For the last three days, I have been attending an Equal Opportunity Leadership Course at Camp Guernsey, Wyoming for the purpose of being appointed the Equal Opportunity Leader for my unit once I complete the course. It’s a 60-credit hour course designed to make us self-examine ourselves and thus be able to better understand others and their perspectives.
It’s been interesting to say the least.
For today’s small group assignment, we were tasked to create so-called “badges” that portrayed, to the best of our ability, how we view ourselves. It was a three part exercise, but for the sake of brevity, I will skip to the third part. This portion consisted of what, for most, seem to be “pretty straightforward” questions. Here are the questions, as well as my answers to them:
Ethnicity: From Dust, To Dust
Religion: There Is A Supreme Being
Social Class: Middle
Imagine the looks on these Soldiers’ faces, and the frustration of our instructors, as I continued to defy the typical social constructs and insist on self-defining, to the best of my ability, who I am and what I believe. Imagine the frustration of our instructors as I refused to allow myself to be cornered or forced into a box.
I spent the majority of the time attempting to explain to them how and why I do not subscribe to society’s racial, ethnic, and gender labels, constructs, or limitations.
Then, I spent the other half of the time attempting to explain how and why this does not effect my ability to understand those norms and thus offer support to those whom have suffered injustices because of them. One of the instructors literally asked, “So how would you deal with a Soldier who has a sexual harassment complaint when you don’t identify with either gender?”
I wanted to ask, “Well, how would you deal with a Muslim with a discrimination complaint based upon his religion when you don’t identify as a Muslim?” — OR — “How would you deal with a Soldier who’s suffering economic hardships, even though clearly, as an officer, your pay grade is probably double their’s?”
Honestly, with the amount of scrutiny that ensued, you would have thought I’d just admitted to being a KKK Grand Wizard instead of a human being who views themselves within the context of love, equality, and self-worth that is appropriate and due.
What do you think? What would you have done?