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Saturday, September 23, 2023

The Dominant Culture tolerates no diversity in America

By Dave WhitherSpecial to CSMS MagazineWhen I saw the title of an article recently published on white privilege, my initial reaction was that I was being asked to apologize for being white. This is not something I was prepared to do. After all, I didn’t choose who my parents would be. When I hear that racism is a white person’s problem, I feel personally attacked. However when I realize the statement isn’t directed at me personally, but at the system of white America, I can understand why some people would feel this way.I had given little thought to racism since I certainly don’t consider myself to be a racist, and I have not been a target of racism. Students need to understand what it means to be white because white people are by their existence conforming to society from the moment of birth. With this birthright a white person is not required to prove his worth in society or fight for acceptance, it is automatically conferred. If they are able to drop their defensiveness, they will see that by simply being a member of the white race they have an advantage or an “edge” that people of color do not have.In the past I have believed that if everyone would just conform to the norms of society, there would be no racial separation. Generally speaking in America, conforming means living according to the norms of the White society without telling people of color to become White. But that is essentially what is being said.I agree with Strobel’s observation that White people think of themselves as autonomous with the opportunity to determine their own course and not realizing that people of color don’t hold the same beliefs. We as white people want to believe that all people are on equal ground. We want to believe opportunities are a result of an individual’s hard work and determination. Likewise, we want to believe that disappointment and failure are from the lack thereof. I live in a predominantly Hispanic area where I am actually the minority. If I were to conform to this community in which I live, I would need to embrace the Hispanic culture. However it is unlikely that I will completely do so, although I have honestly tried. The dominant culture instinct has already instilled in me very deep-seated resentments that prove to be too hard to overcome. Even if Hispanics were the dominant group in business, education, politics, and the American society in general, regardless of the effort on my part, I still would not be a full “member” of that group.  I recently had an experience with an acquaintance that I believe is worth discussing here.  Jose is a Cuban-American person that I know who happens to be very dark skinned. We were discussing our wives and, from previous conversations, he knows that my wife is Hispanic. He told me that he had married a white woman. He explained that his parents told him from the time he was young to find a mate that was light skinned. They said that if he finds a light skinned mate, then he was elevating himself (status) and that if he found a mate with darker skin, than his own he was allowing himself to be “pulled down”. The experience allows me to see the effect the dominant culture has. He was taught by his own parents that whiteness holds more value or prestige than dark skin.We can not change who we are, but ignoring that there are differences for people of color will never bring us closer to resolving the racial divide. This is why students need to understand what it means to be white.NoteDave Whiter is a student at Florida International University. He wrote this piece exclusively for CSMS Magazine.  Also see: https://csmsmagazine.org/news.php?pg=20060518I91

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