Although Stanford students decry discrimination, many still make snap judgments about specific subcultures at Stanford.
Last week, my dorm participated in Crossing the Line, one of many Stanford traditions aiming to explore the tremendous diversity within our community and help us to appreciate our differences. During the activity, the facilitator asked us about parts of our identities related to factors such as race, gender, sexuality, religion, and socioeconomic status. Like many other events on campus, it sought to shed light and spark discussions on the stereotypes and discrimination that we experience because of these aspects of our identities.
It is certainly important to be aware of discrimination based on these “traditional” identifiers such as race and gender, and I appreciate the university’s efforts to make Stanford an accepting community in that respect. However, while we focus on creating a “judgment-free zone” when it comes to these traditional stereotypes, it is easy to overlook that fact that we stereotype people based on Stanford-specific subcultures on a daily basis.
Imagine introducing yourself to a student you’ve never met; chances are that you’ll ask about their major, dorm, and possibly their extracurriculars. Just based on the stereotypes that we associate with these identifiers, we make snap judgments about who we imagine this person to be.
During my four months at Stanford so far, I’ve been lucky enough not to have faced overt racism, sexism, or any other traditional forms of discrimination; and, based on the conversations in my dorm after Crossing the Line, it seems that most of my peers feel the same way. However, as a resident of FroSoCo, which most people know as the nerdy dorm located so far from the rest of campus that it has its own zip code, I’ve felt enough discrimination that I’ve come to dread the moment when a stranger asks me where I live. When I answer FroSoCo, a common response is, “Wow, how is that?” It’s not uncommon for people to respond along the lines of, “Oh, I’m sorry”; and one guy even whistled and turned his back on me as soon as I said the word “FroSoCo.”
Few people can escape this kind of labeling. We stereotype athletes, fraternity and sorority members, CS majors… the list goes on. Why is it that most people here have been conditioned to cringe at the thought of judging someone based on their skin color or sexuality, yet we blindly put people into boxes based on their dorm or major on a daily basis without a second thought? I appreciate the efforts on campus to celebrate Stanford’s diversity, but in focusing our attention almost entirely on eliminating traditional forms of discrimination alone, we run the risk of creating a culture that emphasizes political correctness more than the actual values of diversity and acceptance that we claim to champion.