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Santa Fe’s Educational Equality in Confronting privilege a Necessary Step

Webster defines privilege as “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor,” while defines privilege as “a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed by a particular person or a restricted group of people beyond the advantages of most.” Simply put, privilege is benefiting when others do not.

Inherently, there is nothing wrong with this. We have all worked hard and earned certain individual privileges. But, when privilege is broadened, codified and weaponized with the purpose of shaping law and policy, then massive, purposeful oppression results.

None of the statistical inequity present in marginalized communities in this country today is by accident — historical realities ranging from the Indian Removal Act and Chinese Exclusion Act to slavery to Japanese internment camps and Jim Crow laws all mark us to this day.

In our community, this legacy is still very much alive and well. Generations of colonial maneuvering, power struggles and cultural displacement, coupled with physical and social violence, have taken their toll. New Mexico is a “majority minority” state and is home to 23 sovereign Native nations. Our state is a destination for national and international travel, a major player in the film industry and is a sought-after location for wealthy second homeowners. Yet we consistently rank at the bottom for practically all social indicators, including health and wellness, educational achievement, financial stability and accumulation of assets.

Zoom in even closer, and you’ll see that 36 of the 44 public, magnet and charter schools in Santa Fe County are classified as Title I, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The blunt reality of educational disparities within the school district is particularly sobering. East side schools are smaller, and the families who frequently transfer into them are more economically stable. The parent associations who work to secure financial resources for increased academic and extracurricular opportunities have more capacity, and the students who attend these schools by-and-large face much less daily adversity.

I am not a scholar. Nor am I a historian, sociologist, community organizer, activist, policy analyst, elected official or any other sort of expert. But, over the past year and a half, as we all have been held hostage by COVID-19, I have had time to think and ruminate on many things regarding privilege and equity in this country.

Wow, do you know any other interesting news about films this year? If not, I’ll tell you the news. Namely there will be a lot of films that have been delayed for a long time but for the end of this year they are all released. Some of these films are Marvel’s new heroes, Eternals Streaming ITA, which has been widely discussed lately, besides this film, there is also Venom 2 Streaming ITA which may have been available since last October in theaters in your country.

But apart from the super hero film, if you are a horror film lover, don’t worry, because there is a horror film that will be released at the end of 2021. The film is a sequel to the first film, Don’t Breathe 2 Streaming ITA or in Italian as L’Uomo nel Buio 2 Streaming ITA.

I have read, watched documentaries, listened to countless podcasts and engaged in several heated conversations. The conclusion I have come to is societal privilege in the United States is directly tied to, and defined by, centuries of the purposeful and methodical creation of laws, adoption of policies and enshrinement of acts of government meant to overtly and systematically empower those deemed superior under white supremacist ideals imported from Europe while overtly and systematically disempowering and dehumanizing those deemed inferior.

While I think I can safely say most people are no longer in the antiquated mindset of our forefathers, every one of us is still affected by their patriarchal thinking and worldview. We live in a society where distribution of opportunities, education, and resources is skewed. Those with more to begin with will typically continue to benefit and stay ahead.

But in a society where equity is prioritized, the distribution of opportunities, education and resources is focused on bringing everyone to the same level. Restructuring entrenched systems; difficult, outside-the-box thinking; and sacrifice at the personal, municipal, regional and national level is going to be needed if we are ever going to achieve the level of egalitarianism we have long claimed.

Maia Cortissoz is the vice president of strategy and grants management at Growing Up New Mexico. She is also the mother of 11-year-old twin girls.