Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

White Privilege Is Increasingly Becoming an Invisible Campus Barrier

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

White Privilege Is Increasingly Becoming an Invisible Campus Barrier

Article excerpt

The idea of White privilege is often danced around in conversations about social justice. At the National Conference on Diversity, Race and Learning on the campus of The Ohio State University last month, scholars discussed the implications of said privilege and how it impacts the campus environment.

Debby Irving, a racial justice educator and author of Waking Up White, said she did not realize the ways in which her White privilege narrowed her perspective of the world and the way things work.

For those Whites who want to think of themselves as more liberal, not racist, Irving said, there is often a difficult balance between wanting to "feel generous and feel good and [do things that] go to the need to 'fix'" the problems these students were facing and not appearing to see herself as better than those who needed the "fixing."

"There was a dissonance between saying I was colorblind and not wanting to look like I saw myself as superior," said Irving. For her, this would manifest itself as having lower standards for Black students or dancing around issues in parent-teacher conferences with Black families.

Irving said that those in power need to be willing to engage in dialogue with those who are not in power about ways to better accommodate them.

Christopher Torres, a faculty member at The Ohio State University at Mansfield and the Latino and Latin American Space for Engagement and Research (LASER), said that, as a Latino faculty member, it was little things such as not seeing any faculty of color on the staff portraits in the faculty lounge. The lack of representation brought up questions, including, "Do I belong here? What am I doing here?"

"The world is normalized to be White," Torres said. "Most of the policymakers, most of the faculty, because most of the great majority of them are White, they don't think about some of those issues and challenges that people of color go through."

Torres went on to say that workshops and symposia will not likely truly unpack the complications of privilege for those who have not lived the experiences of being on the short end of the privilege.

"I think that a lot of people talk about stuff and they can 'learn' things via workshops or books, but unless they live through it or know someone that lives through it, they're not going to get it," he said.

"If you think about privilege, you don't think about things and you kind of have that 'aha' moment, but if there is not an example that you can relate to, unless it smacks you in the face," you'll still never truly be able to identify with those who have been on the negative end of the privilege, he said. …

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