“Privilege is driving a smooth road and not even knowing it.” – Ampersand
White privilege: always acknowledged, sometimes discussed, never any different.
In today’s world, history is destined to repeat itself. As a nation, we find ourselves struggling to prove ourselves as above racism. But everyday, there is a headline in the news to prove that notion wrong. White privilege is something that most white Americans feel uncomfortable addressing, which is the first problem. As Peggy McIntosh stated in her article “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”, white Americans often see white privilege as “an invisible package of unearned assets which we can count on cashing in each day, but about which we were ‘meant’ to remain oblivious.” She goes on to give a list of things we take for granted, the most glaringly noticeable one being: “When I am told about our national heritage or about ‘civilization’, I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.” Using our privilege in a constructive way is tough to do when a majority of people don’t even want to acknowledge that it’s there, or downplaying how overwhelming it really is.
Looking at the genocide and refugee crises located around the world with a white privilege lens is deeply troubling. How can we even begin to complain about anything when there are thousands and thousands of people struggling with issues we couldn’t even begin to fathom? The first step in putting privilege aside and etching away at the problems others face is getting educated. Education is one of the most powerful tools we can have.
S. Mei-Yen Hui touches on this in her piece “Difficult Dialogues About Service Learning.” She discusses her experience being enrolled in a service-learning class in college, and how being confronted with the pain and injustice others face while her privilege went unused only brought confusion and anger. I can certainly say I have felt the same way as I sit in our class each week, perplexed by the inaction we discuss and horrified by the images we see.
To whoever is reading this, please do not see this as a lecture. I am just as guilty of ignoring my privilege. I read the news everyday, shocked and dismayed at what I see, but at the end of the day, I remain just as stagnant as everyone else. But that’s what I enrolled in this class. Upon my graduation in May, I’m trying to leave a far less ignorant and far more empowered person than I was when I stepped into our overcrowded class room that first Wednesday evening, sharing that my biggest fear regarding the class was how long it was. The first step is taking the exit off of our nicely paved road and driving into unmarked, bumpy territory.
— Lauren Antilety