Check your privilege
Karina Tobar, the Student Senate director of diversity at Wenatchee College, values transparency and accountability in this work. “Something that I would put in these trainings is to check your privilege,” said the second-year student studying sciences.
“Privilege” refers to the advantages afforded to an individual by virtue of social identity. Privilege exists along every axis of social classification: race, class, gender, sexuality, ability and others.
According to Tobar, having light skin as a Latina gives her privilege over Latinas with dark skin — the result of colorism, a prejudice toward individuals with darker skin, particularly within ethnic or racial groups.
Tobar recalls an instance where her biology class turned political. When a white professor had a different perspective than a student of color on an issue Tobar describes as “sensitive,” the professor (who Tobar says typically went by his first name) asked the student to address him by his formal title. Tobar says she thinks that situation would have gone differently if the professor had checked his privilege.
Some lawmakers have had issues with the new law. “I think a lot of these programs try to make people feel guilty about the color of their skin,” state Sen. Doug Ericksen, R-Ferndale, said.
Ericksen, founding member of the Senate Freedom Caucus, filed a series of three amendments to SB 5227. He also introduced Senate Bill 5044, which addresses equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism in the public school system.
Although that bill also doesn’t prescribe a particular curriculum, one of Ericksen’s amendments asked that “the proposed curriculum may not, in any way, disparage a person of another race, color, or creed.”
“Some amendments didn’t come from a place of good intent, but from a place of obstructionism,” Randall said. “I think what [this amendment] was trying to say is that ‘talking about institutional racism is racist’ — and I don’t believe in reverse racism.”
Ericksen’s amendment was not adopted.
Although she is not involved in diversity training sessions at her college, Tobar says she is excited to see this bill pass.
“I think my college is great,” Tobar said. “We do a lot in terms of diversity, but we can be doing so much more.”