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Old 06-20-2005
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Default Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?

>Elizabeth A. Reyes is a staff psychologist and

>The Chronicle of Higher Education
>The Chronicle Review
>
>
>>From the issue dated September 17, 2004
>
>
>OBSERVER
>
>Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?
>
>
>By ELIZABETH A. REYES
>
>
>Even with increased awareness of diversity throughout our society, we
>academic professionals of color often find that our white counterparts
>treat us differently from the way they do other whites.
>Not long ago, I was invited to give a guest lecture on working with diverse
>ethnic groups to students in a course on counseling psychology. As part of
>my job as multicultural coordinator at the university's counseling center,
>I train counseling supervisors and provide therapy, so the lecture topic
>obviously fit my areas of expertise. After my talk, the professor asked if
>I could share with the students something about the development of my
>ethnic identity as a Latina.
>I felt that I was being asked to sum up what it was like to be Mexican.
>Because my presentation had not covered Latino psychology or working with
>the Latino population per se, I was caught off guard. I asked the professor
>to repeat the question, just to give myself time to think. Was I really
>supposed to share, on
>demand, personal experiences that had shaped me?
>
>I found myself wondering whether one of my white colleagues would ever
>hear: "In the time we have left, I wonder if you could tell us a bit about
>when you came to grips with your white privilege or racism?" My first
>thought was to observe that asking the question exemplified white
>privilege. But even as I searched for a more appropriate response, I knew
>that the question was a wake-up call about what I may expect as a
>professional of color. I realized that my continuing education of others
>did not end last year when I left graduate school -- another setting in
>which I was one of too few voices representing diversity. Moreover, the
>question alerted me once again to the deceptively benign nature of white
>privilege, even in academe.
>
>Because my lecture had focused on the development of racial identity,
>rather than Latino values, I suspected that the professor was not asking me
>to talk about my culture as much as about my experience -- as a person of
>color -- of prejudice, shame, pain, and rage. Here was one of those cases
>in which members of minority groups are not treated the same as whites, who
>are seldom asked to bare their souls in the interest of educating people
>from a different ethnic group. Although I was taken aback by the question,
>my cultural upbringing (which emphasizes respect for my elders and
>authority figures) made it impossible for me to challenge the professor in
>front of the students.
>I felt compelled to say something, and something that I hoped the professor
>would not find disrespectful. So I began with a lie, stating that of course
>I am happy to share information about myself. Then I explained that such
>sharing can be a double-edged sword: When only members of ethnic minorities
>are asked
>to share, it reinforces the notion that whites have no culture to share.
>Accordingly, I gently invited the professor to share some personal
>experiences with the class as well.
>
>For my part, I began with the story of my family's migration to the United
>States, which bought me some time to think. Then I talked about how I had
>learned that no matter how hard my family tried, or how equal we looked
>from an economic standpoint, I would often be called a spic. I described a
>visit I made to a friend, two weeks after I earned my doctoral degree. When
>I neared the house, a stranger who was one of my friend's neighbors asked
>me if I was there to clean the house. "I am looking for someone to clean my
>house, too," she told me.
>
>Clearly, I did not fit her model of the type of person who would live in or
>visit her exclusive, gated community. As a Mexican woman, I fit her idea of
>a housekeeper, not a houseguest. I sometimes feel that racism can be like a
>car that zooms past and splashes you with water from the nearest puddle,
>leaving your clothes soiled. Although my racist experiences were not my
>fault, at the end of the day, I was the one walking around with the sullied
>spirit, wishing I could wipe away the stains. The perpetrator goes on his
>or her way, often not even aware of having offended anyone.
>
>
>As I shared my stories, I couldn't help wondering how it would change the
>students' perception of me as a professional. Would they feel pity or
>embarrassment when they saw me again? Or would they quickly forget what I
>had said? Which would be worse? I understood the professor's hope that my
>remarks would be educational, but it seemed to me that whatever I said
>could diminish my credibility and status as a professional in the students'
>eyes.
>I left the class feeling exposed; I was also confused about how to deal
>with that feeling. I knew that I felt vulnerable because of what I had
>revealed to the students. I told myself it was not the professor's fault --
>I could have decided to share less about my past. But I had barely had time
>to think what to say. In addition I suspected that my reaction was another
>facet of white privilege: People of color often react to racism by blaming
>themselves for being too sensitive.
>
>The experience made me wonder when in the future I will be asked to "share
>my story" with predominantly white audiences or students whom I might have
>to supervise. How would I seize the opportunity to educate, without making
>myself feel vulnerable or as if I needed to prove something? I certainly
>would not want to discourage efforts to increase multicultural awareness,
>but we too often expect people of color to do all the educating about
>diversity. In dialogues on race relations, many whites say that they have
>no culture, or that they are simply "American." Too often we fail to
>challenge those assertions.
>Though we have a growing body of literature related to white ethnic
>identity and white privilege, too little of it is included in education
>about multicultural awareness. And beyond the literature, white students
>and professors need to explore their own identities. It is too easy to
>focus on the group that we see as the other instead of exploring ourselves.
>
>
>Now I need to figure out how to prepare myself for future confrontations
>with white privilege. How can whites become more conscious of the impact
>that their actions, comments, and assumptions have on people of color? How
>can we make whites more aware of their blind spots? Multicultural education
>can help enlighten professors and students by including white culture in
>racial dialogue: In this country, all culture and ethnicity exist within
>the context of white privilege. Remember the popular metaphor of looking
>out the window. We are so used to seeing what is outside that we don't
>notice how the window itself shapes our perception. Multicultural
>awareness means refocusing our eyes so that we see the window. Is there a
>windowpane? Does the glass have a crack? Is there a screen? How do those
>factors influence our view of what we think we see? In order to help
>students see the windows of their culture, we need to engage white students
>in a dialogue about their culture, worldview, and privilege.
>It would be particularly helpful if white professors shared their own
>journey of self-awareness with students. That openness would make fellow
>professionals and students of color feel less vulnerable, and it would be a
>valuable example for white students -- especially if the professors
>described moments when they recognized their own prejudice.
>
>
>In addition, graduate schools need to teach students of color how to handle
>racism -- both conscious and unconscious -- in academe, how to educate
>their future white colleagues and peers about white privilege, and how to
>serve as mentors for their own students of color. I wish the professor had
>asked me before class if I would be comfortable talking about myself to the
>students. I continue to struggle with the question of how much to disclose
>in the future.
>Unfortunately, that was not on the curriculum in my graduate school.
>
>
>Elizabeth A. Reyes is a staff psychologist and the coordinator of
>multicultural student programs and services at Pennsylvania State
>University at University
>Park.
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  #2  
Old 03-24-2015
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sweetnspicy79 sweetnspicy79 is offline
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Default Re: Whose Culture Is It, Anyway?

I don't agree all with what she wrote.Competence is proved through action, and work. She should speak about her experiences without worrying if she is going to be too "exposed" to anyone. She should also call them out when they put her in an "other" box. Fuck all that noise.How is anyone going to know who they are if they deny where they came from, they might as well say they don't know where they are going. I would be more worried about the sexism, than the racism, thought.
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