Posted by Danny Pforte
It is easy to be colorblind as white person. No one ever questions your race. Rarely will people ask the question "What are you?" Whiteness is the norm in our society. It is the majority race (for now) and the one that holds — not some — but all of the power in our society. Whiteness, one could say, is an awning that protects white people when racial issues change the political climate for the worse. Those under its shelter are unaware of the privilege that it affords. Meanwhile, people of color are left out in the freezing rain.
We cannot underestimate the power of systematic racism. White privilege is directly related to the discrimination people of color face on our campus. In the larger society, white people are more likely to hold positions of power. But even on a smaller scale, white people do not face the persistent negative stereotypes and prejudices that are reinforced through the media, and which were created solely for the purpose of demoralization. Privilege and power are kept from oppressed groups in order to maintain the normative social structure of white dominance in our society. There are no exceptions.
In his article last week, Rick Chrisman did well to reinforce valuable rules of etiquette, friendship, and love, all of which must be upheld in order to create a community that rewards all of its members. However, the racial tension on our campus calls for the need to push these ideas further. White allies must take a stand against racism. Dialogue needs to continue so that the poignant narratives of the marginalized can be heard, but also in order to address the privilege whiteness affords and its relationship with discrimination.
But the fact that friendship and self-control are important in the fight against discrimination goes without saying. It's like an introduction to a physics experiment that states these laws only apply within a vacuum; it's entirely unrealistic. The confusion students have regarding this campus is a private or public space (as Chrisman mentioned) is not the problem. It is the dangerous fact that this is a predominately white public space, as Jon Zibell noted at the Teach-In a few weeks ago. Unless we unpack the way privilege and discrimination intersect, the notions of friendship, love, and empathy will be tough to achieve.
As a multiracial student, being part white and Asian, I benefit from the privileges that whiteness affords, but also face the oppression that accompanies my Asian identity. However, I can tell you that I will fight to change the system that dehumanizes and condemns groups because of their racial identity. I implore the Skidmore community — students, faculty members, and administrators — to join me in demolishing the awning that protects the privileged at the expense of the oppressed.
Danny is a sophomore who is inspired by the need for change.