This week was tough for me in the academic world. I was told that I do not understand what it means to struggle in academia (or in life for that matter) because I am white. I was told that the American educational system is set up for white people to succeed, and for the rest of the population to struggle. Because of the color of my skin, I cannot possibly know or understand the path that people who are not white have to take.
The person who said this to me is studying to become an educational leader. They will one day run a program, or be a dean of a college campus, and affect policy and choices made in regards to students’ education.
This frustrating to me on many levels. On a superficial level I am angry because I am not 100% white (my mama is Cuban), and I do not feel like I should be dismissed as white just because I have been living in Scotland and my skin tone resembles that of Casper the Friendly ghost. On a deeper level, I am frustrated by the insinuation that because I look white, I cannot empathize with a person of another race who has to endure hardship in the world of education. I’ve lived and worked in a variety of places and had the privilege to get to know and interact with a variety of people, many who have not had an easy go in life. I am also frustrated because while my road to higher education hasn’t really had that many bumps, it has not been all sunshine and roses. I grew up in a single parent household, and had to work really hard to get scholarships and aid to go to college. I don’t think I need to mention the disease that sometimes makes me so tired that even rolling over in bed is too much effort, and that in a down cycle the pain in my hands makes it almost impossible to hold a pencil or type on a keyboard.
I fully recognize that I am very lucky. I have parents who support me and helped me pay of school the best they could, and I have access to medication that helps me control the bad days. My bumps are small compared to many, but I resent that the color of my skin excludes my struggles from mattering. I am also worried that someone who carries this attitude into our classroom, will carry it into the workplace. This is potentially alienating for anyone who is white, and therefore does not seem to be deserving of help because they do not have to struggle the way other ethnic groups do.
The conversation then turned to religion, and because I was already keyed up about race, I got a little snide about why Christian morals should not be used as the framework for schools because not everyone wants a religion they may not subscribe to shoved down their throats. The thing is, I like morals, I even have a few. I also like religion. I have no problem with people who are guided by their religion in the shaping of their morals. I don’t think religion and public schools go together all that well, and I don’t think one religion should be given preferential treatment over another, but I understand people who are ultra serious about their religion.
While I know that I should just write it off as a bad day and being oversensitive, but two days later I am still annoyed about it. I wasted yesterday in a blah mood, and while today has been better for my productivity, I am not looking forward to more conversations that will lead to me being wrong because I was born white…..like I had a choice in that. I think we all know that if I could choose, I would choose to be leopard print.