Reading the essay “Straight White Male is the Lowest Difficulty Setting” after reading Steve’s response and after the class where the racial slur was written has had me thinking a lot about privilege, culture, and gender. The lack of gender parity in the technology field is pretty apparent (even if Marissa Meyer of Yahoo doesn’t think it’s a problem); in fact, it was even emphasized, bolded, italicized and underlined our first day when ITP faculty exclaimed to us that our class, class of 2014, had a make up of 54% women. Great, awesome, go us! And I say this totally without sarcasm, if inadvertently or on purpose, it’s great that ITP chose such a diverse field (business, engineering, art, advertising, education) of people, and one that happens to skew to a largely unrepresented demographic in the tech world. However, as Steve touched on, we rarely have conversations about privilege and we rarely have conversations about culture.
The school we go to, that ITP exists within, could be considered the lowest difficulty setting (its make up of students, not the application process). What do I mean by that? We go to an incredibly expensive private university in an incredibly expensive city. I would say most of us feel lucky, if not blessed to be here (ITP is dream and I know we all know that). But the conversations we end up having are usually, as Steve said, about ICM or Pcomp or TNO. The only critical conversations we seem to have are in Applications and those are often cut short due to time constraints. The point I’m trying to make is that the “Black and White” game in Applications really exposed our privilege as a class but also our cultural differences. I’ll be the first to admit that I have a fairly low difficulty setting- I’m a straight, white female from the 1%. But I am a straight, white female from the 1% who grew up in the Southern states of America (Louisiana and Texas, respectively) with family members who remember segregation in Mississippi. The racial slur that was written is something that I would never utter, primarily because I am aware of its historical significance and the pain it represents. With my lowest difficulty setting, it’s not my word to use. After class, I talked to a few classmates and one of them pointed out that the racial slur written in class in Australia isn’t really considered an offensive word. But isn’t that a conversation worth having? What does that word mean? Giving the excuse of it was to represent the game or the mindset of xenophobia or that the medium is the message is a lazy argument. A better conversation to have would have been why that’s a hurtful word, why that in our expensive, predominately white school in the Northeast of the United States, why that is an offensive word.
But to touch back on the actual article written, I find it interesting that it takes someone of the lowest difficulty setting to explain to others in the lowest difficulty setting why that is problematic. It’s like the Daniel Tosh rape joke, it took Louis CK and a lot of outcry for Daniel to apologize; it even took a white male to write this great article to explain in a way that dudes would understand why rape jokes are sometimes, most times, super offensive.
Perhaps that was the problem with our conversation in Apps, we are all from such different places that sometimes our conversations, criticisms and arguments truly get lost in translation.