Cultural Diversity and Racial Privilege

Cultural Diversity and Racial Privilege

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In Henry Lewis Gates’ article, The Debate Has Been Miscast from the Start, he reveals the advantages to having multiculturalism in the curriculum of America’s schools. He would argue that in order to create true diversity and understanding of cultural differences, the nation must provide its students with a wide array of opportunities to understand other cultures besides their own. Peggy McIntosh takes on a similar situation when she takes into consideration how she was taught diversity in schools as a child. She claims that dominance of the white race is unconsciously supported. She also describes how she did not receive the right kind of education that would teach her how to be aware of racism and how to be aware of her privileges as a white person. McIntosh desires change in the way that students are taught racism and the best way to accomplish this is for schools to incorporate multiculturalism into curriculum. If this is accomplished, future generations have the ability to be aware of cultural differences and they would be less likely to be perpetrators of color blind racism.
Most people are often unaware or misinformed of many situations that affect them in their everyday life. Some of this issues could include the topics that the authors mention – multiculturalism or white privilege. Gates explains that “the debate [on multiculturalism] has been miscast from the beginning [and] it may be worth setting straight” (26). Gates is addressing the opposition to multiculturalism by expressing that the topic that they might have original viewed as negativity, could actually the key to achieving true ethnic diversity. He is stating that if people continue to believe that multiculturalism is just a way to boost the self-esteem of minorities, then it will continue to create a problematic situation where different ethnicities constantly clash because people fear what they do not understand. McIntosh reveals a prime example of this dismissive nature of understanding cultural diversity. She states that she believes that “whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege” (1). Gates is able to shed light on McIntosh’s claim because the miscomprehension of cultural diversity and the idea of white privilege are intrinsically tied. If people are not taught to respect other ethnicities and their traditions then it creates this idea that the cultural that is being taught – in this case white – is the dominant one. McIntosh states that this is an unconscious effort and I would have to agree.

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However, if people do not accept multiculturalism then they will never be able to recognize the privilege of the white race.
No matter what, there will always be opposition to a cause whatever the case. In this case, most conservatives are seen as strong antagonists to Gates’ argument. He states that “conservative critics, to their credit, have never hesitated to provide a political defense of what they considered to be the “traditional” curriculum” (36). What he means is that conservatives will do anything within their political power to keep the teachings that they deem correct even if it means harming other cultures and ultimately their own. McIntosh was able to relate to this as her “racial group was being made confident, comfortable, and oblivious, [while] other groups were being made unconfident, uncomfortable, and alienated” (4). This curriculum that she was taught is an example of this exertion of power that Gates mentions. This situation of white dominance in America’s curriculum obviously lessens the importance of people of color which in turn creates a low sense of self in these minority groups. However, a much smaller issue, but still a present one, that was not accounted for is how it could also be harmful to white people. Because they are teaching people to be ignorant of their advantages, antagonists to multiculturalism are really creating a more hostile society because people are more likely to be susceptible to color blind racism.

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