Oregon Principal Under Fire For Efforts Against “White Privilege”

Principal Verenice Gutierrez in Portland, Oregon is the center of a controversy over her efforts to deal with racism and cultural intolerance. There is certainly plenty of such examples in most states, but Gutierrez is being criticized for finding such prejudice in the peanut butter. The principal at Harvey Scott elementary school cited peanut butter sandwiches as an example of how innocently insensitive we can be our prejudices since we do not think “Somali or Hispanic students, who might not eat sandwiches.” Frankly, I am pretty sure that Somali kids will knew what to do with a P & J without crawling in to a fetal position of fear over the latent racism contained in the lunchtime baggy. In defense of Gutierrez, she was trying to suggest an effort to reach out to learn different cultural preferences: “Another way would be to say: ‘Americans eat peanut butter and jelly, do you have anything like that?’ Let them tell you. Maybe they eat torta. Or pita.” While I question the choice of the example, the point is to get teachers to think of the cultural realities and experiences of their students. However, in my view, other aspects of the training sessions are more problematic.

Gutierrez’s comments came with a week of “Courageous Conversations,” the district-wide equity training for teachers. The program expressly tries to get teachers (presumably white teachers) to understand their own “white privilege.” It seems a bit odd to deal with latent hostility or insensitivity in the schools by demanding white teachers to rid themselves of their “white privilege” bias.

I am more concerned with the response to a drum class being offered to middle school boys of color at Scott School. Chuck Barber, who also offers boys’ drum corps at other schools, to start a lunch-time drum class that would be limited to black and Latino boys. There were objections that the group would obviously discriminate against girls, Asians, whites and Native Americans. I have serious doubts over its legality but even greater question over its underlying policy of exclusion.

However, it is Gutierrez’s reported response that is the most troubling: “When white people do it, it is not a problem, but if it’s for kids of color, then it’s a problem?. Break it down for me. That’s your white privilege, and your whiteness.”

If this quote is accurate, it is highly disturbing. I do not know of any clubs in public schools that have been limited to white children since desegregation. Moreover, the opposition to racial segregation is not a factor of white privilege but civil rights. The alleged comment struck a chord with me because of prior column criticizing the return of “separate but equal” and segregation policies in our public schools. (here and here and here and here and here). I do not understand the perceived value of a segregated drum corp or how an educator could tell girls or asians or whites that they cannot join due to their color or gender. It is a curious way to reinforce tolerance through discrimination if true.

Source: Portland Tribune

80 thoughts on “Oregon Principal Under Fire For Efforts Against “White Privilege””

  1. Darren – You are right. I did assume you weren’t disabled. I too am human. I pre-judged you. Just like you too. Just like everyone. We all pre-judge everyone and everything.

    But given the extremely limited amount of info available is it really reasonable to expect you to be disabled? And even more reasonable to assume you’re in elementary school? Which is what I was talking about.

    I clearly am referring to STUDENTS who are females, disabled (diabled), or English as a second language. As examples. And not just those three. There are many more, I just figured you’d be able to understand it. Not sure how many times you use the term ‘English as a second language’ when you refer to someone who speaks Spanish, but I’ve never heard it.

    What I wrote was this:
    **Yep, “student’s are the exact same. Females, you’re the same. Diabled, your the same. English as a second langugae, you’re the same. Yep, in my white life students seemed to “manage well regardless”**

    Not quite the same thing.

    If you understand and have empathy for what the pain of exclusion feels like due to your illness, how can you think it’s okay to do it to a child? And do it without consequence or impact?

    I’d also like to point out that only 1 parent complained. Out of the entire school. Obviously there’s more to this than most have found out.

    How ironic that on the same front page of the Portland Tribune that this story first ran on, had the headline “Why can’t we talk about race?”

    Good question

  2. Amazing how yesterdays geniuses are today’s idiots and bigot.

    BoB Kauten,

    If you read carefully there is no self-hate for being white, nor any of what you say about AWARE. You just demonstrated the point that AWARE made. Thanks for that service.

    If you read carefully, it is a tale similar to those GeneH tells about our society at times, MikeS in his retropectives over out REAL serfdom.

    MikeS made the point that the problem with prejudice is that the prejudiced person DOES NOT SEE his prejucice, ever. It simply not perceivable.

    How to get yourself to SEE is your problem.

    Maybe AWARE has some general suggestions.

    1. Darren,
      I’ll waste the bandwith. Quite frankly he, she or it is an ass and self proved it.

  3. RoyalCascadian:

    Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war. Thank you for the drama.

    Now that you have blown off a cooling tower’s worth of steam, I would wonder if the reactor that is your approach to rational discussion is going to need another scram.

    And that I know nothing about how others feel about their situation in life. In your own words, you profess I say “Yep, student’s are the exact same. Females, you’re the same. Diabled, your the same..”

    It is amazing that a person of your great intelligence and ability to read the mind of others seems to have skipped the clairvoyance of knowing that I am one of the disabled you claim I know nothing about. I invite you to stare into that cauldron of thought you seem to have and see the Parkinson’s Disease I’m afflicted with and any other topics I know nothing about. But what do I know of this, as you assert I am so uninformed.

    Ordinarily I would quote Mike Spindell’s “Quite Frankly, you’re an ass.” but it is already apparent to most everyone else. Better to save the bandwidth on the internet as a whole for another of your inevitable gigabit wide ramblings of wisdom.

  4. I’d also like to add that 3 of every 4 children in that school are NOT white.

    Wow, how unfair. For the whites of course.

  5. Bob, thanks.

    Your comments are so thoughtful and engaging. Those were great additions to this complex and sensitive issue. All these relevant points and closely related analysis will only add to the healthy debate about race in America. We can all stand to follow your example by staying focused on the real issues.

  6. Aware of my White Advantage and not afraid to talk about it

    How many people am I talking to? And which one am I conversing with, now?

    No, sorry, I’m can’t be a “Momma’s boy.” I don’t have a Momma. Could I use yours? You seem to have issues with Momma. Do you need reconciliation?
    Ah…no, don’t tell us about it. Spare us.

    Yes, your hate-filled rant is a “royal cascade.” Is this trickle-down racism? Pouring, more like.
    I think. Because I can’t sort through all of the Capitals, and the “Peanut butter and jelly” references. Hilarious that you speak of RATIONALLY discussing this…discussing what, exactly?

    “Bob – it’s so revealing how this topic is making you feel. You’re projecting your feelings onto me, in your mind.”
    Wow, not only are you two people, hating themselves inside one head, but you’re also inside my mind? Is that what I was doing, all this time? Extraordinary! Did you take photos?

    Oh, by the way, if you criticize old white (that word again) teachers for not knowing the location of a student’s country of origin, try spelling it right. That’s “Somalia.”

    “I’ll make it stupid, short and emotionally explosive so you can be motivated to comment.”
    You succeeded in making “…it stupid, …and emotionally explosive,” but, unfortunately, not short. A bit much to fit on a Tshirt. How about just “I love white people”?

    A little hint, here: don’t bring up the word CRAZY in your comments. It attracts attention.

    Thanks to both of your personalities for their thoughtful, reasoned, cogent, succinct commentary.

    Respectfully yours.

  7. Bob – it’s so revealing how this topic is making you feel. You’re projecting your feelings onto me, in your mind. I don’t despise myself because I’m white. (I have no idea where you got that) You feel despised because you’re white. Accepting you have advantages that others don’t doesn’t mean anyone hates you. It just means that is how you feel others are pre-judging you.

    It’s not about being despised for being White. It’s about being honest. And you have been more honest than you realize.

    Just know no one despises you for being white. They will despise you for not being honest enough to accept you have advantages that others don’t because you’re white.

    I personally find the term “privilege” to be active and feel like an accusation while the term “advantage” is more passive and accurate. That’s just my Whiteness coming through.

  8. Bob- thank you for proving how much your brain absorbed what I said. Nothing. But, that’s exactly what, get ready for the big word, Cognitive Dissonance does. Sorry, the world is complex, I’ll make it stupid, short and emotionally explosive so you can be motivated to comment. Because of you the Media talks to me and the country at a 6th grade level. Thanks for bringing back the bumper sticker!

    For those who can’t intellectually or emotionally let go of the “PB&J” you’re not capable of letting go of fear, and yes, not able to RATIONALLY discuss this. Yes, that probably means you.

    Yep, this is ALL about peanut butter and jelly.

    You know what would seem crazy, if adults thought a PB&J was the issue being discussed. Oh yeah, that IS CRAZY, because IT WAS AN EXAMPLE! You are adults right?

    Were you taught what an example is? Maybe you should be a “mommas boy” so you can have, not just the ability to tolerate stress and frustration so that it doesn’t irritate me, but to have intelligence and empathy. What’s Empathy? Giving a s##t about someone when it causes me stress or frustration? sc/ F that. We just need to get rid of these “mommas boys” so we can have mean, uncaring people to not bother me. /sc Oh, wait. I already live in that world.

    And on what planet are some of you on? These schools don’t even have air conditioning it’s over 90 degrees in these classrooms. Momma’s boys? Do you have air conditioning at your home or work? Toughen up Momma’s boy.Air conditioning is for the weak.

    So there is no Air Conditioning and somehow there’s time and money for Guacamole and to actually make food? What the F? Teachers are fired every single year because these kids don’t learn how to memorize tests. Maybe if teachers didn’t get fired, you could have more time and energy to bring a better sense of community. But, you want kids to pass test, not learn.

    But any way, can you believe they don’t Peanut Butter and Jelly in schools?!! OMG!!

  9. Malisha I had a similar experience w/ a friend of mine when I was ~12. He was a real momma’s boy. I made him a pb&j @ my house and he whined his mother spread the peanut butter better. I just ate the damn thing! Buck up momma’s boy!!

  10. Darren “Yet, somehow students seem to manage well regardless.”

    Wow! Talk about prejudice. Could you make a bigger more general assumption about millions of kids based on your extremely limited WHITE life experiences? I can’t imagine one. But, all means act as if there is no problem. What privilege? Oh, the one that allows me to turn every student into my own minds creation, which coincidentally turns this creation into English speaking White students, because it would be impossible to turn my mental picture into the ONLY THING I CAN REFERENCE, my own white life. That privilege.

    Yep, “student’s are the exact same. Females, you’re the same. Diabled, your the same. English as a second langugae, you’re the same. Yep, in my white life students seemed to “manage well regardless”.

    You are so unaware of your own bias it should be embarrassing. But it won’t. Because you have a stake in this and somehow feel the need to protect your whiteness or any attempt to address PROBLEMS. What problems?

  11. Aware,
    Thank you for your short, snappy contribution. Could you elaborate, before my cognitive dissonance puts your comment into pre-consciousness?
    I don’t know, though, my white advantage is taking up an awful lot of room in there. It might not fit.
    I’m trying to despise myself, as much as you despise yourself, for being something you call “white.” I’ll try harder to hate myself for an accident of birth.
    Something like Original Sin?

  12. JT, you’re white. How many commenters are white? And you some how feel as if you’re objective and neutral in this debate? You’re not. Don’t even try. Recuse yourself. Your skin color has already decided for you that you are being threatened. I’m white and I”m aware of it. Whether you want to or not. You don’t get to decide your reaction or behavior.

    This reaction (the story and comments) is the same as the kid who made the police state video and had the FBI show up. Someone says there is “white privilege” and guess what, EVERYONE shows up to prove them right while trying to prove them wrong. Don’t think that this post focuses on the Drum Corp. You’re insensitivity and disdain for change is obvious, as is most of the commenters. You are afraid of change. And especially if you are the one who has to change.

    You are applying your experiences and thus your variables to an equation that has totally different experiences and variables. You have no choice but to refer to your “ideas” of what elementary school is based on you and your children’s experience. Which I can’t imagine Georgetown is remotely close to the poor PUBLIC schools of Portland. That don’t even have Air Conditioning. As much as you “imagine” the scenario, you’re lacking a life of disadvantage and experiences and variables to include in the equation. So, of course your answer is what it is. For instance, you assume that all kids speak English and equally. A lot of these Brown kids don’t speak English well and some NOT AT ALL. Oh yeah, wouldn’t want to make the White English speaking kids feel like the others. Nope, wouldn’t want to entertain that variable. “My experience was of kids only spoke English and thus I just ASSUME (Brain just automates) that it is applied to every education scenario”.

    It doesn’t.

    I know someone who works at that school (would be more specific but the ignorant backlash prevents me) with a Somali girl who already is out of place and having a hard time working BECAUSE she’s so different. If you think that kids learn when they are marginalized, you’re background is insufficient to have an opinion on how the human animal learns. They learn socially. And if you have them at the bottom, guess where they end up? Oh yeah, at the bottom. So if you want to focus on making sure kids know how to memorize tests and get good results, YOU HAVE TO HAVE THE ENTIRE ENVIRONMENT INCLUSIVE for EVERYONE. Not just for those who don’t FEEL anything when they get an advantage or it’s just normal to have all the teachers by default allow you to be the dominate culture.

    “Frankly, I am pretty sure that Somali kids will knew what to do with a P & J without crawling in to a fetal position of fear over the latent racism contained in the lunchtime baggy.”

    Is this what it would take to have you reconsider? Sorry white people, but the fact that you’re so angry and reactive shows how unaware we are of our own advantages. You actually ridicule the attempt to have everyone feel connected and valued.

    What about when that happens in class where the Somali kid is already disconnected and feeling marginalized? Too bad?

    Can we even talk about it? Apparently not if you’re a minority. Only white people get to. And by “talk about it” I mean, they get to shut it down.

    But the forgotten aspect of race is that it is a great indicator of where the child’s family fits in the U.S., Income is tied directly to race. Are we going to pretend that it doesn’t? Race and education gives a great idea of how advantaged whites are. Why are we pretending it doesn’t? We all feel bad that schools without white people don’t work as well, so when we try to remedy that, this is what we get?

    So the kids who get to join the Drum Corp. don’t have the advantages that the white kids get socially or economically but they get to have their own “thing” which makes them feel included, valued and not marginlized. HOW DARE THEY!!

    I understand the feeling of discrimination BUT is it just defensiveness from being white and threatened (which you’d never be conscious of but directed by) or is it really concern for those being left out? Or your own feelings or discomfort?

    AND THE VAST MAJORITY of policies are for the classroom and specifically OLD WHITE TEACHERS. These same old white teachers who have no idea what a Somali girl goes through. Some literally don’t even know where Somali is. These teachers have been teaching since Reagan. They were trained at time (early 1980’s) when primitive methods were still taught. You think these people can truly associate their experiences and variables to those of Hispanic kids who ONLY speak spanish? Yes, remember some kids don’t EVEN SPEAK ENGLISH!!! How discriminating is that? Seriously?!! Where’s the compassion for the kids who can’t participate because of their language? No where? Too bad brown kid. You’re just another brown kid who fails. Damn teachers! Can’t even teach in English to kids who only speak Spanish. Damn teachers! Ruining my America.

    Because my school experience was the entire school system of several thousand kids out of whch about 9 were black. There was no other race. And everyone spoke English. So, every program was WHITE ONLY. They just didn’t need to make a big deal about.

    Only when they don’t get there way, or their advantage do they get to make a big deal about it.

    Since most of you will suffer from Cognitive dissonance, this entire comment will have never happened. Your brain will put it into pre-consciousness, just like your white advantage.

  13. I was making lunch for my friends’ kids years back, and I made peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches because (a) they wanted them and (b) that is what their parents gave them, so I made the sandwiches and cut them and served them with fruit. The six-year-old said, while bursting into tears (TEARS!) I don’t want it cut like that. (I had cut the squarish sandwich into two rectangles.) I asked, “so you just plain don’t want to EAT it?” “Noooooo” she wailed. So I took the plate away and said no more about it. She sat there. She asked, “Where’s my new sandwich?” I said, “What new sandwich?”

    “Aren’t you gonna make me a new sandwich cut right?”

    She cried for a while and then stormed out. That’s my peanut-butter-and-jelly story.

  14. One of my clerks said about her son “well, he won’t eat it if I don’t make it the way he wants it”. I said he’ll eat it if he gets hungry.

  15. My thoughts are pretty simple. We don’t need to like everyone, but we need to treat evereyone w/ respect. When I coached baseball I knew I would probably never coach a kid who would become a Major Leaguer, although I did coach a couple kids who got Division 1 scholarships. Respect for umpires, teammates and opponents was a priority and non-negotiable. Over the years I coached it became increasingly more difficult. This was mostly due to the poor example set by professional athletes trash talking and thumping their chests.

  16. The piglet in question should be sent over to Afhanistan or whatever Stan that is and work for six months with the bald guy without the turbin named Karzai.

  17. Darren,

    Believe it or not, I have come upon this by myself, and practice it everyday. My distaste for persons were very intruding, to the point of verbalizing them silently to myself.
    Walking the sidewalks, there were a constant stream of people to judge negatively for one presumed or perceived failure or several.

    It simply destroyed my life, composure and attitude.
    I had to do something to improve my own life quality. It woudl also through better interpesonal contact grease the skids of life and help me feel more at ease—and thus they would pick up on this and feel also more at ease. A “merry-go-round” for all!

    I have worked with my own methods besides the ones the Professor is cited for—perhaps he had more also.

    I was evaluating and condemning any and all for some reason, , observed, logical and apparent, or presumed out of bad humor. A portable hell.

    So one of my immediat problems was to recognize and “see” this dysfunctional train of thought (I don’t know the term for it is).

    Next major battle has been to stop this activity, and to stop means that the “object or behavior” is observed, noted, but the judicial process it NOT activated or is repressed if it shows its head. And I go on, not having gall to absorb the gall usually produced by the process, which otherwise would worsen the mood and make the process intensify.

    The working on the prejudicial part is feeling the almost subliminal internal process, which requires that I feel small signals which come from my body. Then the analysis begins on where the prejudice has its root in me.

    And then finding courage to overcome fear of alcoholics (for example); and take contact and find that my new position does not irritate them as before, when I hated them for attacking me.

    Just as you say, people can recognize your prejudice rather quickly and will react, one way or another. And alcoholics don’t have the restraints that sober persons do, and thus will attack with words and threatening gestures based only on how they see your gaze appears to them.

    An important realization is that all perspms do not have an interest nor the time, energy, etc to help you in your process. So immediate gratification should not be expected. Nor taken as signs of failure.

    Most recently I asked myself something, on viewing a young black man in conversation with a swedish girl in the street. He was sad. A sympathetic person, color aside. I asked myself, when will I be able to see a black face and feel not only empathy for their distress, BUT ALSO NOT “SEE” HIS BLACKNESS.

    And I concluded by later asking the same qusstion: when will the rest of America be able to see Obama, and recognize him solely for what he is—-A HUMAN.
    A man with his qualities. And not on the basis of skin color and racial prejudices, not even positive ones.

    Many thanks for your relating this. It strengthens me in my efforts. Will I be perfect? No, but I will be better and feel better, and can become more embraceable.

    BTW, it also changes ones mindset to a less fearful one which in general sets others at ease, and eases the skids of life. A “merry-go-round” for all gains speed.

    I repeat your comment as I hope more persons will read it.

    ” 37 Darren Smith
    1, September 13, 2012 at 12:34 am
    Mike Spindell Contributed…
    “but sometimes those with the feelings are quite unaware of their prejudice. After all doesn’t prejudice connote the inability to see ones own stereotyping?”>

    I had a professor who back around 1986 or 1987 told us that we (meaning our class and for better measure all persons) need to come to terms with our own prejudices before we can expect to work with those who we have these prejudices against. And, that if we are not able to, even if we try to be fair in practice, the other person will pick up on it and will recognize we are prejudiced.

    He elaborated more on this and within a 15 minute lesson, probably did more than a semester of Human Relations classes ever offered, for those who took it to heart and made a practice of it.

    It was a rather simple lesson. He said to recognize that we all have some form of prejudice. It doesn’t necessarily have to be against other races or classes of people but it can include those who are unkempt, careless about life, big spenders or whatever. Everyone has something. The key is to learn what it is that caused us to believe this way, either by upbringing, personal experiences, tastes or whatever. Know that this preconception tends to influence our decisions, and to learn to arrest that thinking before it affects others unjustly.

    The next step is to formulate a sense of empathy for the other person. To find qualities that might dispell misconceptions we might have for this person. If we can do this it emotionally creates acceptance of the other person, even if it is not necessary from outside one’s own mind, it does make it a bit easier.

    It is also helpful to maintain some form of dialog between us and the other person, and find something in that person we might like such as if the person lived in our hometown at one time, or takes an interest in a particular sport. Striking up conversation with the person works for both.

    In doing this it is paramount to be sincere about this to the person. Going through the motions without sincerety will be recognized quickly by most other persons for whom we might have a prejudice against. That can be difficult for some to master, that is why it is important to better one’s self with each contact with individuals against whom we hold prejudice. Eventually, depending on how deep or emotional the prejudice might be, a person can come to terms with it and be sucessful and accepting of others.

    Soon, over time, we can come to the point where the prejudice falls increasingly into the background, and hopefully just an afterthought. But we should recognize that they can come back, go away, or others can be created. Sometimes it never goes away sadly.

    Lastly, it is also important that it is not what we think that matters to others, it is what we say or do. We often cannot easily control how we think, but we can more often control our actions.

    I felt my professor’s words certainly have been helpful at least. Some people are in such a situation where they do not need to be concerned about their prejudice because they don’t have contact with those persons or make decisions that affect them But, the lesson he taught is very useful when we are among those persons and it is important to treat them with dignity despite our own convictions.” End Darren

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