The perspective of privilege…


There’s an interesting video making the rounds of social media showing a coach or professor at Virginia Tech and a large group of students lined up in a field. The coach proceeds to take the students through an exercise that emphasizes the privilege many of the students have, coming from two parent homes, private schools and other family situations that are considered advantageous for a stable upbringing. By the end of the exercise many Caucasian students were more than halfway toward the ‘finish line’ of the race, while several students of color were still at the starting point. I got into an interesting discussion with an acquaintance over this video and it made me think… which is always good. I wanted to share.

First let me state three caveats…

One, the video is real, not staged. I know someone who was there. So, the kids who stepped forward were reflective of their upbringing and the kids who had to remain behind, were obviously uncomfortable and not staying for some trick or agenda.

Two, I am a Caucasian female and have benefited from some of the privileges the coach discussed.

Three, the person I was in discussion with is an extraordinarily kind and generous individual, who has worked hard to be where he is, albeit he himself is a Caucasian male with even more of the privileges stated in the exercise.

What struck me most in our discussion is the reasons against the ideas presented in the video? I believe, through no fault of his own I’m sure, the acquaintance has been misinformed somewhere along the way. His comment was that poor marriage choices and procreation decisions should not be supported by everyone else. I’d like to dissect…

One, it is statistically proven that men of color go to jail more often and for longer periods than their white counterparts. One study in 2003 showed that even though African American and Caucasians sold drugs at about the same rate, African American men were 12 times more likely to be given prison time. Even though according to Mauer and Cole, African American men account for 14 percent of the drug sales, they make up 34 percent of the prisoners for these offenses.

Second, we have all seen and must acknowledge the profiling that occurs for men of color. The video of the policeman telling the frightened female Caucasian motorist he has stopped not to worry, they only shoot black people is just one example of the profiling and prejudice that if we don’t admit is occurring, we are really only encouraging its propagation. I have had to stand in airports twice when my 14-year old daughter, who looks like her American father with Middle Eastern heritage, was profiled, stopped and her bags searched as she was questioned. Profiling is real and scary when you are involved. The other videos of shootings and horrific acts are not propaganda or some liberal agenda. They are real and scary. No group of people should have to discuss with their sons about how to act differently to preserve their safety when confronted with police. This is not to say all police are like this, but there is evidence, significant evidence this is an ongoing and continuous problem.

Third, the discussion of marriage decisions being poor amongst a certain group is easy to make when you look at the surface of things, but when a certain group, namely African American males are more likely to go to prison, be shot or worse, this is naturally going to leave an absence of individuals available for being a part of family life. The argument could be made the African Americans should not break the law, but when you have two individuals who have committed the same ‘crime’ or mistake and one gets probation and one goes to jail, with the only difference being skin color, this is not only a recipe for inequality and imbalance in these individuals’ future prospects and families, it gives rise to understandable resentment and anger. It’s easy to say don’t do the crime when you are going to benefit from leniency and someone else may not. And of course, this does not begin to acknowledge the normal ‘accidental’ deaths and shootings of African Americans by law enforcement etc., even if there was no crime.

Fourth, the comment about irresponsible procreation hits me in the gut. When we are living in a time where politicians are doing everything they can to make it harder and harder for women to access affordable birth control and restrict choices, this comment seems especially irresponsible. There is no understanding of the expense or circumstances many women face trying to access birth control. And let’s not pretend for a moment that the majority of the burden of responsibility of birth control is not still on the woman. Otherwise we would be seeing attempts at reducing erection dysfunction medications as well as further research regarding a male birth control pill. After all, if you can’t get it up, you reduce the chances of pregnancy as well, right…?

Now, it may sound like this is a soapbox and maybe it is… but I am shocked that someone who is as caring and responsible as I believe this man is, is still seemingly unaware of the statistics and the circumstances faced by women, African American men, and especially African American women. This is a man who has admittedly worked very hard to be where he is in a comfortable middle-class life… I don’t want to negate his accomplishments. He and his wife, both working, have raised three very talented, intelligent gentlemen. But here is where I think he is blind.

  • He is lucky to have his parents still married.
  • He is luckily, still married to the woman he met in college or shortly thereafter.
  • He went to Vanderbilt, a private, high tuition college, and not on scholarship.
  • With that degree, which I believe he worked for, he was given preference over many other candidates for jobs.
  • His children have never had to worry about what happens when they are pulled over by the police, for speeding or any other trivial offense.
  • His children are all going to high end colleges and while I’m sure there are some academic scholarships being awarded to these intelligent young men, it still takes a level of income he is able to provide for them to attend.
  • I, admittedly do not know what other struggles or circumstances this gentleman may have experienced to add to his opinion.

The adage of walking in someone else’s shoes has never been more apt than today. It is so easy to sit in judgement of a group of people when the circumstances are not taken into account. There are many more African American fathers out there who are providing security and balance for their children, than are readily acknowledged, but there are many more obstacles for these same kids than most Caucasians, in their quest to capture the best for themselves and their loved ones, care to admit. It is imperative we take into account the whole individual when we are discussing these individuals.

Last, I have to state, the arguments about marriage and procreation are really about the parents. The kids on the field are doing the best they can with the tools they have been given. Is it fair to penalize these kids, at the back, for circumstances beyond their control?

There was one gentleman at the starting point when the race gun sounded and the look of determination on his face was breathtaking. The video does not show his final ending spot when the first Caucasian kids crossed the finish line, but he was passing people left and right a few seconds before that… I was in awe of his fire.

3 thoughts on “The perspective of privilege…”

  1. There was a post that went around in March about two workers who worked in the same office and switched names on their emails for 2 weeks. One was male and one was female While doesn’t prove your point about the different privilliages different skin types have, it does go to amplify the point that have a male sounding name does give you an invisible advantage.


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