Last weekend I was in Chicago with my mother. Chicago is a very segregated city. Literally you can see the racial and ethnic dynamics play out on the train. By this I mean all of a sudden there will be all sorts of people on the train and then slowly it becomes all black… and then you head in the opposite direction and suddenly the white people come back. Fascinating!
I felt a little bit like Zora Neale Hurston exploring a new place, asking lots of questions: “What neighborhood are we in?” People were actually able to tell me the streets and sections that were exclusively, white, latino/a, black, indian, polish… and people were ready to openly talk about it. Again! Fascinating.
Anyway all of this brings me to two things that I debated on sharing with the BSD community in the hopes of shedding some light on how race is showing up in present day America (the United States). They are this article:
“Outcry Against Essence Unfair” by Kyra Kyles of the Chicago Redeye (think 7 days newspaper…)
and this little bit from comedian Louis C.K titled “Being White”. I won’t put the youtube clip up because it is a comedic sketch and has inappropriate language but I will share some of what is said in his act:
“Sorry I’m being so negative. I’m a bummer, I don’t know I shouldn’t be I’m a very lucky guy. I got a lot going from me. I’m healthy, I’m relatively young. I’m white; which thank God for that…boy. That is a huge leg up, are you kidding me? I love being white I really do. Seriously, if you’re not white you’re missing out because this…is thoroughly good. Let me be clear by the way, I’m not saying that white people are better. I’m saying that being white is clearly better, who could even argue? If it was an option I would reup ever year. Oh yeah I’ll take white again absolutely, I’ve been enjoying that, I’ll stick with white thank you.
Here’s how great it is to be white, I could get in a time machine and go to any time and it would be…awesome when I get there. That is exclusively a white privilege… A black guy in a time machine is like hey anything before 1980 no thank you, I don’t want to go. But I can go to any time. The year 2, I don’t even know what was happening then but I know when I get there, welcome we have a table right here for you sir. … thank you, it’s lovely here in the year 2. I can go to any time in the past, I don’t want to go to the future and find out what happens to white people because we’re going to pay hard for this, you gotta know that … we’re not just gonna fall from number 1 to 2.
They’re going to hold us down (too many bad words in this part!) forever and we totally deserve it but for now wheeeee. If you’re white and you don’t admit that it’s great, you’re an… It is great and I’m a man. How many advantages can one person have? I’m a white man, you can’t even hurt my feelings. What can you really call a white man that really digs deep? Hey (expletive)…oh ruined my day. Boy shouldn’t have called me a cracker, bringing me back to owning land and people what a drag.”
So if you managed to take the time to read all of this congratulations on your attention span!
But really my point in sharing this sketch and Kyle’s article is to help answer the question:
WHY DO WE HAVE TO DO THIS DIVERSITY STUFF?
because this is the world we live in, and this is the world that students live in as well. When students come across the youtube video of Louis C.Ks “being white”, or hear about all the press that the new Essence hire is getting they (and we!) should be able to think critically about why these are issues and understand that we can talk about them without fear.
No longer can we let our students fail to be able to talk about race, gender, class, ability issues (and I can continue with the list) and oppression. Especially if we want to prepare them for whatever educational/career choices they make after Burlington High School.
These are just two examples I am using to paint a picture of the racialized (and gendered) world that we are all living in. It does not have to feel oppressive! We have the tools to dissect and explore what is being presented to us. And with these tools comes power. What will you do with your power today?
Transcript of Louis C.K from Rose’s post @ feminsting. Thanks!