Friday, September 28, 2007

White Privilege

There are those moment where you are reminded. You are reminded that the way you experience life is not the way majority of people experience life. You are reminded that you are in circumstances unique to you--given advantages simply by your placement, your color and you did nothing to earn that.

White privilege was introduced to me Fall 2005 at the University of Utah in my Diversity Class. Admittedly, I listened to the idea of White Privilege but left it at idea. However, in a matter of days filled with in depth discussions White Privilege moved from an idea into a reality and became my reality. One of the first articles I received was by a female author named Peggy McIntosh titled: White Privilege; Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. This concept, these facts, were very painful for me when I realized the pain it caused for those around me who were not white. White Privilege can be summarized as: The unearned, unjustified advantages not automatically afforded to people of color in this country and generally taken for granted by those of us who are classified as “white.” It is the reality that contrasts with the sincere fiction of the American myth of meritocracy, which says that everything we have must have been earned.

I still remember my professor asking the mostly white classroom,"When was the last time, here in Utah, you were described as 'the white girl?' As a person who is white, you have a name. You are referenced as Kristin, not as 'Do you know the black girl in our class?" ONE: That hadn't ever happened to me and TWO: I haven't ever even HAD to think about IF that had happened to me before this class BECAUSE ...I'm white.

Heidi Schlumpf said, "White privilege is also about what we white people don’t get: the multiple May-I-help-you’s when we enter high-end shops, always being asked for ID when we use our credit cards, the hassle of being pulled over by police officers for “driving while black.” It can be as simple as knowing that history books, greeting cards, even Band-Aids will include our skin color, or as complex as not having to worry that no matter what we do -- positive or negative -- it will not be a reflection of our entire race. No one ever says, “Isn’t it great how that white person won the Pulitzer Prize this year” or “Look at that white mass murderer.”

To counter the repulsive idea of being even remotely a racist most of us choose to share the perspective of being "color blind" or "I view us ALL the same." Though it may sound nice in theory it states you don't see their color, their culture their community. If you are in a classroom with Mexicans, Black Americans and say,"I just see kids", you are denying them their very identity.

Jamie T. Phelps of Xavier University in New Orleans stated,"The sad truth about white privilege is that it not only harms people of color, but also damages the lives, psyches and souls of white people. We need a mutual conversion from the unbalanced reality of white superiority and black inferiority, I don’t think black people and brown people are the only victims of racism. White folks are also victims of racism, but they’re in denial about it,” she said. White privilege is the other side of the coin of racism. And you’re not going to solve the problem by addressing white privilege in isolation from racism.”

In our smalls world we may construct these stories we believe to be true about racism and white privilege. We may believe or tell ourselves, "Racism is a thing of the past. Our country, in all it's advancement and progressiveness, is beyond discriminating against a person of color." The fact is it exists today as much as it ever has. There is definite improvement, but when you learn in 2001 that outside the "Parameter" in Atlanta a high school was celebrating their first integrated prom? And not because it was beyond time to have an integrated prom, but because the kids fought the administration and their parents to be granted permission to have an integrated prom...We have a long way to still go.

You can choose to read this post and never think about this concept another day in your life, but remember, to not HAVE to think about it? That's a privilege. --@DP

To learn more about White Privilege you can view the following links:
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
Owning Unearned White Privilege
Diversity Vs. White Privilege
Defining White Privilege
The Angry Black Woman
White Like Me: Reflections on Race From a Privileged Son
Whiteness in the News

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Did We Learn About Any Of This In HERStory?...I Mean, HIStory.

Where did this information go if not in our classrooms when we were learning that Women got the vote in 1920? Prior to seeing the movie, Iron Jawed Angels, I knew women got the vote in 1920, but I had no idea the cost it took to get the vote and the amazing bravery behind this effort. HBO produced this movie starring Hilary Swank telling the story of Suffrage with a contemporary twist. Alice Paul, the leader behind the movement, is a heroin that was never mentioned in any of my history books nor included in any of the stories surrounding suffrage. I had no idea hundreds of women went to prison trying to get the vote, that women were force fed raw eggs through feeding tubes as a means to get them to stop picketing the president to get the vote, that women were harassed, violently acted upon and seen as "insane" due to their desire to have a say in the very laws they were expected to abide by. My very own Great Grandmother Susa Y Gates, was a leader for the suffrage movement in the west. These nameless women were strong, they were brave and they fought for the luxury we now have today of voting. It's high time we start balancing out HIStory and teaching our children how women received the vote and how far from casual the process was. --@DP

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

To Seek Satisfaction

I had supervision today for my profession and one of the topics we discussed was being satisfied, satisfied with where you are at, where life is at, where your relationships are at. Thinking about this, I think I am conditionally satisfied. Yes I love my life, my "relationship" and relationships but I have always struggled with being in a continual effort to take most things in my life to that next level...whatever "that" level may be. What is the balance between continuing to improve, pushing, striving vs. being content, going with the flow, and being? If I really boiled this down and oversimplified it would be a battle between lazy and ambitious, fluid and structured, human-being and human-doing but all of those terms seem to lay on the extreme ends of the spectrum and my life is far too vivid to be stuck in the black and white. So what is that balance where you are comfortable but not so comfortable you regress and not seeking out growth constantly at the expense of being and enjoying where you are?

I struggle with finding how to maximize my calling, I struggle to find and understand what my calling even is, I struggle with identifying who I am at this stage in my life. I want to have a feeling of satisfaction of contentment...I guess that is something that I really am searching for right now. I just want to be in a place where I am satisfied. However, with my religious beliefs I am not sure if the structure of our life plan is to live comfortably because we are to experience much pain and tribulation along with major joy and happiness for the betterment of our selves. How do I define myself now that I am a wife but I enjoy work, ideas, life? How do my husband and I redefine male/female roles but honor the strengths and realities of the sexes in our lives? What do I want to be doing with my time? There are so many messages out there ready to define you, ready to corner you into a box, ready to seduce you into beliefs that may not be true for you.

Is it a matter of gratitude, a shift from looking at things from a deficiency standpoint? Is it looking at all you have around you, humbly noting all of the blessings both subtle and obtuse?

How have the many women out there found peace and contentment in their lives? The mothers, the academics, the artists, the wives, the business women, the professionals? If you can hear me... --@DP