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HD361 Social and Political Context Reflection


This was the only class that I took as a weekend intensive at PO.
Weekend classes seem to fly by which is why I wish that I had taken HD361
weekly; I felt that I didn’t get to know people as well in my weekend class.
Despite the limited time I did have some memorable experiences and
learned some things about myself through the readings. We had 3 books to
read: Hooks’ (2000) Where We Stand: Class Matters, Grealy’s (1994)
Autobiography of a Face and Johnson’s (2005) Privilege, Power and
Difference. Each of those books had an impact on me and I am glad that I
read them. We also did something called The Drawbridge Exercise (Katz,
1978 p.70-72), which is an experience that I will forever remember and gave
me a solid understanding of the idea of agency. Through the exercise I
learned that agency has to do with the difference in power and authority that
we ascribe to people depending on their position or status in society.
Autobiography of a Face was an eye opener for me because I hate
admit but in the past I was a bit superficial and I’ve definitely judged people
by their outer appearance. It was heartbreaking to read about experiences
be taunted and ridiculed by boys and men. Grealy (1994) came to see her
appearance as her own failure and that the ridicule she suffered was
somehow deserved “I was ugly, so people were going to make fun of me: I
thought it as their right to do so simply because I was so ugly” (p. 145). I
thought about high school and all of the times that my friends and I made
fun of people; I never stopped to think that I could be contributing to
someone feeling so negatively about themselves. Reading Lucy’s story gave

HD361 Social and Political Context Reflection


me perspective of the anguish caused by being ostracized for superficial
reasons. While reading her story I just wanted to tell her that what she looks
like didn’t matter but unfortunately her experiences solidified in her mind
that it did matter.
Something that has an even larger role in shaping our lives than
appearance is social class. In her book, Where We Stand: Class Matters,
Hooks (2000) wrote about the role that class plays in shaping our lives and
values. She talked of the shame associated with poverty, the lures of luxury
and the struggle to stay true to her working class upbringing and values. She
wrote of her intimate understanding of the longings for material objects and
the effect it has on some individuals’ spirits in our modern culture that tells
us “we are what we posses”(Hooks 2000, p.80). I identified with much of
what she said, also being from a working class family I have seen how my
friends from middle class families prioritize things differently. I was raised in
a working class family, we didn’t have a lot of money and most of my stuff
was hand me downs. I was raised that family was the most important thing
and getting a job was viewed as much more important than an education.
I’ve always been aware of the impact that class has on people and their lives
but reading this book caused me to identify the struggle that I feel internally
in the face of luxury and the struggle to hold onto my values as I am exposed
to different walks of life.
From Johnson’s (2005) Privilege, Power and Difference I learned about
privilege and the importance of not standing idly by in the face of

HD361 Social and Political Context Reflection


injustice/oppression. I learned that privilege isn’t exclusively white, we all
experience a degree of privilege at times depending on the situation. Most
importantly to me was an example that Johnson (2005) gave of a group of
people jumping someone in the street while a crowd stands around watching
the beating doing nothing to intervene. He compared that scene to people
standing by and saying nothing about the oppression and various –ism
discrimination that we witness/experience on a daily basis. Reading that
ignited something in me, I’m not afraid to speak my mind sometimes I think
that I shouldn’t say something because it is none of my business but
Johnson’s book helped me understand that it is my business to speak up
when I see oppression.
The last weekend that we meet for this class we did Judith H.
Katz(1978) Draw Bridge Exercise. We read a story about a Baron who
ordered his Baroness to be executed for leaving the castle after he warned
what would happen (Katz 1978, p.70-72). We got into groups and had to rank
who we thought were responsible for the Baroness’ death. I was shocked to
learn that most of the people in my group blamed the Baroness for her own
death. Only one other girl and I stood firm that we didn’t feel comfortable
blaming the victim for her own death and questioned the Baron’s role in
everything for have her executed. There was definite pressure from the
group for us to agree with their rankings of who was to blame but after going
through the class and all of the readings we didn’t back down and we stood
up for what we thought was right. Later when our professor showed us how

HD361 Social and Political Context Reflection


the author ranked them we were glad that we didn’t give in and go along
with placing the blame on the Baroness simply because of group pressure. I
loved this activity because it gave me practice standing up for what I believe
is right in the face of pressure to conform and that is the most important
thing that I got out of this class.

Grealy, L. (1994). Autobiography of a face. 
Hooks, B. (2000). Where we stand: Class matters. New York: Routledge. 
Johnson, A. G. (2006). Privilege, power, and difference. Boston, MA: McGraw­Hill. 
Katz, J. H. (1978). White awareness: Handbook for anti­racism training. Norman: University of 
Oklahoma Press.