You might be asking, “what is whiteness”? This is a totally legitimate question and one that we as a class are trying to unravel throughout this block. Thursday was the first day of C block (which has really thrown off my week) it was filled with introductions of ourselves and the class, pretty typical for the first day of a block. Friday we started to dive a little deeper into our own stories. This is my second block with Heidi Lewis and she does a great job of trying to make everyone in the class comfortable talking about their experiences before we reach the more uncomfortable subjects. We wrote a one page autobiographical paper on why we were taking this course and on Friday we discussed it with the class. Most of the students in the class are white and it was interesting to hear their thoughts on the subject before the class really started.
The name of the course is Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, this is taken from an article of the same title by Peggy McIntosh (Link! http://ted.coe.wayne.edu/ele3600/mcintosh.html). Through this article McIntosh explores her privileges as a white woman in the United States. As a Race and Ethnic Studies minor I have encountered this article many times but after reading it this time Heidi had us jot down some of our thoughts, for the first time I started to wonder about my privilege. I have always known myself to be a lucky individual but privilege is a term that I am mostly associated with whiteness. I am half Japanese and half Norwegian and did not grow up thinking I was a minority (which is a term we will complicate throughout this class) but rather multicultural. Being Asian and growing up in Seattle, Washington and the west coast in general is not rare and it was not until I came to Colorado that I realized Seattle was unique in this way. But yesterday in class I separated the word privilege from whiteness and came up with a list of my own privileges.
After writing down our thoughts we talked about the ideas the article provoked and some of my peers touched on guilt, one student asking himself and the class if he was racist. Heidi wanted to know if we felt as though we needed to label ourselves, the consensus of the class was no, but that we needed to be aware of our thoughts and prejudices. In the end we were trying to distinguish between self label-ism and self reflection. I have a problem with the term racism because most people see racism interchangeable with hate. We all (in my experiences) have prejudices and preconceived notions about people different from us and that is okay as long as we are aware of it and do not act recklessly because of them. Being racist, to me, does not always mean pure hate or hate at all it is merely a reflection on our society. The last exercise of the day was something called the Privilege Walk Workshop (Which you can find on google), each of us wrote down tally marks depending on if the sentence related to our lives. This was a great way for us to recognize our own privileges and know that many people in the class are in similar positions as us despite race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation or religion.
You could say we covered a lot in day one but that is how the block plan works, each day is a week, each week a month and each block is a semester.