Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Puerto Rican students and a white liberal's need to feel useful

At a conference held at the School of Education of the CCNY, an invited educator from PR made a critique of the tendency to group all Puerto Ricans students in a homogenous mass, and argued that in doing so, the qualities that characterize those students who were successful and the reasons for their success were overshadowed by those who were not. She then asked, why are there more private schools graduates from Puerto Rico attending universities in the USA than Puerto Rican students graduating from public schools in the USA?

Anyone familiar with the educational literature correlating class and educational achievement would have been able to provide what seemed to be an obvious answer. But that was not the case with one of the members of the group. A highly honored and published white female professor kept bringing the point that there was a large percentage of failures among Puerto Rican students, as if this issue would eliminate the argument being prsented by the Puerto Rican educator. According to some us, Puerto Ricans attending the meeting, the need of the white liberal multicultural leftist professor - to bring the failure as an issue in contrast to the point that there were successful Puerto Rican students - was due her sense of self-worth as an educator. She needed the victims to justify her existence as the savior of the poor, marginalized docile Puerto Ricans

There is an assumption among white liberals in the USA that these "poor people"  are all alike and that they are passive victims of the oppressive systems, and in need of "them whites" as  "salvadores". Such  simplistic construct negates the ability of people to move beyond social and personal constraints and the differences within the so called oppressed group. (Doña Yeya en el Sur del Bronx no tiene mucho en común con los apellidos guionizados de Caparra.)

When it comes to racial, sexual, national or ethnic groups, victimhood can be defined as a state of individual and collective mind that occurs when the traditional structures that provide a sense of security and self-worth through membership in a group are shattered by aggressive, violent political outsiders; characterized by either an extreme or persistent sense of mortal vulnerability.

By conceptualizatiing the other as a victim, the savior of the victim not only uses the other in order to justufy her/his existence but continues to perpetuate the membership's sense of victimization instead of enhancing their sense of self-mastery and personal power. Identifying oneself primarily and over long periods of time as a victim is to embrace this permanent identity of a dysfunctional human being. And the only ones benefiting from this state are those who see themselves as the saviors.

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