Monday, February 22, 2010

Last week, I watched a clip from Stephen Colbert entitled "Ablacknophobia". It covers the idea of the discomfort white people have when race is the subject of conversation. Colbert humorously shows his "courage" while discussing race in a various sort of challenges. If we think about it - race is a difficult topic to discuss. We are afraid of sound prejudice, unintelligent, rude, or hypocritical.

In my Criminology class, my teacher has brought up the idea of "White Privelege" - it makes me uncomfortable, unhappy, and unsettled. I know I am in a country where I am the majority. I am given the benefit of the doubt, second chances, and more opportunities than anyone else in this nation. The truth is, I never thought about how hard other people of a different race have to work hard to get to the same place I am. I didn't realize that there are underlying messages that say "White is better". I am discouraged by my cluelessness. In a land of "freedom" I want that to be lived out - for all people, but how does this happen? I want to apologize about this, but what good will that do? I want to be aware and not act out of ignorance or false mindsets, but when will I know I am acting this way? So many questions. So many feelings and thoughts. That is a lot of "buts"... It hurts.
It angers.
It frustrates.

I guess my only light at the end of the tunnel is the following quote by Socrates:

"it is necessary to create a tension in the mind so that individuals can rise from the bondage of myths and half truths to the unfettered realm of creative analysis and objective appraisal"

Tension is good. I must keep repeating. Tension is good. These thoughts will show themselves to find answers and these answers will bring change and this change will bring a new way of living and viewing the world.

For it is when our minds hit conflict, it is then that we can start to find answers.


Anonymous said...

Don't be hard on yourself! It does suck! It sucks bad! But it is very normal for white people to be relatively unaware of race and its consequences.

Sociologist have tried to map out how white people come to recognize their whiteness and based on what you wrote, you fit the steps they lined out.

There is a general unawareness and then usually an awareness in their teens or college of their privilege and then we go into "well intentioned white person" stage where we do dumb crap - like Dr. McClure and her friend got in a car with 2 black male strangers to "prove they weren't racist". Mine is not that extreme, but I am definitely in well intentioned white person stage now.

And then one day we realize that there is a lot we can do to help. And that it isn't ok that we are allowed to turn off our racial identity (because whiteness is usually seen as the absence of race) while other people have to take it with them everywhere they go and in everything they do. But eventually we are also supposed to realize that white isn't evil, but "whiteness" is.

And that, as Dr. McClure puts it, there are ass holes in every race - both the oppressed ones and our own. For instance, we cant say "all mexican immigrants are hard working honest people" just to counteract the idea that they are all criminal and immoral. We have to be honest and say that some of them are honest and some are crooks, just like white people have both. But the consequences of "asshole behavior" for a Mexican immigrant (or a black person or so on) are much more dire then for a white person who has white privileged.

Anyway, sorry for the rant. I just think it is interesting that you and I both seem to be following the steps they lay out pretty well. Not everyone does. It is just a general idea of the steps of white racial formation.

Anonymous said...

McClure said this in class today and it made me think of this conversation. I am butchering it and she was butchering someone else's quote, but the est is what is the point.

She said, "You can sit on something your whole life and not know what the thing you are sitting on looks like or feels like. But you cannot be sat on by something and not know what it looks like, feels like, smells like etc."

So, we (white people in this instance) are the clueless ones doing the sitting and black people (as one example) are the ones getting sat on. They understand us very very well. But we understand them very little, because we don't have to because of our white privilege. Or we could apply it to gender or whatever.