Whiteness.

**this is the first of what I hope will be many reflections from NAIS’ People of Color Conference in Washington, DC. If you teach at an Independent School and haven’t been here, get on it.

 

I am writing this in a break during day two of the conference.  I am writing this about my first affinity group session.  I am in the white affinity group.  I know this because I was told I was white in it at least 15 times. “You are white.” “How do you embrace your whiteness?”  “What does it mean to be white?”  ” How do you feel about being white?”

When we showed up to the session we sat in groups of five.  I don’t know that in my entire life I’ve ever intentionally been in a room with only white people.  I know that is has happened, I mean my community/life was not hugely diverse but I don’t think I’ve ever been like,
“Let’s gather, white people!”  Certainly not with the exclamation point.  Anyways, groups of five.  We sat and we discussed.  There were questions, we told stories, overall it was a neat experience.

But here’s where I am at:  I know I am white but it makes me uncomfortable to be continually reminded. Man, that sounds bratty.  I am lucky enough to have the privilege of it not being the largest part of my identity.  Of not having to think constantly about my whiteness.

I left with one main thought:  I am worried about diversity being a prize to be won.  “Our school has more than 25% students of color or staff of color so we’re awesome.”  “My best friend is black.” “I run the GSA.”  Are we as white people in a competition to be the least racist?  To seem the least racist?  When I throw out that I just read bell hooks am I doing it to seem like I am educated?  Do I care that other people think that I am culturally competent? Why do I care?  Why do we care?

Okay, That’s one session from yesterday I have about 3 others to write on and I need to go hang out with the other white people again now.

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3 thoughts on “Whiteness.

  1. Schools promote their diversity percentages because prospective families of color ask the question, not because schools want to “win a prize.”

  2. Did you ever notice I’m white? Its really bad for me–not only white, but male, tall, heterosexual, … It probably goes on, but I suspect I remain in denial about those others. I decided a while ago to use my privilege the best I was able, and try to listen strongly enough to better understand the ways I oppress, assume, etc. And I really decided not to try to be PC, perfect, etc. Rather than tiptoe, I hope to meet people where they are, and freely express myself. I decided to trust in myself strongly enough not to be timid.

    You may have noticed that mostly that causes me to be an ass. But I think I’m ok with that, because i gotta be me!

    My guess is you are having a great conference, honky.

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