Despite being the granddaughter of two Cuban exiles, I consider myself very much American. Cuban culture is extremely prevalent in my life; it’s in the way my family greets others, the food we eat, and our affinity for hosting dinner parties. Yet, where I am from, I’m still considered just white. Maybe it’s the double Irish name or the fact that I don’t have an accent, but I’ve never been labeled a minority. Except of course, on college applications when being a minority is not labeled a negative characteristic by society.
I was nervous to take a class called “Whiteness in American Culture”. Frankly, it sounded like a class that would broil with tension and resentment every day. I spent a day or two wondering if I’d feel comfortable speaking up in class or if I’d be the enemy after phrasing an answer poorly. Shortly after, I realized the point of this class is not to feel comfortable. Instead, it is to showcase “being white” throughout American history, which is a history that does not provide much comfort to those with a conscience.
Frankly, I should prepare to be uncomfortable and I should push myself to grow and constantly become less hardened in my ways. After all, I’m studying American Government, a government whose documents were beautifully crafted and continue to thrive and yet, so many people are left in the outskirts of society. I’m not studying political science because I think our government is perfect; I’m studying government because I think we have a system that is incredible in comparison to other countries’ governments. However, there is still work to be done.
So while I’m adjusting to this class, I’m excited. I’m excited to see this class from the perspective of someone who is white, but very much fond of her Cuban heritage. Hopefully I’ll have double the material to share. I’m from the North Shore of Chicago, but my culture was developed by two people who were forced to leave their home after facing oppression. Maybe comfort isn’t in the continuation of oppressive white culture like so many bystanders seem to think or accept, but instead in acknowledging the problem and taking the steps to fix it.