It should be possible to bring up the elephant in the room on race without being labeled a racist.
It’s difficult to know where to begin in responding to William Bengtson’s commentary on racism, written in response to my Your Voices blog post on white privilege (“Don’t be blind on racism,” May 29). Good intentions aside, Bengtson mischaracterized my position when he said that I write “as though racism is everywhere that white people are …” And that while some agree with me, “others find [my] view to be unwittingly racist, too …”
It’s a sad day in Minnesota when advocates for racial and economic justice are viewed as being racist for merely stating the obvious, which is the fact that white privilege plays a tremendous role in determining who gains access to opportunity and who remains marginalized and on the fringes of society.
The presence and influence of white privilege is not about intentionality on the part of those who frequently benefit from it. It’s about the debilitating outcomes being experienced by those who are excluded from building social, political and economic capital because of the color of their skin. Moreover, the power behind white privilege is its invisibility and the fact that its benefits are seamlessly integrated and interwoven into the fabric of institutions and systems that perpetuate from one generation to the next.
Whether we choose to acknowledge it or not, there is an elephant in the room, and it’s called white privilege. The question remains: Are we willing to deal with it head-on or will we keep ignoring the obvious?
Nekima Levy-Pounds is a professor of law at the University of St. Thomas Law School and the founding director of the Community Justice Project, a civil-rights legal clinic. The Your Voices blog feature appears at StarTribune.com.
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