Showing my weakness

Posted on February 14, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized |

I think that one of the most uncomfortable and yet best ways to challenge and support members of my community with regards to cultural sensitivity is to voice my own weaknesses/mistakes. It is with this in mind, that I disclose one of my most embarrassing realizations and greatest lessons regarding my ignorance with regards to white privilege.

During my time in San Jose State I spent a great deal of time feeling under utilized and wondering why I wasn’t being given more responsibilities. To read more about my experiences related to his challenge click here and  here. After coming home and being reintroduced to Peggy McIntosh’s article Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, I had what will currently go down as one of the most eye-opening moments in my entire graduate school experience. The first awakeningwas in recognizing that not once during my entire time in San Jose did I think or suspect that I wasn’t being given sufficient opportunities because of my ethnic background. White privilege allowed me to never have this fear.

The second and perhaps more thought provoking thing that came up was the fact that white privilege had allowed me to constantly go to my supervisor and ask for additional responsibilities without once considering the impact that would have been felt by others had I been given these tasks in full. What would it have said to the full-time advising staff members, who were all ethnic minorities, if I had been able to come in and do their job or a significant part of their job as a 3 month summer intern? Looking back, I can see that it could have undermined their authority, knowledge and skills. I also did not take into account the fact that having advisors from traditionally underrepresented groups was probably done with some intentionality given SJSU’s diverse student population. It makes sense to have a group of advisors whose ethnic identities mirror that of the student population and while my knowledge and skills may have been seen as adequate, it may have been harder for the majority of students to relate to me right off the bat. Thinking back on the situation and my unabashed pursuit of more responsibilities, I feel a bit ashamed. Not ashamed of the feelings I had, I wanted to gain the most out of my NODA internship and I will never feel bad about that. I did feel ashamed for not recognizing the many aspects behind my supervisors decision. My tunnel vision was ultimately greater attributed to my white privilege. I hope that in sharing this experience and continuing to reflect upon it that I can help others understand white privilege through a different lens and that I can continue to have honest conversations with myself and others when issues of my own white privilege come up again.

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional

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