“White Girl” Privilege

Ooooh okay. Here’s a fun blog post. Just a reminder none of these opinions are of Fulbright’s, just mine.

Since stepping foot into Taiwan I’ve felt like some form of a celebrity. “Oh, so beautiful!” repeated over and over, pictures taken for days.

People are amazed that I can speak any Chinese, and so impressed when I could mumble and bumble out more than a few sentences.

But, as the name of this post alludes to, not all of us Americans are treated the same. Our ETA group is particularly diverse- Jedrik having Philipino roots, Julianna and Joyce having Taiwanese roots, Diane having Cameroon(ian?) roots, Chia having Chinese roots, and Catherine having Greek roots. We are your picturesque American melting pot.

Regularly my friends that look like they could be Taiwanese or Asian are questioned as to if they are actually American. People are shocked if they can’t speak flawless Chinese and oftentimes they feel they need to take someone with them if they are going to do something difficult- so they aren’t automatically judged for not understanding how to do it.

I, on the other hand, honestly need only look confused at a bus stop or train station and someone offers help, a ride, or even a meal. This is a privilege of being white.

Before writing my blog post on safety I remember googling crime in Taiwan and coming across “Taiwan’s Dirty Little Secret” written by someone who was Asian American and was so frustrated by the lack of understanding of American diversity by Taiwanese people. I am so sorry because I couldn’t find the article when writing this, but the author pointed out that Taiwan was essentially less welcoming to Asian-Americans because it was almost always putting them in the place of an identity crises; people always asking, “but you can’t speak Chinese? Aren’t you Taiwanese? Are you sure you are American” etc. ….which is a very different feeling than the warm & fuzzy semi-celebrity status my blonde compatriots and I feel.

One of the main reasons we are sent overseas with a Fulbright is to exchange culture and to increase understanding. One of the most important things I want to get across to my students is American diversity, but especially in race and religion.

A few months ago I did a lesson on American diversity. I showed this group photo to my students and asked “Who is American?”

SONY DSC

The kids pretty much only picked out Sarah (on the far right) and me as Americans. I then proceeded to explain how everyone in the photo was American, and had different heritages.

I’m about to teach about the Holidays in the U.S. and I’m SO excited to teach not only Christmas but also Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Eid.

I feel frustrated and a little heart broken every time I hear a story from one of my Asian American friends where they feel mistreated because I know we are having very different experiences. But that learning and creating new understanding is part of the reason we are here. In the meantime I will be happily exposing my kids to all sorts of diversity.

Until next time,

C

 

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One thought on ““White Girl” Privilege

  1. shops4shoes says:

    I experience much of the same treatment in Korea. Everyone thinks I am “beautiful” and I’ve even had strangers ask to take photos with me. It feels weird, but I also recognize these things happen simply because I’m white and blonde. My students seem to understand a bit of diversity a little more than it sounds like yours do, but it’s still something they don’t fully grasp.

    Good luck on your lessons! Sounds like fun and great information for your students. 🙂

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