by Daniel Kees
I often hear people talk about what we as a college are doing “with Midtown.” We’re assisting in several development projects and participating in many engagement opportunities in the neighborhood community that borders us to the west. These relationships span multiple academic and administrative departments, and the types of dialogues and interactions are as varied as the Millsaps population we all know and love. So why do we always use the word “with” when referring to Midtown? This is no grammatical quibble, I assure you. “With” implies that Midtown is a homogenous area characterized by a single trait (read: poverty—a problematic, somewhat inaccurate descriptor. But that’s another paper.).
Instead, we should discuss how we engage “in” Midtown more than “with” it because Midtown is just as diverse and vibrant a community as Millsaps. Just as many people from different walks of life are present there, too. Surely, the social dynamics of Midtown are as complicated as those in our Bubble. So we belittle the experience—however unintentionally—when we refer to Midtown collectively. This is not to say that we should never engage “with” Midtown. Rather, we should recognize that there exists a multitude of experiences in that ever-changing community. We should not habitually characterize these interactions by the blanket preposition “with.” We should not be so cavalier—which is at times a difficult task for Millsapians.
I’m not saying we should remove the preposition “with” from our vocabulary; I’m simply saying that we should be more conscientious and deliberate in our rhetoric referring to the community that not only borders Millsaps to the west but also informs our decisions every day. When discussing our various internships we don’t simply say, “I work downtown” or “I work at UMMC.” We describe the specific departments and the unique individuals with whom we interact daily because they are worthy of our recognition and differentiation within our discourse.
The word “in” implies that we are engaging with people—with individuals—of dignity. This distinction is important when we talk about engagement. Many find it difficult to engage with ideas; engaging with people is often far easier. These individualized experiences allow us to glimpse microcosms of our expansive world. They are necessary for us to better understand the human experience, as varied and complex and confusing as it is. One might say that humanity can only be encountered one face at a time. What better place to start than Midtown?