The PhD Chronicles: Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education

So here is something that I've been grappling with in my work for my PhD in Higher Education.  We've taken two classes that have strongly focused on institutional and structural privileging and discrimination, which as a white male from a middle class family, has me doing a whole lot of thinking and reflecting.  

During the discussion on the issue of how limited higher education is to racial minorities for a variety for structural issues, the professor emphasized (as did someone else) that it is important to have white allies (for the lack of a better word) in positions of power that can signal institutional priorities, especially as it relates to race.  That is, white and male allies can be highly effective in improving the diversity of their colleges by vocalizing (and following through) that it is a clear priority.  

I found it incredibly useful to hear this as a someone who is a white male practitioner/scholar because it helped me to better understand how I can help strive for equity and access and how my presence can signal a stronger investment in those ideals.  It gives me hope that I can positively contribute to improving issues of access and equity, especially as it relates to race.

However, much of this semester's discussion about representation within academia leaves me grappling with a question I struggled with in my personal narrative paper for course we took over the summer.  If I know my success as an educator/practitioner/scholar has been significantly influenced (in a positive manner) by my race (gender, sex, and perceived sexuality as well), and that the system that created this discrimination is one that I want to reject as much as possible, then is it a violation of my morals to move forward into higher positions of higher education, knowing that the deck is stacked in my favor.  Am I just continuing to perpetuate injustice by moving upward?  That is, by holding the position when I know the deck is stacked in my favor, aren't I blocking opportunities for others?  I realize that an answer is likely to be "Not necessarily, because the system is in place and therefore, if it is not you (Lance), then it is still likely to be another white person."  But that doesn't necessarily help.  It's saying it doesn't matter, but of course, if it is me, then I am knowingly cashing in on cultural and social capital afforded to my whiteness.  Is that somehow better than those that don't acknowledge, realize, or reflect on this issue?

Racism The Elephant in the room

Just like my conclusion in that previous paper, I have to assume that because I am dedicated to and invested in equity and access and that I have these internal (I guess external now) moments of doubts, that is probably a good thing to have in a privileged leader in a stratified system and I think that is what I got from the discussion, but I'm still grappling back and forth with it, so I figured I would share in case others also find themselves in this situation.    

And then of course on another level of reflection, I wonder if this is another means of co-opting the conversation by making it about me or my white privilege/guilt/angst of losing the spotlight-or whatever we wanna call it.  That is, by even bringing this up, am I just redirecting conversations away from nonwhite voices?  And to get really pedantic--by even bringing up this last point, is that just another example of refocusing it on me...g-damn, circles and circle...I'll be over in the corner just getting dizzy.

And if I said something that was horribly arrogant, offensive, or misrepresented a group or faction, I apologize in advance, though I would love to hear about it for better understanding.

Want to keep up with my PhD adventures?  Check out any of the links below:

  1. Acceptance...and acceptance
  2. Orientation
  3. Day 1
  4. Week 1
  5. First 2 Courses Completed
  6. First 2 Courses Finished
  7. Semester 2, Here We Go
  8. The Existential Crisis of the Week
  9. The Balancing Act
  10. Negotiating Privilege in Higher Education
  11. Zeroing in on Research
  12. Completing the Second Semester
  13. My Educational Autobiography
  14. So Starts the Third Semester
  15. My Educational Philosophy...for now
  16. PhD'ese
  17. And Sometimes, You Feel It
  18. Semester's Endgame
  19. Year 1, Officially Done
  20. Year 2, Week 1, Day 1
  21. Year 2, Week 1 Done! 
  22. 1/3 Complete!?!?
  23. Click...
  24. Day 1; Semester 5
  25. Share and Share Alike
  26. Mindful and Mind-Filled
  27. 5th Semester Down
  28. Day 1, Semester 9
  29. The Two Demons of My Doctorate
  30. When Senioritis Kicks In
  31. The Final Friday
Sub-series specifically about the dissertation:
  1. Dissertation Journal #1
  2. Dissertation Journal #2
  3. Dissertation Journal #3
  4. Dissertation Journal #4
  5. Dissertation Journal #5
  6. Dissertation Journal #6
  7. Dissertation Journal: QP Revised Edition

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