Which Face Should I Take?

After reading today’s article about white privilege, the topic definitely resonated with me. As a white male, I am aware that the way our society is designed provides me with certain advantages over others in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. The sad truth is that our society is designed for some groups to succeed and for others to struggle. White people are taught that our way of thinking is ideal, and that when we work towards benefiting other races, it seems to assimilate “them” into our culture and become more like “us”. The article says that white privilege in the United States “serves to keep power in the hands of those who already have it, and to maintain the myth of meritocracy that democratic choice is equally available to all.”

The article points out the belief that the feeling of belonging within humanity should not be a

privilege for few, yet in our country not everyone is granted this unearned advantage. I am aware

that my race and gender entitle me to certain privileges and advantages that other groups I might

be advocating for in this class. There are some things that I must learn to accept that I will never

be able to understand about life for a refugee. I will never know what its like to go without food

or water for a few days. I will never know what its like to not have a home or a comfortable bed

to sleep in each night. There are many privileges that I take for granted, because its hard to

imagine what life would be like without them. It is hard for me to imagine a situation in which

my race would be the targets of a mass genocide. White privilege has protected me from

different kinds of violence, distress and suffering that people from other races have to endure.

Even though it might be hard for me to know how it feels to be a refugee or a victim of genocide,

I can still play a role in this issue. I can make use of the tools and skills I have acquired

throughout my coursework in Communication studies and apply them to this situation. In a way,

I can become the voice of the voiceless and speak for those victims who cannot eloquently speak

for themselves. If I can educate my peers about the horrors genocide victims face and offer my

ideas on how to stop this violence, then I am doing my part to have a positive impact on solving

this problem.

The faces of whiteness that our reading highlights refers to the way we engage and view certain

situations and contexts. The four faces are the torpefied, the missionary, the intellectualizer, and

the cynic. When it comes to learning about genocide and refugee issues, I am most like an

intellectualizer. This is someone enjoys researching, studying, and talking openly about issues

like they are any other academic subject. I think it is important that we understand and learn

about the causes of genocide and derive a way to suppress its violence.

However, the intellectualizer fails to apply their own life experiences into their analysis of the

situation. This is where I would prefer to separate from this way of thinking, because I believe its

important to apply knowledge gained from experience in order to solve problems. For example, I

had the chance to attend a very diverse high school in Columbia, Md. This gave me an

opportunity to communicate and connect with people from a variety of different ethnicities on a

daily basis. I became friends with people from Nigeria and Ghana which enabled me to get a

taste of their culture and view things from their perspective. I began to see them as my brothers

instead of two distant strangers, and this experience has served to benefit me as I transition into

the real world.

The face of whiteness that I would most like to become when talking about genocide issues is

the Critical Democrat. This is someone who balances their examinations of their own role in

racism while simultaneously examining the role of others. They balance their egos and

knowledge gained from literature in order to promote democracy and hope for a solution. Plenty

of times at college I have heard openly racist remarks made by my roommates or other strangers

and had to decide whether or not to combat their ignorance and voice my opinion.

The Critical Democrat uses cautious action and careful reflection when it comes to racism. They

hope to achieve a balance academic examination of racism and practical demand for changing

the ways people live their lives. Most importantly, a critical democrat assumes the role of an

active and engaged listener. They engage in dialogue by consciously attempting to understand to

messages of others before they offer their own perspectives. It is also important that a critical

democrat understands his or her race’s history and culture in relation to others.

If I can approach genocide issues using the face of a critical democrat, then I will benefit the

most from this course. It is important that I understand the context and messages surrounding

genocide and refugees to gain insight from other perspectives. I must step outside of my own

thinking and view each situation as a separate piece of a larger puzzle. Once I truly understand

the issue and have listened to testimonials, I will be better suited to act on finding a solution and

enticing others to join me.

-Ben

 

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