White Privilege in the United States

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Written by: Audra Weigand

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of CLAgency, the College of Liberal Arts, or the University of Minnesota.

Today I want to talk specifically to other white people, many of whom have ignored the racial issues in our country today. I know what many of them may be thinking:

  1. White supremacists are horrible, but I am not like that.

  2. I didn’t enslave people; I can’t be racist.

  3. White supremacists, Nazi supporters and KKK members are not representative of all white people.

I understand why you may be feeling this way, as I once thought similarly. I didn’t think about how my white privilege in society allowed me to disassociate myself from the horrible events caused by people who looked like me. Today, I want you to challenge your own notions about what it means to be white.

First off, you are right; you probably are not a white supremacist—but you must also ask yourself:

  • Have you researched and made an effort to learn more about your power within society as a white person and how that privilege results in loss and hardship for people of color? Here is a good resource to help you recognize some of your everyday white privilege.

  • Have you studied the history of white people in America and recognized that we are the driving factor between racially-charged systemic issues present today? Do you realize that our ancestors stole land, enslaved people, massacred, murdered, wrongfully imprisoned and forced people into concentration camps? This discrimination and injustice continues today when white people deny citizen’s rights through legislation and daily social implementation.

  • When a white person says something that is racist or ignorant, do you push them to see the other side? Do you explain to them how their viewpoint is promoting racial inequality?

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The white supremacist rally that took place in Charlottesville, Virginia on August 11th, 2017

Secondly, by denying your privilege and not doing anything to improve this inherently unequitable society, you have chosen the side of the oppressors. Remember Charlottesville? I acknowledge that Donald Trump did not directly cause the violence that happened, but his rhetoric appealed to hate-filled groups and they ran with it. I know white people who voted for him and put him in power. Now, I am urging those people to look at their decision critically. Who we choose to put in political power in our country speaks volumes to the kind of morals and values we have as citizens. Our president was not quick to condemn the violence and racism that happened that day. He instead said there were problems with both sides of the scenario. This was simply not true.

Trump did not condemn the white supremacists, but instead allowed for their wrongdoings to slide by. He chose the side of the oppressors. He is an oppressor.

Thirdly, yes you are right, groups of KKK members or white supremacists are not representative of all white people. But you must also acknowledge that a small group of people who choose to promote terror and call themselves Muslims are not representative of Muslims. The same goes for any subset of a group that acts in hatred under the group name but ultimately is not a part of it.

If you read through this entire post, thank you for taking the time to listen, but white people can’t just learn about how our privilege perpetuates racism; more importantly we must act upon it. Check out this list of actions that you can take to fight racism in Minnesota. If you don’t live in Minnesota, I urge you to find initiatives within your own state.

White people need to take action in order for changes to be made. We have a responsibility to our fellow citizens and for humanity to stand up to these injustices.

I know that I don’t have all the solutions to these issues. But this is a start.

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