Category Archives: Travel Tips

Why winter is the perfect season to visit Europe

Why I love Europe in Winter

San Sebastian, Spain in March

Yes, Europe in the winter is cold, but coming from the Midwest it’s not that cold. I loved traveling through Spain and Portugal during the winter months. It only snowed 2 days out of 3 months and one of those days I was high in the Pyrenees mountains in Andorra. The average daytime temperatures were in the 50s with nights dropping down closer to freezing temperatures. Many days were warm and sunny reaching the mid-70’s in the early afternoon. I actually prefer to walk around dusty city streets in trainers and long pants over sandels and shorts. Concrete jungles keep heat in and can be quite unbearable during summer months. The south of Europe does receive more rain in winter months. So pack a versatile jacket and sturdy walking shoes and you’re good to go. I recommend spraying both with waterproofing before leaving home.

Another perk of winter travel is that tourism during the winter months is at a low. Making it possible to explore less crowded cities and exhibitions. It can be a challenge to take good quality photos during summer months when thousands of tourists fill every last vantage point. Prices are lower during winter months as well. Making it easier to stretch the budget a bit farther. Once spring hits hotel rates explode. I went from spending 20€ a night for a good budget hotel to 50€ a night in spring. During peak season prices can soar to 80€ or more a night for budget accommodation.

Ronda, Spain in February

My last reason in favor of winter exploration is probably strange, but things smell less during winter months. Let’s be honest Spain literally smells like crap. I am not trying to be mean, but coming from a place with strictly enforced sanitation laws it was strange to see dog poop everywhere. Dogs use the streets as their litter box and probably some men too. No one cleans it up. People step in it on accident and crap gets spread everywhere. During the summer it stinks. The heat intensifies the rank. You can smell decomposing food in rubbish bins on the side of the road as well. During the winter the urine smell is much fainter. It took a couple of weeks for my nose to go blind to the constant traces of feces, cigarette smoke, and car exhaust in the air. I don’t think city people notice this as much as country folk do. Being from Michigan there is a constant breeze off the lake that keeps things smelling fresh and clean.

Have you traveled Europe during the different seasons? I would love to hear your thoughts on winter travel in the comments section below.

Andorra for beginner’s

An old stone church in the Andorran countryside
Andorra is a uniquely independent principality. It ranks 16th wealthiest nation in the world and has a population of under 70K (only 30K being Andorran nationals). It is a small landlocked country nestled in the Pyrenees mountains between Spain and France. The official language is Catalan, but 27% of the country is Spanish, and almost another third is Portuguese. Many French speakers live on the border of France. There is also a smattering of retired UK residence living in the countryside. Making Andorra a truly multi-lingual destination.
After reading other people’s blogs and visiting Andorra myself here are a few things I learned to make your stay more enjoyable should you decide to visit this little gem for yourself. Andorra La Vella is the highest capital in Europe. Known for its excellent shopping and tax haven status it is not a quaint historic town. Most of the buildings have been completed in the last 50 years. La Caldea is an 18 story hotel and spa with modern glass architecture. It was one of the highlights of my trip. For only 35€ you can spend 3 hours enjoying geothermal pools, steam baths, and jacuzzi.
The interior of Caldea

The villages surrounding Andorra La Vella contain charming stone houses with shale roofs. Some buildings dating from the 12th century. Everywhere you go in Andorra you are surrounded by towering mountain views. Some residents complain of claustrophobia. Renting a car isn’t a necessity as buses run every half hour during the day to both the slopes and the local parishes. Of course a car is always a nice option for reaching remote trails and such.

Pal, Andorra

People come to Andorra to ski, hike, shop, and bank. So if you’re not into any of those things you won’t enjoy it here. Andorra gets most of its tourists during the winter months. Vallnord is one of the world’s best ski resorts. I can attest to that. If the views don’t take your breath away then the seemingly  limitless amount of slopes surely will. In the summer months when the snow melts the slopes become a hikers paradise with endless ridge climbs for the sure footed person who is not afraid of heights.

The modern exterior of Caldea

The best thing about Andorra however is the people. They are exceptionally kind and hospitable. I am truly grateful to the friends I made during my short stay and hope i can return again soon. Andorrans are both honest and conscientious contributing to a country that is both safe and clean. In my opinion Andorra is well worth a visit for like-minded folk.

Why Lagos, Portugal is seriously underrated

Ponta da Piedade

World Class Beaches

The beaches of the Algarve have ranked among the top one hundred beaches in the world. They are breathtaking. It’s hard to put into words the soaring cliffs, clean sandy beaches, and turquoise waters. I will try to include as many pictures as possible to fully  illustrate this point.

Praia do Camilo

It’s Cheap

The prices in Portugal are very reasonable. My hotel was only 25€ a night and included a communal kitchen so I could prepare food saving me even more money. Car rental start as low as 15€ a day. If you’re a ‘sun worshipper’ you can easily spend a week exploring the endless beaches and parks in your own car. I was only in Lagos for 3 days and didn’t find a car necessary, but I probably walk 5 to 10 miles a day when on vacation. A taxi from the bus station to my hotel was only 4.5€. To give you an idea of prices.

Praia Donald Ana

No Tourists

I visited Lagos in March. The weather was perfect 75°F (22°C) outside and sunny. There were just enough people out and about to not feel isolated. It was fantastic hiking along the Algarve’s dramatic coastline cliffs without crushes of tourists. You could walk along the endless sandy beaches at sunset with only a handful of other people. If you’re looking for nightlife then make sure you visit during the summer. Personally after a month walking Spain’s crowded and often rubbish filled beaches Lagos felt like my own private paradise.

Praia de Porto de Mós

Great food

I like a variety of food. Everything I tried in Lagos was good and the prices were reasonable which is important for the budget conscious travelers. Here are a couple of items I tried to give you an idea of prices.  A ‘cafe com lete’ (coffee with milk) and ‘sandwiche mista’ (ham and cheese sandwich) will cost between 3-5€. You can get Kebab from a take away place for 4€. I had a world-class chicken curry from an Indian restaurant for only 6.50€. And beef stroginough one night for only 9€. Of course prices can cost a lot more than that*.

Praia do Camilo

Cork

Driving from Lagos to Lisbon you see endless rolling hills of cork trees. Cork is a fascinating  natural resource. There is a lot of information about the harvest and processing of cork online. I urge you to read about it before going to Portugal. I might try to include another blog post on sustainable resources like cork. Tours of cork farms are available from different locations in Portugal. Shops sell both affordable and luxury cork products. These include wallets, iPad cases, and handbags to name a few items. In recent years the wine industry has seen a shift from cork to synthetic stoppers. The cork industry is doing a marvelous job of re-branding this durable natural resource to a new market. I love to see old traditions adapt to current trends and changing demand instead of becoming extinct.

Ponta da Piedade

A multilingual population

In the words of my best friend, “you had me at speaks English.” Almost everyone in Portugal speaks at least some English especially in the South. So if your like me and you speak nil Portuguese don’t let that deter you from visiting. Portugal is a very diverse country welcoming tourists from all over the globe.

Praia do Camilo

* I feel like I need to include a couple of paragraphs about the downside of Portugal. Overall my experience was wonderful or I wouldn’t be writing a blog encouraging you to go, but I found a couple of experiences stressful. I hope that by including my mistakes here you wont have to repeat them and will essentially have a smoother travel experience. After a month traveling through Spain, Portugal caught me by surprise. Everyone I talked to said Portugal and Spain are very similar culturally and that the Portuguese are very honest. To clarify this statement you can ‘probably’ leave your bag unattended go to the bathroom and come back to find it where you left it (not that I recommend trying it). The unemployment rate in Portugal is considerably less than Spain, so the crime rate is much lower as well. Spain with a soaring unemployment rate of 20 percent has  understandably higher pickpocket rates. To say the Portuguese are more ‘honest’ is a different story, however. In Spain the price is the price. There are no hidden fees, and I have never had anyone overcharge me. I found Portugal a lot more stressful in that sense. Just because the menu says the price is 8.5€ doesn’t mean your waiter won’t try to charge you 24€. If restaurants try to overcharge you it’s important to be firm with them about the price. Some waiters try to take advantage of unaccustomed tourists. I got swindled twice in one day when I first arrived. Also in Lisbon hosts standing outside of restaurants can be very pushy. One actually grabbed my arm and tried to pull me into the restaurant, which made me understandably upset. On another occasion I  had a taxi driver charge me a 2€ baggage ‘handling’ fee for helping me with my luggage. He was just trying to rip me off and I find it difficult to argue with people over 2€. Overall during the course of a week I was only swindled out of 20€ that I know of, which could have been much worse.

Ponta da Piedade

Have you been to Lagos? I would love to hear your questions or thoughts in the comments section below.

Here is what you need to know about the Canary Islands (Tenerrife & Gran Canaria)

A little rain goes a long way in the dessert.

 

 

After only 3 weeks on the islands I don’t claim to be an expert, but here are a few things that I learned while in the Canary Islands.

 

There are a lot of microclimates.

The North and West sides of the islands are ‘wetter’ and greener. I my opinion this makes them more scenic and photogenic. The East and South sides of the islands are dry and sunny most days. This is why main highways are on the east side (less erosion) and most resorts are on the south side. The middle of the island has a higher elevation and is normally much cooler than the coast. So you will need to bring a jacket or jumper (sweater)2 if going there. The Northern cities of Santa Cruz (Tenerife) and Las Palmas (Gran Canary) are more for locals and less for tourists, but both cities are worth a visit. The geogeography of the island has a big impact on the weather. The windward side (North side) and mountain peaks collect the majority of the clouds and perception leaving the south (leward side) of the islands dry and sunny.

 

The West side of Gran Canaria

You will need a car
There is a ‘good’ public transit system on the island of Tenerife. That being said the buses take hours to reach any destination. You can hire a car for 12€ a day. I spent over 30€ just one day taking buses around Tenerife! Taxes in the islands are low and gasoline is cheap so why wait in line for slow buses when you can have the freedom to explore at your own pace?
*If you are an American you need a international driver’s license to aquire a car in the EU. They cost about $20 from AAA.

The arid South side of Gran Canaria

Americans are a rare breed
The number one question I was asked in the islands was, ‘How did you hear about the Canary Islands?’ The second most commonly asked question was,  ‘Do other Americans know about us?’  Very few Americans make it to Islas Canarias. So when planning your next European holiday keep in mind that round trip flights from the Peninsula start from only 20€ on budget airlines.

Los Cristianos, Tenerife

The south side is one giant resort area
My brain couldnt fully grasp this point until I saw it myself. It’s similar to Cancun. There are so many gigantic resorts. Most of the holiday makers during the winter months are from Europe’s darker, colder places. So most tourists spend their days laying out on the beach or poolside soaking up every last ray of sunshine they can. Few visitors make it a priority to get out and explore the more scenic parts of the island.

One of my favorite views of Gran Canaria

It is beautiful!
If you love winding mountain roads you will love driving in the Carary islands. There are indescribably beautiful mountains and valleys. I was there during Febuary which has more rain. Everything was green and beautiful. A rare treat.

Watch out for goats.

The roads are crazy
I don’t scare easily and Los Espinos is probably one of the most intimidating roads I’ve driven yet. I only drove about 6K and turned back. It’s  a single lane road for both ways of traffic. There is no guardrail and it’s a sheer drop-off to the valley below. I had to stop at one point for a herd of goats to pass. Most roads are 2 lanes, but be careful what route you pick if you plan on exploring the more remote mountain areas.

Playa de Aldea, Gran Canaria

The shopping is excellent.The Canary Islands have incredibly low tax tax rates compared to the peninsula of Spain. The markets and duty free shops have great bargains. You can purchase Rayban sunglasses for as low as 60€ and high quality leather handbags for only 30€. High quality leather goods and shoe stores can be found all over the islands.

 

Have you been to Islas Canarias? Let me know what else I’m missing in the comments section below.

Why Spain is perfect for solo travel


Thinking about your next solo adventure? Here are 5 Reasons Spain is a great destination, especially for the lone female traveler.

The Culture
Spaniard’s are great. In general everyone is super helpful. Spain has a relaxed and friendly culture. The bus drivers are a little grumpy, but they still help point you in the right direction.

It’s Relatively Safe
Spain is much safer than the United States, but not as safe as Iceland or New Zealand. It is possible to stay out until the late hours of the night during the week. Or the early hours of the weekend and everything is fine. That being said there are pickpockets. Apparently they target foreigners. You won’t get mugged or assaulted, but if you leave your bag open someone might help themselves to your wallet. I am told that pickpockets listen for foreign accents so if you’re traveling alone hopefully you’re not talking to yourself. Another tip is to travel low-key don’t wear anything too fancy or expensive, which will call attention to yourself. As a female solo traveler I have found Spanish men charming and helpful. To Some immigrant men living in Spain are a little more forward than I would like. I think its the difference in culture so I started wearing a wedding band out.

 The Price
Spain is surprisingly affordable. It is one of the cheapest countries in the EU (European Union). You can easily rent rooms with private baths for under 30€ a night. Hostels are under 20€. Many places include breakfast. Meals are very affordable as well. An espresso with a ham and cheese sandwich is less than 3€. Meaning you can travel on 35-75€ a day depending on your rooming, transportation and excursion choices. An entrance ticket to La Alhambra Palace in Granada without a guide will cost you 15€. While a guided day trip to Gibraltar from the sunshine coast will be closer to 50€.

Easy Transport
Spain has great transportation. There are buses and trains to pretty much anywhere you want to go. Even remote villages have at least one bus in or out a day. I brought an unlocked cellphone and purchased a 3GB Lycamobile Internet plan for 15€ a month. Then you can use GPS to find the best public transit routes. I highly recommend bringing or buying a phone. Knowing where you are going will give you more confidence to explore. I have people asking me for directions almost everyday.

The Climate
Spain has one of the warmest climates in Europe. I’m currently traveling Spain in the winter time from January to April. Its off-season which means less tourists and with weather between 50-80 °F (10-27 °C) it’s really quite enjoyable. The trick is to bring layers. Nights can feel cold while sunny days can feel warmer than they actually are. I packed a softshell jacket that doubles as a raincoat so I didn’t have to pack an umbrella.

Did I leave anything out? I would love to hear you thought on traveling solo in Spain. Feel free to comment below.

Happy travels,

Amanda Tiffany

How to spend 7 Days in British Columbia

My Route
My Route

Vancouver

Vancouver is beautiful. It’s a great city if you like the outdoors. Local residents are diverse and athletic. I visited in the fall. If your looking for a mixture of nature and architecture here are my top 4 recommendations.

VanDusen Gardens
VanDusen Gardens

VanDusen gardens is 55 acres of plants from all over the world including ponds, waterfalls, and a small maze. The sculptures and architecture is modern and interesting. Named after philanthropist Whitford Julian VanDusen the gardens have been open since 1975.

Granville Island is a must. It’s filled with cute shops. Great water and mountain views intermingle with interesting architecture. Granville island is a popular destination and parking can be a challenge so I suggest getting an early start to beat the crowd.

Downtown Vancouver is a great merger of fantastic architecture and harbor views. I have always been a fan of the fusion between God’s creation and the creation of man. Vancouver is an ideal city to experience the contrasts between hard lines and organic shapes.

Stanley Park, BC
Stanley Park, BC

Stanley Park is a world renowned park with excellent views of downtown Vancouver and Lions gate bridge. At over 1,000 acres there is a lot to see including an aquarium. The only downside of Stanley park and most other British Colombia attractions is paid parking. If you visit enough different sites the parking fees start to add up and it can be hard to find spots where parking is free.

North Vancouver

Capilano suspension bridge
Capilano suspension bridge

Capilano suspension bridge costs more then I wanted at $37.50, but that’s because your ticket includes the suspension bridge, cliff walk, and tree top bridges. All of which require considerable operating expenses. I can’t say I was impressed, it was more developed then I was imagining but the pictures I took here turned out fantastic and look far more rugged then how the actual excursion felt.

Grouse Mountain Gondola
Grouse Mountain Gondola

Avoid the gondola ride at Grouse Mountain, the views are good but the ride is grossly overpriced. There is another gondola in Squamish on the drive to Whistler that offers equally fantastic views at half the price.

Whistler

Go to Whistler! The drive alone is worth it. The views are amazing. Train and grey hound buses are available for alternative transportation. Food and activities in Canada cost considerably more than in the US, but hotels in the off season are ridiculously cheap. I paid $63.00 one night for a room with 2 beds, a fireplace, a jacuzzi, a full kitchen, wifi, and a kurieg machine. An amazing room that costs almost $300.00 a night during peak season. I was planning on sleeping in my car but with rooms as little as $50.00 in the off season how can you resist.

Vancouver Island

Horseshoe Bay, BC
Horseshoe Bay, BC

The ferry from Horseshoe Bay to Naniamo was pleasant but the views aren’t that spectacular compared to the drive up the coast to Whistler. The drive from Naniamo was ugly and rainy the day I drove it. I’m not sure how it looks in the sunshine.

Bushart Gardens, BC
Butchart Gardens, BC

Butchart gardens is a must for any landscaping enthusiast. The Japanese gardens are spectacular in the autumn season.

Sidney, BC
Sidney, BC

Sidney is a cute little town with interesting architecture. I spent the night here before heading taking the ferry the through the San Juan Islands

Victoria

Chinatown, Victoria
Chinatown, Victoria

Down town Victoria has wonderful architecture. Chinatown has some cute shops to explore. The restaurants and coffee shops are good. Victoria’s lakeshore is worthy of a leisurely afternoon stroll.

San Juan Islands

San Juan Islands
San Juan Islands

Whatever you do don’t take the ferry through San Juan Islands if you are returning to Canada. I thought it would be pleasant diversion as Washington islands are so famous. The ferry ride is fabulous, but now that Marajuana is legal in WA I got stopped and searched at the border. The patrol lady was crazy rude and treated me like a criminal despite a lack of evidence. They even searched my socks. They said my behavior was highly suspicious even though I hadn’t done anything slightly suspicious so the moral of the story is take the Swartz ferry to Vancouver. Sometimes it’s not worth it to take road less traveled.

Tips:

Bushart Gardens, BC
Bushart Gardens, BC

Autumn is the perfect time to visit British Columbia. It’s the off season and prices are cheaper. Shorter days meant that after 3 the lighting isn’t great for photos. Even sunsets at 6pm come out more dreary than colorful.
While in British Columbia I walked and average of the 6 to 10 miles a day. There is just so much stuff to see. For October the weather was perfect almost 60 and sunny. It rained mostly at night, although a couple of days were bitterly damp. There were so many urban sites to see I was too tired to do any strenuous hikes.
For shorter trips I would focus on Vancouver and Whistler as they have the most variety of activities and fantastic views.

What I learned from a year in Hawaii

 

Halawa, Molokai
Halawa, Molokai

The most important lesson I’ve learned during my years traveling is to be adaptable. It’s important to learn about new cultures and to respect local customs even if they are different from your own. This may mean a temporary restriction of certain freedoms enjoyed back “home” , but in the long run the education is worth the sacrifice. For me this has always meant dressing modestly where society dictates or refraining from consuming alcohol in public. Each culture has amazing jewels we can glean. The result is that for the most part I have been able to adjust to a wide variety of environments.

There have been numerous new stories in recent months covering racism and the unfair treatment of people of color on the mainland. Unless we learn to start accepting new cultures and learn to tolerate difference these problems will continue to persist. This semester one of my term papers was on white privelage. This is what I learned from a year spent in Hawaii.

Kihei
Art in the park, Kihei

Racism: It’s the tingle on the back of your neck

On September 6, 2015, Fay Wells a small black woman called a locksmith to help her into her Santa Monica apartment after she had forgotten her keys. Living in a predominately Caucasian area her white neighbor assuming she was breaking into the place called the police. According to Wells, 19 officers responded. Guns drawn and in the company of guard dogs the officers, who failed to identify themselves, illegally searched her apartment, refused to answer her questions, or accept proof of residence. After the house was “cleared” Wells requested the names and badge numbers of the officers involved many of whom boldly turned around ignoring her requests. When she tried to discuss the gravity of the situation with her neighbor he swore at her and walked away.

The recent interactions between the police and people of color led Wells to believe her life was in jeopardy. One wrong move and she could have been shot. The trauma has caused Wells lingering sleeplessness, and paranoia. Her house no longer feels safe. She feels she can no longer approach the police for help if she needs it. Wells states that she is heartbroken “that a careless assessment of me, based on skin color, could endanger my life” (Wells, The Washington Post)

“White privilege” a common term used in academic circles, the average American person may have never heard the two words strung together, let alone understand their significance. According to Peggy Mcintosh, the author of White Privilege: The Invisible Knapsack privilege can be compared to an “invisible knapsack” filled with special provisions and blank checks. While most people link racism with oppression, few willingly acknowledge the advantages of white privilege.

Whites are taught to think they are average, and ideal. They are indoctrinated that being equal is to allow others to be more like themselves. Many people deny that this conditioned oblivion creates an air of unconscious oppressiveness to people of other races (Mcintosh).

Ariel view of West Maui
Ariel view of West Maui

What is white privilege? It’s being able to go into any store without being suspected of a crime or treated like a criminal. It’s being able to walk down the street without someone clutching their handbag tighter to their side. White privilege is the ability to get a job based on your qualifications without anyone implying that an affirmative action policy was involved in the decision (Mcintosh).

Most Americans are raised to think of people as individuals. Many whites claim to live in a colorblind society (Hammon). As a predominately white society we deny the problem exists. Before moving to Hawaii I thought some of my friends of color were overly sensitive to racial overtones. Racism in Hawaii is very real. Locals have faced years of oppression from wealthy landowners. A strong military presence floods the islands with unwanted brawlers and an exclusive tourist community with entitled guests has left many locals with negative feelings toward “mainlanders.” Haole originally a Hawaiian word for foreigner now almost exclusively applies to Caucasians. “Haole go home” is viewed by some as the white equivalent of the N* word.

Working as both a travel writer and special education teacher who is fluent in American Sign Language, I have traveled all over the world. I lived in Central America for over four years, two of which were teaching in a remote jungle village. Being the only white person in a community of color is nothing new for me. Sometimes the differences were completely forgotten. As a white person living in Hawaii I am never allowed to forget. I have never “felt” racism until I moved to Hawaii. Locals would refuse to rent to me saying “You just aren’t quite what we are looking for,” or “I’m not sure you are a good fit for the area,” all insinuated with racial undertones.

Forget about going to the store after a business meeting. If you are white and dressed up you will get what the locals call “stink eye”. Rude behaviors for no reason other than they think you are an entitled tourist. Even on your best behavior they will still treat you like dirt.

Island Art Party, Kihei
Island Art Party, Kihei

Once you have fought your way into island life it’s “easy” to make friends. There are areas for locals and areas for tourists. If you are fortunate enough to find someone who will rent to you in a local area it’s relatively safe once you’ve met the neighbors. My friends all warned me however, about going to local places by myself. They tell me someone local needs to go with me so I don’t have trouble. More than once in the short year I’ve lived here I’ve felt the tingles running down the back of my neck like warning bells.

It has opened my eyes to what my friends of color have to deal with on a daily basis. Maybe they are sensitive, but as my friend says the tingles on the back of your neck happen for a reason. Hate crimes, police shootings, and constant scrutiny– the pressure erodes one’s health leading to higher rates of heart disease and high blood pressure among people of color. I find myself being overly sensitive, analyzing every sentence. Why did they say that? What was meant by that comment?

According to U.S. census figures Hawaii has the highest racial minority population of any state with 75 of the population counted as non-white and only 25 percent of the population counted as white (Hawaii Is Diverse, But Far From A Racial Paradise). This unusual demographic means affirmative action policies and strong local solidarity ensure representation in all strata of government and education. This is a refreshing change for many people of color. Unable to catch a break some lower class, local born, whites can struggle in this environment. In spite of this complaint about “reverse racism” the wealthiest homes in the most exclusive areas are still predominantly white. In Hawaii there is a strong link between socioeconomic status and white privilege. The affirmative action policies implemented by the state have sadly proved to be just a life raft amongst the rapidly rising living costs.

Papohaku, Molokai
Papohaku, Molokai

One of the biggest changes I noticed about Hawaii was the lack of representation of whites in the media. Commercials and local stations almost exclusively model people of color primarily of Asian or Pacific Island descent. At first this struck me as a refreshing change to the mainland. However as time has passed it feels increasingly like a reminder that I don’t belong here and that I will forever remain a foreigner born thousands of miles away. Before moving to Hawaii I had barely noticed that the majority of American cinema casts Caucasians for roles despite the great diversity that lies within our country. Since 1939 only 12 persons of color have won Academy Awards (African American Oscar Winners & Nominees). This lack of representation negatively affects one’s self-esteem. It’s as if someone was saying “you don’t belong here” every time you turn on your television. I had never felt what it was like to see a complete lack of representation of your culture before moving to Hawaii. It’s like you don’t exist or at least that you don’t matter.

The general demographic of the United States can be broken down into whites making up 78.1 percent of the population, Hispanics comprise 16.7 percent, blacks make up 13.1 percent, Asian and Pacific Islanders complete the pie at 5.2 percent. Despite being 13 percent of the population or roughly 39 million people only 13 African Americans have ever been CEO of a fortune 500 company (MacKinnon p.306).

Traditional management degrees indoctrinate the importance of promoting self-interest over the thoughts of others. This effectively silences the voices of different races, gender, and classes (Simpson). The majority of the “power holders” in America are white males. Strong ties connect big business, government, and the media, to white privilege. The trickle-down effect from our current education system leads to a white culture and a predominantly white way of thinking. This creates an oppressed, underrepresented minority group who need help to change current conditions.

Papohaku, Molokai
Papohaku, Molokai

When affirmative action policies went into effect in the early 1960’s many whites began to play the victim. Claiming that whites have to pay more in order to get the same education that minorities receive as “special” treatment. This ignores the fact that many whites occupy a distinctly superior place in America (Hammon). White Americans enjoy greater earnings over the course of their lifetime and are given more chances to enroll in higher education. They have longer life expectancies with better access to health care when needed than many people of color do.

Being confronted with evidence of privilege is a negative experience for many, often evoking self-protective reactions (Phillips). Most white families fight to improve their life and hate to acknowledge they had a head start over people of color. Some whites even claim to have faced more discrimination than blacks (Phillips).

When confronted with privilege many whites are likely to claim personal hardship as a shield reluctant to admit to personal privilege. This way whites can perceive their personal lives as being more difficult than the lives of people of color. “However whites’ non racial hardships are irrelevant to racial privilege. White privilege shields it victims from the worst possible consequences. For instance joblessness is less likely to result in homelessness, crimes are less likely to result in jail time, and illness is less likely to result in death,” Phillips.

As a white American I often feel uncomfortable calling myself white. Just voicing the word feels like I’m exerting some sort of privilege. Growing up in the predominately caucasian Midwest I never thought of race until I moved away. It’s hard to understand white privilege when it’s all around you. We somehow think of ourselves as neutral but being white does not render us race less. We need to admit and embrace our own culture. People should be more comfortable identifying themselves with their culture. If we acknowledge our whiteness then suddenly we are part of the racist equation not separate from it.

We need to know what racism feels like so that we can identify with others. We need to talk about racism openly and without shame. We need to understand how people of color feel every day of their lives. This means that we need to diversify our news sources. We need to read and watch videos from different perspectives. Our children deserve to know about racial justice. We need to train our youth to explore different aspects of identity so they can grow up in a more racially tolerant world (Bruce). Only then may we be willing to give up a little bit of our privilege so they can feel as neutral and ideal as we already do.

Garden of the gods, Lanai
Garden of the gods, Lanai

Works Cited

“African American Oscar Winners & Nominees.” uticapubliclibrary.org. Trainor,
n.d. Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.uticapubliclibrary.org/rescources/literature-and-film-guides/african-american-oscar-winners-and-nominees-acting/>.

Bruce, Allie Jane. “On being White”, Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children, vol. 13, no. 3, pp.3-6

Hammon, Brett. “Playing the Race Card: White Americans’ Sense of Victimization In Response to Affirmative Action.” Texas Hispanic Journal Of Law & Policy 19. (2013):95. LexisNexis Academic: Law Reviews. Web. 5 Dec. 2015

“Hawaii Is Diverse, But Far From A Racial Paradise.” npr.org. NPR, 21 Nov. 2009.
Web. 7 Dec. 2015. <http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=120431126>.

MacKinnon, Barbara, and Andrew Fiala. Ethics Theory and Contemporary Issues.
Stamford: Cengage Learning, 2015. Print.

Mcintosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: The Invisible Knapsack.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing. Boston: Bedford, 1990. Print.

Simpson, Ruth. “Masculinity And Management Education: Feminizing The MBA.” Academy Of Management Learning & Education 5.2 (2006): 182-193. Business Source Elite. Web. 30 Oct. 2015.

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