Two articles describe a recent study called “Separate and Unequal: How Higher Education Reinforces the Intergenerational Reproduction of White Racial Privilege.”
-This doesn’t seem like news to me, having been in higher ed for over a decade
-Inequality is not shaped by one social or cultural factor alone and it gets hard to know where to start if we are interested in fixing the problems
-The comments on both websites are discouraging, with great animus being directed at the phrase “white privilege” because it allegedly does not exist but is a tool of race-baiting
The latter response is the strongest one right now. The mixture of misinformation, anger, mistrust, and disrespect in the comments is a good mirror for the way most conversations about race seem to go.
Sorting it all out, I am reminded of something that came up in conversation yesterday: racism and capitalist exploitation are mutually dependent and reinforcing. And their best tricks are convincing people that they are either inevitable or non-existent.
This is certainly part of the reason why education in America is not a vehicle for social justice, although many of us assume it is. Perhaps it can be in individual cases, but not systematically, according to the research described in the articles.
If not schools, then what? Transformations via social media, online open access to information, expanded means for knowledge-sharing … all of these are possibilities.
For the next little while, I am going to experiment with active ongoing empathy.
So, I am thinking good thoughts for all those who don’t believe white privilege exists, who conclude that social justice advocates are self-deluded and ignorant, who wish Americans would stop obsessing about the past and things like slavery. I recognize that something led you to this intellectual and emotional place.
I am not there and I disagree with you, but maybe you can tell me your story and I will listen without trying to change you. (At least for now— I make no promises once we have many, many honest conversations…)
Writer: anupama jain