In response to the white privilege column
By Kenzie Schmitt, Warner College of Natural Resources student
It was more difficult for me to finish reading the article On the topic of ‘White Privilege’ than I would like to admit. The ignorance displayed was quite impressive, considering the resources for education on social issues that are available on this campus.
When writing an article, one of the most important things to do is to research the issue. This article showed the author did research on many issues, including Irish history and European immigration. However, the author neglected to do research on the main point they were trying to discuss, which is white privilege. This article was posted ‘Opinion’, as if this is an issue without real facts to discuss. While people can have their own opinions, they cannot have their own facts, and this article appeared to ignore the facts about privilege and living without it in America.
The idea of white privilege is not about what your family has gone through, or about the struggles of all humans in the world. White privilege is about the systematic oppression of non-white folks. In America, this stems in part from things like slavery, where white men declared they were better than people of color and asserted their dominance over them in one of the most dehumanizing ways possible. After slavery was abolished, the white people in power did not want to give up their power, and used the constitution to prohibit non-white, non-males from voting, used laws that allow stop-and-frisks that disproportionately affect non-white Americans, and used a justice system that is skewed to allow non-white low level drug offenders to be incarcerated at much higher rates than white people accused of the same crimes. Through all the struggles of people of color through the years and all the incredible progress they have made, we are not in a post-racial society. People of color are incarcerated at a rate of nearly 6 times the rate of white people. This is a translation from putting people of color in chains to putting them behind bars. Both have been and continue to be oppressive and contribute to the difference in experience that people of color live versus white people.
I am a white female. I was not raised to think that race was still an issue in America. Learning that this was simply not true was a hard lesson. Coming to terms with having white privilege was harder. I felt guilty and I wanted to push that feeling away from me as much as I could. I would tell myself that my life was hard too, in its own way. I would deny that there were real issues. I could say life for everyone, even white people, was hard. But in truth, life is not nearly as hard for me as a white person with all my struggles as it is for a person of color with all their struggles to live with the daily oppression that people of color experience.
White privilege is about seeing that you have experienced your life differently because of all the history and all the oppression still active in our society. White privilege is not something someone can ever rid themselves of, and I will continue to experience my life as a white person. When I need to ‘check my privilege,’ it is because I am not seeing the struggles of others who do not have my privilege, and it would benefit me to see the situation from another perspective. Perhaps the phrase ‘check your privilege’ is not the most inviting way to say it, but it has the intent of asking a person to take a step back and reassess their view for power-maintaining biases.
There is so much more to say on the issue of privilege, but I think it best for readers to explore the ideas and facts on their own, and take it upon themselves to learn what they can about social justice in America. CSU has resources for this, including the Black/African American Culture Center, the Native American Cultural Center, the Asian Pacific American Cultural Center, the El Centro, the Women and Gender Advocacy Center, the GLBT Resource Center, and more.
I now speak directly to you, Megan Burnett. I understand that the feeling of having privilege is unpleasant. But it is not acceptable to deny the pains of others in order to feel better about yourself. Race is still a real issue in America. The first thing you can do to begin to accept the privilege you have is to learn about it. Learn about the real issues of marginalized groups in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and so many others who are not given space to use their voices the same way you are. Then it is appropriate to take action by writing articles about the real issues our society faces. This is how we can make progress as a society.