Recent events on Kent State University’s campus have launched a conversation about white privilege in America. The former Kent State student, Kaitlin Bennett, was allowed by the police to carry a fire arm on campus in protest against the University’s policy of not allowing students to carry firearms on university grounds.
Shortly thereafter, she claimed on Fox News that when students called her out on how a person of color would not have been given similar treatment in the broader society, she asserted that the concept of white privilege is racist against white people. This event is a microcosm of the deep visceral divisions that Americans have on issues of race.
These false equivalencies on racial issues are one of the many reasons why the United States has not made enough progress towards racial justice. And there are many dimensions of this racial injustice.
First, education: The General Accountability Office confirmed that the number of racially and socioeconomically segregated schools has increased by over 75% from the 2000-2001 school year to the 2013-2014 school year. Using a 2 stage least squares analysis, Rucker Johnson of the the University of California Berkeley showed that this kind of school segregation severely impacts the social mobility of people of color years after they attend these schools.
Second, the labor market: Researchers from Princeton University conducted a meta analysis of almost every single field experiment and survey available and found that discrimination against Latinos and African Americans persisted in the American labor market since 1989. The researchers go on to note that these results are robust even after controlling for applicant education, gender, occupational group and the method of the study conducted.
Third, policing: 25% of the victims of police were black even though black people represent 13% of the US population. A study from Cody Ross of the University of California Davis concluded, after using a bayesian regression analysis, the probability of a black person being shot by the police was 3.49 times the probability of a white person being shot by police. This is true even when controlling for the crimes being committed by the suspects in question.
Fourth, prison: The Marshall Project, a non profit new organization on criminal justice, noted that African Americans are imprisoned at 5 times the rate of white people. A major part of this is imprisonment for minor drug crimes, even though many studies find that white people are caught with more illicit drugs in police stops than people of color.
Fifth, terrorism: According to the non-partisan New America Foundation, more Americans have been killed by white terrorist groups in the US than muslim terrorist groups and yet the media obsesses about radical islam almost 24/7.
So, Kaitlin Bennett, THIS IS WHAT WHITE PRIVILEGE IS.
It is not saying that all white people live good lives and it is not about negating the achievements of white Americans that want to make a difference in improving other people’s lives.
It is only pointing to the racial dimension that influences how institutions are built, how they serve the most vulnerable in society, and how they create the policy that defines America for years to come.
The latino activist Cesar Chavez once said, “We cannot seek achievement for ourselves and forget about progress and prosperity for our community. Our ambitions must be broad enough to include the aspirations and needs of others, for their sakes and for our own.”