Saturday, April 16, 2011

Got Privilege?

(warning: I'm getting on my soapbox now)

For the last three days, I had the privilege of attending an eye opening conference working for social justice and examining the existence of white privilege in our society and our institutions and learning how to speak out and be a part of the change that will be so very necessary for our future lives together on this planet. Interestingly enough, the beginning of my interest in addressing white privilege and work in this topic came in my struggles with fertility.

During one of  the evenings in my Fertile Grounding Yoga workshop, our focus was on clean living. All of the hot environmental topics (BPA in plastics and can linings, cleaning products with untested chemicals that could do who knows what to our bodies, pesticides in produce and growth hormones in our meats that directly affect reproductive health) were all part of the discussion. This enraged me, but not for myself and my fertility struggles. All I could think of, as we had this discussion was my students, my students who arrive at school every day and are handed a breakfast FULL of these chemicals and then a lunch FULL of more of it and they don't have a choice. I can attend a workshop and become more educated on healthy living and make choices to improve my life and the life of my future children, but my students, who rely on free and reduced lunch for two meals a day have to take what we give them and we give them chemicals that could effect their health for years to come. The major harm that most of these chemicals in our world cause, is in the area of reproductive health, and even more frightening reproductive cancers. I have the PRIVILEGE to choose what I allow to enter my home and my body, many of my students do not. I have the privilege to be able to afford to buy the majority of my groceries from the co-op and grow my own food, many of my students do not.

Prejudice is often thought of in the way we think about and treat one another, but it is frightening how much more systemic it is than that. The majority of the members of our staff truly believe that ALL children can learn and want to create a safe environment for that to happen in, but when our free and reduced lunch program puts our students at risk for major health problems down the line, or more immediately, obesity, asthma and diabetes, how  can we say that we are giving them ALL a fair shake at a quality future. In light of this, a month or so after this workshop, a colleague who I have a great amount of respect for, asked the staff who would like to be part of a Professional Learning Community (PLC) surrounding the topic of privilege. The night where I went home from my workshop and cried for my students who don't have the privilege to choose immediately came to my mind and I jumped on the opportunity to be part of something that may take the first steps to make changes in our school and community.  I'm so very thankful for colleagues who have the strength to call it what it is and get the discussion started and can't wait to see what we can do with the fire that this conference has lit.

I heard so many amazing and eloquent speakers address this topic of privilege over the last 3 days and hope that this little post did justice to the topic in my own less eloquent and probably grammatically incorrect manner. I'm off my soapbox, for now, but you can be rest assured that I'm not going to stop fighting.

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