Instead, when I was younger it was easier for me to establish connections with the kids who weren't white. My best friend growing up was Dominican. The kids I played baseball with on most afternoons were Colombian. The kids who seemed to understand my world were other immigrant children. This trend continued as I entered high school. I went to Jamaica High School in Queens and the kids I bonded with there were from the Caribbean, Pakistan and Guyana just to name a few. The connections with white kids still didn't happen easily and consistently. And when people asked me what I was, I always said Greek... I never saw myself as white or caucasian.
But, the truth is, I am white and my whiteness has afforded me certain privileges that many of the people around me growing up could not easily access. Did I realize I had privilege growing up? No. Did I realize when I went to the local market with my friends after school no one ever watched me while we all walked around? No. Did I ever realize that when I sat in a room with the pool of newly hired teachers in NYC in 1997 almost all of them were white? No. I never realized the privilege my skin color afforded me each and every day when I left my home.
My consciousness of this privilege really didn't surface until I started my doctorate about three years ago. That's right... I spent the first 37 years of my life completely oblivious to the white privilege that likely impacted the trajectory of my whole professionally journey. I spent 37 years not really understanding all the people who are marginalized each and every day in our world who will likely never have access to these same privileges. I spent 37 years completely oblivious to the fact that white privilege meant I never had to worry about things like the achievement and opportunity gaps. Yes, even though I spent most of life not identifying with the white people in my world the truth is that I am white and because of that I am viewed a certain way by those around me.
So, why am I writing about my white privilege? Because I needed to reflect on my journey; because I needed to acknowledge that white privilege does exist and it impacts things that happen in my world each and every day; because I needed to think about the perceptions I assign to people; and because I am hoping that eventually I can better engage in the difficult conversations I think are needed for our country to grow and evolve.