In black and white: the white voice

The discussion of race in America has historically been swept under the rug. Talking about racism may create uncomfortable situations, but some believe that it needs to be discussed regardless.

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Cameron Cook

Awareness of white privilege may just further the notion that ignorance is bliss. White people who find themselves advantaged often don’t feel comfortable with it.

“I have benefited from white privilege and I wish it wasn’t that way… it makes me feel guilty that just because of my skin color, I have an advantage,” said Ally McKeone ’16.

However, feeling bad isn’t the only course of action. White people can join racial equality movements in solidarity with their non-white counterparts.

Unfortunately, a huge impediment to this involvement is that race is generally a very difficult topic to broach, especially for those benefited by their race. Brady Shutt, social studies teacher, uses his position as a teacher to start discussions about race.

“I feel like I have an opportunity to talk about this issues,” said Shutt. “I’m very open about it in class, I try to be very upfront about my race, my gender and education… race might have the biggest role in our history and it gets crowded out by other things. People don’t feel as comfortable talking about race.”

Another barrier to using white privilege to help racial minorities is that the conversation can seem ingenuine coming from someone who hasn’t experienced the problem they’re protesting. Michael Cho ’17 believes that there is a very fine line between speaking with racial minorities and speaking for them.

“It’s a very, very thin line and it’s very hard to determine whether or not [something] is too much or too little,” Cho said. “But with white privilege, you should use that privilege to help. If you see forms of injustice or forms of discrimination, you should speak out and try to make sure that this doesn’t happen again in the future. But at the same time, you have to make sure that you are not taking over the movement or taking over [a minority’s] role as their own person.”

Suleman agrees.

“It’s one thing for black people and people of color to talk about injustice and inequality, but it’s another thing when white people talk about it. Because these are the people that are in the lead right now,” Suleman said. “The more white people talk about it, the more people are willing to listen.”

Shutt believes that bringing the issue of race to the forefront of discussions is a way to make people more aware of it.

“I feel like it’s important to have an upfront dialogue about it that’s ongoing and sometimes uncomfortable… we at least have to be willing to say those things flat out,” Shutt said.

Awareness seems to be the agreed upon key to helping solve America’s race problem.

“If you are aware of your white privilege, you have to do something about it,” McKeone said. “You can’t just let it continue to happen. We have to dismantle white privilege. The only way to do that is to be aware of your white privilege, and stepping back from it, and helping others.”