Michigan Students Urged to Reflect on their "White Privilege" for Class Assignment
"Whiteness is fundamentally about power."
Parents of students in a Mancelona, Michigan high school English class are outraged after their children were required to read a lengthy dissertation on the concept of "white privilege" and then complete a written assignment reflecting on how this concept applies to their own lives and experiences.
The class assignment presented white privilege as a universal truth, stating, "White privilege is a concept that highlights the unfair societal advantages that white people have over non-white people. It is something that is pervasive throughout society and exists in all of the major systems and institutions that operate in society, as well as on an interpersonal level."
"If you are a white person and feel like the concept of white privilege doesn't pertain to you, you are likely mistaken," asserts the assignment, which also invokes the concept of "white fragility" to explain why the term "white privilege can evoke feelings of defensiveness and even outrage."
Another section of the handout is titled "White privilege ignores implicit bias," and claims that "when white people say they are 'color blind' or don't notice differences in skin tone it actually minimizes BIPOC experiences and ignores implicit biases."
The document concludes with a stunning and racist generalization: "In America, whiteness is the standard and the criteria used to determine whether ideas, actions, or experiences have worth, merit, or value... Whiteness is the control and the standard because whiteness is fundamentally about power."
White students in the class were then asked to "reflect on how white privilege operates in your personal life" while students of color were asked to "reflect on how you've seen whiteness benefit white individuals."
Parents of some students at the high school were outraged at the assignment. "No, that's not what they are there to teach. This isn't English,” a parent who wished to stay anonymous, commented to a local news station. "He's a good kid. I don't want him to feel bad about the fact that he was born white,” the parent added.
Mancelona Public Schools Superintendent Jeffrey DiRosa disagreed and defended the teacher and the assignment. “I think it's an appropriate topic to at least explore at least briefly,” he said. “Just to bring up and look at some different perspectives and then that is a good way to go home and have a discussion around those perspectives."