This is a paper I wrote for my Psyc class on White Privelage. I got an A on it.
|Eric M. Patterson
May 6, 2006
White Privilege in America
As a white male in America I am often faced with the realization that I am going to get ahead in life just from the fact that I am of this skin tone. The act known as getting ahead or having an advantage over other races because you are white is what is commonly known as White Privilege. To make it simple, Due to the fact that I was born into the white race I will have advantages over lets say a black woman or even a black male. This is due in large part because my ethnic identity can not be perceived realistically as any other race other then that white pale skin that I was born with. Ethnic Identity is when someone identifies with a particular ethnic, religious or even a cultural group. Unfortunately, I will never be able to be perceived as anything other then white by most people. I am part of the race that has oppressed other races for many years. I will never be able to live down the fact that I am a white male in America.
First, what does it mean to me to be white? I was born white. I didn’t have a choice in this matter. I realize that Professor Yee said that often this is what we as white people say and we don’t seem to move on from it, but realize I was born into this. I feel bad every day of my life to be a white male. To be white to me means to be not only hated by other races, but it also means that a part of me hates my own self because I think back to those different pieces of history when my own race hurt people. I see quotes from white plantation owners that say things like, “Before the slaves were free I covered their medical wages. I don’t think I will bother with that much now.” I see images of the KKK in my head. I see around me everyday someone say something negative about my race and up with their own race. There are no white clubs on campus like there are the African American Changing Times club on campus or the Asian History Club. You ask what does white mean to me as it refers to people it means that you will be part of a group that will be forever hated due to your own past. Being white means you will always have to have a chip on your own shoulder because you will be labeled. You will have a teacher that makes you feel less then because you are not the same race as them. This is honestly what “WHITE” means to me. It doesn’t just mean because I am white I will be seen as being more worthy to have a bank account because my credit is probably better then an African-American male or it doesn’t mean that because my skin is white I will be less likely to commit a dangerous crime. I wish I lived in a world where we all were on equal playing ground, unfortunately that is an ideal world that doesn’t exist.
One way that I have personally experienced preferential treatment is actually in a place that most of us would hope that there would be no preferred status for any race, but I have seen it with my own eyes in a public office of the government in the realm of the General Assistance office in downtown San Francisco. The fact that I am a white male I notice the way I am treated more often then I care to even realize. When I go into the General Assistance office I am usually treated with a smile and a happy grin, but I have often seen people of other races come in before me and have heard such hurtful comments such as, “I wish that d*mn Asian would learn to speak proper English” from the people that are working behind the counter. I have also seen that they will be more abrasive and rude to those of the African-American culture. They will instantly look at them with a look that says they are just trying to live off the system. I notice that when I come in there and often when I see other people of the same ethnic identity as myself I see them instantly granted whatever they want. I was granted to come to school here at CCSF I believe largely in part to the fact that because I was white my worker actually listened to my own pleas to stay in school. I had seen another girl of African decent trying to talk to my own same worker about going to school and was denied almost instantly. My worker said to her, “You just want to live off the system don’t you?” while with me she was more like, “Lets get you in to take the placement test and get you going for school.” While I can’t be one hundred percent sure that it was due to our skin tones because everyone has separate plans, but I can say from most viewpoints it would have appeared similar to the way I have described it above. I wish there had been something I was able to do in this situation, but I wasn’t willing to risk my own schooling for someone else. That probably makes me appear selfish, but realistically I was at a point of life at that time that I wasn’t willing to even chance that I might not be able to do the things that I wanted to do with my own life. I want to obtain my degree in Social Services without any major hassles and I feared that if I actually talked to my worker about the way she was treating this girl and how she was treating me I would jeopardize my own goals. Now that I look back at that time I seriously wish that I had told her that it was not becoming for her to treat another client like this, especially when she herself was not of the white culture.
I mentioned earlier that realistically that the white culture itself is oppressed in the institutional setting. We are oppressed that we are not allowed to form a “White Supremacy” club on campus or a “White History” club. The members of such a club would instantly face a huge backlash on any campus that would find these clubs on their roster of approved clubs. I honestly have to say that this is a good form of oppression though to have at our university/college levels. Other races and cultures benefit highly from this and I think that is good because the white race always in the world is the dominate race. In university by having no groups for this it allows students to develop a reality picture more closely related to that of the real world. It helps us to develop what the real world is like out there and we obtain some knowledge of what other races have had to go through besides our own individual race. This is true for every single race that is going to go to college. Joining other clubs other then your mainstream race club of your own ethnic identity is a great thing because you can learn more about people other then yourself, which is important in becoming a more ethnically diverse individual and educated person. I am going to give it careful consideration to joining some of these other clubs or possibly just taking more ethnically diverse classes so I can learn more about others.
I am asked if I have ever heard a person of the white race say any of these sayings: As a woman, I am oppressed by sexism; I’m poor, I can’t even pay my rent; I’m a victim of homophobia and hate crimes against gays; I am a target of anti-Semitism. Not to sound rude, but if you have read any of this paper you would realize that, of course, I have heard these sayings. I personally have said two of these because I am a white gay poor male in San Francisco. More often then not we, the human race, forget to look pass the color of ones own skin because there is actually more to an individual then their skin tone. I left my grandmother’s house when I was 19 years of age roughly, ever since that time I have struggled to survive. I am originally from Indiana and was abused by my grandmother. These are not things that people often think of when they look at my white skin tone. They simply think, “Look at the white boy.” I am so much more then my white skin. I have a tapestry that has been woven from years of life. Ask me a question about my life I will answer it, but don’t assume you know me because I was born unto a certain race because you don’t know me unless you get to know me.
I don’t think it does help in any shape or form to have an intuitional or historical analysis of white privilege in the classroom. I realize that not talking about it doesn’t make the problem go away, but is it honestly better to alienate students in a classroom to discuss a topic that will be upsetting to some? While I see that discussion in some realms will make it more apparent in some people’s individual minds and will get them to think twice about being racist themselves and could possibly help defeat white privilege by having students educated on the subject, but what good is that if someone feels less of a human being due to the subject matter.
In conclusion, when does dealing with racism itself become racism? Teaching about white privilege and some of the general statements made even in the classroom almost seemed racist in themselves. Maybe I am sensitive on the subject because I have heard more then one teacher in this semester make me feel bad about my own race and then hear them say how other races should feel better about themselves. How am I suppose to be okay with myself if I am told by my own educators that my race is a “bad race”? How do I want to continue trying to better my own self to have a brighter future when I feel like I am a bad person? Is teaching a topic that important? Maybe one day I will be able to be proud of the fact that I was born a white male in America without being told that I am a racist for saying this. That day though is not today and probably won’t be anytime soon.