COMMENTARY: ‘White privilege an ubiquitous problem’

Karl Laves

Long story short, privilege is a

term often used to describe how things are easier for one group of

people compared to another. I hope by now you have heard the term

“white privilege,” because it is a ubiquitous problem that you

cannot escape.

Here is a less-than-courteous

example of white privilege: white privilege is why a bunch of

spoiled, irresponsible self-indulgent and self-destructive white

kids can become immediate celebrities (those rascals from Jersey),

but if they were Black, Hispanic, or Asian the show would


Or, as Tim Wise once observed, white

privilege is why Bristol Palin can have a child out of wedlock and

not be thought of as a deadbeat welfare mom.  

One of the biggest obstacles in

deconstructing white privilege is the rather immediate fear among

some white people that their sacred way of life will be destroyed.

Another obstacle is the anger some whites feel about being accused

of having privilege.  

You see, part of what makes

privilege a privilege is that it tends to be invisible; people just

accept it as is. Maybe white privilege would be less difficult to

accept if we look at other types of privilege.  

Think about male privilege: all the

ways that men might be given an advantage in life simply because

they are male.   

Men don’t have to be self-conscious

about their weight. Some are, some choose to be, but we have the

privilege to not think about it. If I am a male and I get angry, I

am often thought of as being independent or assertive. If I am a

female and I get angry, I am often thought of as being a


Think about straight privilege: all

the ways that straight people are less hassled and less challenged

about their sexuality. If I want to make out in public with my

partner, I can, as long as we keep our clothes on. If I am gay or

lesbian, I don’t have that privilege — at least not in this town. A

straight kid gets to watch, listen and learn about dating from the

people around him, the television, literature, you name it. A gay

kid has to imagine on his own what it must be like, or sneak

information from trusted but rare sources.  

If I am white, which I am, I can

pretty much walk anywhere on campus at night and not draw suspicion

from the police. I can cheer the election results in which “my”

candidate won and not have people think “we” are getting ready to


If I am Hispanic, I have to put up

with bean jokes; if I am Asian, I have to put up with math jokes,

but if I am white I don’t have to put up with jokes about my race.

Well, maybe the occasional “White people can’t dance.”  Which is

quite true for some of us. I know I can’t dance. But hey, I am a

guy… I don’t have to be able to dance. Right? It’s called


So what is my point? Sometimes I am

not sure… but for now I am saying that privilege exists in many

forms, and the point isn’t to feel guilty about privilege — just

see how it works against some people.  

And be aware that even people with

privilege can be oppressed, denied or dismissed.   

Reverse discrimination often occurs

as an effort to undo privilege (and no, two wrongs don’t make a

right). You could even say that there are times when people of

minority status have the advantage, though, honestly, this doesn’t

happen often enough to offset the privilege of the political elite.


Each one of us has probably been

treated poorly due to someone else’s privilege. It’s time we see it

for what it is and call it out.  We all do it — some more than

others — but it isn’t helping any of us in the long run.

Karl Laves

Assistant director of counseling

and testing center

This commentary doesn’t

necessarily represent the views of the Herald or the