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?