Exploring Race and Challenging Privilege

Exploring Race and Challenging Privilege

I thought I understood racism well enough. Since early childhood I’ve learned from parents and teachers that racism is a sense of racial superiority, a way of making judgments about people based on their skin color before you get to know them, and a cause of hate crimes and foul language. I think I’m not racist, and as a white woman I’m not likely to be the victim of racism, so I usually think racism has nothing to do with my life. But I’m uncomfortable with the idea of race because what I’ve learned about race is contradictory. I’m taught that people of different races are equal, but I see that they live separately. I’m told that they should get along, but the past and the present reveal that they don’t. I’m a product of political correctness that at best gives me a list of things not to say, and at worst makes me want to pretend that race doesn’t exist, but that does not give me a thorough understanding of how to think about race or how to see my role in a society in which race matters.

Kozol, Tatum, and Delpit made me confront my discomfort and guided me through the thorny terrain of thinking about race. They’ve made me think more about my own identity as part of racial and socio-economic groups. They’ve given me some tools that seem more effective than rhetoric about equality to help me to recognize and overcome prejudices that I’ve always pretended I didn’t have. They’ve taught me that racism and classism are not evident only in isolated discriminatory acts, but that they pervade American institutions, including the one upon which our hopes of creating a truly equal society most firmly rests, public education. They’ve made me aware of the effects of white privilege and e...

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...a firm understanding of racial dynamics in my classroom and know what I want to teach my students about race and how to go about that so that I don’t accidentally teach them the wrong things. As an active tax-paying citizen, I want to support tax reform that will equalize the disparities in public education and other public institutions that should serve all Americans. As an individual, I search myself for biases, try to be aware of the way others perceive me, and make it a goal to take risks to breach gaps between racial and class groups. This commitment to open learning should help me through the many processes that remain – as I try to develop my stance on other thorny issues like affirmative action, as I form new relationships with people, and as I acknowledge my starting place as a white woman in racist America when I make choices about how to lead my life.

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