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  • Writer's pictureMarybeth Gasman

On White Privilege

Dear White folks who need to hear this,

When you hear people talk about 'White privilege,' it doesn't mean that White people haven't struggled or don't work hard. I have been seeing quite a few comments from White people assuming that the acknowledgment of White privilege means that they don't work hard. What it means is that White people gain specific advantages simply due to the color of their skin or race and that African Americans (and other people of color) are disadvantaged because of the color of their skin or race.

As White people we have small and large advantages due to race that sometimes remain invisible to us because they are in the background and part of what we take for granted each day. We have these advantages even if we grew up low-income. For example, we can safely call the police for help and not fear for our lives; we can be assured that we'll have teachers who look like us (and thus provide visual role models); we are more likely to get a bank loan; we can ride our bike through any neighborhood without fear of someone calling the police on us; we are able to travel safely throughout the nation without worrying about encountering violent forms of racism; we can find a Band-Aid to match our skin tone; we can easily buy products for our hair - everywhere; we can be assured that we won't be killed during a routine traffic stop; we are believed to be innocent until proven guilty; and on and on and on and on.

If we care about African Americans and other people of color, we need to acknowledge these privileges and work to ensure that others have opportunities and access that is equal to that which we are afforded in our lives.

Acknowledging White privilege (or that Black Lives Matter) doesn't mean you aren't important, that you don't matter, that you don't work hard, and that you shouldn't have access and opportunities. It means that you realize that your skin color and race give you an advantage and that this recognition will lead you to understand that you have a role in making the nation better for others who might not share your skin color or race and thus the advantages you have. I'm with Michelle Obama on this matter -- "We are better when we take care of each other."

My 21 year old daughter understands what White privilege means as does my 89 year old mother. They also understand that Black Lives Matter. Neither my daughter nor my mother feel that they lose anything (in terms of recognition for their hard work) by acknowledging privilege or valuing Black lives. And they both realize that they have an obligation to do what they can to make the lives of others better, more equitable, and to eradicate racism. So do I


I wrote this with a sense of love and hope it is received that way, MB

P.S. Thank you to all of the scholars, mentors, and friends who have informed and shaped my thinking over the years.

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