Are you tracking this?

Based on Fall 2013 semester: 27,034 full-time students

Total student population who are white: 83.6 percent;


Total student population who are men: 48.5 percent;

10,961 white males

Imagine your day traversing across the plaza, in and out of Clark, getting on the bus, sitting in classes, listening to the same person answer question after question. What do you notice? This person must love to hear his or her own voice. Have they showered lately? Do you notice their gender?

Tracking is our human ability to be aware of the world through the lens of identities. Slowly, or sometimes at a moment’s notice, we work to string our experiences and perceptions of others into cohesive patterns. Let me be more clear.

Fill in the blanks: ____ open doors; _____ wear skirts; _____ should not walk home alone at night; ____ always want to have sex.

Now, I might be sexist, but I think it’s safe to say most people would fill in those blanks the same way, regardless of whether you believe in those simple stereotypes. It says something significant about the way the identity of gender shapes our everyday lives. This happens often without us purposely engaging in or even knowing it. By reflecting on the details of a particular situation, however, it can be seen that there is more to it than first thought.

Do men have to open doors? Can only women wear skirts? Should women need someone to escort them home late at night? Asking ourselves questions about the behaviors we see, allows us to reflect on what we experience. It makes us think more openly. It prohibits us from taking what we see at first glance as the only truth.

As social creatures, we quickly look for the identities those around us fit into – often too quickly. Some influential identity categories to be aware of are age, gender, sex, ability, race, religion, sexuality, economic status and nationality.

Practice this mantra: How does this situation relate to (fill in identity here)? Identities have an effect on how we perceive others, how others perceive us and how we perceive ourselves.

All of the questions we ask ourselves about social situations and identities are inherently biased. There are no truly right questions when it comes to tracking and that is okay. In fact, that is good. Tracking is one part awareness and two parts reflection. Awareness in the moment and reflection after the fact. It is also a skill that can help people be more aware and mindful of their surroundings as they relate to identity. It is a part of the process in becoming a more aware person. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your intentions are you can always be more aware. What will you be more aware of in the coming week?


Collegian Editor at Large Will Wytias-Sobel can be reached at