My Consciousness



     I have been going to college since I was 18, one class at a time between, pregnancies, marriage, sickness, divorce and other life experiences. In my educational career I had a definite turning point after taking a class called Ethnic Minority Families. This class was an eye opener.
   Before taking this course, I was very conscious of the situations and history of minority families in the United States but I always leaned towards the idea that progress was being made and that we needed to stop complaining and begin putting our struggles into action. 
   I joined this class because I wanted to learn how to articulate my consciousness with theories, words and accurate vocabulary. I convinced Isaac, my husband now, to take the class with me. After taking this course, I became more conscious of how careful I need to be to articulate my ideas, experiences and feelings. I began to feel oppression that I did not think still existed. I started to understand the experiences and feelings that Isaac and many others had felt. I began to internalize every subject that was discussed. I felt anger that I had never felt before because I was finally able to validate my feelings, experiences and encounters with white privilege. 
   When our class began, we wrote a paper on our ethnic background where I emphasized my mother had been the foundation of my consciousness. I can safely say, that my consciousness has been based on love and understanding for people, as well as, empathy and courage to stand for those that are being trampled. I have always felt privileged, even though my family has never been rich or close to it. My father has worked hard to provide for us. We have encountered hardships, many of them. My mother has always sheltered our eyes and lightened our loads with love and respect. I think that is one of the main reasons why this class and its participants where such a shock for me. 
   Any time I spoke in class, I analyzed what I was going to say. I had never felt so conscious of how much I represented my ethnicity, which usually was defined by others.  I have always been very independent. I decide my fate and who I am, how I dress, what music I listen to, etc. I still am that individual, but in this class I realized I am also just a Latino woman. I represent to an overly essentialist world, what I look like. In many cases, I have to counter pre-judgments, and generalizations that have been attached to me before I speak, write, or turn in an assignment. 
   I remember Isaac always talking about these feelings, I remember specifically telling him, "well everyone is always nice to me, no matter if they are white or brown, most teachers like me, and I think it's because I turn my work in on time, or because I write well". I began to questions those feelings, is it really because of that, or is it because my white professors don't want to seem racist by telling me the truth about my opinions or theirs. I recalled times when I had been tokenized and used as a good example of my ethnicity. 
  I remembered hearing, "yea but you are different from the rest". I finally understood what they meant. I was not what they knew about Latinos, I was closer to what they accepted because they assumed minority was negative and whiteness what positive, that was their privilege speaking. 

   During class one day, one of the other students of color said, she internalized everything she heard there and that she left class each day and talked about it with her husband. I heard this same comment coming from the white students the day after Isaac had an outburst. That day I heard more honest feelings and truth than I had all class periods. I think it had to do with the fact that Isaac was honest. He said what he felt and everyone could feel his anger, but we had all done this all semester long, we had all shared what we felt but we were nice and collected about it. Many of the students admitted they had never even addressed the class after they left it until that day. This was a huge realization for me, I understood the meaning of oppressive anger, I understood the anger of the LA riots, the civil rights movement, the beginning of gangs, even of the woman's suffrages and rights movement.
   I saw flashbacks of all the good things, the peaceful attitudes, the submissiveness of my parents and their parents, my uncles, my aunts, Dr Martin Luther King, Cesar Chavez. I saw their peaceful rebellions and I compared them to the counter stories we had shared as ethnic minorities in the class. I paralleled it to our composure, even though many of us felt much of the information given was outdated, incorrect or stereotypical.
   There were side comments, even comments from the instructor that were completely offensive to many of us. Some of us even went home and cried or cried during class. But until the day Isaac had an outburst and many people felt their safety threatened, many in the class did not have any true realizations. He made them feel how we had felt all semester in a couple of minutes.
   From this, I learned that there is time for talk, peaceful unity and there is also time for action, real action, which threatens white privilege. I say this because shockingly the biggest thing I realized from this class is that this is a country of white privilege, and I am a non-white trying to make it. In the real world today I will need to appeal to the white majority to have majority success. I must argue my points and I must prepare twice as hard. I must do this to have the same success as someone who has a backpack of prepared assets, a map and stepping stones. My children who have no control of what ethnicity they are born into are expected to assimilate to have majority progress.
   The realization of the reality of white privilege and its effects on our communities was honestly sad and at first these realizations made me feel upset, because I did not think it was fair. Then I also realized that life isn't fair, and as ethnic minorities we have learned to overcome that.
   That is one quality I feel that many ethnic minorities have been forced to have. We have to adapt and our minds, feelings and ideals can fluctuate to accommodate a changing world. I am grateful for that. I have a deeper love for the struggles of other minorities in this country. I feel connected to those struggles, their tears and our similarities.  I understand that the reason we should learn about our history, our past and of negative things that continue to happen, is so that we can create more choices.
   I feel that this class helped me personally bridge many gaps with other people of color and with white people too; the white people who can acknowledge their white privilege and unite in the struggle to break it down. I don't think internalizing every negative comment, stereotype, or joke will make me stronger. To the contrary, it will make me bitter and depressed.
   Since taking that class, I have consciously allowed many micro aggressions to slide for the greater good. I have worked on creating choices by remembering these and working against them. I have created discussions that are fruitful and non-confrontational, and that serve the purpose of the true deconstruction of whiteness and its ramifications. I will continue being a part of organizations where I can personally bring consciousness to those that have not acquired it and at the same time continue to appreciate my culture. Most importantly, I will raise my children to become beacons of truth. I will allow them to learn and to ask, to gain knowledge and to give knowledge as people of color. I will empower them with the strength to fight for righteousness and like my mother taught me I will also teach them love for their culture, understanding & empathy for people, and courage to stand for those that are being trampled.


Flor Olivo

Comments

Shahny said…
Wow Flor. This is a great post. You're making me very nervous to take this class ;)
Beth Tipton said…
you make it sound like "white" is bad....we are all of different ethnic backgrounds.  Hunny, you are so young yet....don't let others persuade you to have negative thoughts about people being nice to you....If someone is nice to you, take it at face value.  Don't read motives into people's actions.  My heart hurts for people who are so easily swayed to popular "activism" views.  If someone is nice to me, I like them.
Beth Tipton said…
Let me add:  I'm an ole Southern white woman.  If I'm nice to someone it means one of two things.  1.  I like you. or, 2.  I'm polite.  It has NOTHING to do with race....geeeeeesh....I'm so sick of people who read motives into what white people do!!!!!!!!!  I cry racism!
Flor Olivo said…
I've never once in all the posts on my blog have said "white" is bad. Doing so would go against every  thing that I believe and know is good in my heart. Race, Gender and Sexuality have nothing to do with character. 

Now... White Privilege that's another story. I will speak against white supremacy and racism because I have never been able to speak hypocrisy and lies. 

I am young, and I am grateful I have learned the reason why I grew up hating my language, my skin, my culture. Why being white was better than being me and I will never silence my voice to make others feel comfortable if it means belittling my struggle, my heart. 

I couldn't care less if something I say is "popular" or not. I take offense to that "popular activism" comment. I am an educated individual who has learned about life through personal experience. I study and analyze life from my own lens. I AM NOT EASILY SWAYED and if you had taken the time to read through my blog with an open heart you would find that the reason I write the way I do is to build a bridge and speak to people just like you openly and with love about the things they will never understand from their "white" bubble. 

I'm off to church now. (I go to an all white congregation.) Time to renew my spirit with all my brothers and sisters. 
Isaac Giron said…
i agree with you beth. white dont have hidden motives when they are racists or when they are being nice. they are raised since birth to think that they are superior and society reinforces this through tv, news articles, the education system, workplace discrimination, even the words in the dictionary are racialized like "pure as snow" or "black as night". white supremacy is a ideology that has been around in this country since its inception. it has more to do with the way people think than with skin tone. This problem is a problem with white people who need to check their own privilege and to acknowledge that they have unfair advantages over people of color. It is not anti-white to believe everyone deserve equal opportunity.
Wow!  This is an amazing post Flor!  You're such an emotional writer.  I think you addressed this issue so well and very respectfully.  It's true that white privilege does make whites second guess minorities and so it creates a situation where you have to prove yourself again and again.  It's emotionally exhausting and I've seen that in my husband.  I've seen his grades lowered, people assume he's stupid or a delinquent.  He's had no choice but to listen to slurs at work and take criticisms and there's little he can do to defend himself because it's seen as his fault for being too sensitive.  He's had to deal with people asking me if he's in a gang, if he's an alcoholic or a wife beater.  There are so assumptions that just keep coming and never stop and I have had to learn to cope with them too.  Many times I'm angry, but whites often push you to hold it in because they are honestly 'uncomfortable' hearing a perspective other than their own.  I know I'm white too, but I feel so far removed for the 'social whiteness'.  I can't be a part of the ignorance and denial.  I know that white privilege exists, because I've seen it in myself and my family through my husband's experience and through my experience as a woman married to a man of color.  The world doesn't quite look the same from where I sit now, and I could never go back, now knowing what I know.  I have a Latina daughter to raise and I want her to be able to speak out, to demand fair treatment and get it, and to feel confident in who she is.  That's why things have got to change!
Beth, I'm a white woman, but I'm also the wife of a Latino husband and a Latina daughter.  I've studied color lines in America, prejudice and the societal systems that further racism.  They do exist and they are racism.  It's not about an individual white person "liking" or "not liking" an individual person of color.  Racism is about the systems in place that make it difficult for people of color to have equal rights.  Look at the wealth in this country...whites have most of it...is this an accident?  No.  It's neither your fault, nor mine, but still there is a system in place that favors whites since plantation days.  Look at the jails...what percentage of people of color are locked up?  It it true that they are the "bad ones" or is society believing this a convenient way to wash away their sins on the topic and hold onto their wealth?  My husband is discriminated against at work often...it's a regular practice in the U.S.  People are 'uncomfortable' about hiring Muslims, Blacks, Latinos, etc.  So...they don't hire them.  You know in my home town, there is about 40% black population, yet whites hold almost every position of power (the good jobs) and many black men and women are unemployed.  Why?  We have a clear color line in our city.  Whites in the wealthier neighborhood, blacks on the other side of the tracks in the 'hieghts' and Latinos in between as the buffer.  It's funny that you'll see this in most large cities or any city that has a substantial number of people of color.  They are sectioned off with lower paying jobs, little or no healthcare, poor schools for their children and rundown houses.  This is not always the case, but it's most often the case.  Beth, it may not be our personal fault, but we do have the opportunity to do something about it...and the first step is becoming aware.  I'll issue you a friendly challenge.  Next time you're out and about...look for signs of segregation.  It's still happening in this country...in churches, in schools, in neighborhoods, at your grocery store.  There's proof every time a white woman looks into a black man's eyes and there's that hesitation, that uncomfortable aversion.  I challenge you to see the world around you and discover the segregation that is still taking hold of this country.  Thanks for listening. ♥
BellaVida said…
I enjoyed reading about your life changing experience and commend you for wanting to properly educate yourself.  There will never be change without action.  I didn't know courses like that existed and encourage you to seek other sources as well.  American History has not been properly told.  I know my story hasn't.

Although I've never been through the self hatred phase, I have been through the angry at the injustice phase.  Let it out.  Speak out when things are wrong.  Be the change you want to see.

I encourage you to keep looking further at who holds the highest corporate positions, who owns these corporations, who is filling government positions, who is being elected . . .  Money is what runs this country.  Your eyes will really open up when you look at things from this perspective; from the top down.

I do not believe success will come from appealing to or blending in but from educating everyone.  Sadly this education will not come from schools but from people like you who write it down and people like me that speak up when things are wrong.  The ones who possess this knowledge are responsible for passing it on.  Pointing again to money, the public schools system is usually first to receive budget cuts from state governments.  Misinformed people are easier to manipulate with political rhetoric based on nonsense.

Regarding some of the comments below. 
Ignorance will never justify racism.  Flor, some people will become insecure and afraid when they find out you are on a quest for knowledge and truth.  Let that be your fuel.
BellaVida said…
Mrs. C always dropping knowledge. 
luv it!
Flor, you are a brilliant young woman!  It's a shame that all of that can easily be thrown to the wind when others claim "sensitivity".  Know that your beautiful mind is your strength!  You are a forced to be reckoned with and I know you will make it to law school and demonstrate all the talents that ignorance might believe you lack!  Keep on with it comadre!!!
Flor Olivo said…
Wow guys thank you for the powerful posts. I doubted myself for a moment. I re-read my post 5 times to try and find offensive, or inappropriate language. I couldn't find it because it isn't there. I hope that when people read my writings they can see I do write out of love and understanding to all of those who are affected by these issues. 
Hands down to you girl! keep up the good work.! i loved your post!

Popular Posts