Observations of Neighborhood Conversations at Du Paul: Taxonomy
“Meetings like this should be included in the curriculum as a required activity,” suggested the Finance and Economic senior from De Paul.
I had arrived late, damning my sense of direction and the error message, “The application Maps has stopped unexpectedly. Please try again.” Turning east from the Fullerton Red line, I had at least discovered Lincoln Park Zoo, knowing I had gone the wrong direction when I spotted the lake beyond.
We were responding to the questions projected onto the large screen, one of ten or twelve issues identified earlier at the town hall meetings in the fall, a grassroots project that will hold neighborhood “Conversations” to collect data. For what?
“What cultural experience in Chicago has been meaningful to you?”
“Going to the Siskel and Ebert Theater,” responds a freshman from Du Paul who lives in the Lakeview area as she praised the University’s orientation week that introduced incoming students to the various cultural activities across the city.
“Going to the Art Institute,” noted the senior art student from De Paul. “But,” she hastily added, “it is expensive.”
“Enjoying the public art,” responded the senior.
“Authentic cultural experiences, including the troupe of Peruvian Dancers.”
When I first read the question upon entering the nearly empty hall in which ten round tables were scattered in front of the screen, all but two of them unoccupied, I had noted the double entendre of the word “culture,” wondering whether or not they were addressing “high culture, art, entertainment” or “culture” as it is defined by
House as “shared motives, values, beliefs, identities, and interpretations or meanings of significant events that result from common experiences of members of collectives that are transmitted across generations” (House et al., 2004, p. 15).
The last student had interpreted it as House had, but had made certain she included an example that could easily fit into the other students’ definition.
“Let’s move onto the next question,” the facilitator noted, after a cursory glance at her watch.
“What needs to be in place to increase your participation in culture?”
The replies came quickly, “Convenient and affordable transportation.”
“Reduced cost and increased accessibility.”
Finally the senior’s input, followed by “Or at least offering attendance at meetings like this for extra credit.”
“I must confess,” I added, “that is why I am here. It is in fulfillment of required observation hours for one of my classes.”
The same awkward silence that followed my identifying which neighborhood I was from, “The Loop,” and which school I attended.
They were there by choice, taking an active part in Democracy and city planning, expressing desire to have free transportation and cheaper access to “cultural events,” and I was there only because I was fulfilling a required assignment, having ridden to the event with the CTA pass provided by SAIC (included in tuition) with a scheduler marked to hell with free lectures and film screenings that I get to access by flashing a card.
D. Stovall’s argument from the reading in class that morning echoes through the vertigo that always accompanies my riding the train, “Whites should be included in the focus on White privilege in that the responsibility in educating other Whites rests heavily with them.” Ze adds, “Their experiential knowledge of the construct enables them to unpack the intricate and subtle functions of White privilege and its various rationales.” Stovall subtly points at that Whites are responsible for unpacking “White privilege;” they remain the ones who must provide the interpretation of culture because of their own experiences. Stovall adds, “They should not be excluded from the larger context of class struggle because such recognition is integral in any analysis of racialized social systems,” reasserting the position, if you will, as the primary gatekeeper to the cultural experiences of the majority.
Division, classification: encyclopedic possession of supremacy built by and for aristocracy. Diderot, birth of the Modern. No longer being printed, yet traces of taxonomy by some other definition still remains.