COMMENTARY: Did you do the White thing?

Karl Laves

Did you do the White thing? I submitted a letter last semester encouraging WKU students to get out of their boxes and to try to not do the White thing. My letter was an attempt to raise the topic of white privilege, and majority privilege, up for discussion.

As expected, little discussion ensued. I get it. White privilege is a tough topic. It is hard to talk about white privilege without white people feeling like they are being accused or criticized and for non-white people to feel like they are being ignored. A lot of white privilege behavior isn’t intentional, and white people wouldn’t do it if they were aware of the consequences. So while it is an important conversation to have on a college campus, it has to be done with some patience and some tact.

So, did you do the White thing this year, or did you challenge yourself to get out of your comfort zone? Did you talk to people that don’t look like you, dress like you, or sound like you? Did you try new music, food, dance, sports, etc.? Did you take time to consider that other people may not see the world the way you see it and that everyone might be right at the same time? If it is hard to get your head around white privilege, just think of privilege in general. Think of times when other people were given a head start or extra help or less hassle.

Privilege can be found in many areas and topics like male vs. female, straight vs. gay, gay vs. bisexual, citizen vs. alien and the most common source of privilege, rich vs. poor. A discussion of white privilege doesn’t end with white privilege. It leads to a larger discussion of various forms of privilege, and that leads to a discussion of social injustice. And when we can openly discuss social injustice, we will be ready to address the greatest sustainability issue of all … our capacity to sustain the quality of human life over time. So did you do the White thing? Don’t worry. We can all try again next semester. Peace.

This commentary doesn’t necessarily represent the views of the Herald or the university.