Friday, July 11, 2008

On race

Classes have started up again and even though it's only been one week, I am surprised how interesting I think this class will be.

The Historical and Societal Foundations of Education course "explores the ways in which educational institutions, policies, and practices have emerged and developed, particularly in relation to changing social conditions and expectations". I'm sure I'll have more posts about the course and ideas that come out of it, but today I want to share an article that was mentioned in one of the class discussions.

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh is a thought provoking piece that asks the question "what is it like to have white privilege"?
I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was "meant" to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools , and blank checks.
What I found most provoking are McIntosh's list of 50 Daily Effects of White Privilege. It made me question my own identity.

I look, act and live white. But I am Latina, a 100% Puerto Rican. I may not be as dark skinned as my relatives and I might not speak Spanish, but I have Taino blood running though my veins. I have Boriqua pride: you better not mistake me for Dominican or Mexican! And I'm not an immigrant, dammit. We're Americans.

I've taken advantage of my ancestry when necessary, such as the full-tuition minority scholarship that got me through college. I also mark myself off as Hispanic on demographic questionnaires that also ask about my gender, income and education level -- more as a big Screw You to anyone who might want to otherwise think down at me solely because I'm a "minority".

But when it comes to everyday living, I can identify with each of those 50 conditions. And it made me feel sad and a little guilty, although guilty for what I don't really know.

Growing up, I don't think I was brought up to think any certain way about race. I don't remember specific beliefs or attitudes that I inherited from my family. I knew I was Puerto Rican because we would go there to see my grandparents and cousins often enough and I loved the rice and beans that my mom made, but I made no attempt to have that identifier tagged to me as a kid. I wanted to fit in as much as anyone else so I identified more with Madonna than Jennifer Lopez.

Today I try to judge others by their character, not by their skin. I try to look beyond stereotypes and see the person for who they are. I try not to tolerate injustices to anyone based on race, gender, religion, etc. But I realize that I have had advantages that other members of my extended family might not have simply because I'm not as tan and don't speak with an accent.

So now with this realization, what do I do with it? What can I do with it? I don't have a clue yet.

No comments:

Post a Comment