The New York Times replied to a reader’s letter about the sensitive topic of white privilege. The letter is from a young college aged woman discussing her personal struggle with feeling guilty for being white. Two writers responded to her ask for guidance.
There’s three parts to digest here.
- The strife she personally discloses to us
- The responses from The Times
- The overall, bigger picture this paints for us
Let’s begin with the writer. She tells us how she’s aware of this privilege, which has now resulted in a guilty conscience. She explains what she’s done to help improve the lives for persons of color, and finally, she mentions she still feels guilty for her skin color to which she had no say in.
What does this tell us about our writer?
First, it begs the question about how someone so young has already developed such a large understanding of an issue that one assumes is not discussed in school. Note that she explains how she votes for things that will not adversely affect persons of color. It is noble of her to champion the causes of others with her one vote, but shouldn’t your one opportunity to vote each year be used to exclusively help improve your life? Isn’t the act of voting in its own right meant as a selfish act? She again explains that she donates her money to Black Lives Matter, as if providing money to the organization excuses her unavoidable personal situation of being born with white skin. Finally, she explains that she takes courses to further educate her. What do these classes entail? She says that she tries to further understand the perspectives of persons of color by educating herself to their particular issues.
Let’s switch to the two responses from The Times. Straight away the editors tell her that she cannot escape from the label of an oppressor. She is then given one piece of advice after repeated sentences blanketing all whites in a negative light. They tell her to ‘share her resources,’ and empower others. She is never once consoled for how she feels, and she is never congratulated for the time she has devoted to such a precious issue.
The second editor piggybacks on the issue, and explains that the writer must relinquish her privilege, and again further blankets all whites as being entitled in a white supremacist culture.
What does this letter, and two replies from America’s largest editorial tell us about white privilege in America? It tells us that certain people in our country have written the narrative, and will stick to it. The story is that there is no such thing as living life by the Golden Rule, or even the newly created Platinum Rule. No, treating others with respect and decency regardless of skin color, status, etc. is just not enough. Why? The anecdotal belief is that if you are part of a class that others view as more fortunate, exclusive, or privileged, then you need to do more. Why? You need to do more because the system you were born into works in your favor, and disenfranchises those unlike you.
Here’s another reply to the letter written from our troubled main character –
First and foremost, congratulations for being accepted at a top-tier school, and it is wonderful you realize how fortunate you are. It’s great that you are trying to help educate yourself to sensitive race issues and it’s nice that you seek to discover different perspectives. Finally, it is admirable that you hope to create a country that offers everyone the same successful path you have been so lucky to experience.
You seek advice. You should remain mindful of the past, while moving forward with your own message. Stay educated to the perspectives of others that experience life different from you, but don’t let that negatively impact your personal feelings. Embrace the education, and expand from there.
Remember to always:
- Treat everyone with respect
- Listen to everyone
- Discover that everyone is dealing with issues, and this is certainly not limited to their outward appearance
Get to know someone beyond what you can physically see. Do your best to understand what they need, and find ways to console, offer, or physically aid them on the needs they may have. Your education on many different perspectives and issues will make you a well-rounded person who can offer anyone in the world prompt and beneficial advice. Be a light for others. Be a light for all. Your heart clearly is in the right place, and now it’s time to align that love with your mind.
Everyone is dealing with personal issues we can never understand, because we are not them. Most of these issues are much deeper than the ones we think we see. Take time to get to know someone, and listen to who they are and what they are seeking. It will be more than what meets the eye.