Viewing White American Privileges & Oppression of Ethnicity and Race

I am a part of a Christian ministry group on the Washington State University campus known as Intervarsity Christian Fellowship. I’ve been a part of this group since the beginning of my freshman year. When I first became a part of this group, race and ethnicity never came across as an issue. However, the summer after my freshman year, I went on a 2 week urban mission project in Tacoma Washington. Basically what I did was work within the impoverished community found in Tacoma. I met many people during these two weeks. One thing that stood out was when I was working in a soup kitchen with a few other people from WSU. What I noticed was the high count of African American people who came into the kitchen. But even seeing that, I still never thought much of race being a problem in my community and in the institutions I found myself in. At the beginning of week 2, we were sent out and “lived” on the streets for 24 hours. We had to find places to stay and find food to eat without any aid and money. We ended up back at the soup kitchen for lunch that day. As we sat with the people we had met the prior week, we began to get to know them more personally. I began to see that some people were at the soup kitchen because they were indeed homeless, and the majority of them were African American. They had told me stories of how they lost their jobs and houses and had no family to turn too. They told me about how they were oppressed because of their ethnicity and how they would be given dirty looks in a grocery store or on the street corner form people passing by. Some of the people told me that they would be followed in stores because the owners were afraid that they would “cause problems”. Those 2 weeks were eye opening in terms of how race and ethnicity affect the people in our own communities.

In December of 2012, I took a trip to St. Louis, MO and met more homeless people living on the street. They again were mostly African American people. They told myself and my friend’s similar stories of how they had lost their jobs and were unable to find work or a place to stay. I watched as people would look down on these people simply because of the color of their skin.

From these two specific experiences, I began to see how privileged I truly am simply because I am a white American. I believe that the things Peggy McIntosh wrote about in her essay on white privilege are still very valid in today’s day and age. People are still being oppressed for the color of their skin. White people are still being treated better than those who have darker skin. It’s still prevalent that our skin color will affect how we are treated and what we can do. White people in today’s time are able to receive better benefits than others. They are able to find housing and jobs without much of a problem. They are able to walk through a store without being followed by the workers. They are able to walk down the street without people moving to the other side of the road because they aren’t afraid of “what the black person might do to them”.

People have privileges of all kinds. Each gender has their own set of privileges just as each ethnic group has their own set of privileges. With people of different sexualities, each have their own privilege. With people who are heterosexual, they don’t have to fret about being oppressed because they fit into the societal norm. Those who are bisexual are able to have those opportunities of being with whomever. They have more freedom in finding a partner and are less likely in being oppressed for their sexuality. There’s still a lot of oppression for those who are identified as homosexuals.

In Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ song “Same Love” We see that those who classify as homosexual then you will be treated different than those who are heterosexual.

Privileges are different in every aspect we see in life. People are oppressed for a variety of different reasons. But the question is, how do we prevent the oppression of other ethnicities and how do we begin to treat individuals with the same privileges they deserve?

Color-Blind Racism

In this video clip, colorblind racism is demonstrated. However, it is done in a subtle way, leaving the viewer questioning whether or not the advertisement was indeed racist of not. We see a crowd of people surrounding a man. The crowd is a crowd of cheering, rowdy black men and women. The man within this crowd is a white man. The clip shows that the crowd of rowdy, excited black people is unable to be tamed, that they are by nature, loud and excitable people. The only thing able to sooth this crowd was for the white man to offer them chicken.

We don’t tend to think about the color of the crowd or the skin tone of the man within the crowd. What we normally see is simply another advertisement trying to get you to come into their restaurant to eat their chicken. Even though we typically don’t “see” the skin colors of the people in this advertisement, the message is still getting across to the viewers. The message being conveyed is that this brand of chicken can sooth even the wildest crowds, and the wildest crowds being that of colored people. The subtlety of this advertisement doesn’t leave the viewer thinking that this video clip is racist.

In this case, this advertisement is an Australian advert which shows that racism is not based in one culture alone, but is shown throughout a variety of cultures throughout the world. However, based on each culture, these advertisements and various racist videos may be seen differently and may not be seen as racist at all.

Pretending that this video clip does not demonstrate racism leaves the viewer as naive. If a viewer chooses not to believe such a video is conveying a racist belief, they will continue to fall victim to their colorblind ideologies. People need to see and understand that racism is still present.