Our group had a piece on recognizing that every white person is living with white privilege, consciously or unconsciously, and it’s our responsibility as educators and as people to ‘unpack the invisible napsack,’ as the author put it, and make sure these ‘expectations’ we have are acknowledged as not being universal. It’s also our responsibility to call out injustice where we see it and use our place of privilege to provide a platform for their voices to be heard.
It was interesting to see how we all reacted to the realization or further understanding of how we can be unconsciously harmful to other people by not acknowledging our place of privilege. The discomfort is immediate and completely understandable–no one wants to be considered racist, even (maybe especially) accidentally. But it was also very clear that for our brief moments of feeling bad, minority groups have to suffer these hurts on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. They don’t get the option of not thinking about it. We do.
I really do think that no matter what subject we teach we have a duty as educators to bring racism into the discussion. And to do our absolute best to represent minorities in our subject matter and in places of prestige–if a student never sees people like her as a doctor or a lawyer, even if no one specifically tells her she can’t be one, it’s so easy for her and others like her to internalize this unspoken message. Our jobs should always be about raising students up, and if that means feeling uncomfortable, then so be it.