Taking a look at white privilege

Krystina Slack

On Nov. 11, Augustana had author and filmmaker Molly Secours come and give a talk about white privilege. White privilege is defined by the Oxford dictionary as an “inherent advantage possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.”

“It’s important to learn about white privilege and how to address it because it is a real problem,” said sophomore Audrey Marx who attended the White Privilege Quiz talk.

White privilege is a topic many people get uncomfortable talking about. This is mostly because it is hard for white people to admit that they have had more advantages than people of color. For some people, it’s also hard to admit that racism still exists and those who are part of minority communities are still being marginalized to this day.

The topic of white privilege is something that needs to be addressed. Once you realize many of the unfair advantages that come with being white, you start to understand how people of color are mistreated every day. With everything that has been going on in the world, with the Black Lives Matter movement, police brutality and many other things, the problems in America are becoming increasingly evident every day.

It seemed that one of the main purposes of Secours’ talk was to make people feel more comfortable talking about white privilege. She told some jokes about some of the misinformed and ridiculous people she has come across. She also asked the audience questions to get people loosened up and ready to answer some of her harder questions.

All of this served to create an open and safe environment for the audience to participate. She made it so that no one felt shame or embarrassment talking about their own personal experiences no matter what race they identified as.

One of the main takeaways Secours left people with is that it does not have to be uncomfortable to talk about white privilege. We need to be open and honest with ourselves and with each other. Once we become fully honest with ourselves the problems become obvious.

Some examples of white privilege in daily life include being able to go out and not fear conflict at a traffic stop and not being afraid to call the police.

Additionally, white people rarely have to think about being white since representation of white people is everywhere, from the movies we watch to the books we read. Even smaller things, like the ease in finding a band aid that approximately matches one’s skin tone, is an example of white privilege. And larger examples, such as the fact that African American men are more likely to be sent to prison for the same crime a white man commits, and the fact that the race pay gap still exists today.

Having good, honest conversations with one another is the first step in addressing white privilege. Conversations about how cops treat white people differently than people of color, how people of color are taught how to act in stores while white people are not and so many other things can eventually lead to even bigger change.

Secours was pleased that so many students attended her presentation. “You all give me hope,” Secours said. At the beginning of the talk, she said she was only expecting about twenty people to show up. Olin Auditorium was almost completely filled with people. People of seemingly all different races, cultures and backgrounds were in attendance.

If we want anything to get better, we need to confront white privilege head-on. We need to talk about white privilege so we can better recognize it and how it affects all different types of people. This then leads to ideas on how we can fix the many problems within our institutions.

Creating change is something that is going to take a lot of time, energy and people. It all starts with an open mind and a willingness to learn. One of the best ways to learn and then talk about white privilege is to read or watch various stories on the topic. These stories can be personal narratives, studies or witnessed first-hand accounts. To learn more, you can read Molly Secours’s “White Privilege Pop Quiz: Reflecting on Whiteness.”