Privileged, Me?

As part of my commitment to learn more about how I can contribute to changing systemic discrimination and facilitating uncomfortable conversations I am currently reading So You Want To Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. I am only four chapters in so far, but she has promised that I will make missteps along this journey, and that is okay. One of the frequent mistakes that is made in having conversations about systemic discrimination is forgetting to check your own privilege. Its hard to think of myself as privileged as I grew up in a text book broken home in a working class community with mental illness, but privilege comes in many different forms. Oluo discusses the many ways in which privileges present and encourages reflecting on ones own privileges. She also noted that some privileges may also come with disadvantages in certain ways but they still provide a certain benefit.

So here I go, publicly exploring and checking my own privileges and hoping you will, at least privately, do the same. If I am overlooking a privilege, which is possible, let me know!

I am white.
I am cisgendered.
I lean toward heterosexual norms.
I was able to complete high school.
I was able to afford to attend college and complete my degree.
I am a US born American.
I speak fluent English.
I am child-free.
I have supporting, loving, grandparents, mom, and brother.
I was able to attend preschool.
I am able bodied.
I am neurotypical.
I am back in school working toward my masters degree.
I have stable housing.

I challenge you to comment with at least one way that you have privilege and I hope you will subscribe to my site and join me on this journey to a healthier community and improving mental wellness for all.

I am continuing to collect questions in order to facilitate an ongoing decision about race (Lets Talk About Race) but in the mean time will explore how I can better have these conversations. Next week I will share how we can use our privileges to help challenge systemic discrimination!

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Lets Talk About Race

Last week I wrote about how I have grown up in a systemically racist society and therefore occasionally have thoughts that are influenced by racial prejudices. I do not let these thoughts influence my behavior and am hyper of aware and ashamed that they exist. I made a commitment to learn more about these systems and uncover ways in which we can work to correct them as well as facilitating and participating in the uncomfortable conversations needed to make these changes.

I have begun to try and talk to those around me and have discovered blind spots that harbor confusion and prevent growth. These are the result of differing life experiences and our personal realities that are based on what we have been told our whole lives. When I ask if anyone had talked to their black friends, coworkers, neighbors, etc. about their experiences and realities I frequently hear “No, I don’t want to come off as offensive.” I recognize that it is an uncomfortable possibility so I am stepping up lead these conversations. I am asking that people submit, anonymously, their questions. I will then work to provide answers to bring about clarity and help remove our systemic blinders.

While some topics I feel that I am capable to address myself, I am building a panel of experts who have grown up with different perspectives and realities then my own to help me with these conversations. I encourage you to subscribe to my site so that you can journey with us to a more inclusive tomorrow.

If you have questions or curiosities you would like us to talk about please submit them at the link below!

Submit your questions

Uncomfortable Conversations

What does it mean to be racist? Oxford Languages defines racist as “a person who shows OR feels discrimination OR prejudice against people of other races, OR who believes that a particular race is superior to another.” I don’t like this definition. Why, because it forces me recognize that I am racist. I feel incredible shame saying that and fear of the possible pain it may cause. That definition includes a lot of “ors”. I am a person who feels prejudice, a preconceived opinion, about people of other races. These feelings exist as a result of my life experiences and influenced by society.  

I grew up having black friends. In first grade I even asked one of my best friends, who was black, to marry me and I remember attending a biracial wedding (not between two six year old’s). I went to Howard W. Blake High School, a magnet school that adopted the name of one of two all black high schools from Tampa’s past. For those who have never heard of magnet schools, they were designed to encourage desegregation. They do this through offering highly desirable and selective programs so that students who live outside the immediate school neighborhood choose to attend them. The neighborhoods these schools are located in tend to be low social and since our systems remain so broken, many of the residents in these area are black. I choose to attend this school. I fought for two years to get accepted. How could I be racist?  

My senior year I began to explore college opportunities. On my short list was Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU). I was drawn to FAMU and wanted to be a part of their amazing music program, but FAMU was historically a university for black students. I was encouraged to look elsewhere because it ‘would not be ‘safe’ for me to go to FAMU. Instead I chose to attend a small community college and then the University of South Florida. Over the years I have had roommates, friends, professors, peers, coworkers, and neighbors who are black. Again, how am I racist? 

Society has told me, repeatedly, that people who are black are riskier than those who are white. That is not to say they are dangerous, but they might be. As a result, objectively I know that race does not determine a person’s ability or character but subjectively my gut alerts me that I should be cautious. I hate that I am racist and I make a conscious effort to change my thinking and not allow it to influence my behavior. I work hard toward making systemic repairs so that racism disappears. I am committed to being an ally and helping to support cultural competency so that we can end these societal influences and racism because black lives matter.  

I am no expert in race, racism, or black culture, but I am dedicated to learning. I will be making a greater effort to gain competency and encourage you to do the same. As I learn and discover resources I will share and reflect using this site. I encourage you to subscribe to my page so that you can take this journey with me. I stand with my community, not in silence, but in shock. We have to take off the blinders of ignorance and address the broken systems so that we can rise together. We need to have these uncomfortable conversations.  

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