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I’m Actually Looking Forward to Tomorrow’s Class





My Friday night class is on student development in college.  Lots of theories, postulates, etc. etc.  I generally find most of it to be a bunch of b.s. psychobabble.  Not that I completely disagree with the stages and vectors and whatever else they’re termed that we go through, this is just such a departure from my previous educational training which is based on hard science – biology and public health.  Seems like anyone can pick five stages, give them a fancy sounding name and then assert that we all go through them.  Whatev.

Tomorrow night?  Racial and Ethnic Identity Development.  Whoo hoo.  Should either be a very lively or very quiet class. 

Right now I’m reading about Helms’ White Identity Development Model.  In her first “phase” titled “Abandonment of Racism” she explains that there are two statuses.  Status 1 is Contact.  Status 2 is Disintegration.  In Status 1, individuals must “acknowledge that blacks are treated differently from whites in the United States.  When whites reach this point, they can move on to the next status.”  I almost fell out of my chair (here at work) laughing.  All I could think was “does anyone ever make it to Status 2 or Phase II, Status 6 (the final status of white identity development). 

Yeah, I know, I’m not making much sense.  But I’m tickled at this particular reading.  So, bear with me.

Seriously, it seems as though most whites I encounter do not acknowledge the fact that blacks – and other racial/ethnic minorites – are treated differently in this country.  I often hear about how we all have the same opportunities, we all have the same Constitutional guarantees, etc., etc.  I wonder if this phenomena is unique to the South or if people hear the same thing all over the country?

Curious to know what your experiences with this have been and what your thoughts are.  If you’re a person of color – do most of the white people you encounter acknowledge different treatment of minorities (don’t get all Census bureau on me, you know what I mean) or do you routinely encounter white folks who will say “yes, you are treated differently?”  If you’re white, what are your thoughts?  Do you think there is an equal playing field?  That everyone, regardless of ethnicity or heritage is treated equally here in America (or wherever you may be reading this from)?

Curious to see what y’all will say, so please comment.  Keep it nice, keep it clean.  Please.  Thanks in advance!

*I use black/white because those are the groups to whom my readings refer.  Please feel free to chime in regardless of  whether or not you “fit” either of these categories.*


4 thoughts on “I’m Actually Looking Forward to Tomorrow’s Class

  1. I live in Illinois, a heavily democratic and liberal state, so white people that I encounter are usually pretty enlightened. The truth of the matter is that we don’t usually get to the nitty gritty of talking about if they acknowledge my struggles or the struggles or blacks or minorities because it never comes up and it typically makes us all uncomfortable. As the only black person in the room, I feel like the race is on my shoulders and my white friends and colleagues seem to feel like I’m judging their every word on the racism meter (which isn’t entirely untrue).

    I will say when blatantly or sometimes undercover racist things happen, all the white people that I encounter acknowledge it as such.

    I just don’t know how the “You know I may have had it harder than you because I’m black and I’m a woman” conversation would come up anywhere except in a classroom or at a conference or in a place where people are likely to agree with you no matter what side of the argument you’re on.

    Lastly, I do think that most people think that opportunities are equal and they’ll use our new President as an example. Most will say if he can be President, any person of any race can do anything. I’ve written so much already, so I won’t elaborate further on where I stand in that argument.

    I’ll just say it’s not cut and dry and it’s always subject to interpretation and circumstances.

  2. T – I just wonder if ever a time will come when more people will be willing to discuss race – and racism – in America. Your point about not getting to the nitty gritty is right on.

    Our class is on developmental theories, so it is highly unlikely that we’ll have “the discussion” tomorrow in class, but I am looking forward to seeing if the subject is broached at all. Particulary since the majority of my classmates are white, generational Southerners and, if they follow the demographics of the state, highly conservative. We do have a good mix of traditional aged and adult learners and I believe there may be a difference in opions among those two groups based on their unique experiences here in Mississippi if the discourse gets that far.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I appreciate you.

  3. This is an interesting topic. I’m in Memphis which is one of the most openly racially divided cities anywhere.

    I find that I tend to censor myself when talking about race with a group of non-black people. My boss who builds houses with H.abiT.at, drives a Prius, eats organic, rides his bike 20 miles at a time, almost cried happy tears at work on Nov 5th (you know the type) encourages open dialogue during our team meetings. I’m the newest member on the team and the only AA so I am NEVER completely honest about race. I always find a way to say what I want to say by using code words…students at a disadvantage, 1st generation college students, high dropout rates, etc. The point being, they all present a liberal, open face to the world, but I don’t buy into it for one minute.

    A few years ago when I was still in school, I never voiced an opinion that was different from the teachers on race. I either agreed or kept my mouth shut. Cowardly I know, but this is the south, they were white and I needed an A.

  4. I am lucky enough to live in NYC where many white people, some of whom are my friends, are out of status one. I’m not sure how much further along than that they are. Plus, the NYPD wrote the book on treating blacks differently so in a sick way white cops maybe out of status one too (joking). At the same time there are too many who don’t get it. Now with Obama those same people get it even less.

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