Wednesday, April 10, 2013

White, Straight, Female

White. Straight. Female. It took me a long time to understand that these are my privileges. These are privileges that I was born with; by no effort of my own did I work or earn these titles. Rather they are physical characteristics that one would label me and attribute my behaviors too based solely on appearance. The power of appearance can open doors or slam them HARD in your face.

The word privilege is something that can instantly make any white person cringe. It is something that is difficult to talk about and easy to dismiss and ignore. I can clearly remember the first time I was confronted about being a privileged white person. I will be honest in saying that at the time I did not understand why I was privileged or how these privileges affected anyone outside of myself. I can remember the first feeling was defensive. Next, I felt panicked, I felt my chest tighten and my heart race. I was confronted with an action or lack thereof and because of this I was able to learn how my actions affect those around me. At that moment I began to learn and lead the path to become more attuned and aware of both my actions but the actions of my peers, professors, and the media.

Today, the transforming education course was able to discuss an interesting and compelling argument presented and mediated by George Yancy. He developed the argument that all white people are racist. (Now before anyone freaks out you should read his work to fully understand this argument). However, listening to his argument, evidence, and theory; it wasn't that he was saying that all white people hate black people. Rather that we are all guilty of doing something racist, however, this does not make you a racist. Instead it points to individuals of privilege needing to take responsibility and understanding of how our actions can affect others.

In connection with my past blogs, I strongly believe that education is highly if not solely based on experiences. For me my experience with understanding and coming into realization with the concept of privilege occurred early in my College career. And now after four years of college courses and social justice discussion I can understand and admit that I have privileges, ones that I receive by doing nothing but being born. Yet, I am able to gain all the benefits, so how is it that I made it until I was 19 years old before I began to both understand and learn about privilege?

Why is it that we do not begin to unveil these social issues before college? In high school students are asked to think about issues of sexism or differences in socioeconomic class. These are issues we as students are asked to think critically and to question how we can create a more balanced or equal playing field. However, not once did we talk about race or privilege. Not once did we discuss how our actions affect others, even though we are the ones holding the privilege. Specifically, these issues of privileges need to be the most clearly addressed in areas where no diversity exists. How can new generations of students address issues if inequality if they do not know it exists or the issues have never been brought to their attention?

My question for us is how can we bring the understanding of privilege into education before college?

Here is a link to helpful resources to better understand one privileges
http://blog.shrub.com/archives/tekanji/2006-03-08_146#respect 

Image taken from: http://imaginenoborders.org/zines/

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