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Tuesday, June 28, 2022

It’s time to take a second look at our own egocentrism

By Maribel RojasSpecial to CSMS MagazineI have been watching the debate over race relation in CSMS Magazine, and I feel a bit compelled to express my own thoughts about this pertinent issue, especially when Peggy McIntosh’s article has been mentioned. In her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, Peggy McIntosh introduces “Whiteness” and “White Privilege” as an “unearned skin privilege” that includes unwritten rules and codes that offer benefits, security, and freedoms to Whites—privileges that people of other color or race do not experience in the United States. It is important that we study this “phenomenon” because it has created an imperfect culture, and awareness needs to be produced in order that these elusive benefits are offered to all, regardless of race, color, and/or gender. It is also claimed that “White privilege” is “conditioned into oblivion” without any thought of how disadvantageous it is for people of other colors and races.            However, this term and its many advantages are misleading because it hides the truth that it is in fact not a privilege but a justification for “conferred dominance”. For example, one of the privileges mentioned by the author is “that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.” A student in the pursuit of the American Dream needs to have self-confidence. It is difficult to develop that confidence when your culture is regarded as “non-existent” in textbooks or your instructors know nothing of your cultural background or find it tedious to even inquire.            Also, the school system continues to push mainstreaming students of other cultures toward the so-called American way. Though many programs exist to ease this process and create multicultural environments, students that are not “White” still feels out of place. I can attest to this because as a Hispanic myself, I never saw any mention of Spanish history until I took specialty classes in junior college during my freshman year.The business world expects us to compete internationally, yet we do not introduce internationality until high school. Thus, we are forced to restrain from using our native language in elementary, practically forgetting it, and then required to learn a second language in high school. What message are we truly giving to our students?            Another example I have encountered is especially revealing at my workplace. I cannot say that any one person is racist, yet the “oblivion” phenomenon is very clear. I was asked by my employer in a casual conversation about how long I have been in this country. I found it very offensive because I was born here and grew up speaking both English and Spanish fluently. It was disheartening to think that just because I spoke Spanish that my “White” employer would automatically assume I was an immigrant. Also, in the article the author mentions that she “can be late to a meeting without having the lateness reflect on [her] race”. This was quite amusing because it is probably the most common reaction of “Whites” and others when it happens to me. If I am late, it is attributed to my race.            I cannot be fair without saying however, that I have participated in some of the benefits of “Whiteness” because when people do not know my name or I do not tell my last name most people tend to believe I am “White”. In such cases, I can say that I have worked as a double agent using those advantages as well as shunning those that are negative.For example, “the appearance of financial reliability” and the ability to wear “second hand clothes, not answer letters” without being attributed to my race are some of the advantages and social security that I can take advantage of because of my color.             Though, I have experienced both privilege and conferred dominance, it is interesting to see that there is a moment of choice when you can and will take advantage. However, as future educators it is important that we are in positions to afford these benefits. We need to make it readily available to all. “White Privilege” does exist but it can slowly but surely change to “earned power” for all because we all deserve respect, the right to self-confidence and the “feeling that one belongs within the human circle”.ReferenceMcIntosh, P. (1990) White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack. http://seamonkey.ed.asu.edu/~mcisaac/emc598ge/Unpacking.htmlNote: Maribel Rojas is a student at NSU. She lives in Orlando, Florida.Also see Race really mattersIt’s hard to get rid of instilled prejudices

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