I was talking to one of my students yesterday about how she had been feeling at her school since I knew that there had been some issues regarding feeling uncomfortable with where she was. I was trying to encourage her to branch out and explore a little more on campus to find people who might be more like her, people she might be able to talk to despite her efforts to tell me she had already tried. She responded with this: “No, I won’t. Thanks for trying to help but you wouldn’t understand because you aren’t a minority nor do you go to a school that doesn’t have anything to offer you.”
And there it was. I had always worried about my ability to actually be able to relate with my students on a complete level because of my background. My student definitely didn’t mean anything negative towards me; we have always had good and productive conversations. She was just angry with the situation. After a few minutes I figured out what to write back, that she should still look again and that maybe there are people who understand her on campus. I sent her a link to the one diversity-oriented service I could find at the campus and said I would drop the matter after that. I really hope she follows through.
But how am I supposed to feel about that interaction? What does it mean for me overall? As I mentioned in my other post about privilege, I think I am getting better at addressing the problem and talking about race and gender issues with my friends, but it creates a weird dynamic when my relationship still needs to remain professional with a student I have never met in person or that I am not particularly close with personally. Knowing that my student is completely right about me is what’s really getting to me. How do I combat that? It’s not that I think I’m a bad college coach or that my students don’t respect me, but that racial divide is something that feels like will always be there.
I feel like my last post about privilege was pretty abstract, that it’s something that exists but that is more passive than actually active in my life. Yesterday the issue of white privilege in America became very active for me. I still don’t know how to talk about it or what to do about it. I’m still sitting here saying that my privilege almost hinders me, which of course is bullshit. But the issue became more personal yesterday. And I don’t know what any of this means for me, my students, or the future in general.