I got a strange email the other day from the school saying that staff member had listed me as a potentially interested candidate to be a part of a White Privilege discussion taking part yesterday afternoon. I won’t lie, it kind of freaked me out. I was interested from a cultural perspective, but really, one doesn’t want their name attached to something called “White Privilege”. I opted not to go.
While I was in the Writing Center, my boss encouraged me to go. She said the Writing Center would pay me to go. I couldn’t really turn down more hours, so I went.
I don’t know how much I’m allowed to say, since I signed a contract, but we were filmed. Once I see what becomes of this project, I’ll link more information to the overall goal of it (which could be at least a year down the line, from what I know of production, any way). However, I can say that it was a discussion in which maybe 30 (if I’m being optimistic) of us were in one of the theaters, all scootched together in the “audience” section, and a guy posed questions designed to make us consider how being white (or not being white, as the case may have been) influences or doesn’t influence us.
The idea behind it was kind of cool, once I understood it more fully. However, being where we are, we’re all pretty liberal, and thus it was a very one sided discussion. The part that really bothered me was that I felt that it was boarder lining on White Guilt.
Here is my problem with that – and do please, hear my out before you get offended.
Those of us of Western European descent have ancestors that caused a lot of damage, and in fact, there are still a great many that still hold true to the anthem of racism. It’s an unfortunate fact. Being from American, I tend to think that we are the worst, over all. However, there are different forms of racism outside our immediate realms of reality – for example, how those in France are responding to the Charlie attacks. We are in the U.S. battling bigotry toward anyone not white, those that don’t fall into the “norm” of sexuality, and even still, women.
I don’t deny that this is a problem.
However, “White Guilt” isn’t a way to go about things. Many of us have seen the problems in the way we, as a society, received those of other backgrounds, and have worked to fix the wrongs – thus we have an attempt and providing equality for all (I say attempt because we still haven’t achieved it). Causing those that have “fallen into line” with this, to have guilt over the sins of our ancestors causes resentment. It’s like person B breaking person A’s favorite dish, person B fixes it – either by gluing it together or getting a replica – and both person B and person A continue on and place guilt on the offspring of person B, even though they had nothing to do with it. The children of person B can learn from their mistakes and be sure not to repeat them, but berating them for it isn’t going to undo what was done (please know, I have an extreme understanding that this is a much deeper issue than a broken dish).
Instead, raise children with knowledge of what happened, why it was wrong, and teach them to understand why it was wrong, and perhaps, they’ll take this history and go on to invent unbreakable dish ware so that problems like these need not arise in the future.
My generation, and the generation before mine are aware of the problem. We are aware that there is a divide where there shouldn’t be. But instead of continuing to wag a finger at those that just happen to be pasty-skinned, let’s all work together and show how we can eliminate this divide.
The discussion yesterday kept coming back to not talking about it, and that’s nonsense. Of course we should talk about it, and of course we should recognize that we are all different colored. The reason why is because we all come from different backgrounds and we should be celebrated for our individuality.
The problem is that we’re trying to make everyone the same. Yes, under our skin, we are just a sack of organs. In that regard, we are all the same. However, behind those eyes we are a person, with different backgrounds and different experiences. By embracing that we come from these different upbringings, different ways of living, different neighborhoods, we can learn and grow more fully.
In art, you don’t just learn about one artist and go from there. You study many artists, you go to museums and you learn about different techniques to help you master your skill. Life is a skill. And if you’re not open to learn about the backgrounds of others, the differences that make a person who they are with a chance to learn and to teach, then you’re denying yourself a fruitful life.
Everyone should be open minded and embracing.