By Sofie Braun ’22
According to Cambridge Dictionary, white privilege is the fact that people with white skin have advantages in society that others do not have. The term “white privilege” has been increasing its appearance in the news, yet we don’t often think about how much it affects our daily lives as Heschel students. As a group comprised of mostly white and fairly privileged people, we all have similar opportunities and we are all generally treated fairly.
Dean of the University of Virginia School of Law Risa Goluboff, who addressed the school in March, differentiated between white privilege and white supremacy, saying, “White privilege is a state of things and white supremacy is an ideology and attitude and approach of politics.” She raised the point that even white people who are not aware of white privilege benefit from it, arguing, “We are all complicit in institutions, history, [and] the current state of inequality.”
Within the Heschel walls, we have the privilege of not being forced to think about this issue very often. At Heschel, we lack racial diversity and don’t necessarily socialize with people of other races on a daily basis. Lately, I have been noticing how white privilege manifests at other schools, such as Asian and white students getting into Stuyvesant at a much higher rate than their Latino and black peers. Although some people might claim that these students must just be smarter, this disparity in high school admission is correlated with the quality of their primary education. White and Asian students who live in wealthier districts tend to go to better elementary and middle schools, preparing them to get into better high schools. A 2017 poll by NPR, the Robert Wood Foundation, and Harvard, found that 55% of white Americans believe that they are the ones being discriminated against, when really they are the ones who benefit disproportionately from racial disparities.
I think it’s time to take action to educate ourselves about white privilege, and perhaps learn to use our privilege to benefit others. We need to actively listen to people of color that don’t have the privilege we were born with. To develop an awareness of the advantages we have, it is incredibly important to listen to what people of color experience on a daily basis; most of their stories of experiencing discrimination don’t make it to the news. I recommend the racial equity workshops led by the Racial Equity Institute, LLC. These sessions explore perspectives on race, racism, and racial and ethnic disparities, and are a great way to get exposed to new voices. I also believe that social media is an important place where we can use our privilege productively. As soon as you see something that is racially biased, post about it. Speak out. If you think something isn’t right, speak up. As people with privilege, we have an opportunity and obligation to use our voices to support others.