The Scarlet & Black

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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Staff Editorial

From the perspective of a member of our editorial staff who attended last week’s Posse Plus Retreat, discussed and edited by the entire S&B staff.

The Grinnell Posse Plus Retreat is an annual event that allows both students and faculty members to discover and experience a weekend full of discussion and self-reflection. The retreat, which took place last weekend at the Marriott Hotel in Des Moines, hosted multiple conversations centering largely around race and ethnicity. Throughout the entire weekend, there was a major focus on group interaction and almost all activities centered around the question, “does race really matter?” Between students, faculty, event facilitators and other participants, over 200 people attended this year’s retreat.

Many Grinnell students and faculty are aware of the Posse program on campus but there still seems to be only a vague understanding of its true purpose. The Posse program is located in New York City and selects students from various cities (such as Chicago, Los Angeles and DC) to serve as leaders and attend college as a group. While the Posse Plus Retreat offers critical insight and discussion on topics such as race and education (last year’s topic), it also serves as an opportunity for students to learn more about the Posse program itself. Posse scholars are encouraged to invite professors and students, who generally offer an improved understanding of the program. The Posse Plus program allows for non-Posse members to call themselves “Posse Plus” meaning they are a valued addition to the entire Posse experience. Once you’ve attended one Posse Plus Retreat, you are forever a member of Posse Plus.

Friday night began with a quick dinner and survey. Amongst the many questions, one in particular asked to identify Gandhi’s race. The results, which were later shown in a slideshow presentation revealed a wide range of answers. From “Indian” to “human,” the answers varied greatly—but only a small percentage actually identified Gandhi as being Asian.

Following the survey, a few Posse scholars initiated a giant icebreaker designed to introduce the entire group. The activity produced several humorous introductions as members were asked to state their name, year and favorite breakfast cereal. “Soggy” and “fish” were the two crowd favorites. Following the introductions, the entire room was then split into small groups as the facilitators directed each of the members to several stations situated throughout the room, each featuring statistics and graphs on issues about race in the United States. A short film, focusing on New York’s demographic and the idea of racial stereotyping and the use of derogatory terms was also shown on the same night.

Amongst the various activities performed during the two-day weekend, the one which generated the most discussion was the aptly titled “Human Barometer” activity. At the front of the room, two signs, one titled “Race Matters” (or yes) and the other “Race Does Not Matter” (or no) functioned as the two end points for the gauge. Much like an actual barometer, this exercise pitted several members on opposite ends of an invisible spectrum and functioned as a physical representation of their personal opinion. One question, for example, asked if it was alright to say that “all Asians are good at Math.” In answering this, a handful of participants—Posse scholars, Posse Plus members and faculty members alike—disagreed with the statement while a few found themselves in the middle. Select participants were given a microphone and asked to explain their choice, allowing both crowd participation and interaction.

Closing the weekend were two Posse-favorites—diodes and warm fuzzies. As both function to promote friendship, the diodes require two people to go off on their own and ask each other questions for two hours. The process is made to be intimate and offers the participants the chance to reflect on the weekend. The second activity—warm fuzzies—is absolutely fantastic. The Posse Plus Retreat always ends with warm fuzzies, which are simply notes with nice words inside.

All those who attended the Posse Plus retreat were encouraged to carry the conversation over to campus. This means that now—a week later—is when the Grinnell Posse Plus retreat truly shines. Both students and faculty who attended this past weekend should now be able to answer the questions “what is Posse?” and “why should I care?” The retreat itself is a unique opportunity and experience for all who have attended. It is a chance to get away from campus, schoolwork and other distractions that would normally prevent the possibility of discussing issues such as race. Be aware though, that the retreat is not all about critical discussing. It is also about making new friends and as one Posse scholar said in reference to the warm fuzzies, “they are meant to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, not cold and prickly.”

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