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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Unpacking My Backpack of Privileges

I want to talk about "privilege." One of my colleagues posted an article that made me think about the word "privilege." What it is to some may not be to others. In our daily walk with individuals, it is important to realize the effect of privilege. This is a short clip on an Introduction to White Privilege. Using myself as an example, my privileges are:

  • I'm white and heterosexual
  • I'm a citizen of the U.S. so I can obtain legal documents
  • I'm surrounded by people of my race
  • I have access to good food, water and housing
  • English is my language, so communication is not an issue
  • I have access to education which is steeped in U.S. history and the English language
Now, think about yourself. Make a list of what makes you privileged or non-privileged. Consider race, citizenship, gender, class, sex, ability, and sexual orientation. There is an article by Peggy McIntosh White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack that may cause you to think about the longevity of daily privilege not only for you but others around you.

Why is this so important? Social justice is about caring for humanity that extends beyond our noses. Obviously, if I was a straight white middle class able-bodied male, I wouldn't have a care in the world. However, let's think about others and how they experience white privilege. In the YouTube clip Cracking the Code: Joy DeGruy "A Trip to the Grocery Store , Joy describes how she experiences white privilege and how to question injustice.
The person sitting next to you in class may have to work twice as hard to overcome those boundaries or maybe not have to work at all. One of my favorite YouTube channels ModPrimate explains how white privilege is systemic within our society. Black History Month for White People. When we are tempted to make racist, sexist, classist, or ableist, remarks, stop and wonder if you are taking advantage of your privilege to have power over others? This unearned privilege because of whiteness is also used as an excuse to ignore those who experience white privilege negatively. "After all, it isn't my problem! Right?" Oh, you are so wrong. We are not all equal therefore we don't all have the same equity or fairness of equal outcomes.

To impact social justice and change social systems, we need to keep considering equality and equity. My professor used an analogy in class whereby everyone took their shoes off (say education) and she distributed 2 shoes to everyone with different sizes, and shapes but not all shoes were able to serve their purpose. We are all offered free public education, but like the shoes, it doesn't work for well for everyone. We are not all square pegs to be put in square holes. You can use this analogy for several institutions in life where society has dictated that we all have the same opportunities in life, yet some people choose to not take advantage of those opportunities. This statement is untrue and misleading. In fact, if we unpack our backpack of privilege, we will see that some of us have a few more unearned tools that help us in comparison to others.

The next time you hear racist, sexist, or classist remarks, remember that not all backpacks are the same. Some people work twice as hard as others to obtain an education or a job. Then raise consciousness and educate society about debunking the myth of "equality for all!" 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Climbing PoeTree - HEART LED REBELLION (Official Music Video)

Climbing PoeTree interweaves spoken word, hip hop, pan flute beat boxing and award-winning multimedia theater to expose injustice, heal from violence, and make a better future visible, immediate, and irresistible. Alixa and Naima’s acclaimed performance explores diverse themes, including: healing from state and personal violence, environmental justice, civil rights, sexuality, and women’s empowerment.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Me???? Go To College?? But I Can't Afford That!?!

In my family, we were all expected to go to college. My parents went to college, my mother graduated as a teacher from Portland State University, and my father was an engineer. I had so many advantages that I was blind to what academia calls "white privilege;" Individuals who are not white, single family homes, uneducated, or undocumented;  In some families college is not a priority because it is more necessary to financially assist family. At first it may seem there are more "cons" than "pros," but the biggest "pro" is your dream. I'm sure you all have dreams and perhaps your parents had dreams. Sure, there are excuses that can be  made; financial assistance, family obligations, single parent household,
transportation, and the list can go on and on. This part of my blog will disrupt those discouragements and obstacles. I will explore money, scholarships, grades, and most importantly - family community.

Money and debt are always a large concern. There are other ways for you to find dollars to go to school, but first there are some principles to put in your backpack.  You Must have a good grade point average (GPA). Remember, when you start a class, you always start with an "A" letter grade. It is only common sense that if you don't turn in the homework, read the materials and study for tests that the odds are that you won't do well. Yes, those 3 little jobs are all that are between you and keeping your "A." Unfortunately, once your grades go down, it is a long and tedious crawl to get them back up! 

Another advantage you have is to realize that teachers do not want you to fail! Utilize them to every advantage you can. Communication is essential to understanding at all times what your grade is and NOT waiting until the last minute to find out that you have a "D." All schools have online services to keep you in the loop with your grades. If your teacher doesn't use the system or lacks the ability to keep grades current in the system, go talk with your teacher on a Wednesday and tell them that you need to know your current grade when you see them Friday (or the next school day). You may need to be a little assertive (not aggressive) because most teachers are not familiar with students being committed to their grades. You need to have ownership of your grades beginning your Freshman year; don't wait until your Junior year to realize that you'd better get with the program! Instead, always be invested in your future because it is in your control!

Thirdly, being involved in activities in your school or volunteering for non-profits will look great on college applications. Activities can range from art, music, school government, National Honor Society, sports, dance, FFA, or volunteering at Sunday school, Boys & Girls club, or even the local senior center. In addition, this involvement also will provide positive character references.

If you combine good grades with school involvement you will qualify for scholarships! Applying for scholarships is much like applying for a job. The more you apply for, the better your chances. There will be some scholarship letters of denail, but don't let this get you down; head up, shoulders back, and move onward. Your goal is to have the college pay you to go to school! Let me start off with a link of "Strange scholarships." These sscholarships vary from caddies, tall girls, potatoes, best prom outfit made out of duct tape, and even inventors to enology (what is that?). Strange Scholarships
Did you know that even Mike Rowe from the
show "Dirty Jobs" has a trade scholarship? Mike Rowe Trade Scholarship.
The most helpful link I found was the Oregon Student Access Commission or OSAC! OSAC  This scholarship data base has at least 600 different scholarships. You goal is to find the top 13 scholarships that apply to you! **Hint** Your counseling office has a book with details that will sort them out for you. If you don't live in Oregon, there is a familiar website for your state too; go see your counseling office. Here is the link for New York State New York State Scholarships.

Some scholarships are renewable if you continue to meet their guidelines, and the OSAC website has scholarships for those already in college so you can keep applying!!
All of this scholarship paper work may seem daunting at first, but trust me when I say that once you write an essay for one scholarship, the questions for the rest of the scholarships will be very  much the same. Thus, copy - paste and edit. Oh, and make sure you have at least 2 letters of recommendation (teachers, minister at church, a neighbor, etc..) and an unofficial grade transcript of your current grades (you don't have to wait until the end of your senior year)!! The applications will want to know what community service you have done, groups and awards that you have, and of course your GPA!

Incase you are still doubting yourself, watch this small clip of  Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on The View - She overcame several hurdles and says her reason for success is her "stubbornness" or "scrapiness" that says "I just won't give up. Failure or the fear of it, is what keeps people from trying new things, so I just jump into things head on. . ." Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on The View . When life seems overwhelming, or scary, and you think that there is no possible way of going forward, remember to breathe and take that step. 

It is not only for you that you continue your walk, but also for your community and family. The ultimate goal is that you will join me in the world of higher academia and make change in our society. It is every individual's responsibility to apply knowledge and advocate for social change. We can't all sit and watch the world pass us by!