Target: Delavan-Darien District superintendent, Robert Crist
Goal: Allow a Wisconsin high school to teach students about white privilege in its American Diversity classes
Delavan-Darien High School in Wisconsin recently started receiving complaints from parents after they discovered that an American Diversity course had been educating students about the concept of white privilege. The parents fear that this lesson will be divisive and cause white students to feel guilty. The school’s superintendent, Robert Crist, has stated in response that he was not aware that the instructor had been presenting such “radical” views, and that it is only appropriate to teach progressive theories when conservative views are also introduced. Crist has temporarily canceled the class while the school comes up with guidelines for making the class more acceptable to white parents.
While it is reasonable to request that students be presented with unbiased information, the concept of white privilege and the reality of institutional racism are not subjective progressive ideas; they are facts that are taught in many universities and supported by countless studies. Most Americans will accept that although progress has been made, racism still exists in American society, and that people of color continue to face discrimination in areas such as education, employment, housing, and the justice system. Many white Americans are less willing to accept that those disadvantages are necessarily balanced out by advantages, because they often go unnoticed by the people who benefit from them. Introducing the idea of white privilege is not meant to blame white people for racism, but to make them aware of how this inequality puts them at an advantage. It is that awareness that will enable Americans to work collectively to overcome racism.
The purpose of a class such as this one is to challenge students to change their perspectives, since courses such as history and literature are generally taught from a white perspective and often ignore the lives and contributions of Americans of color. Bringing attention to the advantages of whiteness does not mean that white people cannot experience disadvantages; there are other types of privileges related to class, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity, among others. Examples of privilege are not usually presented to those who benefit from it, but when they are given those examples, their privileges become more obvious, and they begin to gain a more complete understanding of the effects of inequality.
Racism cannot exist without white privilege, and it is only when people are made aware of that privilege that they can attempt to eliminate it. Delavan-Darien High School must allow its American Diversity classes to discuss white privilege so that students can gain a thorough understanding of racism and help move their community closer to equality.
Dear Robert Crist,
Delavan-Darien High School recently received complaints from parents about an American Diversity class that was teaching students about the important concept of white privilege. The class was then canceled because the instructor was not balancing out those theories with equally “radical” right wing theories. While it is understandable that you would want students to receive unbiased information, the idea of white privilege is neither radical nor biased.
Racism causes disadvantages for certain groups of people and those disadvantages mean that other groups necessarily have advantages. Therefore, the idea of racism is incomplete if it is not presented along with the idea of white privilege. White students must begin to understand that although they are not at fault for the institutional racism that exists in the United States and in their communities, they do receive unfair benefits resulting from that racism.
It is impossible to overcome racism without first acknowledging the existence of white privilege. Students at this high school have the opportunity to learn about an idea that many white students do not understand, and with that knowledge, they will have the power to help defeat racism. Please allow this class to continue studying racism and white privilege so that those students will have the knowledge to help their community progress beyond racism.
[Your Name Here]
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