i) Noticing normative narratives
White privilege is something that until recently, I didn’t know existed. White people are subconsciously taught that they are privileged without realizing it all through their lives. White privilege is hidden, ignored, and fought against to create a lot of normal narratives regarding white people not being racist if they do not make racist comments. When I examine moments in my own life, as well as reading other’s experiences, I am shocked at how white privilege is present almost everywhere. Stories of my classmates interactions with the ignorance of white privilege are, “I am not White but an Asian Immigrant” written by Anila and “Race” by Trista. Anila’s story begins with a different normal narrative about how nice Canadians are as “[they] noticed the people were holding the doors for the others in courtesy”. Later this normal narrative is disrupted by her, as white privilege comes into play as her needs are ignored to fulfill a white person’s. Anila’s experience gives a great example of both types of racism (systemic and individual) as the receptionist “gave [them] a strange look… as if disturbing her”. This is an example of racism through white privilege, as they are ignored and looked upon poorly because they are Asian, or specifically, not white. Although the receptionist may not be aware of her privilege, it is there and because of it she is included in the system of racism.
Trista’s story follows the same line, but white privilege is introduced in a different way, one that doesn’t jump right out at you. You may think the racist comment she mentions, “doesn’t the hiring committee know everyone that lives here is white”, is harmless, but it is a prime example of white privilege. Because the new doctor is not white, the community members assume he has done well for his race, or that it is astonishing that he has received a doctorate from a well-known university. They don’t realize they are introducing racism into a young Trista’s life as she listens to the ignorance of white privilege along with racism in society. Both Trista’s and Anila’s stories introduce examples of individual racism through comments and racists remarks, but also the system of racism by acknowledging their experiences are because of white privilege. The stories of my classmates also relate to mine , as I discuss the same issue that is literally present in the hallways of my everyday life. Because I am white, I avoid dirty looks and rude comments from doing something exactly the same as my non-white peers. Many do not realize that we are blindly using our privilege every day. White privilege is present in many forms and although you may not have notice it, it is still there.
ii) Creating counter-stories: Disrupting normative narratives
A counter example of white privilege is provided in a story that pushes you to imagine yourself in a restaurant with a diverse group of people who are all getting treated, served, and smiled at the same. This is the situation Rubyann puts me in as I read her story on race. “[She] begins to realize how rich [her] town is becoming” as she notes all the new accents and faces next to the familiar ones. It’s important where she puts the line of her town being rich (rich with diversity and culture). Rubyann places it after she writes of the new cultures and races she is recognizing, something that was not as present there before. An opposite reaction, related to white privilege would be to notice how new people are taking over the town, or wondering how they can afford it, but she offers a new, positive spin. In the stories above, white privilege is presented as new immigrants experience themselves in a position of disadvantage do to their skin colour and a black doctor is looked upon as if he is representing his whole race for an accomplishment that white people see as uncommon for a black person. Although white privilege is commonly ignored, Rubyann recognizes hers but tries to put it aside by creating a welcoming feeling for all.
“Challenging our own racial reality by acknowledging ourselves as racial beings with a particular and limited perspective on race” is one way The Good Men Project (2013) describes trying to eliminate or address white privilege. Rubyann does this in her story when she mentions her excitement about meeting new people and learning more about their language and cultures everyday as she works. This not only shows that she is trying to educate herself on her limited views, but also acknowledging that she has the chance to engage, relate, and learn about these new people in her community.
The way we see things and interpret situations is how we move forward and what shapes our future. “Our socialization is the foundation of our identity” (Sensoy & DiAngelo, 2012). Rubyann shows us that through everyone’s eyes the same situation produces different outcomes. Many people’s first thoughts would have unconsciously been racist related to ignorance and white privilege. She enlightens us with an optimistic take that these newcomers will be welcomed by her and that she looks forward to seeing and learning from them. This gives us an insight as to who she is, as our mindset and thoughts are part of what makes us who we are. Most white people’s identities related to other races are negative whether they will admit it or not. This entices us to find situations where although white privilege is present, it is not used as an advantage but used to enlighten others of a tough situation that can be made into an easy one with understanding and help. This story urges me to think about my white privilege and try to create environments and situations where we can take small steps to learn what the privilege is and how to disengage it to create a more comfortable space.
The Good Men Project. (2013, June 30). Why It’s So Hard to Talk to White People About Racism. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/good-men-project/why-its-so-hard-to- talk-to- white-people-about-racism_b_7183710.html
Sensoy, O., DiAngelo R. (2012). Is everyone really equal?: An Introduction to Key Concepts in Social Justice Education. J.A. Banks (Ed.). New York, NY: Teachers College Press