DePauwlitics:

751

This semester we committed to becoming weekly opinion columnists for the DePauw. However, in the last couple weeks we have been quiet, because, due to our privileged identities, we didn't feel it was our time to speak.  We are struggling to find our place in the campus climate conversations and to fully understand issues of racism, sexism and homophobia. Yet, we know these issues are too important not to discuss. While all of these are important issues, we have decided to focus primarily on racism and white privilege. We recognize that we may make mistakes in this article. We recognize that these ideas are not our own and we thank those that enlightened us. We recognize we are very privileged. And we regret that by writing this article we are inherently leveraging our privilege. Though, maybe our white identities will allow us to connect with people who share that identity to elicit positive change.

As two white, heterosexual fraternity men on this campus, we haven’t been victims of the same types of marginalization and discrimination as other identities. We both feel safe walking anywhere on this campus at night, don’t experience discrimination in the classroom, don’t have significant fear of being raped, and don’t fear police brutality. Moreover, our cushy identities give us the entitlement to comfortably ignore issues of racism, sexism, and sexualism because in the West these -isms simply don’t pose a threat to us.

Indeed, we find that too often we white, heterosexual males—and every identity that is privileged—don’t recognize and wrestle with this notion, ourselves included. We generally assume an equal playing field, that our experience is equivocal with everyone else’s experience. We quietly cringe at the phrases “white privilege,” “masculine privilege” and “hetero privilege,” as it prompts an unsettling breed of guilt we’d much rather tune out.

So here it is: we have white privilege. And if you’re reading this and you identify as white, you do too. Yes, white privilege exists. It is an accepted sociological, academic concept, an odious product of structural, systemic oppression in our society. And yes, white privilege has existed since the development of the Western World; we see its outward cultural, socioeconomic, and historical effects in the form of our racially biased justice system, traditionally defined gender roles, disparities in average incomes, Jim Crow laws and most repugnantly, slavery, to name only a few.

Closer to home, DePauw also fosters the outward effects of privilege. Our beloved Greek system is perhaps the biggest culprit. Its intrinsic structure entrenches both gender and racial segregation by splitting men and women into different social circles and separating houses into different “white” and “multicultural” councils, which in effect act as disparate communities. This segregated environment is a microcosm of our larger social structure, which perpetuates our ingrained biases, invading our pedagogy in schools, in homes and in everyday life.

Its inward effects, however, equally as odious, are less perceivable to some. Created as a function of our society and culture, these inward effects manifest themselves in our conscious and subconscious lens of discrimination. Essentially, as we live in a racist society, we are educated by that racist society, and cannot escape the way in which in molds us. Therefore, we are all, to a degree, racist. This creates and reinforces our privilege.

We know the idea of white privilege can be disconcerting, but it need not be cringe worthy. As white privilege is a product systemic problems, no one individual should feel guilty for being privileged. Just as people are born into marginalized groups, people are born into privileged groups, and we have no agency to affect these circumstances. BUT—and this is a big but—if you are not grappling with your privilege you are perpetuating its existence, preserving racism within our society. Recognize that your experience is not every student’s experience. Identify how your privilege affects you and actively work against it.

As we were writing this article, lounging in our fraternal bubble, a friend of ours strolled in and asked us what we're up to. “Writing an opinion for the DePauw.” “Oh cool, what about?,” he asked. “White privilege,” we responded. “Ugh. Can’t we talk about something else?” We wish we could too.

 
Terlep is a senior political science major from Naperville, Illinois; Piggins is a senior ecnomics major from Saugatuck, Michigan.