Editor's note September 12, 2016: This letter has been updated with the hyperlinks to sources that were lost in the submission form when LUCHA members originally submitted it.
Editor's note April 13, 2016: After feedback received from this letter, the Iowa State Daily would like to make clear this submission is a letter to the editor. The opinions expressed in this letter are not endorsed by the Iowa State Daily or Iowa State University. Opinions expressed are of the organization submitting the letter. Any letters in response can be submitted here.
It is becoming increasingly clear that there is a sickness spreading at Iowa State. So the next time you use your mandatory health insurance and head to the doctor, tell him or her if you are experiencing these little-known symptoms:
- You can get your hair cut wherever you want.
- You can walk into the supermarket and find your favorite foods.
- You can see yourself positively portrayed in the media.
- You can speak your native tongue without getting looks or comments from other people.
If you have symptoms like those described above, you may want to be checked for white privilege. White privilege is like a virus. Carriers are often unaware of their infection for decades while spreading their disease to everyone they come in contact with. White privilege also spreads in ways we wouldn’t expect, namely, through the media. There have been two letters to the editor within the past month complaining about their whiteness being compromised, whether that be through scholarship opportunities for minorities, or through being “forced” to be “politically correct” (also known as being conscientious and respectful by most sensible people).
Take for example Carstens’ article about scholarships. Carstens argues that disability scholarships are somehow different from race or faith-based scholarships because “people with disabilities need to pay for supplies just to be able to attend college.”
The assumption that all disabled people need extra supplies for college is ableist, and the assumption that all people are financially able to attend college is the result of untreated white privilege.
White people have spent decades building wealth while many of our ancestors were blocked from buying property, owning homes and building businesses. As a result, white families have double the wealth on average than families of color, meaning we often have less financial support from our families.
Moreover, recipients of non-race-based scholarships are overwhelmingly white due to selection biases and numbers: a white woman is more likely to be given a scholarship than a black woman (especially if she has an “ethnic” sounding name) with similar GPA, writing skills and experience because there are 10 times as many white women to choose for the scholarship.
Many of us need scholarships to even fathom attending an institution of higher learning, and the gap is only getting wider. At its most extreme, women of color who graduate from college are paid 46 percent less than their white male counterparts, meaning it would take them astronomically longer to pay off their loans and send their own kids to college.
The idea of eliminating race-based scholarships ignores the historical context of legalized discrimination and proves that people who believe this school of thought have fallen into the myth of meritocracy.
White privilege isn’t one person. It’s not your neighbor or your classmate. While we can all appreciate the First Amendment, it is reckless and dangerous to allow such hateful and blatantly wrong rhetoric to continue to circulate. White privilege means you are not only blind to racial inequality, you can also brag about this ignorance publicly and without consequence.
White privilege is so ingrained in our society that there’s no way that we could cover this epidemic in one letter to the editor. But don’t be scared. While there is currently no way to cure white privilege, there are definitely ways to deal with the symptoms. Educate yourself. Don’t expect your minoritized friends to explain your privilege to you. Innoculate. Educate others. Be an ally. And rest assured that we are working hard to eradicate the disease here on campus.