Hilltops
Hartwick College's Student Newspaper

The View From Oyaron Hill

Editor's Letters

Joanne Georges is a senior double major in English and business with a minor in graphic communications. She is the Editor of Hilltops Student Newspaper, as well as the president of SOSU/BU, and the secretary of Cardboard Alley Players. She hopes to bring the best to Hilltops that she can this year. With a growing love for the stage and entertainment, Joanne can be found roaming the theatres of Hartwick College in her free time. 

 

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Invisibility vs Visibility

Posted on March 2, 2017 at 11:15 PM Comments comments (2)

Joanne Georges Hilltops Editor-in-Chief


I live my life both seen and unseen.


On Sunday evening, an article about an incident between two groups of Hartwick students surfaced on Facebook. The article explains that an alleged attack occurred against a group black female students by a group of white male athletes, as well as the reaction the Hartwick administration had to the event. It explored at length the disenfranchisement black women face in educational settings, especially racial and sexual discrimination, and the often symbolic but empty change their communities profess to make.


The article suggested the girls received charges because of the audacity of their speaking out against the white perpetrators. They strayed from the conception that the white men’s drunken and disorderly conduct could be easily forgiven with an informal apology and they should accept the harassment, exclusion, and brush off by the college. They should be satisfied that the incident wasn’t worse, and gratified that the administration was handling the situation at all. While more information about this particular incident and Hartwick College will be brought to light, the article does raise accurate descriptions and circumstances that many black women experience in any form of academia, but are especially insulting in college.


At a time when these women are meant to be working on furthering their understanding of the world and themselves, they must realize the world they are learning about inherently hates and ignores them. Additionally, like many students trying to remove themselves from the limited expectations of their home lives, black women attend college hoping to find a place that works beyond the misconceptions and stereotypes they were forced to contend or contest with at home. Yet they arrive to find out that sort of college experience doesn’t apply to them.


In reality, the women involved in the incident here at Hartwick, other black female students at Hartwick, and black female students almost everywhere learn to master one image that appeases others and another that essentially hides or limits large portions of their experiences and their voices for the sake of obtaining a degree. They are both visible and invisible to masses of people. At a college like Hartwick, with predominately white students, staff, and faculty, it’s an issue that could destroy the experience, peace of mind, and success of an entire demographic of students.


We’ve all heard of the back and forth expectations of women in general: be pure but not prude, be competent but not intelligent, be prideful but not confident, etc., etc., etc. We’ve all heard of black people stereotypes: nothing but unintelligent, lazy, irrational, rash, dirty, thuggish, uncommitted, poor, and unskilled. So forth and so on. So, imagine combining them both. Imagine having to traverse through check mark after check mark and confined box after box. Black women leave their homes, all they know, and come to college having to face a new reality: the safety of home is gone. They now deal with the stereotypes they’ve probably avoided for most of their lives. They have to start over and consciously try to tell people who they are, even as they’re finding out themselves. And that dictates nearly every action they make.


A dissertation by Khalilah Annette Shabazz, PhD candidate in Philosophy at Indiana University, titled “Black Women, White Campus: Students Living Through Invisibility” revolved around the study of 11 black women who attended a predominately white institution (PWI). Shabazz’s findings revealed that these women felt invisibility in multiple forms: while being ignored in the classroom or other academic settings, while being called to speak on behalf of their race and/or their gender, and in the lack of representation in the college publications, artwork, and marketing.


Just yesterday I spoke with a black female student about the topic of this article, and some examples of feeling invisible. She agreed that it certainly happens here at Hartwick, and her own feeling of invisibility was more physical: she feels she has to make room for white students before her own comfort. Whether it was moving off the sidewalk to let a group pass, or moving seats to let students to sit together, we both agreed there was a time we felt the need to adjust our physical comfort for others’ perceived sense of privilege.


Shabazz further explains that even though their invisibility felt like a hindrance, the women learned to use it as a tool. It gave many of the women the ability to watch and listen and weed out the sort of people they knew would cause them trouble. Or to even use people’s curiosity against them. It’s the difference between tripping by accident and tripping on purpose. I know I have.


For example, I’m the sort of person who refuses to remain silent, especially in a class for my major or a field in which I’m genuinely interested. Like everyone, I have the right to get the most out of my education. So when I’m faced with being potentially isolated for the sake of being “the voice of the black community”, I try to flip it. I don’t wait for the class to turn around and stare at me anymore. I now bring the attention on myself.


In my Shakespeare class, we discussed the common tropes of comedy and the professor wrote of racial stereotypes, in relation to the anti-semantic tones in The Merchant of Venice and the sexist tones in The Taming of the Shrew. The word racial gave me the cue to just start talking, because it was going to come around to me at some point. I was the only minority in the class. I didn’t even wait to be called on, I just started speaking and adding to the discussion. In another class, we talked about hair and standards of beauty and – whether it was conscious or not – the professor just barely got the phrase ‘different textures’ out before turning and gesturing toward me. I immediately began talking to control the attention coming my way. I was going to control the conversation on hair because I was only one who had different texture hair in that class. I joked about how braiding hair takes time, how it hurts, how it was a light-hearted experience, etc. because if I made them laugh I could distract them from how uncomfortable I was. It was how the inevitable visibility thrown on me became mine to control.


It is critically important that our community acknowledges the climate black women face in academia. I know my audience consists of a lot of white people, and some of you may work under the notion you understand what is going on, that you can even relate. But even if you have an example that is similar, you do not understand. You will never fully understand what it is like to be a black person, to be a black woman in this country. And that’s okay.


I’m not asking you to understand it, I’m telling you to respect it. I’m telling you that despite your lack of understanding, this is a real problem that exists. Hearing this group and their grievances isn’t a favor, it’s a requirement. If they are expected to be a part of this community, they should be given the opportunity to be heard and their grievances should be acknowledged.


I, and many other minorities, deal with a hanging anvil of stereotypes, a muzzle of miscommunication, and the weight of representation every day. We don’t get to just go through interactions with people and consider them done and over. They have to be considered in their context, subtext, and micro-expressions. Almost every day there is something or someone that makes me pause and question my entire being. At a PWI like Hartwick, where even the counseling staff providing to students may not be trained to handle racially-sensitive cases, there is very little help to quell my fears, to silence my paranoia, to ensure my personal growth and foundation.


If Hartwick – or any other College – is failing students like me, then it is failing.

 

Taking Care

Posted on November 16, 2016 at 11:10 PM Comments comments (0)

Joanne Georges, Hilltops Editor-in-Chief


Sometimes slow and steady is YOUR best way to win.


A few weeks after Mike Brown, the 18-year-old African American boy who was shot by police officer Darren Wilson in Ferguson Missouri, I wrote a series of articles about the implications, patterns, and statues of police brutality against minorities, women, and communities at large. Each article was a minimum of four pages and at max six pages, despite our usual articles reaching two and a half pages. I interviewed individuals on campus from students to campus safety, I spoke with advisors, students, and a professor about the series and how I could best approach the topic, and I organized research, going as far as signing up for a desktop app that would organize and catalogue all the articles and pdfs I studied. I wanted to try and get a better idea and picture of the whole story. I wanted to understand the story, try to figure out why the trend of police brutality and deaths in the women, minority, and LGBT communities were so public and on the rise.


I never found an answer I could comprehend.


I gave so much energy into the project, because ultimately I was livid about the whole situation. I was scared (I still am) for my family, friends, and myself. I used that anger and that fear to fall into research and studies and opinions and facts, for hours at a time. So, engrossed in a session, I would walk away from my computer with a headache and a tightness in my throat. One night while looking through protest articles, I came across a video of a Ferguson protest. As I watched people run away from tear gas, or put milk in their eyes to ebb the burn, or show the camera their scars and bruises from rubber bullets, I started sobbing. Gross hiccupping snot filled sobbing. I tried to gather myself and move on.


It didn’t work.


Later in the week, I had a conversation with my roommate. I ended up diatribing to her about all the research and the feelings I had about the shooting and Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. I spoke at her, and I raved and waved my arms around, lecturing about the darkness that the situation was putting people through. It was probably the last time I vocally spoke about BLM, because half way through I started crying again.


It was exhausting.


Since, I have the habit of keeping quite a lot inside, and I’m still a MAJOR practitioner of “sucking it up”, I never gave myself the opportunity to decompress. I often would go through research and writing alone. I would shoulder it all and I ended up burning myself out. I couldn’t and sometimes still can’t think, read, or stomach anything to do with police arrests or the BLM movement.


It’s a shame, because I want to make things better and I want to be bring about and be a part of change, but as liberal and prissy as it sounds, I feel too much. I get overwhelmed and I end up doing more damage to myself than good to the cause.


The movement, in any community, can’t work with burned out activists. It doesn’t function on overactive minds, nauseated stomachs, or over emotional/violent outbreaks. It works on organization, timeliness, and support.


That last one isn’t meant as support for just others, but also support for yourself. You can go to someone for help, for simplicity, for joy. You don’t have to hold yourself and everyone else up too.


So, as you figure out what you want to change, support, or protest, take into consideration your own stamina. Because there’s nothing wrong with being the writer instead of the marcher, there’s nothing wrong with being the artist instead of the debater, being the observant instead of the fighter.


In some cases, that certainly comes off as privilege; you can’t be a part of the hunger strike while chomping down a sandwich. But by the time you’ve taken care of your body, conserved your strength, and planned your next move, you will help an absolute asset for when you do join the strike.


Be careful out there, take care of each other, and yourselves.

Morning After the Elections

Posted on November 9, 2016 at 11:05 PM Comments comments (0)

Joanne Georges - Hilltops Editor-in-Chief

 

I’m imagining the day after Election Day to be bit like the walk home after a night with someone else in your bed. For some it’s the Walk of Shame, for others the Victory Lap (my personal fave: Got Laid Parade), and for few the Bounty-Call Bounce.


Bounty-Call Bounce


You put yourself out there for months! You told everyone from Facebook to Twitter and even at the office, when no one asked you, exactly what type of president you were looking to vote for. You thought all the signs had pointed to a happily ever after: the constant emails, “I Need You!” your representative would beg in the subject line. It was like they were speaking to you, to your soul. You were enamored with their wide smiles and pristine suits, and sure, they said there was enough of them to go around, that they were here for each and every American, but inside you knew they truly meant they were here for you. You even started to rep their crew: polished buttons and pins, bumper stickers with their name and smiling faces plastered on your car. Don’t deny there’s a flag somewhere in the trunk of your car or a picket sign lodged in your front yard, isn’t there? So, when you showed up to that booth excited, you hoped that the months of repartee between you and Mx. Right Representative would have culminated to the best night of your life. (Even for those mail-ins, like a school girl with her first crush, you just barely refrained from adding hearts and kissing the envelope.) Except, in the light of day, you realize it wasn’t as good as you thought it would be. It wasn’t bad per se, but they didn’t reach your expectations, and they do don’t look as good in the light of day. The disappoint starts to grow when you realize, they weren’t much of a giver anyway.


Victory Lap


Homerun; home frolic; victory lap; victory screech!! It was a good play, it was a great night, because your rep came through. The both of you, cam…-arrived to a spectacular ending. Hard work and determination are true marks of success and you have never felt better. It’s what you needed after such a hard campaign. No one could ever deny what it was you wanted and who you wanted it with. No coy smiles or fluttering eyelashes, you walked into that booth, shoulders back, head held high, outfit on point because you were gonna get you a president last night. And boy did ya! There was never a doubt in your mind that you could reel one in, even as the scandals, lawsuits, talk show hosts, and general haphazard media of this season tried to steer you elsewhere. You even took a quick Snap pic before you two got down to business. Congratulations, you presented the best parts of you and got what you wanted, some quick relief and a clean walk away. They probably won’t call again, but you’ll have those memories, swagger in your walk, and a grin all day. If it was as good as you remember, you hope the day dreaming won’t interrupt your gloating at work or in class.


Walk of Shame


Your preferred option has been out of the race for months. You’ve been so despondent and missing your first choice, you thought about skipping last night’s booth all together. But you were constantly reminded that beggars can’t be choosers, and it’s better to pick someone than no one. Not voting was as much a loser move as a write in. You hemmed and hawed over it, hovered over those write-in lines. You never know, you might not be the only one rooting for them. It could be the victory you’ve always wanted, a second chance after the primaries. Or the actual devil could be who you go home with tonight. So, slim pickings it is. You made the call, picked the one you could potentially wake up next to in the morning. You did the deed and the shady, slimy sensation in your stomach, you hope, will pass. This morning you’ve been too scared to check your messages and see exactly who’s in your Snap story, mentions, or messages. Don’t want to know who ‘won’ you at your most desperate. It was meant to be quick and when you drag yourself up, you sneak out the door, sun glasses on, hoodie up or head down, and hope no one asks you what you did last night.


And that’s the American electoral system at work. Bounty Call-Bouncers are going to have to come to terms with one special night spent on one less than special candidate. Victory Lappers get to gloat for the next four years, but can’t forget their choice was their responsibility and whatever actions their candidate makes is a reflection on them. Finally, Walk of Shamers, cheer up; your choice only has your number for the next four years and by then your true love could

What's the Word

Posted on October 27, 2016 at 12:00 AM Comments comments (0)

Joanne Georges - Hilltops Editor-in-Chief


There isn’t a word for realizing you’ve done right by your younger self.


When I was younger and my siblings were just learning how to drive, I would think, “I can’t wait to drive too!” I’d imagine coasting down the highway blasting my favorite songs of the time and my older sister singing along beside me. I remember exactly what songs I wanted to be playing: Destiny Child’s “Bills, Bills, Bills.”


And then one day it happened. My sister and I were coasting down the highway, my driver’s permit in my wallet, my phone plugged into the aux cord, and the windows rolled down. We’d been singing for well over an hour, but the next song gave me pause. It was Destiny’s Child, and my sister turned up the radio. I merged into the fast lane and went a little quicker, all the while maiming Beyoncé and crews’ much better voices.


“At first we started out real cool, Taking me places I ain't never been—” I started the song, head bobbing and shoulders shuffling to the rhythm and switched off with my sister for the second stanza of the verse. But as she started, all I could hear and picture was a younger me singing the same song and having that one fantasy of driving. I remembered exactly how I wanted to see myself and my sister driving in the car, smiling and singing, with sunlight streaming into the window; literally, as picturesque as you can make it. And here I was doing exactly that. I had daydreamed and fantasized about this moment since I was 12 years old and here I was achieving it at 20. It was like the younger version of myself was applauding somewhere.


I don’t know if that’s something most people go through. It’s happened a few times to me before. A moment I was seemingly having a great time and I’ll look at something or another and realize, “I made it,” or “This is what I wanted,” or “Wow, I did it.” Maybe you can call it success, but it isn’t necessarily a moment of achieving some goal. More a genuine moment I knew younger me had always wanted to experience. For example, during my freshmen year and in the winter, I was walking past Frisbee Field and in the snow, over the whole field was a drawing of a penis. I couldn’t stop laughing, because my first thought wasn’t how gross or weird, or even why someone had dedicated time in the snow to draw a crooked dick, but because, my first thought was, “Okay, yea, I’m in college.” Like that was supposed to be the true indication!


Except, it was my indication! Because along with that thought, I had a memory alongside it. I remembered watching TV about some college kids and in that episode they all recounted the phallus images they’d seen on their campus. When I was younger, I had thought that hilarious and couldn’t help daydreaming about the stupid things my own friends would be recounting in college. It became some sort of unconscious milestone I thought I should reach. So come freshmen year and seeing a crudely drawn penis in the snow, I raced home to go tell my roommates about it. And we had an all-night conversation about our first semester experiences. It felt good, right, and like I had been working to achieve this one night. I had gotten to a point in my life where my wistful, youthful daydreams had come true.


This semester, that sensation is happening in pieces. Little milestones that I’ve wanted to take my whole life like living in an a nice dorm apartment (thank you, New Townhouses), meal plans and baking with roommates in our own kitchen, working on my thesis, and eventually walking across stage. It’s weird because, I’ve always daydreamed about these moments and sometimes I had thought I wouldn’t ever get there. But I have; even if it doesn’t play out to every detail, the same emotions younger me had always hoped to feel, I actually gotten.


I just wish, I had a name for it. Like the cousin of déjà vu or something? Do other people go through the same sort of thought process or moments?

 

One's an Accident, Two's a Coincidence, Three's a Patten

Posted on October 12, 2016 at 11:30 PM Comments comments (0)

Joanne Georges - Hilltops Editor-in-Chief



The three times someone I love has felt racial or national disparity, in a single week. And my tired response to it.


My eldest brother, Rock, works as a foodstuffs delivery man and often does heavy labor in the sweltering heat. It’s not a glamorous job, it keeps him in shape and keeps him, his wife, and their two dogs housed, fed, and happy.


As my brother was working to unload the food truck, he began to sweat across his face, back, and chest; quite obviously exerting himself for his job.


As he handed a package to an employee of the grocery store, a man jokingly asked, “What are you sweating so much for?”


Before my brother could reply, another employee, a white man who was also unloading the truck, replied, “It’s like you’ve been in the cotton fields all day.”


The man laughed, loud and raucous, but when he turned around to gauge his audience, he found my brother cold and stone-faced. The man tried to save the situation: “Hey Rock, did I offend you?”


My brother didn’t respond to the man, just walked away in hopes of securing his job for another day.


That’s One.


My older brother, Jonathan, works as a case worker in a group home for the mentally disabled. He works hard to care and get to know his clients, makes sure they’re safe and doing well. Because of HIPAA, I don’t know much except for the snippets he shares: “This one guy was so happy he got through telling a joke today, it was adorable!” or “Sometimes, I just sit there and let them talk. It’s good for them and I learn a lot, ya know.”


Despite my brother essentially being a big softie, a co-worker of his has been harassing him about his faith. Jonathan doesn’t consider himself an atheist, but he doesn’t follow any strict religious practices or spiritual guides. But this one co-worker who has “found God” or has been “saved through Christ” thinks my brother is a threat. While this man is another minority, he’s crossed quite a few lines. He’s argued with Jonathan about his worth as a non-Christian man, he’s rubbed holy oil over surfaces he knows Jonathan will touch, he told my brother that he better watch out because, Jonathan is of Haitian descent and is could be in relation to voodoo spirits. He explained to Jonathan that because he’s Haitian and “denying God”, he was going to die, get killed, or get possessed.


My brother knew he wouldn’t be able to keep his cool much longer, but walked away, and immediately requested vacation time. Jonathan’s been resting at home with his new puppy (a black pitbull named Phillip) for the last few days.


That’s Two.


A day after speaking with my brothers, I got a text message from my best friend, Veronica. Veronica, in a few short words, is my more artsy Puerto Rican twin. Since we have so much in common, it wasn’t shocking when I found out Veronica couldn’t speak Spanish, since I can’t speak Creole. She understands Spanish; knows when her mom is asking for a pot or a piece of paper or chastising her, but she doesn’t like the way the language forms clumsy and crippled on her tongue. So she doesn’t really bother.


But when she was confronted with the situation of an old white man yelling profanities to a Dominican kid speaking Spanish, she wished she could speak up. She watched as he jabbed a finger into the Dominican boy’s face, watched as he explained the insult of having to walk into a store and hear gibberish spewing from the Dominican boy’s mouth, watched as he threatened to send the Dominican boy to jail, watched as he claimed America wasn’t meant to have Spanish speakers, watched as he reasoned that if the Dominican boy wanted to speak Spanish he should go back to Mexico. Cashiers were going to call the police, the boy was increasingly frustrated despite his mother’s attempts to calm him, and Veronica hightailed it out of there.


I asked Veronica if she still wants to learn Spanish, still wants to one day speak the language in public.


“It’s part of the culture,” she said. “It would take way more than a couple of idiotic people to stop that. My culture is so important to me; even though I feel the most confident about it. If I could speak it, I would be, even after all the grossness.”


That’s Three.


First of all, Haiti wasn’t commonly used for cotton fields or tobacco. Unlike American slaves, Haitian slaves were asked to pick and work through fields of sugar cane and in distilleries for rum. In addition, Haiti was the first country to gain independence through a successful slave revolt and was the first independent nation of the Caribbean. So hard work, blood, sweat, and tears aren’t foreign to the people. It shouldn’t be shocking that a descendant of the country sweats, like any average human would.


Second, the bad rep of voodoo and native religious practices comes from methods of oppression and forced assimilation. At least for Haiti, colonists figured allowing slaves a connection amongst each other, religious, social, etc. could result in cohesion and eventually revolt. But slaves combined their native beliefs and Catholic teachings in hopes of practicing their faith and still keep safe. So, the creation of Haitian voodoo was meant to protect and strengthen communities. However, when you look to discredit a religion, it is a lot easier to ignore fact and focus on the extremes of the faith. Additionally, it shouldn’t be shocking that a descendant of a heavily religious culture would take precaution in deciding what faith they followed, like any average human would.


Third, not that you can tell someone’s exact background from just a single glance or from a few words of the language they’re speaking, and considering, Spanish is spoken by millions upon millions of people world-wide, it’s a little short-sighted to assume every Spanish speaking individual is from Mexico. Mexico has got their own history, culture, and usage of their language that is different from other Spanish speaking countries, and putting a confused Dominican boy in the mix just doesn’t seem practical. It shouldn’t be shocking that a descendant of one culture/nationality would be a little displaced at an abrupt deportation to an entirely different culture/nation, like any average human would.


So to put it short, to allow people to just finally speak their mind, or tell it like it is, or to really put it behind us, let’s just drop all basic human decency, empathy, or compassion. It really is just making everyone a little too sensitive. Let’s ignore the vast amount of information available at our fingertips every minute of every day. Let’s finish with tiring, well-thought out, educated, and step by step arguments of convincing you to not be racist. Let’s keep it entirely real: if you’re going to be racist, at the very least, be accurate.


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