Discussion about privilege has flooded the campus lately.
Our campus is not all on the same page when it comes to social issues, but we all have the opportunity to become informed, to listen to one another, and contribute to the discourse.
Checking one’s own privilege comes with a certain amount of shock. The realization that our society is tailored to benefit white, cisgender, heterosexual, wealthy men isn’t a radical one, but the sheer number of ways in which our society is slanted in favor of certain demographics is wildly eye opening, particularly when you aren’t negatively impacted.
There are the big ways minorities are disenfranchised in our society, for instance police brutality. According to research done by The Washington Post, out of the 175 fatal police shootings that have occurred in 2017, 27 percent were of black men.
The result of that data is that the number of white men being shot and killed is roughly proportional to population numbers, but the amount of black men being shot and killed is about 3.4 times what it should be.
Consider too, mass incarceration. In 2015, The New York Times reported as many as 1.5 million black men were incarcerated. Business Insider reported in 2016 that African Americans are 5.1 times more likely than whites to be incarcerated by the state.
Lastly, consider the wage gaps in the United States. In 2015, black Americans made 75% of their white counterparts, according to Pew Research data. Women earned 83% of what men did that same year.
But there are ways beyond these massive examples of prejudice that impact minorities in this country.
Think, for instance, if you happen to be a white individual, about the band-aids that you buy or the makeup you may purchase. Do the band-aids come close to matching your skin tone? Can you walk into any CVS and find a concealer that matches your complexion?
That’s privilege too. Many people can’t find band-aids that match their skin color closely, and they have to search, often unsuccessfully, for make-up that suits them.
Band-aids and make-up might seem like superficial, inconsequential instances of privilege. They aren’t- they are proof of the invasive nature by which our society has favored certain groups, from what we make at work, to our safety in the hands of police officers, down to the band-aids we buy and the make-up selection in our stores.
With the development of pop up classes, the bias-response team, and the general conversations on campus about social issues that have been brewing at St. Michael’s College and nationwide, there is a movement for the campus to not only become more enlightened, but for our community to take the initiative to educate ourselves about these concerns.
At the core of these initiatives on campus are the reasons why people turn to higher education in the first place: to better ourselves, to better our communities.
However, along with the conversations that have been started as a result of these changes in discourse, there has been significant pushback.
There has been resistance to the efforts of students, faculty, and staff to create a dialogue around the racism and nationalism that has inflamed our campus. Acts of opposition have been causing harm and distress to many students who feel disenfranchised- this semester the “Black Lives Matter” flag was stolen from the Durick library, and we cannot forget the events of last semester, for instance the swastikas drawn on migrant worker posters or the “Make America White Again” vandalism on the whiteboard outside of the multicultural center in Alliot hall that sparked the college to take action.
We need to keep talking, but most importantly, we need to listen to each other and keep our eyes open.