I first composed this blog post in my head walking back from class so gosh darn angry at myself. Why did I have to be so ignorant?
The reason for my anger came from a comment I had made in class: “Wow, I didn’t know ‘white privilege’ existed in the 1980s!” (Regarding a Peggy McIntosh’s White Privledge: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, copyright 1988) What I really meant to say was that I hadn’t known the term “white privilege” had existed almost twenty years before I had been born. Of course, it is evident that white privilege itself has existed for centuries– I know this. But what I had said made me sound like a completely uneducated airhead who hailed from a town population 900. More and more, I am starting to think that the words “uneducated airhead” really do describe who I am.
Still, I am further frustrated by the fact that there are so many ideas out there that I do not know. I don’t mean factual concepts like how to derive something, I mean negative experiences that people face day-to-day in the society in which I belong that I am barred from seeing because of my race or economic status or gender or sexual orientation or nationality…experiences that I have no way of knowing that I don’t know until roughly shoved right in my face. It took the tragedy of Trayvon Martin for me to see that America still bleeds racist. What else is hidden from me?
My anger and guilt is reflected in Jennifer Self’s Framework for Developing Consciousness to End Oppression. As I move past’s Self’s stages of unconscious incompetence and conscious incompetence, I am caught in the “choice point” of the model. Here, I am feeling all the emotions that Self suggests I might in my existential crisis: overwhelming guilt, sadness, and anger. So I must emerge myself in university classes, which provide such a healthy outlet for my feelings, and continue opening my ears, mind, and heart. How lucky I am for the opportunity to learn what I do not know.
I have a suspicion that confusion and anger I experience is a feeling commonly held in many white Americans as we move around Self’s model. The rising availability and popularity of media like Netflix documentaries (example: 13th) and publications like Dear White America by Time Wise has doubtlessly had an effect on America…now it is not necessary to be a scholar to understand the rhetoric that proves our country needs some serious change.
I think that the only barrier that stands in the way of media text like Dear White America is the deeply dichotic rhetoric used. Wise demonstrates what some call a “liberal superiority complex,” using a sarcastic tone that does not open a dialogue between those who are liberal and those who are not. This hinders Wise’s persuasive power, and could further alienate those who are in the stage of conscious incompetence.
While I am in the process of learning what I do not know, I can combat my unconscious incompetence by acting with love towards those around me. It is my hope that white America leads with their hearts as well.