When I think about defining “White Privilege,” I think about how it has affected me in my life. So many moments that I can’t seem to name a specific one. When searching for “white privilege” definitions, it was hard to find some examples. Here is what I found:
“White Privilege: the fact of people with white skin having advantages in society that other people do not have. The concept of white privilege explains why white people have greater access to society’s legal and political institutions.”
For me and many others, receiving an education from the University of Idaho is one of the best gifts we’ve ever been given. The campus is beautiful, the faculty and staff are welcoming, and the student body is diverse–or is it?
According to the numbers, 71% of students are white and only 29% of students are people of color. For a national average, 58% of all college students in America are white and the remaining 42% are people of color. From the 1970s to today, these percentages have been shifting more towards middle ground.
Although the diversity numbers for the UI may be a little higher than other universities, it’s not something to be proud of, at least not yet.
After talking to a few professors on campus, I learned that the faculty at the UI is disparagingly white as well. I was told that there are only about two dozen faculty of color. So how can we make our classrooms more inclusive?
Passing is about performance. Passing is about presentation. Passing is about appearance and external markers of identity. Because most of the world only knows each of us through how we look, and we never get to explain our inner nuances to them, then they only see us for what we are the outside. They make assumptions for what our outward selves signify for our inner selves. Our identity and beliefs are assumed from a quick glance. Usually people think of gender or race with the topic of passing, but passing can involve a huge range of personal characteristics, including race, ethnicity, gender, sex, sexuality, religion, disability or ability, job occupation, level of education, intelligence, economic class, and social status. Passing can signify any personal characteristic of identity.
Would you ever be willing to let strangers cut or shave your hair to support the message that beauty is more than a person’s external appearance? I’m not sure if I could. In this video from The Liberators International, co-founder Jae West does just that.
This video was particularly powerful to me simply because I realized that I, like many women, have a strong attachment to my hair. Most of my confidence comes from feeling beautiful and feminine and my hair is a huge part of that. I spend time washing, cutting, dying, straightening, drying, and curling my hair to make it look just right. As much as I hate to say it, if I didn’t have my hair, I don’t know how I would carry myself with the same confidence I have today. As much as I hate that my confidence comes from my external appearance, it should be acknowledged that for many women, hair is a form of expression.
I went to high school in Meridian, located in southern Idaho. It was a pretty big school, however, most high schools in Idaho lack diversity, and my school was no exception. My school was dominantly white, with a few black students, a few Hispanic students, and maybe six Asian students, myself included.
For the most part, everyone got along well with one another. Our school’s security officer hardly ever got called to handle disputes. His biggest call was to help a student locked out of her car. My school was close because most of us grew up together in the same neighborhood, went to the same elementary school and middle school, and most of us worked together outside of school.
Currently women of color make up less than 40 percent of the US population. By 2050, this will rise to 53 percent of the population. In 2014, 14 percent of books were by and about people of color.
Small independent publishing companies, like Nothing But The Truth are attempting to make a dent in these numbers. VIDA tracks the breakdown of women in the literary arts. When authors of color are turned away, a blank spot is left in the history books. Already the United States has lost so much culture and voice by prohibiting certain peoples from publishing. Whatever is keeping these women from being published now is just as devastating.
Regardless of what genre you choose to read, it’s always important to search out new and unfamiliar work. New perspectives can broaden your horizons and make you see things in a different light. One way you can help is to create demand for these little known, yet fabulous authors. This is a list of books by women of color that I encourage you to take a spin through. There is something for everyone on the list!
Let me be up-front: I love bell hooks. I loved her when I was doing my first master’s degree, training as a progressive educator. Back then, I thought the first chapters of her Teaching To Transgress articulated the core of progressive education—everyone has the right to his or her own story, and sharing these stories is the backbone of learning, empathy, and right action—more clearly and succinctly than anything else in the small library of textbooks I accumulated. And after reading Feminism is for Everybody, I love bell hooks even more.
As a clueless feminist, I was thrilled to hear about this book and—admittedly—even more thrilled to discover it was only 118 pages long. But the treatise surprised me. Firstly, I didn’t understand exactly how 118 pages could take me four hours to read. But they did. More importantly, “feminism is for everybody” doesn’t translate to “everybody can be some kind of feminist” or “you probably already are a feminist.” I believe these ideas, but hooks doesn’t. She asserts that certain convictions—such as the belief that abortion should be legal—should be givens for feminists, and that feminism is a conscious choice that requires vigilant soul-searching and self-critique. For hooks, “feminism is for everybody” means “the feminist movement promotes the good of all people.” Continue reading “The Clueless Feminist Book Review: “Feminism is for Everybody””→