I have experienced being the only white person in the room.  

Reacting to the power of this kind of overt resistance, Rene wrote in her fieldnotes about her own experience as “the only white person in the room.” Her notes echo Bowen’s emphasis on the need to actively change our perceptions: “I have experienced being the only white person in the room,” she wrote, “because I make the effort and put myself out there. Others are afraid or don’t want to jar their perceptions.” The deliberate attempt to resist race by challenging common perceptions was a crucial element of what Bowen asked his audience to do, and Rene concluded that this effort was one of the keys to racial understanding. To this end, Bowen suggested the possibility of a cultural training program, similar to a study abroad program, but located instead in communities like Chicago’s South Side or East St. Louis, where people would have the opportunity to confront and resist race-based assumptions. In her fieldnotes, Rene applied Bowen’s charge to a local problem as she wondered if universities could create those spaces on campus through specific attention to cultural issues during their orientation sessions for new students. “Perhaps,” she speculated, “there should be programs during orientation that deal more with interacting, learning about, and truly experiencing ‘active integration’ on this campus while people have the chance if they are willing to step out of their comfort zones.” (Chapter 1)

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