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Teaching kids about ‘white privilege’

Photo from University of Texas at Austin

One Wisconsin school is rocking the race boat:

“A school district in Wisconsin said they will review a high school diversity class that exposed students to radical leftist thinkers and promoted a critical race theory that alleges white people are oppressors.

The ‘American Diversity’ class was taught to students at Delavan-Darien High School in Wisconsin, Fox News has learned.

‘They’re teaching white guilt,’ one parent told Fox News. ‘They’re dividing the students. They’re saying to non-whites, “You have been oppressed and you’re still being oppressed.” ‘

The parent, who asked not to be identified, has an 18-year-old son who was enrolled in the class and became alarmed after she looked at some of the handouts provided to the students.

‘I felt it was indoctrination,’ she said. ‘This is a radical left agenda and ideology that is now embedded in our school.’

The parent said the students were taught ‘if you’re white, you’re oppressing. If you’re non white, you’ve been a victim.’ “

I first became aware of critical race theory during what some might describe as an “indoctrination” program, but what most of us know as “college.” Going to a major city university like I did, and studying as much history as I did, a good number of my professors taught under the critical model. (One consequence of my time in college is that I entered an estadista and I left an independentista.)

I know a few teachers-in-training currently being taught critical race theory. It’s controversial, to say the least. Whites naturally don’t enjoy being told they’re oppressors who come from a long line of oppressors. And non-whites don’t like being constantly reminded of the disadvantages they face on a daily basis due to their pigmentation.

When I ran on the track team back in high school, we were told not to focus on the height of the hurdles, just on clearing them.

But the sad fact of the matter is that there is such a thing as “white privilege,” and you don’t even have to look outside the Latino community to see it. Latinos themselves discriminate against other Latinos based on the color of their skin, assigning prejudices such as trustworthiness or laziness based on race. I know more than a few Latino parents and grandparents who want their progeny to marry light-skinned Latinos (or even non-Latino whites) so they can flaunt photos of light-skinned, light-eyed children and grandchildren.

(It’s my understanding that the same phenomenon occurs within the black community, as well.)

I’m not sure why the Latino community is plagued by such a level of racial discrimination. Perhaps “white privilege” originates in “white preference,” or vice versa. It’s hard to discern which came first.

And while I do believe in teaching future generations of the cruelty and barbarity perpetrated by past generations, I’m not sure I agree with teaching children that they’re oppressive beyond hope. It might breed acceptance. I mean, if I’m told that I’m part of the oppressor class just because I’m white, how do I combat that and why should I try?

As a student of history, I’ve come to understand that, if history teaches anything, it’s that nothing is permanent. Times change, and people change with them, in time.

It strikes me as a tad un-American to pass judgement on someone based on who their parents were. Are “all men created equal”? Of course not. But the beauty of America is that, instead of trying to make everyone the same, the American ethos allows people to remain different while still being treated as equals.

So I guess my major qualm with critical race theory is that, while it provides a pretty accurate description of our past, it says next to nothing about our future. And our future is one wherein critical race theory will be a thing of the past.

About Hector Luis Alamo, Jr.

Hector Luis Alamo, Jr., is the associate editor at Being Latino and a native son of Chicago's Humboldt Park neighborhood. He received a B.A. in history at the University of Illinois at Chicago, where his concentration was on ethnic relations in the United States. While at UIC, he worked first as a staff writer for the Chicago Flame and later became the newspaper's Opinions editor. He contributes to various Chicago-area publications, most notably, the RedEye and Gozamos. He's also a cultural critic for 'LLERO magazine. He has maintained a personal blog since 2007, YoungObservers.blogspot.com, where he discusses topics ranging from political history and philosophy to culture and music.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and should not be understood to be shared by Being Latino, Inc.

Comments

  1. I like this piece. However, I disagree with the claim that critical race theory says nothing about the future. I suggest you look into Pedagogies of the Oppressed by Chela Sandoval, which uses the Derridean concept of “differance” and other theoretical/philosophical ideas to conceptualize a more just future.

    Also, look at Jose Esteban Munoz’s text Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity. Munoz is a scholar of critical race theory and queer theory. He urges, particularly, queer people of color not to accept current social conditions, not to give up on hope, and to imagine a more inclusive and thoughtful future.

    These are just a couple of examples.

  2. Methodologies of the Oppressed… not “Pedagogies.”

  3. Methodology of the Oppressed! Not “methodologies.” LOL.

  4. As a Latina, I understand that race relations weren’t so great back then, but trying to “milk” white guilt for all its worth through a radical leftist race course is absolutely ridiculous. It simply causes unnecessary rift raft among college kids. And as for you, Hector, you went to a respectable university and received a college education; you stood within the walls of the ivory tower; I don’t think they excluded you from that. In fact, I doubt you were excluded from much if you became a successful writer in the Midwest. Of course, you’re probably just speaking out for the disadvantaged “others” which is presumptuous and patronizing. It’s also a characteristic of the supposedly pompous white racists antagonized in these “ethnic studies” courses.

  5. Melanica says:

    Whites are the Oppressor and we, people of color from just about every part of this continent have been oppressed by them. THIS IS A FACT. This same sign applied to us as it did to Black people. All Melanin/Melanic people who are of color are Oppressed and whites are the cause of this. To this day, there is still Institutionalized Racism in TV, Workplace on the streets, Magazines – – everything is. If all people of color understood this, we would be farther ahead. Whites have to repent for not what they have done but generations before them. becuz go back far enough, someone white has done something to your ancestors. They were barbaric and even their his story tells what they have done historically then and now.

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