White Privilege: One Westporter Responds

TEAM Westport’s essay contest for teenagers — on the topic of white privilege — was announced first on “06880.” Now it’s received international attention, through an AP story and on a host of TV newscasts.

The controversy struck close to home for one Staples High School grad. Elizabeth — who grew up here, and now lives on the West Coast — writes:

I’ve been thinking about my own privileges a lot recently. One thing rings particularly true: Privilege is invisible to those who have it. We take our privileges at face value, and do not have to think too hard about them or defend them. We assume that all others have these same privileges, because the absence of a privilege is something we do not often have to think about.

Living in Westport is a privilege. Feeling protected — and never targeted — by police enforcement is a privilege. Attending Westport public schools as a student is a privilege. Living in a town with well-maintained roads, sidewalks, sewage systems and public transit options is a privilege. Being able to openly discuss my political views, no matter how incendiary, is a privilege.

Part of the privilege of living in Westport.

Part of the privilege of living in Westport.

Importantly, these have been granted to me as a white American. I have never felt threatened by police enforcement, even when I have been pulled over for a speeding ticket. In those situations, I never feared that I would be treated unfairly by law enforcement. Thanks to my white privilege, I was able to assume (and was proven correct) that I would be given an appropriate punishment to fit my crime, and would be treated with respect throughout the process.

Thanks to my white privilege, I was able to attend Westport schools from kindergarten through 12th grade, at no cost to my parents. I received a world-class education. I was surrounded by students who looked just like me, believed the same things as me, and supported me unconditionally. I never felt racially targeted, different, or like an outsider.

Another privilege.

Another privilege.

Thanks to my white privilege, it was assumed that I would go to college immediately after graduating from high school. I was granted the resources to visit colleges, interview, be tutored to improve my test scores, make a resume, be counseled, and be accepted. Thanks to my white privilege I received a scholarship to help my family pay for college, graduated in 4 years and acquired a job within 6 months of graduating. When interviewing for jobs, I never felt discriminated against for having a “non-white” sounding name.

As a white female, I will carry these privileges — and others — throughout my life. I was fortunate to grow up in Westport, and reap the benefits of these privileges. However, it is of the utmost importance to recognize them, call them what they are, trace them back to their source, and understand how to grant them to others.

This is particularly important for those who are not born into the same situation as us Westporters. Thinking about how we can extend these situations to others, while recognizing our inherent biases, is so important. This will make all the difference in the next 4 years, and draw a line between us — forward-thinking individuals who wish to improve the future — and those who wish to Make America Great Again and return to an oppressive past.

There is one sign that I saw at both the women’s march as well as a protest at my senator’s home last weekend, that I believe speaks to this issue quite potently: “Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.”

88 responses to “White Privilege: One Westporter Responds

  1. Elizabeth, I believe you are off the mark. While you may feel that you were privileged living in Westport, it had very little to do with the color of your skin and everything to do with the wealth of your family. Being white didn’t permit you the education you received or the well-maintained roads, sidewalks, sewage systems and public transit options, or the ability to openly discuss your political views. You probably lived in Westport and had these privileges because your family could afford to be here. If your skin were a different color but you family could afford to be here, you would have received all of the same privileges you mentioned. I don’t understand why this contest and this discussion has anything to do with the color of one’s skin and not the amount of money in your bank account. I find if offensive to make this about racism when it’s not.

    • Rob Simmelkjaer

      Jay, I’m an African American guy who lives in Westport. While I absolutely agree with you that money is the biggest component of privilege, no amount of money will keep people from automatically assuming that I work in the store (not shopping), or keep me from having an extra bit of concern if I’m pulled over by the police. I’ve been very lucky (yes privileged) to have had a very easy ride of it and to live in places like Westport. But money doesn’t tell the whole story.

      And that’s without even getting too the point about the fact that access to wealth, itself, is a form of white privilege.

      • Danielle Dobin

        Well said, Rob!

      • Dayle Brownstein

        Exactly Rob.

        Yes money brings privelidge, but it would be naive to believe that race doesn’t as well. Wealthy African Americans have had to deal with things that those of us with white skin have never had to. I have had several African American make friends with good jobs and good education who have been stopped by police officers randomly on many occasions. I have had this experience exactly zero times. These little micro aggressions add up.

  2. Celia Campbell-Mohn

    Well said.

  3. Much of this foolishness being played out on the national stage for the last decade isn’t about racism… it is ALL about classism. Wealthy, successful Black folk are as focused on maintaining and improving their financial ‘status’ as are Whites, Hispanic. Asian or any other shade of skin color.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Being a wealthy and educated black man didn’t help Robert Gates from having the police called when he forgot his house keys and had to get inside via a window. I’ve had to actually break a window in my house like this before, and I know if the police came the situation wouldn’t likely escalate; they’d listen to me and verify my information, rather than putting me in cuffs and throwing me down. THIS is part of the privilege, and while money might get you some aspects of entry to the better life that many of us take for granted, it doesn’t mitigate all the problems that are faced by people of color.

      • Thank you!!!

        And Jay, you said:
        “While you may feel that you were privileged living in Westport, it had very little to do with the color of your skin and everything to do with the wealth of your family. ”

        Wealth and skin color are totally connected. I’ve lived here for 45 years, and now more than ever before this topic is relevant. I believe these topics are critically important for our kids to learn about. My daughter is in her first year in college. I’ve made this a subject of conversation since she could speak. She and I live in a bubble. She needs to be prepared for reality, never mind learning how to be grateful for what she has, and figuring out ways that she can help others have more.

        And as Elizabeth said- we don’t fear the police. That’s not a matter of wealth.

        I love this town, which why I’m still here. But we do our kids a disservice if we don’t educate them about this subject.

    • Elizabeth Thibault

      Apologies, I meant Henry Louis Gates. (Very different from Robert Gates!)

    • “Black folk?”

  4. Well said.

  5. Jay, you have no idea what it is to be a person of color. Would you change your white skin for dark skin? This country was founded on racism. Read your Constitution, written by and for white male landowners who made slaves 3/5 of a person for the purpose of increasing population count in the Southern states (the “Connecticut Compromise”). Your entire comment proves white privilege.

    • Well, no actually. Your understanding of history is flawed. It was slaveholders who wanted slaves to be counted as full persons for purposes of determining congressional representation. It was representatives of free states who argued for not counting slaves at all, as all completely understood that the more weight given to slaves in this context, the greater would be the power of slave states in Congress. The 3/5 compromise was exactly that: a compromise, and one that reduced the power of slave states in Congress and hastened the end of slavery.

      The country was not “founded on racism.” Quite the opposite. It was founded on a set of ideals that included all men being created equal. That the country for some time failed to live up to that ideal is indisputable. But that aspiration put this country ahead of any other at the time, and led to the ultimate realisation of all men being equal before the law, something still realised today in only a minority of countries.

      • Ah, American exceptionalism…
        Civil liberties are not unique to one country.

        • … Where would the U.S. be on the list of countries that respect civil liberties today?

        • Can you please explain how this relates to my comment, to which it is appended as a reply?

          • This was meant to be attached to your prior comment about civil liberties not being unique to one country.

          • The flawed truth that the country was founded on equality.
            Admit that no country is founded on pure ideals, rather pure greed.

            • Can you try reading it again, because your response and your clarification still make no sense at all relative to what I said.

      • Rozanne Gates

        “White is right” is how it was back then when the Constitution was written and continues to be now. Ask any black person. To be bought and sold into slavery is not a new concept but it is a lousy one. The story of “Exodus” is retold every year at the Seder. When I was growing up in Houston, Texas I truly believed that slavery was a cruel and inhuman institution and it was reinforced for me every year at my family’s Seder that all people should be free. But the “founding fathers” did not believe that and we have been a shamed country ever since. There is no defending the idea that one person can buy another and turn that person into a slave. It is abominable. Until this country can face its past and acknowledge the enormous wrong that was inflicted on the African people who were brought here against their will, the story of the Jews enslaved in Egypt will have to continually be told until the white people “get it.”

    • Dayle Brownstein

      Precisely!

  6. Interesting response. I guess she isn’t aware of the people who moved to Westport because they wanted the best they could provide for their children even though they had to work two jobs, commute hundreds of miles a week, live away from their homes for long periods of time just to make it happen. It’s not called “white privilege” , it’s called hard work, and sacrifice. Anyone can move to Westport, there are no restrictions…all it takes is hard work, sacrifice and years of savings to afford the down payment.

    • Oscar Sepulvedo

      Agree with Bill on this aspect. For Elizabeth to suggest that “white privilege” automatically entitled her to a Westport lifestyle is disrespectful and dismissive of her parents’ hard work and sacrifice to provide their children a memorable, stress-free adolescence. Not so much “white privilege” in the “flyover states” where white middle class families have been decimated by offshoring decent paying manufacturing jobs to other countries.

      Elizabeth is well-intentioned in trying to come to grips with her “privilege,” but she is falling prey to a trendy meme. It’s a white ADVANTAGE, yes, but not privilege.

  7. Rozannegates, I’m not arguing that racism doesn’t exist. All I am saying is that the privilege that is the focus of this contest and this particular story has nothing to do with racism. It’s about economic status. Why we need to have a writing contest for kids to promote a discussion about all of this when race is not the issue, I don’t understand. And, while I am white, I am also Jewish and know a thing or two about being treated unfairly simply because of my background.

    • Rob Simmelkjaer

      Jay, if you don’t think race and wealth are inexorably linked, you need to spend some time with a history book. I’m sorry.

  8. Here, here & well said, Elizabeth!

  9. I would take issue , and I assume your parents would too, that they didn’t pay for your education and everything else along with it. I’m sure they worked hard to buy a home in Westport and to pay taxes and all the other expenses involved in maintaining your lifestyle. Your warped view that making America great again , is somehow regressive shows a fundamental ignorance of just what a special country we live in.
    No where else on earth does the average person have as much freedom. A priveledge earned by the blood of our veterans.

  10. January Stewart

    This was very well stated, Elizabeth. Thanks for taking the time to not only think about your own privilege, but to share it with all of us. The last sentence, particularly, speaks volumes.
    Yes Jay, wealth is another way, of many, in which people can be privileged. But this essay is specifically about White Privilege. One very specific example of white privilege is the fact that a resume with a White sounding name is more likely to get a callback than one with a Black or Asian sounding name, even though the resumes are otherwise identical. Studies have been done about it. Google “resume black white name”, or “resume whitening”. This is just one example of thousands. Rather than be offended, I hope that this essay will spur people to find out what White Privilege is, and to talk more about race with their children. Being offended, or calling it foolishness doesn’t mean that it doesn’t exist, or that you don’t benefit in some ways from it.

  11. I would love if we could hear comments on this article from some people of color from Westport–residents (or former residents) who would be willing to identify themselves as people of color. I can’t tell if anyone of color has commented on this issue. I grew up in Westport and am white, and, as Elizabeth articulates so eloquently, it is difficult to understand a privilege that you have had all your life. The best analogy I can make is a fish swimming through water: because it has been swimming for its whole life, it can’t see the water because it’s assumed and inherent. Because I have been white my whole life, it would be impossible for me to imagine life–or an alternative subjectivity–without this cloak of protection.

    Recognizing advantages can be difficult because for some I think it takes away their success: they think they’ve just worked hard, or are very smart, and acknowledging privilege takes away this impression they have of themselves. But there are many additional factors that contribute to financial success: race is one of the most significant and the hardest to talk about precisely because of its significance (think of the water). I agree that hard work and smarts often leads to success–most people I’ve met in Westport are smart and are hard workers–but denying the role of whiteness would be to present an incomplete formula for economic prosperity.

    A question I’d like to pose to those who are offended by Elizabeth’s essay is the following: “Why, if anyone can work towards living in Westport, is Westport so white?” I have friends of color whose families have moved out of Westport and into neighboring towns where the school system isn’t as good because of the implicit racism they experienced on a daily basis. Even if they were able to afford to live here (and I might add, one member of this family had a level of fame in the entertainment industry that is rare and allowed the family to live in Westport), why would they leave for a district that afforded the family less opportunity?

    • Zoe was a frequent commenter on the subject, but was so harassed by some (you know who you are) that she has left “06880”.

    • Rob Simmelkjaer

      Hi Kelly. I’m an African American guys who has lived in Westport for three years, and I generally love it. I think this conversation is really valuable, and I want to applaud TEAM Westport for sponsoring this essay contest.

      Westport is an amazing, inclusive town that I’m proud to be a part of. However, it is not immune from the the intertwined issues of race and class that pervade American society.

      White privilege refers to the ongoing reality that, since its founding as nation of Europeans (with black slaves), America has had a disproportionate amount of wealth and power concentrated in the hands of the descendants of those European founders. This concentration has been exacerbated by discrimination of various forms — legalized and institutionalized for much of the nation’s history.

      Talking about white privilege in 2017 is not an accusation or a reason for defensiveness. It is simply the exercise of pointing out the factual elephant in the room of our nation, and asking all of us, regardless of ethnic background, to ponder its impact on our own lives.

      This is not about Westport or anything wrong with our town (although it isn’t perfect because no town is). It is not even about Trump. It is about understanding one of the core realities of being an American. As Westporters, we need to prepare our children to understand the issues they will confront in college, the workplace and society at large. This understanding will keep them from making mistakes that can have a major negative impact on their lives and keep them from truly understanding the country they live in.

  12. what is amazing is that most of my friends in westport all came from blue collar lives and worked hard to create great opportunities for all our kids in westport. people shoukdnt feel bad or ashamed for working hard. what we have to do is make sure our kids understand values and contributing to the betterment of all society. we have incredible programs designed to help others. lets keep pushing for more of that. unfortunately the headline looks not so great for westport, but we should get a headline on all the great charities and donations that have come from westport to help society outside of it!

  13. Important subject, valuable discussion. But “well-maintained sidewalks” in Westport? Maybe not so much.

  14. One thing to add to this discussion – there is an implication here that being privileged is somehow bad and even wrong — there is nothing to be ashamed of or apologetic for about being born into privilege. You’re not responsible for that happenstance, any more than someone born without it is responsible. It’s about recognizing it, and being thankful for it (which I think Elizabeth is). I think what you do with your life, and how you treat those around you is what is lasting and important.

  15. Sounds like white guilt about privilege.

  16. I agree, Claudia. Thank you for the well-articulated and astute comment.

  17. January, you are absolutely spot on. Yes, privilege is a byproduct of wealth, circumstance and even years of hard work, among other factors. But the comments of several here absolutely miss the point in Elizabeth’s important observations. You have helped center the discussion where it should be and needs to be: what does “white privilege” mean and how can we use these learnings to better understand ourselves and others.

  18. Wonderfully written and the last quote is spot on!

  19. “Tears we cannot stop: A sermon to white America” by Michael Eric Dyson sounds like a worthwhile read.

  20. Don L Bergmann

    Elizabeth has set forth her views with thoughtful words that express what she believes. Others may agree, disagree or have differing shades of analysis. I simply read what Elizabeth says and hope that all live their lives in the manner of Elizabeth, a manner that reflects to me, considerable sensitivity to the good or less good fortunes of life.
    Don Bergmann

  21. Catherine Onyemelukwe

    Thanks, Dan, and thanks to Elizabeth for sharing her thoughts so well. She captures the essence of privilege that I and so many others here have – we never have to think about it!

  22. Well said! Thanks for sharing your thoughts on white privilege.

  23. Someone once said: To whom much is given, much is expected. Extending the privilege we received to others who didn’t receive it, is our duty.

  24. Me too!

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  25. I agree with Elizabeth, and I do think the color of one’s skin does affect how one is treated–even in Westport.

    • David J. Loffredo

      If you’re applying to college, having a little color isn’t such a bad thing.

      • David Loffredo – that brings up a very interesting point. In an era when the college application process is so unbelievably competitive, not being white is an absolute advantage and so, I would guess, a privilege. So then, is privilege a bad thing only until it works to a non-white person’s advantage? Meaning, if someone who wasn’t white found out that their admission to a competitive university was helped by the color of their skin color, would they decline to accept because that just isn’t fair? I suppose that what some of you are saying is that privilege is only unfair until you are the beneficiary of such privilege. I also want to say I agree with Adam Vengrow – most people I know who live in Westport are here because they worked hard to be here – absolutely regardless of skin color. Working hard is the key to achieving such privilege. Not the color of your skin. Explain that to your kids. I’m Jewish and I’ve never had a conversation with my kids about how their religion does or does not hold them back.

        • Werner Liepolt

          The interesting point is how would you like people to assume that you got into college because you were black instead of on your merits? How many white people suspect other white people don’t really deserve what they achieve? How many white people suspect people of color have an edge?

  26. What nonsense. As a westporter myself there was no so called privilege for me or my family or our friends. My parents worked hard to achieve a comfortable lifestyle. My classmates were black white Chinese Italian. Dads were CEO cooks hairdresser whatever. Westport was smaller then and everyone knew everyone. Westport today is no privilege. It’s sooooo crowded and pretentious. It’s a suburban nightmare. It sucks. The only privilege you have now is living in a great country being able to witness the most amazing hardest working overachiever president Donald Trump doing the most positive accomplishments. Take it easy Snowflake! Carlo Kyprios Staples 82

  27. Robert Quigley

    Maybe,, Gary Pear,,or Barry Johnson will chime in ,,or think this is so out of touch,in this sudo economic town of people with money,, that some cant comprehend what the normal world is like,,,,sad but laughable

  28. I was born and raised in Westport….my family lived there for over 50 years.
    For much of my life, when I would tell people I was from Westport, they would assume I came from money, which couldn’t be further from the truth….unless you believe having a father who was a television repairman and worked his ass off and made countless sacrifices to feed 5 kids leads to riches.
    Anyway, I came across this opinion piece a while ago and thought I should share it here. I don’t know Kurt Miller, but I found this piece best describes the way I feel about this issue, so kudos to Kurt…

    By Kurt Miller
    A friend of mine recently shared an article on “white privilege” from The New York Times. In it, columnist Charles M. Blow wrote, “When one (i.e., a white person) has the luxury of not being forced to compensate for societal oppression based on basic (racial) identity, one is in fact privileged in that society.”
    My friend shared this article with me because she knows that I am passionate about supporting diversity and inclusion. I’ve twice been our company’s diversity committee chairperson. I wrote our business case for diversity, and I’ve stood alongside Marlee Matlin at the Oregon Convention Center in support of inclusive practices in our community and businesses.  
    While well-meaning, I take issue with the article and with the entire white privilege concept that has been gaining traction since its introduction in 1988, when Peggy McIntosh wrote her famous essay, “White Privilege and Male Privilege.”

    First of all, white privilege is a racist term. We know it is racist because in her essay in support of her white privilege conclusion, McIntosh writes, “we (whites) are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way.”
    If one is going to describe an entire race of people (i.e., whites) with a derogatory term (i.e., “oppressive”), by definition one has made a racist statement — a race-based negative generalization. White privilege further fits the definition of a racist term because it neglects all of the experiences that are part of who I am. It doesn’t look at the individual but instead paints me with a broad racial brush and stereotypes my experience according to the color of my skin.  
    Second, using the term white privilege is highly divisive. Think of replacing “white” with “black,” “Chinese” or “gay” privilege. The minute you throw around a racially polarizing term, you have created an atmosphere of divisiveness, which makes it very difficult for people to hear each other’s concerns. Put another way: What white person would want to support a concept that describes her or him as a white-structural-racial-oppressor? 
    Third, you cannot use a wedge to bring two things together — even a well-meaning wedge. A wedge divides, always and by definition. From a practical perspective, a diversity mentor of mine once told me, “If you want the majority to come along, you have to show them what is in it for them. People don’t like to be accused, but they do want to be a part of building something meaningful.”
    So, I urge us, instead of dividing, let’s build something meaningful together. To do that, we need to rally around inclusive ideals. Let us help out our neighbor. Let us volunteer at our schools. Let us look for areas of need and lend a hand. Let us each contribute to a society where we treat each other as equals, not stereotype people according to groups. The first step is to leave harmful stereotyping behind, and that includes the stereotype of “white privilege.”

    Kurt Miller, of Vancouver, is an organizational change manager for a local utility

  29. Carl Addison Swanson

    I would argue “Elizabeth” won the sperm lottery and is hardly “privileged.” Malcolm Gladwell, in his “David & Goliath,” believes parents in affluent suburbs do a disservice to their kids by spoiling and hovering over their every activity. As such, they diminish the ambition and success which allowed themselves to afford to live in this area initially.

  30. Bart Shuldman

    I have a question-can you explain how you went to Westport schools K-12 with no cost to your parents? Did you live in another town and get a free grant to attend Westport schools?

    • Bruce Fernie - SHS 1970

      I would guess that she didn’t realize all her school ‘costs’ were paid via the very high property taxes that her parents paid. She has yet to understand that there is a ‘cost’ associated with everything. If it is ‘free’ to you, you can be sure it ‘cost’ someone else something.

      • Elizabeth Thibault

        I crack up every time someone says we have high property taxes. Our mill rate is one of the lowest in the state! My father who lives in Vermont, pays more property tax, (dollar amount,) on his house than we pay. Heck, we paid more *14 years ago* on our condo in East Norwalk than we pay on our house here. We are living the good life, for what our tax dollars pay for in Westport.

  31. Part of the “magic” of living in Westport is the efforts of the parents to do everything they can for their children and to make a strong and thriving community. Some above refer to too much “spoiling” and “hovering” which may or may not be bad (see articles and results of the “Tiger Mom” series or articles in the NYT) but there are many other aspects that are very important and valuable.

    I grew up there. Our parents, the parents of the kids who grew up there, worked relentlessly to make it the very best place they could to give their kids, us, the chance to have the best chance at life possible. They paid huge property taxes to ensure that we had the best schools available and, together, they managed the town to make sure that arts, learning, and accomplishment were valued to the highest degree possible. It’s important to note that part of that education, the fabric of the culture of the town, was to value diversity and to eschew racism.

    Of course, we had natural resources like the beaches, but we also had things that the parents made sure were in place such as the outstanding youth sports programs, programs at the YMCA like Ms. Sattler’s dance classes, art music programs/classes, volunteer clubs, and a very active girl/boy scouts program as well as many other “community” activities which were either run by volunteers or heavily influenced and supported by the parents.

    When most of us were there, in the 60’s and 70’s and beyond, anyone could have moved there if they could afford it. Many of the finer things that the town offered were based on volunteer hours mostly done by our parents. The towns outrageous prices today are a reflection of that care and love that made it and still make it a precious place to live.

    The results, referred to in the article as “White Privilege” and what I mentioned as “magic” in the first sentence, really isn’t either. It isn’t something that fell indiscriminately out of the sky, it was created by parental zeal and ingenuity. Yes, we had some advantages, but the advantages accrued via engagement, enthusiasm and hard work. I’m grateful to my parents and the many other parents in town for their efforts and sacrifices for us and the community.

    • Richmond-thank you. Thank you for understanding it was your parents that help provide the opportunities that our wondeful town has to offer. We need to recognize all the parents who donate their time to run the sports programs, PTA, arts, music and religious. While the parents worked to be able to afford to live in a westport, they also give their time in whatever way they can to make Westport the best!!

      Somehow, I will hope the parents of this wondeful girl explain how she got her education in westport. How they worked and earned and cannot mutter and paid.

      I understand the conversation, but I will not hide behind my color (white) and how I came from not
      much, but worked hard and took the opportunities and the chances our wonderful country provided me (and others) to succeed. I am thankful everyday. I give back. But the privilege they speak to, was earned, not given.

    • Sorry for the spelling:

      Richmond-thank you. Thank you for understanding it was your parents that help provide the opportunities that our wondeful town has to offer. We need to recognize all the parents who donate their time to run the sports programs, PTA, arts, music and religious. While the parents worked to be able to afford to live in a westport, they also give their time in whatever way they can to make Westport the best!!

      Somehow, I will hope the parents of this wondeful girl explain how she got her education in Westport. How they worked and earned and committed and paid.

      I understand the conversation, but I will not hide behind my color (white) and how I came from not
      much, worked hard and took the opportunities and the chances our wonderful country provided me (and others) to succeed. I am thankful everyday. I give back. But the privilege they speak to, was earned, not given.

  32. Perspective on an issue and opinions to support it are wonderful liberties that we all enjoy. It’s so interesting to see the various interpretations and comments about Elizabeth’s initial post. For what it’s worth, I don’t think she was unappreciative of the various privileges she has enjoyed which she referenced. She did not dismiss the hard work and sacrifice of her parents, as Bart, Bernie and perhaps others imply here — those are their own interpretative leaps. But more importantly, sidebar comments like these derail the crux of her post and diminish the importance of the entire exercise launched by TEAM Westport. What does privilege mean to all of us and how can we benefit from this conversation for the betterment of others?

    • Rick-great question. What does privilege mean and just as important what is a privilege?

      When a college decides to have more woman in their engineering program-is a privilege granted? I don’t know. When a town must have a certain amount of affordable homes- is that a privilege? I really do not know.

      Who benefits? Also a great question. In both of my examples, I guess someone does benefit.

      If a town decides that education is important and therefore has a high tax on its residents, is that a privilege? Maybe. But all the residents ( or most) want that benefit. Or privilege? I really don’t know. The education part is very important to me and for my children so I sacrifice some things to get that benefit/privilege. Or is it just a good decision?

      I look forward to the responses.

      priv·i·lege
      ˈpriv(ə)lij/
      noun
      1.
      a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people.

      • Great question, Bart. I would argue — though I know others would disagree — that the benefit of, say, excellent education or women in engineering accrues to society as a whole. It’s hard to quantify, for sure. But good things cannot always be measured.

  33. January Stewart

    Several of the commenters have repeatedly tried to redirect the conversation to wealth, with several people highlighting that they have earned what they have through hard work, and the fact that they’re white had nothing to do with it. That’s probably human nature…the need to feel like you’ve earned (or inherited) your privileges, and so you deserve them. But that’s not really what this essay is about. We’re talking about privileges that are bestowed upon you solely because of the color of your skin you were born with, that you had no hand in earning, and that you most likely never even considered. White privilege doesn’t mean that you live in a wealthy town. I think people are hearing the term and not fully comprehending what it means. Let’s talk about another kind of privilege.

    Are you a male? If you’re male, and you were to go out for a jog, at say, 10pm, alone, would you worry about possibly being attacked? In college, did you ever feel that if you drank too much at a party, that there was a real chance that you could have been assaulted or raped? Did your college encourage you to stay in a group at parties so that this wouldn’t happen? Has anyone ever told you that you “throw like a boy”, implying that your sex is inherently weak? If you have children, did anyone question you about how having a family would hurt your ability to do your job? Have you ever been catcalled, or has a stranger told that you should smile? Do you get frustrated that your reproductive rights are determined by legislators of the opposite sex? No? These are a few examples of Male Privilege. You didn’t earn these things. They just are. They’re built in.

    Are you heterosexual? Congratulations! You can marry the love of your life in all 50 states, and you’ve had that right…forever. In case of an accident, you have access to your spouse at the hospital, regardless of what state you’re visiting. You can openly express your affection for your significant other in almost any situation without worrying about a hostile or violent reaction from someone else. You will never be fired or denied a promotion based on your sexuality. That’s heterosexual privilege. You didn’t earn it. It’s just a part of how things are.

    And so white privilege is another way in which some people get perks that others don’t enjoy. Have you ever been pulled over by a police officer for DWW? Driving While White. No, you haven’t because that’s not a thing. Did you ever wonder if you didn’t get a homeowner’s loan because you were white? Or a job? Or an apartment? Have you had to sit down and have “the talk” with your child? The one where you tell them that if they don’t immediately comply with a police officer, there could be grave consequences, even if they are a minor. Do you wonder if people assume that you got your job because of a diversity quota? Do people sometimes assume that you work in a store, when you are a customer? When you’re at Barnes and Noble, do you ever think, “Man, it’s hard to find children’s books with people that look like me.” This is white privilege. It’s all around you in a thousand different ways. I Love Dan’s blog, and though I don’t comment often, I feel compelled to do so this time. I feel like my fellow white neighbors are really missing the point.

    • “It’s hard to find children’s books with people who look like me”.
      Like a book “Polar”, rejected by the editor because the text states that the bear is white.
      Children’s attitudes will be formed by the attitudes of their society,

  34. It seems the citation I was trying to display will not post.

  35. very good comments…perspectives…thoughts….and questions…I would have liked to have seen the question be phrased better, perhaps “opportunity” and be related to not only “Westport” but “all affluent communities” instead of the word “privilege” and “Westport.” It might have shed a better light on us from other parts of the country. This is a hard working community, with the largest senior population per capita in the state.

  36. January Stuart’s comment is, I truly believe, the only take away from them all.

  37. I agree Dan Katz. January Stuart’s comment is the one I, and probably most women, relate to the most.. Jane Sherman

  38. Kendall Gardiner

    Bravo, January Stuart !
    Although Dan never mentioned “white” privilege, he wrote about the privileges of living in Westport.
    ” Life in the Westport Bubble” July 16, 2016

    • January Stewart

      Hi Kendall. If you go to the top of this blog post, you’ll see Dan titled this post “White Privilege: One Westporter Responds.” It’s regarding an essay contest, and here’s the rules of the contest “In 1,000 words or less, describe how you understand the term ‘white privilege’. To what extent do you think this privilege exists? What impact do you think it has had in your life—whatever your racial or ethnic identity—and in our society more broadly?”

  39. Hmmmmmm; even the instructions for the contest are poorly written.
    Correct English usage would have it say “In a 1,000 words or FEWER, not “less”.

    • Actually, Dan, it would say, “In 1,000 words or fewer,” without the “a.” The original prompt did not include the incorrect “a”; you added it.

  40. During this week leading to Super Bowl Sunday, please consider donating food to your place of worship or local food pantry. Please give pasta, rice, beans — basically any food items you feel represent the ethnic diversity of our great nation.

    When I was growing up, I was taught to be tolerant of people who were different from me. I was told of America’s great melting pot. In reality, as many have noted, America is more like an ethnically diverse salad bowl.

    So please consider sharing and let’s make this Super Bowl a super bowl of caring. Thanks!

    • “Salad bowl”? What does that mean? (as Stephanie Bass notes below).
      What the hell does Super Bowl Sunday have to do with what should be daily food bank donations?
      Has a football game become a new form of Catholic logic, like Mardi Gras?

  41. Claire Hurley Hertan

    Hi Dan

    Following up on Iain Bruce’s point on compromise and how our unique system aims to follow human ideals instead of imperfect people, the strength of the American system, 4star General Mark Milley gives us hope in the current chaos with this summary http://alumni.princeton.edu/learntravel/lectures/videodetail/index.xml?videoid=443 (its the same message as that of the show Hamilton too)

  42. Dick Lowenstein

    What brings us together is more important than what keeps us apart. This YouTube video says it eloquently and with drama:

  43. … donate food items I feel express ethnic diversity…..is that joke?

  44. Great Blogpost.