Oppression vs. privilege

Diversity Theme Year to examine the African American experience

By Michaele Birney Arneson '90

For 12 years, Puget Sound has offered yearlong programming centered around a specific theme to study and celebrate diversity. For the 2002–03, the theme is “Promissory Notes? Legacies of Oppression, Privilege, and Hope: Exploring and Celebrating African American Experiences.”

Taking its reference from Martin Luther King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech, this year’s topic lends itself to examining the legacies of the Civil Rights Movement, educational access, inequities in the criminal justice system, and double consciousness. It also will allow the campus to explore the relationship between privilege and oppression as it relates to all citizens.

Because the 1963 march on Washington is a historic event to nearly all students, several activities were scheduled early in the academic year to provide a frame of reference. Associate Professor of Communication and Theatre Arts James Jasinski led a workshop during Freshman Orientation covering King’s speech, and a reprint of the speech in its entirety was included in the Freshman Anthology distributed during the Prelude component of orientation. Other activities planned for the year include a campus-wide discussion of the piece “Of Our Spiritual Strivings” by W.E.B. Dubois; a theater production; and a talk-back to accompany the showing of a documentary about the immigration of Mexican workers to Kentucky horse farms.