White privilege and my perspective

I think one of the most alarming privileges I have received throughout my life as a white member of society is the benefit of not receiving extreme criticism for my poor performance at times in school. Being white has allowed me the benefit of people(teachers, parents, friends) constantly pushing me to do better. I know there is more to succeeding in school than race but it is important to realize that there are people in our society who use race to judge academic ability. This is an interesting privilege to receive because it has really shaped my perspective growing up.

My perspective on this issue is largely shaped by the different schooling systems I have been a part of. When I lived in Omaha, NE, I attended 4 different schools, 1 public, 2 private, from Kindergarten through 4th grade. In 5th grade I moved to Dallas to live with my mother and us not knowing exactly what the school systems would be like, I gladly enrolled in Onesimo Hernandez elementary, a public DISD school in inner-city Dallas. I was 1 of 2 “white” kids in a school of 300  or so people, with the other white kid being deaf and 2 grades below me. It was the craziest year I have ever experienced as an individual and a real eye-opener to the racially-divided aspects of life. The tables were turned, with me as a minority in the school, but the white privileges were still blatantly obvious. If I were to break down the school at that time by race, it would come out somewhere around 70% Hispanic, 20% African-American, 10% other. My white advantages are so clearly evident to me looking back on my time there. I was treated different than everyone else by the teachers, principals, and other students. I was perceived as smarter than the rest of the students. My schooling in Omaha beforehand made the work I did there so easy and I would get distracted and cause trouble.

During the summer after that 5th grade year, a year in which I had not learned much academically, but a ton about how the real world operates, my mom convinced me to transfer to a Catholic middle school in a different area of town from where we lived at the time. I went to Catholic school until 8th grade, but after a move to a nicer part of town with a better public school system, I decided to revert back to public school life. In all, I have been in 7 different school systems, not including OU. The constant movement has allowed me to meet so many different types of people and see so many examples of white privilege that it would be impossible to cover them all in this blog post.

There are a ton of examples in my life and I’m sure in yours where white privilege is evident. The McIntosh reading, Tim Wyze video and class discussion has really expanded my understanding of how white privilege affects the world.

Privilege is an important aspect of a race, gender and media class because it makes clear some of the advantages and disadvantages certain people face in society. Without understanding this, it would be extremely easy as a white individual to judge other people negatively and not factor in the disadvantages they may be facing. It seems to me that most people do not want to accept the idea that many of the things they have or have done is a byproduct of an advantage they were given in society. This is a touchy subject and one that must be approached with sensitivity. Even though some may be given advantages in society, hard work is still achieved.

Tim Wise’s reflection on the Arizona immigration bill really hit home to me. I, like Wise, had a privilege granted to me that could have been because of my race, although I am definitely not sure. I was pulled over for speeding on 12th the other day, and the cop took down all my information and saw my insurance and decided to give me a verbal warning. I was going at least 10 over the posted 35 speed limit, and wholeheartedly expected the warning. Being a white, cordial student, I have a strong suspicion he didn’t feel like hassling me. If it were someone of a minority, I highly doubt he would have let the person go.


About spencerpopp

Journalism senior at the University of Oklahoma. Originally from Omaha, Nebraska but consider Dallas, TX my most recent home.
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2 Responses to White privilege and my perspective

  1. gettingitdonemyway says:

    Education is an excellent way to gauge this topic. Should it be a right or an expectation for all or a privilege for all? Does the media assist with continuing the idea of privilege and education? Ahhhhhh. Does college media and press information make it appear attainable to all? Hmmmm.

    • spencerpopp says:

      I’ve always thought that education should be easily-attainable for all, but realize that this is not happening today. College should be talked about more in elementary and high school. Every school I have attended in my life, including the inner-city DISD school in Dallas, has discussed college and made it appear attainable for me. The biggest question I have for people who don’t attend college or graduate college is why they are okay with being stuck in a lower intellectual position. Getting a college education allows for a person to not only get a better job, but also to learn about the way life is structured(this class, for example).

      People talk about college being too expensive, or college “just isn’t for me”, but I can say there are a multitude of readily-available resources for someone in a lower financial position to make it through college and be able to pay back their debt on the low-interest loan in a reasonable amount of time. While I am blessed to have my parents support, I have a number of friends who have made it through OU(a very expensive college for out-of-state!), and are well on their way to being debt free.
      Community college is also an excellent resource and significantly cheaper.

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