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The Privilege to “Pick and Choose"

After reading about “optional ethnicities? (Ore 29), things I buried in the back of my mind began to surface. I have always known that whites had privileged and in some cases people of color have privilege in other arenas, such as gender, or class. But the privilege to pick and choose what ethnicity one is from was something I have noticed but did not care to acknowledge. For people of color our ethnicity is something we cannot escape and in some cases do not want to escape. My culture (being an African American) has been altered throughout my people’s time in the United States. I do not know where my original roots started so my family embraced our history and our struggles as our culture. Because my ethnicity and culture is who I am, I cannot turn my ethnicity off. When I walk into a conference room, people will know I am African American. On the other hand if an Italian American walks in a room, his/her culture can be left at the door. The reason for this is simple: Our race. The complexion of our skin is not only a definite (in most cases) sign of our ethnicity it cannot be ignored. For example, I am African American and my culture is connected to that. When I walk in a room there is no doubt that I am African American. A white man can walk into a room and he just looks white, so therefore he is white and nothing else. The fact is that white people can turn on and off their ethnicity when they want with no consequence in their daily life (racial profiling, stereotypes, etc).
Something that was said in the reading that I really believed was that these people who pick ethnicities as options rather than something that is truly a part of their everyday life do so because they want to feel “special? (Ore 35). There is nothing wrong with claiming an ethnicity in my eyes, but if you are doing so for superficial reasons that is a problem. People of color who truly embrace their culture and ethnicity are the ones who suffer racial profiling, hurtful stereotyping, and loss of rights (example Muslims). The fact that white people can “work and reside within the mainstream of American middle class, yet retain the interesting “benefits? of ethic allegiance, without any of its drawbacks? (Ore 35) is unfair.
But ignorance is bliss and for people who claim not to know the struggles that others face because of their race and culture can go about their lives claiming something that makes them feel like a part of something unique, when in reality it does nothing but a name. Culture is something that people should hold dear and it should not be something that is convenient in making one feel “special? because in the end it takes the importance away from culture and ethnicity.

Another portion of the reading I want to touch on is college life for black students and white students. Being at a predominately white school I face challenges everyday, especially in the classroom. This college campus has so many people that one would think that there will also be a lot of students of color. Well I was wrong. Coming to this school, I found myself on a search for people that look like me. During the orientations it seemed as if everyone knew each other previously (and they did not) and would not talk to me, and some wouldn’t even acknowledge my presence. Whatever the reason for this was, I will never know for sure, (but I have an idea) it pushed me to find people I can bond with and will be on my side just in case something bad happened.
White students do not have to worry about finding people who look like them or understand them because they surround them on a daily basis. So a big part of the “black college experience? is the search for acceptance and community on a college campus that does not value your history or makes you feel out of place. Some may ask “if you feel out of place why not go to a Historically black college?? The answer is why should I limit myself because others do not want to acknowledge my presence or are run by ignorance. The only way to get rid of ignorance is to interact with different types of people. Although many times that does not work, the fact that black people are on campus is better than not having us at all.


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Thank you for sharing your thoughts about this issue. It is a crazy topic! Although I do not believe that “white? people consciously “choose? to turn their ethnicity on and off, I do agree that it certainly happens and it is unfair. My question is this…what are some ways that you think “white? students can make the university more welcoming, especially in the classroom. Would it be better if they was more diversity overall? Do you feel students blatantly ignore other students? What would make students of differing ethnicities feel more comfortable and appreciated? I ask this with a genuine desire to try to make the U a more welcoming place… Thanks for your comments and for sharing your views- I found it very enlightening!

Sorry...in the second to last line, I meant to type "...can but should not be stereotyped..." -Nick

Thank you Serina for posting this and I would just like to comment on a few things that you mentioned. I am a white male and I am aware that it is very easy for white people to "shut off" their culture and to avoid confrontations with people who may or may not believe the same ideas, or cultural upbringing. However, even though I am white, that doesn't mean that I know what my culture should be or where it comes from. I know my ancestors were German, but I have no idea how I am "supposed" to act because of it, or if I think and "do" things like they did. I am left thinking of the saying that the United States is a "melting pot". The way I see it, even what seems should always be true, for any race, class, gender, sexuality, culture, religion and so on, can and should not be stereotyped. That's to me what makes the U.S. different from other places in the world; EVERYONE has there own story. -Nick