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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The minor grievances of home

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One of the first things I usually tell people about my hometown is that it’s the land of Bon Iver, a musical favorite among the likes of Carleton students, and of course, the people of Eau Claire, Wisconsin. It’s one of our few claims to fame. Another is an unfortunate story from the 1990s about my high school’s administration fudging Prom Queen votes to prevent a pregnant student from winning that caught national attention.

Eau Claire is a pretty typical Midwestern town. There isn’t much to do. There are a couple of rivers (floating on the Chippewa River is popular in the summer months), some decent restaurants, and a few movie theaters, including one of the ever-rarer nostalgia mines that is the drive-in theater. Summer also brings crowd-drawing outdoor concerts and a farmer’s market downtown.

This summer, the city will play host to Eaux Claires, a big deal music festival organized by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver that I will unfortunately be missing in favor of Carleton’s Economics in Cambridge program. UW-Eau Claire affords some great continuing opportunities and cultural events, but I feel like most locals don’t take advantage of these enough.

For me, one of the most salient parts of the environment in which I grew up is the fact that it was very, very white. I’ve come a long way in terms of recognizing my privilege and thinking more critically about race since coming to Carleton, but it was definitely a learning curve.

I don’t think I’d even ever heard the phrase “white privilege” until I started college. Something that’s been helpful to think about, and something that I’ve been exploring in Multicultural Education this term, is that people go through several stages of how they relate to race and privilege, but they don’t necessarily go through them in a certain order, and there is no finish line. My hope is that I never reach a point when I stop thinking about these issues and that I surround myself with books, places, and people that help me to do this.

Another important difference between my hometown experience and my Carleton experience is the political atmosphere. Growing up, and especially in high school, I was frustrated by the lack of substance many of my peers used to inform their political orientations. People identified as Republicans or Democrats because that’s what their parents were.

The political climate at Carleton is obviously quite liberal and probably not what one would call ‘balanced’ in terms of the dialogue one hears on campus, but at least here I’ve found that most people take the time to stay updated on current events and have opinions on policy that are informed by something other than what they hear at the dinner table. Maybe it’s simply a function of being away from home, but I like to think that Carls care more about looking at the world and the people who represent them through a critical lens than the average bunch.

Though I have some grievances with where I grew up, time at home becomes more precious as each term passes. I was raised by excellent parents, and as internships and study abroad plans cut down the time I can spend at home, I look forward to the occasions on which I do get to see them and drift off to sleep in my childhood bedroom at the end of the day.

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