Rights not just white

This article was written in resopnse to Jack Meyers’s editorial “Awareness and acceptance on campus,” published on April 10.

By Sarah Lewis

Jack Meyers’s most recent editorial “Awareness and acceptance on campus” stresses the need for local and national acceptance of other races and cultures. While I certainly applaud the topic of this editorial, there are several points that I would like to address.

First, Meyers cites education as the most important way of promoting change within a society. While I do agree with this statement, I believe that he does not adequately address topics that are vital to teach — namely, privilege and racism.

These two words are loaded with extremely powerful connotations that scare people into avoiding any discussion of their existence. Yet privilege and racism are present all around us in a white-dominated society. As a white person, I have never been asked to speak for all members of my racial group during a class; when I was recently pulled over for speeding, I did not even consider the possibility that the cop used my race to single me out from other drivers; and when I open up my favorite newspaper or magazine, I find wide representation of my race in almost all of the pictures and articles.

Most people are not aware of possessing these unfair privileges, nor have they even been educated to recognize that they exist. Meyers suggests that people “need to be informed about … what exactly (disadvantaged) people need.” However, I believe that we need to teach students the complete opposite: how to narrow the gap between “us” and “them,” the disadvantaged and the advantaged, so that our society can truly identify ourselves as “we.”

Until then, the national and international campaigns that call for tolerance and acceptance will not change anything. They are equivalent to placing a Band-Aid on a stab wound: almost entirely useless until the deeper problem is treated. We must advocate for more people of color to be in positions of power; we must speak out against the collective assumption that the term “American” is equivalent to “white;” and we must get rid of the label “non-white” to describe a person of color.

In short, we must first address the issues of white privilege in our society before we are able to reach a point of societal acceptance and equality for people of all races, abilities and sexualities.