Guest Post: From Little Red to Big Red: Becoming a Feminist in High School, Creating Change in College

Jenilssa Holguin

After being at LREI for four years, speaking about diversity and feminism became second nature to me. The classes that I took–such as Fierce and Fabulous: Feminist Women Writers, Artists, and Activists; Queer Identities: LGBT Literature and Film; and Memoir Writing–paired with the student diversity conferences that I attended, as well as the series of speakers that we were lucky to have at my school, all made issues of race, class, gender, and sexuality prevalent in my mind. During my years at Little Red, one of my teachers, Ileana Jiménez, helped me find myself, develop my feminist identity, and be proud of who I am. I learned to do diversity work in my everyday life.

When I got accepted to Cornell University I was ecstatic. It was my first choice, and I was going to be the first in my family to go to college. I thought,“It’s a huge school, so I am sure that I can find people who share my views on diversity, since Cornell is pretty diverse.” Boy, was I wrong! During my first weeks there, I noticed how racially segregated my field of hospitality management was as well as the University as a whole. I was taken by surprise when I saw that two clubs that I was interested in were completely segregated. One was all white, and the other was made up of all students of color. Naturally, I joined both, not only because I was interested in both clubs but also because I wanted to get at the root of the problem. Continue reading

Summer Reading Picks Criticized by Conservative “Watchdogs”

In an effort to engage students in a shared reading experience on today's most pressing issues, colleges across the country are assigning summer reading.

I recently wrote a summer reading post for Care2 listing ten must-read books on issues of education and diversity.  One of the comments I received was not typical of all the responses, but certainly echoed the current national backlash against addressing diversity and inclusion in schools and colleges:

Sounds like the bs from the far left progressives, esp. when I hear the prefix ‘trans’ . . . lets [sic] stick to teaching the kids solid basics. This country is becoming more stupid each year and the teachers are to blame.

Sadly, myopic attitudes—whether they be racist, sexist, classist, homophobic, or transphobic, like the one above—about diversity in our schools have become the norm when attacking inclusive education. From Arizona’s banning of ethnic studies to Texas textbooks eliminating the word “slavery” for the term “Triangle Trade,” education is suffering from hateful slings and arrows.

To add further insult to our work as educators, a new study, “Beach Books: What Do Colleges Want Students to Read Outside of Class?,” from the National Association of Scholars “found that 70 percent of the summer reading books assigned to incoming college freshmen in the U.S. show a liberal bias and are not academically challenging.” Continue reading

Fighting the Good Fight: Students and Teachers of Color Working Against the ‘Isms

Yesterday I had a talk with a former student who is currently a first year student at an Ivy League university. Since her freshman year in high school, we have connected on our common Latina background, mine Puerto Rican, hers Dominican. Now that she is in college, I continue to feel connected to her as she forges her way as the first in her family to attend college.

During the course of our conversation, she interviewed me for a women’s studies class project on which she is currently working. As we talked, we shared common experiences of facing racism and classism during pivotal moments in our lives. When my family moved from the Bronx to Long Island, I faced racist epithets such as “spic,” “nigger,” and “afro” from children on the playground. The teasing and the bullying didn’t end there though. After our move to Long Island, my Bronx relatives started calling me “white girl.” I was suddenly living in two worlds that didn’t accept me.

Continue reading