As a biracial female, who largely identifies as African-American, and a Christian among other things, I fall within certain minority groups which lend to me being “disadvantaged”. These things had never been an issue with me, as I was raised in an urban area with lots of diversity. However, after taking a class in multiculturalism at Green Mountain with Prof. V.Jackson, I am much more self-aware and aware of others. I am sure others will agree when I say, that some sort of statements and behaviors are very noticeably discriminatory. It is easy to tell someone is discriminatory when they say “I don’t like Hispanic people”, or if they go out of their way to avoid touching someone who is gay. Sure it is very easy for us to assume that those people belong to a certain group of people. However, where do you draw the line when it comes to subtle remarks? How can you tell if you are defending social justice, or being uptight? I was at pub in town with some friends from the area who don’t go to my school. One of my friends said “All Asians are ugly” and I immediately said, “Now, that’s racist” and I was ignored. She went on to poll other people who were sitting at the table, who responded in various ways about Asian people that they found to be attractive. It made me feel extremely uncomfortable. What am I supposed to do in that situation? Storm-off and never speak to those people again? Warn others of their dispositions? Lecture them? It is so hard to tell where I draw the line. I feel as if I should have done more. In additon, within a short amount of time some people at the table started talking about how funny it would be if everyone at the table started holding hands and praying the next time they entered a bar. The guy across from me said “Funny, the girl wearing the cross doesn’t want to pray”. I had been quiet while they joked around and mocked my religious beliefs and said “It is a sin to get drunk”. From many directions, I heard shouts of wine in the Bible, and then said “It is not a sin to drink, but it is a sin to get drunk”. Why should I have to defend my religious beliefs? Among other things they said, I felt attacked. I do not feel comfortable talking about my religion, because I realize how someone can feel harassed when another person tries to “convert” them to their religion. I don’t want to convert anyone and I also don’t feel like it is polite to talk about religion in most situations, pretty much anywhere that is not church or in a conversation between two people who want to discuss the situation. I left the table as the jesting continued, which seemed to be in fun, but still was hurtful. I ended up leaving the bar and texting my friend, to tell her that I no longer wanted to be friends with someone who was so blatantly bigoted. She responded that she “wasn’t a s*^%-ty person”. I told her I was sick of white privilege, and she said “You don’t know how hard my life has been”. Needless to say, I don’t intend to speak with her anymore. The whole point of this story I suppose, is that I am finding it difficult to discern what sort of comments and/or actions should cause me to feel sensitive, and when I feel sensitive, what do I do? It doesn’t seem to do much to call out the fact that people who belong to majority groups could possibly be making minority groups seem inferior, isolated, or us v.s. them. Is it fair for me to call out white privilege? Should I have to explain what white privilege is, in context of what it means to have privilege and power in general?
If you haven’t read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh, you should. I think the world we live in would be a lot happier if people were more sensitive to the fact that not everyone is like you or I.