THE SANTA CLARA
February 8, 2016
People don’t say “Check your privilege” to belittle someone. Use of this phrase is simply a call for awareness, with the intention of promoting equality. The oppressed and marginalized in our society have learned, after years of pursuing this goal, that acting morally superior and casting judgments on people who are unaware of their privilege leads nowhere.
When “Check your privilege” is used, it is intended to remind others of a straightforward fact: overall, white people have it easier than minorities.
With that being said, there is no shame in holding white privilege; there is only shame in trying to pretend that it doesn’t exist.
We can’t ignore the fact that we live in a system with rules written by white people, for white people, and structured to continually benefit white people.
We must decide if we want to remain in stubborn ignorance of this fact or use this advantage to aid others in their struggle to end racism.
It is ignorant to believe that we are close to acheiving equality. This is evident through the recent events at the University of Missouri: students couldn’t attend class because they received death threats for the color of their skin.
Minorities aren’t trying to claim that historically white people have never known oppression.
They are saying that in this day and age, minorities will face more struggles due to discrimination than the average white male. Their paths to success are a little (in many cases a lot) bumpier than white people’s, solely because racism still exists in America—land of the free and home of the brave.
There is nothing wrong with admitting you have white privilege.
We’re human. We often take things for granted unintentionally, and that’s okay.
It is not okay, however, to live in ignorance, especially when it generates inequality for others.
You can either be offended by the “check your privilege” statement or see it as a wake up call. Look inside and be reflexive. Change in society begins with change in the self.
So how do we change? I approached my friend Kylie Alexandra Marsh, a proud, African American woman extremely passionate about equality in America, and asked her what the students of Santa Clara can do to combat racism.
She gave me three suggestions: go to multicultural club meetings, make friends with diverse groups of people that bring different perspectives to the table and lastly, be strong enough to call someone out if they do or say something ignorant.
It’s time to fully live up to our Jesuit values and truly embody men and women with and for others. Together, we can do this.
Samantha Perez is a freshman English and political science double major.