What has been the greatest challenge for you in this course – related to the writings you have studied and /or related to class dynamics?  (Be as honest as you possibly can).

The greatest challenge for me, initially, was coming to terms with the fact that I am a part of the racist, white, male patriarchy that systematically colonizes nonwhites in America (and throughout the world).  It was one thing to realize (as I did years before) that women are still not considered equal to men.  It was quite another thing to realize that I reinforced the white male patriarchy even though I was unaware that white supremacy existed as part of the system in America.  That was a huge shock.  It is something that I am still coming to terms with because I thought that I was an “enlightened” white person who expressed interest in other cultures.  That, however, was interpreted as condescending.  The biggest challenge was completely reversing how I was raised to accommodate the perspective of those who are different from me.  I was raised to always ask questions of people.  In the sixth grade, my English teacher commended me for being willing to ask questions when I didn’t understand and to ask questions to further my knowledge.  By the end of my junior year in high school, the chemistry teacher requested that I take AP Chemistry, even though I felt weak in the subject, simply because I was willing to ask questions about the work.  This extended into how I was raised.  My parents encouraged me to ask questions and to then search out the answers.  If I asked Mom a question, she would say, “Do I look like a dictionary?  I bought that giant dictionary for you kids.  Use it.”  In addition, during my first year teaching high school English, I had a student with severe rheumatoid arthritis.  One day, a student said to me, “What’s wrong with her.”  The girl heard him and replied, “If you want to know what’s wrong, why don’t you just ask me?”  Thus, the idea that I should ask questions of anybody and everybody was reinforced.  Unfortunately, it was a rude awakening this semester to discover that that method is simply rude.  It had honestly never occurred to me before because I had been so encourage in seeking out information through research and asking questions.  The question-asking often lead me to even more research.  In the last couple months I have tamed my question-asking significantly, though I still ask questions.  The biggest challenge will be when I meet new people.  I certainly hope I learned this lesson because I don’t want to repeat it.

The other difficulty I had was in terms of relationship with a student of whom I did ask a question.  I asked her if she hated white people.  This did lead to a discussion during another class period in which she thought about the question more.  I have never felt such antipathy towards white people, and while I understand why a person of color may wish to separate him/herself from the system that a white, male, patriarchy has instituted, I felt personally assaulted.  This student had previously asked me if I saw her as a person.  Did I really, truly see her?  I have tried to see people as individuals for most of my adult life, but I wanted to ask the question back to her.  Does she see me, a white woman, as a person, too?  I am not personally responsible for creating the racist system we live in.  I am responsible, though, for doing my part to dismantle that system, though, and I can do that by pointing out oppressions in terms of race, class, gender, and sexual identity.  I don’t want to be lumped with the system that created the oppression, though.


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