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Checking Your (White) Privilege at the Door

STH class seeks to tear down race-based assumptions, power

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Class by class, lecture by lecture, question asked by question answered, an education is built. This is one of a series of visits to one class, on one day, in search of those building blocks at BU.

A psychic earthquake rocked the Reverend Elisabeth Smith about five years ago, when her father told her something no relative had ever confided: their family had owned slaves during the Civil War.

“I had to go back and almost rethink my whole identity,” the gray-haired Methodist cleric from Rhode Island shares with fellow students in her Dismantling White Privilege, Power, and Supremacy class. “To find out that my own family owned other people—this guilt. Of course, I’m not the one that even did it, but it’s like, why didn’t anybody ever tell me that before I was 50 years old?”

Recognizing one’s own race-based privilege—past or present—is a key theme of this School of Theology class, most of whose students are younger than Smith (she’s enrolled through STH’s Pastor Scholar Program of continuing clergy education). But they are not so young that they haven’t been exposed to denial of identity-rooted sin against other people.

Amie McCarthy (STH’19) recalls a high school discussion of the Holocaust: a German exchange student “stood up in class, slammed his book down, and said, ‘None of this ever happened. You’re lying,’ and left. He was told all of it was a lie, his whole life.”

On this particular day the class has broken into three discussion groups after watching excerpts from the 2003 PBS series Race—The Power of an Illusion. Geneticists interviewed for the show explain that visually obvious differences between people, such as skin color, have been extrapolated by many whites over the centuries to reflect assumed biological differences—such as blacks’ alleged mental inferiority—that have no basis in genetics or biology.

“If we believe that God created all of us equal, there can be no looking down on, discriminating against, exercising power against persons of other backgrounds,” says the Rev. Susan Hassinger, an STH lecturer and Methodist bishop-in-residence.

Hassinger coteaches the class with the Rev. Karen Montagno, an STH adjunct instructor and an Episcopal priest. Montagno is the only African American in the room (although among the 15 students are several of Asian ancestry).

Karen Montagno

Adjunct instructor Karen Montagno. Photo by Cydney Scott

“Underlying this course,” Montagno says, “is the assumption that white people in America experience a privilege that they may or may not be aware of. It can be as simple as the fact that their skin is white, and it can be as complex as privileges that come from economic status.” (The PBS series notes, for example, that federal housing benefits for returning World War II soldiers were often denied to black soldiers).

Teaching their course at this fraught moment in American race relations, from the influence of white nationalist Richard Spencer in the Trump administration to the Black Lives Matter movement, Montagno says white privilege today isn’t “being dismantled; it’s being confronted.”

The “dismantling” in the course title, she says, refers to tools the teachers hope to give students to “know privilege when they see it, and ways in which they can resist,” a key takeaway of the class.

The syllabus includes scholarly works on topics from the history of slavery to the psychology of racial identity and the roles of black people in the Bible, but Smith isn’t the only student whose personal experience with privilege, or its absence, complements the textbooks.

In his Tennessee drawl, Tory Shane-Dillard (STH’20) explains how his rural hometown is one of the state’s poorest, and the class divide “amplifies and perpetuates racism,” with poor whites thinking, well, it’s better to be poor than black, since even disadvantaged whites have better access to jobs than their black neighbors.

He took the class to learn how to teach about white privilege to such people—“How do we develop a language to a white family who can barely feed their children, and talk to them about systemic racism?…I remember when I was younger, there were times when we probably worried if we would even pay the electric bill. And if someone were to come to me and go, ‘You have privilege,’ I would have completely rejected them, even if I did.”

Meanwhile, Hassinger’s own life is a tonic against anyone who despairs of ever eroding privilege. The first woman Methodist minister from her neck of central Pennsylvania at her 1968 ordination says, “When I first became a pastor, people had a hard time accepting.

“But eventually, the system changes.”

74 Comments
Rich Barlow

Rich Barlow can be reached at barlowr@bu.edu.

74 Comments on Checking Your (White) Privilege at the Door

  • D on 02.27.2018 at 7:15 am

    Really? “Identity-rooted sin”?? How brazen…

    • L. on 02.27.2018 at 9:29 am

      I think this is talking about slavery, which yes, I think of as a sin and yes, which is based on identity. You, because of yours, will be enslaved and you, because of yours, can either own them or aspire to own them. There are many other identity-rooted sins just in this country. Systemic economic racism the article discussed around returning black soldiers who were denied the foundations of wealth in this country after fighting for the rights of other people in far away lands or the continuation of it in red-lining in black communities today. So much to ponder…

    • AT on 02.27.2018 at 10:19 am

      Seems like a rehash of “original sin” – you’re welcome to believe it, if you want, but it’s not my religion.

    • Scott Weber on 03.01.2018 at 5:26 am

      I do not accept the notion that “white privilege” even exists anywhere in reality. Where are they finding this, defining their key terms, measuring it? This is completely a fiction, and I’m surprised and disappointed that BU would give voice to such a racist invention.

    • Gerald collins on 03.02.2018 at 12:44 am

      This term does not help relations. It is used by the race baiters and those that make money off the antiwhite industry.The more I hear these terms i.shut off . I hope the students are not brain washed and called haters if they give their opinions.

    • Alberto on 03.07.2018 at 1:24 pm

      Classes like these are a great push forward, towards the beautiful Future World where there are no Whites and therefore no White Privilege, no Rape Culture, no Patriarchy, no Police, no Capitalism, no Racism. If only we could somehow push this forward faster, counter to the results of the recent election.

    • JB on 12.07.2018 at 2:21 pm

      Fact: the university system in America has been taken over by identity politics and leftism, to the exclusion of any conservative views.
      Fact: there is no evidence of “white privilege” that anyone can quantify.
      Fact: there are no laws or statutes left in America that are written or enforced to exclude people based on race/gender – accept, of course, white men (affirmative action) which is the only gov’t sanctioned form of racism left in America. It isn’t “reverse” racism, it’s just racism, plain and simple.
      Fact: anyone who challenges these so-called “educators” are castigated and accused of racism themselves. There are no empirical examples of any privilege in America accept the marker of competence, the only marker that matters – more competent people with higher IQ’s will naturally rise to the top.
      Fact: there is also no “Patriarchy” – men represent fewer than 50% of college students, they commit suicide at a rate of 3.6 to 1 male to female, they represent 94% of all people killed on the job, and over 99% of people killed in combat. Most people in prison in the US are male. Most homeless people are male. Men are far more likely to lose children in custody battles, be falsely accused of sexual “misconduct”, and suffer untreated depression. They also live 7 years shorter than women. So, where’s the dominance??

      I would stop sending your kids to college. Pull them out. Until universities start seeking truth again and presenting all sides of an issue, they aren’t worth ruining your kids’ lives.

  • Iffah on 02.27.2018 at 8:10 am

    It’s great to know that white privilege is being studied. One thing I noticed about BU which is great is that BU accepted quite a lot of non-white students into their graduate programs, as I observe. Still,even though we are slowly eliminating white privilege in regulations and rules, I think it will remain especially in terms of psychology/mentally: so many people admire white skinned people. which is not a bad thing, but becomes a bad thing because we then put non-white people below white people. let’s admire all races-or more accurately, let’s admire people NOT because of their race.

    • Abraham Lincoln on 02.27.2018 at 12:13 pm

      ” let’s admire all races-or more accurately, let’s admire people NOT because of their race.” This is fine, so long as we can remove all scholarships that are specifically for non-white students and admissions that favor non-white students because of their minority status — as well as dismantling any racial quotas potentially put in place.

      • Katharine Kolin on 05.02.2018 at 5:29 pm

        Preeetty sure Good Ol Honest Abe wouldn’t think this. You may want to change your historic LARPing persona.

  • Michael on 02.27.2018 at 8:46 am

    This course is pathetic, just more liberal race-baiting propaganda. I guess I was given a college education because I’m white…oh wait no I served in the military and earned the GI Bill. Or maybe I was given my company because I’m white…no wrong again I worked harder than those around me and prospered. I should take this class though so I can learn that it was just my white privilege all along.

    • Gakeria on 02.27.2018 at 3:36 pm

      Being a white individual in today’s society DOES give you a major upper hand when going through potential job or educational opportunities. It seems as though you fail to realize that your racial identity can make an impact on your success. You may not realize it’s happening because you have been so use to it this whole time but clearly this is an issue that NEEDS to be recognized especially at BU where the school is made of mostly white students. The fact that you cannot even acknowledge that white privilege is in full force in our society shows that you really do need to take this class so you can see a step by step breakdown of how things in life come so much more easy for you than a person of color.

      • jessica on 02.27.2018 at 8:32 pm

        Gakeria you didn’t even read Michael’s post, he’s a veteran and EARNED the GI Bill so he could go to college, he EARNED a prosperous business due to his work ethic. There is no such thing as “white privilege” there is only hard work, dedication, and resilience…it’s works for any race. And then there is the whining, complaining, and finger pointing from those who tell themselves they are victims. If you have a victim mentality you will never succeed, when you think you’re owed something without putting in hard work to get it you will never succeed. If you want to talk about privilege then how about BU take away race based scholarships or have a true blind admission policy. Also you might want to look at BU own stats on race the campus is roughly 40% minority, which is great, so I don’t understand all the complaining.

        • Gakeria on 02.28.2018 at 8:52 am

          Jessica.

          I’m gonna need you to take a step back and think. Because of white privilege, white people in general don’t have to prepare their children for being racially attacked or being discriminated because of their skin color. White men don’t understand the fear that black men face when being pulled over by a police officer for a broken tail light then getting gunned down. Events like this shows that white privilege is real, GIRL go watch the news see the problems in the world today. No one is whining and complaining it’s more like disappointment in the fact that people are willingly IGNORANT. Instead of you trying to see how white privilege came about and why it’s still a problem today, you wanna talk about how BU is 40% minority. This doesn’t change how active white privilege is today. No one wants anyone to play victim, this just goes to show how you just clearly don’t understand what is going on in society today. If you weren’t so biased and voluntarily ignorant you would not try to comment with this weak argument that someone is whinging and complaining. Please try and just open your mind to what is going on in the world today and see how white people most defiantly have the upper hand and have to fight way less than the minority population. I am not saying white people dont put forth hard work and effort to get what they need but I’m definitely saying that in today’s society, white people will not have to work,push, and fight as hard to success as the minority population.

          Let that sink in Jessica.

          • Mary Ann on 02.28.2018 at 10:38 am

            Also, there’s a very direct example of how Michael benefited from white privilege. He earned his education because he earned the GI Bill. That’s true; it’s earned. Black Americans also served in the military and should have benefited from the bill. They earned their education exactly like Michael. But it has been shown that black people did not benefit from the GI Bill anywhere near as much as white people did, due to racial discrimination. The BU Today article touches on that when it mentions housing after WWII, but it also applies to education. See for example Hilary Herbold’s article: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2962479
            When someone acknowledges their own white privilege, they are not saying they didn’t work hard. It’s more accurate to think of it as “I worked hard. I was able to reap the benefits of my work and get what I earned because I am white.” (This is just one aspect of white privilege, of course. It’s a nuanced and ongoing conversation.)

          • Jenn on 02.28.2018 at 10:53 am

            Gakeria, it’s kind of ignorant of you to be at a $40,000 a year school in one of the wealthiest states in the country and cry about how you are being discriminated against. I don’t blame you though you’ve simply bought into the victim narrative most African Americans like to perpetuate. The Irish we’re persecuted, the Italians we’re persecuted, some Mexicans walk for days across a desert just for the chance to work in this great country. All have overcome adversity. So called white privilege only exists in the minds if those looking for a reason to pin their own failures on. Please cite one law that disadvantages you based on being a minority. The sad part is blacks don’t understand that if you’re poor or middle class and white there are No scholarships, NO government programs, and NO jobs based on race. You need to open your eyes and see all of the ADVANTAGES you have being a minority. Stop blaming a whole race of people for any of your own shortfalls, take personal responsibility and stop obsessing over something that happened hundreds of years ago.

          • jon on 02.28.2018 at 11:36 pm

            Gakeria,

            Telling white people they benefit from some privilege isn’t going to bring them to support you. Stuff like this forces white children to have to think about being attacked for their skin color nowadays. Since people keep propagating this filth, it makes racial tensions even worse and changes even harder. That isn’t to say that America has treated people of color well through history, but it’s ignorant to assume every white person benefits from privilege. There are many different backgrounds for white people. Irish, Armenian, Italian….. in case you didn’t know. You are entitled to your own opinion, but your Stalinistic approach forcing all white people to believe something they don’t agree with you on doesn’t work so well when you make up only 12% of the population.

        • Miyah K on 04.30.2018 at 9:50 pm

          There is a such thing as white privilege, take a soc class.

      • Cammy on 03.02.2018 at 4:23 am

        I want to know where the ‘white privilege’ is for people in South Africa who are having farmland seized from them because they are white? This fantasy needs to stop, and the logical fallacy that if “you don’t believe in white privilege it is because of your white privilege” needs to stop. This same mental gymnastic trick was used in Salem in 1692: “You don’t believe in witches because you are a witch.” Identity politics has plagued our country for far too long, and honestly people on the left and right aren’t putting up with it anymore. I’m a college student myself and I can attest that the GRAND majority of people I have come into contact with question this fallacious doctrine

        • Ali on 03.26.2018 at 11:01 am

          I am a white South African, and without passing any judgement on how our land issue is being handled, I know that the reason for white farmland being “seized” (expropriated) is the white privilege that was legally perpetuated by the racist apartheid regime of our past. Most South African farmland was previously owned by black people, and was then forcefully given to whites because our National Government was completely prejudiced. Whose land it really is is a controversial question, but what needs to be understood is that land expropriation is a means of addressing white privilege, and cannot be used as an argument against its existence.

      • Aaron on 03.31.2018 at 1:00 pm

        Gakeria, get our of here with your racist banter trying to make people feel guilty for the pigmentation in their skin. Please find a hobby or something that doesn’t involve putting others down due to fear.. thanks..

    • Brittany on 03.28.2018 at 3:15 pm

      You should take this class to learn it in fact WAS your white privilege all along that handed you those amenities. While the GI Bill was extremely beneficial to those who served in the military, it was only awarded to people who were discharged on honorable mention, aka only white people. Anyone who was non-white, non-heterosexual, or even rumored to be gay was not discharged on honorable mention and therefore could not benefit from the GI Bill. So yes, while you did serve on the military, your non-white or non-heterosexual counter parts who served alongside you did not get to reap the benefits “white privilege” you got from the GI Bill.

      Next, you “worked harder than those around you” is also a direct effect of your white privilege. During emancipation era and honestly through the 1930s, long after emancipation became a federal policy, people who were not socially considered white could not climb socially and economically. Have you heard of Sharecropping Black Codes? Red Summer? Lynching? Those were legitimate policies and concepts enforced by the government which hindered minorities, specifically African Americans, from “prospering” after working so hard like you. So while you and your ancestors were able to work, own a business, and pass your wealth onto future generations, any African American family who tried to do the same would be arrested and/or lynched. It wasn’t just hard work which allowed you to prosper, it was the system of white privilege itself which kept everyone else from benefitting from policies like you got to.

      So yes sir, you should indeed take this course to learn a thing or two.

      • Matt on 05.12.2018 at 8:09 pm

        it was only awarded to people who were discharged on honorable mention, aka only white people.

        That is the most screwed up thinking I have ever heard. You’re essentially telling the black community how they should feel. That they cannot be discharged with honorable mention for the simple reason of their skin color. Look around you today. Blacks have more advantages nowadays than whites ever had. Should any prominent white person in power utter one thing about blacks, they are fired from their job, while Blacks can say and do anything. How is that white privilege? Blacks kill each other at such high rates, but the one time a white oerson kills a black, it is a hate crime by default. BY DEFAULT. I can see right through you on this because of the way you people and the left demonize and Black person that is successful on their own and independent. Black America has to be in a constant state of depravity for liberals to be in power. If one strays and becomes successful on their own without the help of the left, they are bashed repeatably. This is all just messed up and we can see the pattern. All you do is repeat the same things over and over. People catch on.

  • Jenn on 02.27.2018 at 8:58 am

    What about “black privilege” where it’s easier to get a job due to affirmative action. Look at the tech industry, if you’re a minority or woman it’s much easier to get your foot in the door. Also there are more college scholarships available to minorities and lower admissions standards. There are black congressmen, senators, CEO’s, and we had a black president elected not once but twice, which is good. This isn’t 1960 anymore, the “systemic racism” argument is only being made by racists and people profiting off of keeping our country divided.

    • Brenda on 02.27.2018 at 5:26 pm

      Those specialized scholarships would have never been invented if there had been fair grounds (hence white privilege) try again.

      • jon on 02.28.2018 at 11:39 pm

        *Cough* *Cough* Brainwashed liberal!!!!^^^^^ Brenda

    • Steve on 03.31.2018 at 5:51 pm

      “were discharged on honorable mention, aka only white people”

      You would sound more believable if you actually knew the terms of what you were discussing.

      And weren’t lying.

    • Miyah K on 04.30.2018 at 9:55 pm

      In order to get those scholarships you have to have meet the income restriction, grade etc. Those scholarships are for folks who been thru hell and back not by choice. Pell grant for example comes to people whos income is less than 30k a year. AB12 goes to specifically foster youth( taken away from parents ) etc. We dont have it easy. Its all about networking, connection and using your resources.

  • KD on 02.27.2018 at 9:10 am

    I had to do a double take when I received an email with a link to this article (I am a student at BU). What a joke. Embarrassing that this is what they call “higher education” today. Let’s teach an entire generation of white people to hate themselves for the sins of their ancestors, while importing people that hate us by the millions into our own countries, giving them welfare, while we become minorities. What could go wrong?

    • Sophie on 02.28.2018 at 11:27 pm

      Can you point out where in this article it is indicating white people should hate themselves? Also can you provide evidence that people who immigrate to this country hate this country?

      Sounds like just a bunch of gross over-generalizations. Maybe you should go back and read it over again.

  • A bucket of fish on 02.27.2018 at 9:36 am

    Could’ve stopped at the second paragraph. “Guilt.” That’s all I needed to hear. This is white guilt: the class. Where one idealogue will push their beliefs on a group of future idealogues. Yeah, no thanks.

  • jim backus on 02.27.2018 at 10:32 am

    Glad our tuition money is going to this kind of course- reverse racism?

    • Sophie on 02.28.2018 at 11:32 pm

      The definition of racism is “the belief that one race is superior to another.” Can you please explain where in this article is it arguing that?

      Since you seemed to miss the point – people of minorities are not arguing they are better than others. White privilege is the upper hand in social, political and economic institutions that white people of U.S. get merely due to their skin color. Therefore, we need to acknowledge this privilege and adjust the playing field so that all people can reach their fullest potential.

  • Patrick McCallum on 02.27.2018 at 10:37 am

    I’M WHITE AND I’M PROUD

  • Z on 02.27.2018 at 11:11 am

    Trying to guilt trip white people for what happened in the past is not understanding ethics or law. Aristotle in his chain of causality explains how you can essentially trace anything back as far as you want and there is no way to determine when to cut the chain. Criminal law an adequate job of it through the principle of personal responsibility: you’re guilty for what YOU do.

    But I don’t blame these people for not knowing philosophy or law. After all they’re victims of manipulation. I blame them for their lack of common sense.

  • Z on 02.27.2018 at 12:42 pm

    Guilt. Identity-rooted sin. Privilege. Resist.

    This vocabulary would fit nicely in a goth song. Or in a victorian sermon. Not in modern academy.

    How are we supposed to overcome our differences if we are still traumatised by them, and if we insist on blaming a whole class of people because of their skin colour. That’s as racist a stance as i’m ever going to come across.

    • A Woman of Color on 02.27.2018 at 6:44 pm

      I appreciate you trying to essentialize philosophical theory to social injustice, but I think the de-construction of race is a little more complex than law or philosophy. For minorities, the historical impact of white oppression, haunts us on literally every level and institution in life. Intentional or unintentional, by virtue of lineage and privilege, anybody that can or does identify as white has an inherent role in perpetuating the discrimination of minorities. Acknowledging this role and re-negotiating how to adjust and re-purpose privilege is the only way to combat this problem. This is done through… DISCOURSE… shocker right? We need to able to talk about this in a brutal and honest way, no matter how uncomfortable it makes people. Discussion topics such as these are intended to be just as difficult and crass as our history is.

      • Aaron on 03.31.2018 at 1:06 pm

        I guess that’s true, if the only way you could possibly perceive how to trust people in society was through a perception based entirely on skin color and only skin color. However, humans can choose the way the perceive reality, so people don’t need to be stuck on something that doesn’t happen anymore in most parts of society.

      • YoYo on 04.05.2018 at 2:09 am

        Okay, so if white privledge is the problem, then what is the solution? And how will that solution solve the problem?

  • white guy on 02.27.2018 at 1:14 pm

    IT’S OKAY TO BE WHITE

  • A Person of Color on 02.27.2018 at 1:43 pm

    To everyone who replied maliciously to this post or is going to:
    Yes. It is okay to be white. Love your white skin, and I do not mean this sarcastically, love it. Love yourselves and be happy with your success, be happy with your hard work, take grievances in your sorrow, have annoyances, have problems do what humans do.
    But, you cannot deny that people of color (Asian, Black, Hispanic/Latino, Indigenous peoples, and others) are represented in history as white people, europeans, consistently conquering, robbing, and murdering them. History has consequences. Today we live in a world where in the last 100 years, there have been laws in this country banning people based on ethnicity from immigrating here, there have been laws in place that have prevented people from voting, and from learning because of their skin color, there have been laws in place in this country that imprisoned people based on their ethnicity. This country is an incredible country where hope has never died for a better future, but we are not there yet for all of our citizens. This country was created by white people so it has always been good for white people. Now that the people of color, including the Native Americans this country was stolen from, the Black people whose backs it was built on, the Hispanics and peoples of Asian descent who have helped us flourish economically, are asking for an equal piece of the land they also helped built; despite the fact that history still gives them little credit, and that this country says they don’t want them after all they’ve done, after how long all of us have been here.
    White people have this thing called privilege, that just so happens to really only apply to white skin, so therefor white privilege, because they owned this land unfairly. White privilege will be gone when there is no more educational disadvantages for people of color that originated from their erasure from history. White privilege will be gone when there is equal representation of all peoples within all government positions and corporations. White privilege will no longer exist when the damage of history no longer affects how we think and how we perceive others, for it is embedded in our TV, our magazines, our government. It’s called representation. White privilege is not only a thing about skin color, but also about how we favor others because of who we see. And we see mostly white people because of history. Because white people, in the past were unfair. So recognize that if you are white, you do benefit from white privilege whether you like it or not. If you don’t want it to exist just as much as me, start pulling more minorities up, help your peers prosper.

    • Joe Bill on 02.27.2018 at 5:42 pm

      Maybe non-europeans are represented as victims of europeans in history.
      It depends of course who taught you history, but eurocentrism for sure is common, both for good and bad. And representations matter.

      And it’s true that europeans did a lot of shit around the world.
      But so did the rest of humanity. Arabs and turks were still enslaving europeans in the 1800s, and what the europeans did to the chinese does not begin to compare with what they did to themselves, for example.

      So the best way to address history should not to make it into a list of grievances against white people, but make it into an honest account of what everyone did. Whites are not exceptional in good or bad : that’s what should be taught.

      Otherwise you end up with unequal representations that feed “privilege” and racial conflicts in today’s society.

      The other problem with your argument is that this privilege you ascribe “only to white skin” just does not fit with the reality. People of east asian descent and ashkenazi descent are generally more successful, wealthy, and so on, than whites are. Despite their history of being victims of europeans.
      This proves that you are looking for the origin of privilege in the wrong places. It’s not history that matters most.

      It is culture. These groups that are more successful than whites are part of a culture that demands, supports and encourages this kind of success, more than whites’ culture does. And the reverse is true for the groups that are less successful.

      Whites’ only real privilege is that the stereotypes that people (including themselves) have for them is not as bad as the stereotypes of brown people.
      But these stereotypes do not come from history. Mostly they come from everyday life.
      Whites often don’t trust blacks, not because they aren’t whites, but because of how they act : from criminality, to ebonics, single mother families, and rudeness. Of course a majority of blacks are better than the stereotype. But the relatively high number of blacks that for one reason or another don’t fit in, make people suspicious of everyone.
      Asians on the other hand, despite an unfavourable historical background, have maintained a relatively low number of “antisocial” individuals among them, and thus enjoy positive stereotypes and the trust of everyone, and in the end reap social and economic privileges more often than whites.

      It would be nice if these stereotypes disappeared and everyone was judged on his own actions. But that will only be possible (with difficulty, as it is instictive to simplify and generalize what we perceive) if we address them as they are, instead of trying to fight a construct named “white privilege”.

      Besides, the very idea of fighting, of “dismantling” this privilege is going in the wrong direction. It strongly implies depriving whites of their privilege; whereas what we must do is to provide everyone with the same privilege. We should not stop whites from enjoying a certain level of trust in society, but make others gain trust too. The course should be at least named “constructing non-white privilege”. But privilege is a word that has been chosen, disingenuously, for its negative connotations, so it doesn’t fit…

    • john on 02.27.2018 at 6:27 pm

      You failure to include minorities like the Irish who suffered as well. Just because they don’t fit into your little snowflake narrative!

    • Cammy on 03.02.2018 at 4:26 am

      Um no. I actually teach history, and while HISTORICALLY racial minorities faced TERRIBLE racism, the last thirty years has seen a great improvement and stride towards racial equality. To deny this (while still accepting that racism is an issue, of course), is to deny reality. To use identity politics to hammer shame into potential allies will do nothing but make the university less diverse (ideologically and intellectually), and create a hostile us vs. them environment. This is the intellectual legacy of Puritanism, Victorianism, and honestly totalitarianism at its finest.

      • Aaron on 03.31.2018 at 1:13 pm

        The fact that you and others like you teach history, or anything for that matter, is the main problem with our educational institutions currently. Letting in too many biased and overly emotional people to teach and lead our youth through conjecture and biased histories is not going to help our nation out in the long or short run.

    • Aaron on 03.31.2018 at 1:10 pm

      I hope you realize that these “minorities” as you call them are only a minority in a country that isn’t their ancestral country. And by implying that the only people that have and could conquer or rob them in such large numbers are “white people” then I have to question whether you’re the one who holds a racist and condescending view towards “people of color”.

  • Alisa Harris on 02.27.2018 at 2:18 pm

    If you’re finding some of the language confusing, it’s important to note that this class is taking place in the School of Theology, and the students are future ministers and pastors discussing theological concepts like “guilt” and “sin.” Identity-rooted sin isn’t saying someone’s identity itself is a sin– in Christian theology, discriminating on the basis of a person’s identity is a sin against the image of God in that person. I hope that readers will be able to read the substance of what the professors are saying and the nuanced discussions that the students are having. These are difficult ideas to think about and discuss, so thank you to STH and to BU Today for allowing us a small window into the work taking place here.

  • Minority Student on 02.27.2018 at 2:24 pm

    C’mon my fellow BU community. What is this childish temperament?

    By fabricating “white privilege” and thus building your own obstacles, you only have yourself to blame for your failures. Pointing fingers at an entire race based on skin color and a past that they had no responsibility for is nothing but detrimental and self-defeating.

    There is no systematic racism here, only opportunity. Yet, it actually amazes me that a great institution such as BU would sponsor this sort of disgusting ideology that promotes racism and divisiveness, like come on dudes.

    • Another Minority Student on 02.27.2018 at 4:23 pm

      Why don’t you check yourself at the door? Clearly you haven’t opened your eyes to the real state of the U.S. There is systematic racism and it’s in our education, housing, political and judicial system. Just because some people have been able to move up in life doesn’t mean that the whole group doesn’t suffer. The whole system is built against us and if white people can realize that they have an upper hand in every aspect of life then they can help change the system so that every minority has a fair chance. We must acknowledge the unfairness and disparities in order to fix them. Clearly you need this class. While you’re enrolling for the fall semester I recommend you enroll in the Sociology of Race and Ethnicity so that you can learn what’s what.

      • peter gonzalez on 02.27.2018 at 9:13 pm

        you are a victim of something that happened 150 years ago, there’s no getting over it, might as well just give up on life and never even attempt to accomplish anything after all this “white privilege” has kept you down your whole life and has been the driving force behind all your failures lol. give me a break. This is America, if you can’t make something of yourself here due to hard work then there’s something wrong with you. Here’s the deal, the black community should examine itself first, why is there an excessive drop out rate? how incarceration? break-down of the family? glorification of violence in rap music? fix those issue and then come pointing the finger at “white peoples systemic racism”

      • Yet Another Minority Student on 02.27.2018 at 10:45 pm

        There is not a “white privilege” problem, there’s a victim problem. If you see yourself as a victim, that’s all you’re gonna be. There is not a single law in the books that disadvantages me as an African American. Yes, there are individuals who are prejudice and hateful, but to call that systematic racism is wrong and ignorant. Racial disparities between judicial/housing/educational circumstances are not the result of privilege but the result of broken homes and fractured communities. If you want to fix these problems start with the culture and stop blaming people who you’ve never met.

  • FA on 02.27.2018 at 4:38 pm

    If you’re upset that this course is being offered, take the next step and examine why. Examine why you feel like any conversation about race/racism in America makes u feel bad about being white. Examine why u scoff and chalk it up to white guilt (why do u feel guilty lol, if ur so adamant u did nothing wrong?) And then when ur done feeling sorry for yourself, understand that this entire country is built to ensure the racial hierarchy where white citizens are on top always remains intact. Read a book, educate yourself, and before u call “liberal” people sensitive think about how angry a class about white privilege made you in the year 2018 lmao. sounds real sensitive :(

    • sk on 02.27.2018 at 5:00 pm

      *applause*

    • john on 02.27.2018 at 6:25 pm

      hahahahahahahahahah. One Answer to you liberals. Donald Trump is President! Swallow that!

  • Alum on 02.27.2018 at 5:06 pm

    In 1860 my ancestors were poor in Ireland. In 1900 their descendants were poor in Canada. My parents were poor when they immigrated to America. I am not poor. I feel no guilt, white or otherwise.

  • Trish on 02.27.2018 at 5:12 pm

    I am amazed and saddened by the vitriolic nature of some of these comments. Higher education and the study of theology in particular, is all about discussing and sharing thoughts and perspectives. Personal attacks and detrimental comments about, and to someone who sees things differently, have no place in this context. Make the world kinder, not nastier.

  • A student's mom on 02.27.2018 at 5:26 pm

    What is unfair is that my student worked really hard to get into college and despite the good grades, hard work, and outstanding accomplishments, can still barely afford to go to attend BU. There are no scholarships or grants for lower middle class white people. We have many months that we can’t make a car or house payment so that our child can go to college at BU. We don’t get any hand outs for being white. I currently don’t know of anyone who does. Oh by the way, I did lose a teaching job because the district I worked in wanted to hire more African American teachers and being a probationary contract, there was nothing I could do. I watched as black applicant after black applicant was interviewed for my job.

    • A student on 03.02.2018 at 5:53 pm

      “There are no scholarships or grants for lower middle class white people.”

      Actually, there’s tons. FASFA isn’t for minorities it’s for everyone. Need-based grants at BU are based on need, not on race. Your family probably and unfortunately falls into the awkward mid point where you can’t afford to pay tuition, but also have too high of an income to get grants. However, no person of color is taking that money from your daughter it’s just the way financial aid works.

      In terms of scholarships, I have tons of white friends that are here on academic scholarships so no it wasn’t a person of color who took that from your daughter. She just didn’t get it. It’s a tough school and it’s competitive for everyone. I’m sure your daughter is smart, but nobody took anything from her, she just didn’t make the cut.

      As for your job, if that’s true that sounds terrible and is morally wrong. You have grounds to sue if they actually fired you just to replace you with a black person.

      I just have a major issue with people saying that minorities are taking opportunities away from white people. It’s true, there are outside scholarships available to people of color, mostly privately funded. And, if you talk to any of the students who receive those you’ll see they’re incredibly accomplished individuals not just black people “getting a hand out.” There’s also just as many scholarships open to any student of any race.

      Seems pretty ironic to me that everyone here is saying white privilege is just people of color trying to blame others from their short comings, when that’s exactly what you’re doing for your daughter.

      • Aaron on 03.31.2018 at 1:20 pm

        I bet if she was a person of color who wrote that your response would have been empathetic and caring with some good advice. However, since it was written by someone claiming to be white your response was suck it up and stop lying to yourself and your daughter. That very typical and biased response is why this discussion never gets anywhere. People’s underlying hate for white people prevents them from having any kind of meaningful and empathetic discussion about any troubles white people might face.

    • Jose Artigas on 03.04.2018 at 5:37 pm

      They’re called merit-based scholarships. Like those for minorities, they’re awarded on merit.

    • Kelle K on 04.08.2018 at 1:56 pm

      There is a difference between classism and racism. White privilege does not mean you are rich or not struggling financially.

  • Bruce on 02.27.2018 at 11:46 pm

    Any brown person advancing the narrative of white privilege is acting out of base self-interest. That’s to be expected. When your narrative is one that reduces all of western racial relations to power politics, a transparent push for power by claiming to be oppressed while attending one of the elite schools in the wealthiest nation on Earth is inevitable.

    What’s more interesting is the white people who push this stuff. It’s sort of like a perverted form of philanthropy. As anti-individualist as progressives are often claimed to be, in a sense, they’re possibly the most psychopathic and amoral form of individualists in existence. Rather than some kind of Nietzschian superman who proclaims himself to be above the rest and strives to advance himself regardless of his peers, a white progressive seeks to advance himself at the expense of his peers.

    Take the peacock. Male peacocks take on enormous burdens in the form of ornate displays of feathers that that make them prime targets for predators at some sacrifice to themselves. Those who survive long enough to mate and have the biggest, brightest feathers are the most attractive. Those males have earned status by bearing a burden themselves. A human equivalent to this might be jewelry or philanthropy. Displays of generosity and wealth that advance a person’s status while they bear all of the cost.

    White progressive appear to do the same thing, but they don’t. Any white person who signals about their own viability by calling out ‘white privilege’ isn’t actually shouldering a burden. They’re putting the burden onto other white people. In this manner, they take on the appearance of peacocks, but their behavior is much more aptly described as that of a parasite. They seek to explicitly advance themselves at the expense of white people far less privileged and fortunate than themselves.

    They should be called out.

  • Kelle Keyles on 02.28.2018 at 8:45 pm

    The lack of understanding about white privilege in these comments is astonishing, especially coming from seemingly educated people. No one is saying it isn’t ok to be white, I am white, and I understand this gives me privilege. White privilege is based on the color of our skin, not having money or being poor (this is a different type of privilege). I implore you all to set your white fragility aside and actually entertain the idea that a country built on the blood and backs of people of color could potentially have a bias against them and create systems that impoverish and enslave them. White people have slaughtered, bought and sold, and oppressed people of color for hundreds of years, it is insane to think we all start on the same level and that POC in America are not at a disadvantage because of this and the systems created by white men to keep them oppressed.

    • Jose Artigas on 03.04.2018 at 5:39 pm

      Careful! White fragility shatters when it’s set aside too hard.

      • Kelle K on 03.21.2018 at 6:54 pm

        lol as per the comments

    • Nick on 03.27.2018 at 1:28 pm

      I think you should evaluate just what privilege means, and just how you arrived at the idea that racism should be allowed to be taught on college campuses. Even among groups of the same ethnic background there is great inequality: an attractive woman will have more advantages than an unattractive woman of the same race. A man with a higher IQ has advantages over his peers. Taller people in general have advantages over shorter ones. People born into families with mental health issues are extremely disadvantaged over those who aren’t. We’re not pumped out of factories like robots. Your idea of privilege is skewed, and history easily proves the issues ascribe to whites occur in all cultures; therefore they’re issues of humanity as a whole.

      these trains of thought are not unifying, they give anger to all sides. those who feel they’ve been victimized and those who feel they’ve been vilified, both take up arms and spewed out there nonsense like in the microcosm of this comment section. This is racism – proven by the fact that this course could not be taught about any other group of people – and racism is a backwards ideology, as evinced through the growing divisions and general madness pervading in western nations. Our universities are sending us into a new Stone Age.. To tell people to just get over racism by not being “fragile” is all kinds of backwards stumbling onto itself.

      • Kelle K on 03.28.2018 at 7:50 pm

        There are studies that prove peoples of color are paid less than white people, hired less often, and discriminated against just based on their names sounding more “ethnic”. White privilege is being hired for that job over an equally qualified person of color, is being paid the amount you deserve while your POC counterpart is paid less, being able to walk down the street without being called a racial slur, being able to own a cell phone and not be killed by police (their are studies that show black men are something to the order of 9 times more likely to be killed by police).

        living in America and refusing to believe that as a white person we are treated better and get more opportunities than POC is pure ignorance. Segregation ended just 54 years ago. 54 years ago. And you argue white and black people are on an equal playing field? that is ludicrous.

        • Amelia on 04.05.2018 at 3:20 am

          Racial disparaties are not inhereantly racist. Just because a disparity exists doesn’t mean that the disparity exists because of racism. Also, with regard to jobs, there are already systems in place to prevent these things from happening and that encourage companies to hire minorities. Most companies actually want minorities working for them. Just because a white person gets chosen for a job over a minority in some instances doesn’t mean it was because they were white. It’s probably rare that two people applying for the same job are “equally qualified” in the true sense of the word. Even if the person doing the hiring does select a candidate based on their whiteness, then the act of racism falls on that person alone and cannot be blamed on the person being hired and cannot be blamed on white society as a whole. However, generally speaking most people who hire others in the modern era go through lots of diversity training and are likely more self-concious of their own biases. White people are being called racial slurs all the time, and in a way that is socially accepted by society that wouldnt be tolerated if the situation was reversed. Statiatics already show that there are more whites that are killed by police than blacks, and i believe somewhere i saw that the majority of black people killed by police are killed by black or minority politice (not positive if i am remembering this correctly or not). 54 years is a long time in terms of human advancement. In reality, no one is on an equal playing feild. No one is. So to whittle this issue down to a black and white issue, when inequality and unfairness is a global issue experieced by all of us, is ignorance of the larger picture.

          • Kelle K on 04.08.2018 at 1:51 pm

            America was built on racism. Racism is in America’s DNA, this is an undeniable fact. 54 years is not a long time, it is rather insignificant in the greater schemes of things. it is not even a full lifetime. There are people alive today who couldn’t swim in the same pool as a white person, drink from the same fountain, or go to the same school. White people have always had it easier than black people, white people still do to this day. Check your white privilege. Check your American History.

    • Aaron on 03.31.2018 at 1:23 pm

      I don’t get why there isn’t such a big discussion on any other privilege.. Black, Asian, Latino… I hear crickets in respect to those topics. I feel white people are far more focused on and just and easy punching bag for societies pains and troubles. Instead of fixing anything we just tell white people life isn’t fair because they have less melanin in their skin than other people…

      • Kelle K on 04.07.2018 at 12:05 pm

        Because there is not Black, Asian or Latino privilege. That is the entire point.

  • Miyah K on 04.30.2018 at 9:49 pm

    If you look at a skin pigment chart you will see theres no such thing as black or white but there is over 50 different skin tones. Society is built on racism and it still exist today. Even in Religion there is segregation. We focus too much on the color of folks skins, wealth, class and socioeconomic status. I am not white or black. I am mixed but since I look black, I get stigmatized, shut down and looked at weird even dumb comments. Its not just white privilege, its privilege in general. I know black people that have rich parents and dont even realize how privileged they are nor understand what being poor means or why other colored people dont have the opportunities they do. Yes simply being white, you have privilege unless you grow up poor. Ignorance kills me. We need to start educating our colored community on the opportunities they do have, how to network etc. We need to start educating everyone on how to become more receptive to other ethnicities. I live in a liberalist town. Yeah alot of them hate me. If you didnt grow up in diversity, then suddenly are thrown in a place with tons of colored folks or viversa. You most likely will be less receptive due to ignorance, media enhanced views, your parent’s view and etc. This isnt just talking about slavery (which still exist today->sex trafficking).
    Sidenote: I am a Sociology Major and community advocate :)

  • Tami on 11.11.2018 at 10:38 pm

    I don’t go to BU, but I do believe to some extent in the concept of white privilege. I find that a lot of comments have misconstrue what white privilege is though. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled, and white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned.White privilege is not saying white people are not being discriminated against or stereotyped. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort. I do find some validity in statements defining white privilege as having greater access to power and resources than people of color [in the same situation] do. There is a lack of representation in our political system, and things like racism, stereotyping, discrimination do still exist. I do not deny many things have changed overtime to accommodate minorities, such as affirmative action. However, I still believe there is still that can be done to eliminate an minimize issues of inequality within our country.

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