Friday, April 15, 2016

On The Privilege of Whiteness

Addressing the issue of “difference” in society is probably the most challenging policy issue facing education. Race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, language, etc., are all words that describe people who are viewed as different, meaning non-white, not straight, limited or non-standard-English speaking, and more. Institutions of higher education as well as K — 12 districts are grappling with how to address this issue in a comprehensive and sustainable way.  Recently, The Federalist Papers Project website wrote an article describing the effort by colleges and universities to address whiteness and privilege.

The “Privilege of Whiteness” workshop is designed for white people to “reflect on and name the ways their privilege impacts their beliefs and behaviors by gaining the skills to identify the historical roots of White Privilege and how it manifests today,”

Are we getting this right? Do we, the institution, not address difference because it makes people feel uncomfortable or because it challenges who we are at our core? Is doing nothing better than doing something, even if we make mistakes along the way?

As I was curating this article to post on our Wiredprofiles Education Digest, I couldn’t help but consider how we as educators choose to take on this issue. Some of us choose to ignore it, “I treat everyone the same”, or we can choose to do equity-lite work through African-American month, Cesar Chavez day, LGBTQ Rainbow Festival, etc. For those with a more raised consciousness, we take it further, asking of ourselves and others to identify and name the concept of “difference”, and challenge ourselves to work with it, and through it in order to fully understand what it means to be white, black, brown, yellow, gay, poor, limited English proficient, fat, old………..

More importantly, what do we do when we begin to understand? What does it do for us? How does a more inspired and aware perspective improve our social condition?

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