Saturday, July 16, 2005

First things first (Begin Politics)

White privilege: It's there, it's real, and we can't do anything until we recognize it.

Here's one site's lengthy definition, but basically it's just the idea that whiteness is an ascribed status: something that you're born with or without, and if you have it, you have all kinds of unconscious privileges in this country that others do not. White people ARE better off than other groups, just as men ARE better off than women. It's all interrelated, and it's built the country that is the United States of America.

Here's the article that, as far as I know, started it all: Peggy McIntosh's Unpacking the Invisible Napsack.

"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, code books, visas, clothes, tools and blank checks."

Read the whole article, then read it again. (I read it twice in college for different classes, and it made more sense the second time around.) If you're still in denial, just read it again; it will eventually sink in. The list of things that the author gives, things she can do due to her whiteness, is the most powerful part. Here are just two:

6. When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization", I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
7. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

Some people do not believe this is true, that white privilege couldn't possibly exist. They believe that people are equal, that racism is a thing of the past, etc. And I can understand that; I myself had a lot of trouble accepting this the first time around, when I read this for the first time, back in my sophomore year of college. But as I began taking women's studies classes and talking/learning/reading about women in other countries or even nonwhite women in America, it became pretty clear that white privilege is as real as, well, anything. What color is a flesh Band-Aid? a "flesh" colored crayon? flesh-colored tights? Whiteness is a standard and norm which, if you don't have it, you will be found wanting. Period.

Teachers are in that profession because they want at least a bit part in the ideology of "making the world a better place." That must include ALL people, and it cannot be done or even attempted unless we have a clear, unbiased understanding of where we're all starting from.

By the way, and I know that no one here would actually be that way, but if you think that feminism is about bashing men and not shaving legs...well, you're just wrong. Feminism and especially women's studies (my undergrad degree) is actually about all those who are under oppression for whatever reason. So it would be more correct to call it "Politics of Race, Gender, Class, and Sexuality." But it's still "women's studies," maybe just out of habit.

This idea (white privilege in the world today) is the backbone of all the other things I have to discuss (multilogicality and pedagogy of poverty, at the least). So that's why it's here all of a sudden. Gotta set the framework, you know.

But I also have posts percolating about the real Traveling Pants, Friday fables, irritating commercials, and random pictures. So fret not; I have not all of a sudden become a "radical politics only" blogger. No no, everything in moderation, my friends.

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