Opinion | Acknowledge your white privilege

the birth of a nation
Maura Kate Mitchelson, opinions editor

I’m very white. I have blue eyes and blonde hair. According to AncestryDNA, I’m 81 percent Irish. I love kombucha, Soul Cycle, brunch and anything Timothee Chalamet does. By all accounts, I’m super white.

I’m also straight, cisgender and able-bodied. I don’t even have any allergies. I’m not the ideal spokesperson for diversity on campus.

When I first came to Chapman – moving here from a town in Kansas that is 93.1 percent white – I thought the student body was pretty diverse. Compared to my graduating high school class, where I could name and count every black and Asian student, Chapman has a lot more variety. But that’s not saying much.

Because I grew up in such a homogenous town, I didn’t see the issue at Chapman until other students started to point it out to me. At first I was confused, because it’s the most diverse school I’ve ever attended – but I quickly realized the gravity of the issue. Chapman isn’t in Leawood, Kansas, where only 1.1 percent of the population is black and 4 percent is Asian, according to the U.S. Census. Nor is it a university that can only accept students who live within a few miles of campus. Chapman is in the heart of Southern California and can accept any student – no matter their background– who meets the academic requirements.

As a white person, I’ve never felt targeted because of my race. I wasn’t the kid everyone turned to in history class when we talked about slavery. No one ever assumed that I could speak fluent Spanish. I was never asked if I thought a new Chinese restaurant in town was authentic. I’ve never felt singled out or alone because I didn’t look like everyone else in the classroom.

The game has been rigged in my favor and I can see that clearly. My life has been filled with privileges, both small and large, that many others have to work for. It is the responsibility of white people to acknowledge just how much our race benefits us and do what we can to try to even the playing field.

Shedding light on the damage white privilege has done and continues to do shouldn’t scare anyone – and certainly shouldn’t be seen as “reverse racism.” Because racism is an inherently systematic concept, and white people originated that system, there is no racism against white people. Sure, there can be prejudice, but that comes from a personal level, not an institutional one. And that isn’t a widespread issue that affects the everyday life and safety of a white person.

Once you realize your white privilege and where it puts you in comparison to others, you will be uncomfortable. Yes, it’s easier to just accept the countless benefits you inherently receive based solely on the color of your skin. But knowing how other people are treated, you shouldn’t settle for the easy way out.

On April 22, the majority-white faculty of Dodge will be given the chance to vote on the future of Chapman’s “The Birth of a Nation” poster. They will be given an opportunity to use their vote to support minority groups and set a new standard for behavior on campus. We aren’t a diverse campus, but that certainly doesn’t mean we should ignore the voices that are here.