The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

White privilege alive and well


Two weeks ago, Maria Patrocollo wrote an op-ed in The Mac Weekly that effectively asked students of color to stop promoting racism. Although ignorant, her opinion was at least innocent. The same cannot be said for Joe Schultz’s attack on affirmative action last week (“Affirmative action is a losing deal for everyone,” page 18). Schultz’s argument is cover-fire for white supremacist American ideology. Schultz disingenuously claims to oppose affirmative action out of interest in the well-being of “society,” rather than to perpetuate white supremacy. He claims that people of color are given unearned advantages under affirmative action, which then hurts “all of us” (apparently, oppressed people are not part of Schultz’s societal “us”). It follows by logical extension that Shultz believes white people, like Schultz and me, have earned everything we have ever received from capitalism.

Schultz claims to be against all forms of discrimination, and thus opposes affirmative action as “discrimination.” Has this Great Society truly progressed so far that the only vestige of discrimination in the United States is affirmative action?

I could provide a battery of statistics to prove that racism and other forms of systemic oppression are now more brutal than ever. I could explain that capitalism is a fundamentally unjust system that functions by creating illegitimate hierarchies. I could take issue with The Mac Weekly for printing an article that offensively insinuates that students, faculty, and staff of color don’t deserve to be here. Instead, I would like to ask a question. How did white people like Joe Schultz and I make it to Macalester College?

Let us consider, for the sake of my argument, that Joe Schultz is an average middle-class white male. Let us assume he went to a public school, even though many wealthy whites send their children to private schools in order to keep them out of under-funded schools serving predominantly African-American populations. We can assume that Schultz received plenty of encouragement from his teachers. He was probably expected to get good grades, and have a bright future.

Chances are that neither of Schultz’s parents was in jail because of the brutally racist American judicial' system. His parents probably were not working two or three minimum-wage jobs to put food on the table. They had plenty of time to give him the love and attention all children deserve. Maybe young Schultz even had expensive, colorful wooden Fr”bel blocks to stimulate his nascent cognitive abilities.<br /><br /> Most importantly, young Schultz was initiated into white culture, which elites see as superior. By third grade, Joe Schultz was on track to enter college.<br /><br /> The story from here is familiar; all the choices had already been made for Schultz. He took the intrinsically racist and classist SATs and ACTs and did well enough. He got into Macalester College. All Schultz has to do now is read Thomas Friedman, watch Fox News, vote, watch more TV, get wasted, not study, and claim hisrightful’ place in the American capitalist hierarchy after graduation. Good job, Joe, you earned it all.

Here’s the point: the United States has an affirmative action program for white folks, too. It’s called white supremacist racism, and it has been present since the first colonialist Puritan set foot on Plymouth Rock.

All white people profit from white supremacist capitalism; so what is the difference between a white person like Joe and a white member of Macalester’s anti-racist community?

Schultz refuses to acknowledge his privilege, and effectively defends it by naturalizing white supremacy. He will probably use his privilege to accrue even more power and riches after college.

Although I do not speak for the community, I believe that Macalester’s white leftists and anti-racists intend to examine their privilege and dismantle it by dismantling the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy that runs this country. However imperfectly, many white Macalester students are trying to be allies in the anti-racist and anti-capitalist struggles that will shape this century.

This brings us to the crux of the matter. If you are at Macalester, you are privileged. This leaves you with a choice: you can either embrace this privilege without reservation (hooray, we’re “America’s Hottest College!” We’re gonna be rich!), and launch an unexamined life of conspicuous consumption, or you can become critical of the world we live in, recognize your own privilege, and try to change things.

It is tragic that anti-racists are forced to waste time recycling the tired old discourse surrounding affirmative action. There are many more important things to do. Affirmative action is just a single step in a very, very long journey to abolish privilege and hierarchy in American society and the world.

I hope that the readers of this article will continue to walk this road, leaving behind those who, like Schultz, prefer to rationalize oppression and exploitation rather than fight it.

Contact Erik Forman ’08 at [email protected].

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