photography and an avid Ravens fan. Next to him is Evan, whose artwork never ceases to amaze me. DeDe sits in the corner and has her headphones in, no doubt jamming to 3LW. Up front is Mary, who won a gold medal at the Special Olympics. She’s talking to Jessie, who always volunteers to assist me in class activities. Last but not least is Dan; he’s a very quiet student but today, I find him talking and laughing with one of the peers. Needless to say, I love my students.

As part of the curriculum this semester, we needed to choose a topic in which we were going to develop our service learning project around. I suggested a couple of ideas (“Helping the homeless!” “Toy drive!” “Soup kitchen!”) but all of them were met with either blank stares and silence or head shakes of disapproval. I was starting to panic as my list of ideas got shorter and shorter. “Alright, guys,” I said, nervously. “How about we do something related to the R-word campaign?” I breathed a sigh of relief as they all unanimously said, “YES.”

So, what is the R-word campaign?  Continue reading

End the Automatic Prosecution of Youth as Adults

By law youth as young as 14 charged with certain crimes will be automatically sent to the adult criminal justice system based solely on age and offense. Join Just Kids and Critical Social Justice on Monday, March 10th at 7pm in UMBC University Center 310 to learn how the consequences of the push to “get tough on crime” have impacted some of the most vulnerable members of our communities. 

The centerpiece of this event will be Just Kids‘ new documentary about the practice of automatically charging youth as adults in Maryland, The Truth About Our Youth. The film examines this practice through the stories of four individuals charged as adults while still teenagers. Just Kids Youth Leaders Kevin J. and Richard R., and Assistant Youth Organizer Jabriera H. share their personal stories to bring statistics to life and dispel misconceptions about youth who are charged as adults.  Continue reading

What does the overlap of art and activism look like?

Kelly Martin Broderick with her Self(ie) Portrait

Kelly Martin Broderick with her Self(ie) Portrait

Kelly Martin Broderick, ’14, Gender and Women’s Studies (GWST), is Student Staff at Women’s Center at UMBC and Co-Leader of Women Involved in Learning and Leadership (WILL).

A year ago, I was working at the Howard County Arts Center when Diana Marta, one of the resident artists,  bought an antique dress form.  While looking at the mannequin in her studio,  she “wondered what an ordinary women’s wardrobe would look like through time.”  I remember talking to her after she purchased the form and discussing this topic with her.  Diana decided that she wanted to curate a show exploring the topic of “ordinary women” and the clothing they would wear. Each artist was asked to create a garment that could be worn by the dress form and to also create a self portrait to be displayed along with the dress. It was 2012 when she asked me and 13 other women  to participate in the show and that’s when I started to think about what the phrase “Ordinary Woman” meant to me.

I knew I wanted to do something that challenged our expectations of womanhood and how we’ve constructed being a woman in our society. First, I needed to find a garment.  I don’t sew, so I would have to find a dress.  I wanted something that was the epitome of femininity, to give me a starting point to disrupt that expectation. I found the perfect dress in a thrift shop in Baltimore; it was pink, satin, long, and once upon a time had been a bridesmaids dress.  It said everything I wanted it to say. Continue reading