I’ll be honest with you. I’ve been dreading writing this blog post because I still feel like I am not nearly educated enough to speak on it, but I’m going to try. I feel like some of what I say might sound ignorant; I apologize in advance for that, and I welcome corrections.
In this time of 2018, with what is happening in the United States politically and socially, it should be clear to most people that racism didn’t end with the abolishment of slavery. It is very much alive in modern culture. That’s what most conversations focus on: who is affected by racism, who is being racist, and what can be done to try to combat the issue. What is less often taught (or acknowledged, especially by white people) is the idea of white privilege.
One reading that really opened my eyes was ‘‘I Am Also in the Position to Use My Whiteness to Help Them Out: The Communication of Whiteness in Service Learning” by Danielle Endres & Mary Gould. The section we were assigned to read focused on students who participated in a service learning experience, and even after it being described to them in that light, they still saw their work as “volunteerism” or “charity”.
This segment especially challenged the idea of a white person using their privilege to “help” a person of color; to be able to speak louder on their behalf because their whiteness allows them to be amplified.
Contrary to what some people might think, this is actually not productive because it reinforces the “us/them” dichotomy, and does nothing to break down barriers. It just lets white people pat themselves on the back for doing yet another thing that puts them in a superior position.
This graphic is designed to help folks self-examine where they fall on a racism scale, and I think it doubles also as partially a white privilege assessment of how in-tune someone is to issues. Personally, before I saw this, I didn’t know there were so many shade of racism; I thought either you were racist or you weren’t. Illuminated are the many different degrees and variations someone might subscribe to, maybe without even knowing it.
One of these aligns well with the Faces of Whiteness article we read this week, one of four masks someone might put on when confronted about this issue. All of the examples under the chart’s “white savior” align with The Missionary – someone who wants to “do something” but won’t sit down to listen to people of color to hear all of their experiences and stories, refusing to put themselves in the learner position and taking a lead instead.
Where do you fall? Where do your friends fall? Do you have room for improvement? I know I do.
Racism and white privilege are difficult topics, but talking about them will never be as difficult as suffering because of them.
So let’s start talking.