THE BLOG
05/02/2013 03:34 pm ET Updated Jul 02, 2013

On Suzy Lee Weiss, Abigail Fisher and Unpacking White Privilege in Higher Education

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On April 10, Kendra James published an open letter -- "To (All) the White Girls Who Didn't Get Into The College Of Their Dreams" -- in response to all of the buzz created by high schooler Suzy Lee Weiss and her op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

James wrote, "There's an arrogance in high school students that manifests during the college application process, but it's an arrogance that correlates with already existing racial and class privilege."

The author couldn't be more right, and the issue of white privilege in college admissions could not be more important than it is in this moment in time. The Supreme Court is in the midst of making a decision on Fisher v. University of Texas, which will determine the future of affirmative action at public universities in the United States.

The young woman at the center of this case is Abigail Fisher, a white, 22-year-old from the upper-middle class. Even though she wasn't accepted into her "dream school," she graduated from another university and secured a job as a financial analyst in a less than stellar economy.

To an extent, I can identify with Fisher's story. I'm a 23-year-old woman raised in white suburbia, and after getting rejected from my first choice college I was fortunate enough to attend another prominent university. While we have our fair share of similarities, however, there is one major difference that separates Abigail Fisher and I: our awareness of white privilege.

On sight alone, I benefit from privilege in both large and small ways because of the preconceived notions and prejudices others have based on skin color. That's why it is essential for me, and others like me, to acknowledge and understand the complexities of white privilege.

If you are white and living in America, you have the automatic advantage of not being forced to see race if you don't want to -- you don't have to confront it on a daily basis, let alone in larger and more complicated historical contexts. White America is the norm. It is the dominant narrative. It shapes the systems we all operate in.

This issue isn't just relevant in college admissions. Racism and inequality run deep through our country's roots and are unfortunately still alive and well. In the year 2013, high school students are fighting to desegregate their prom, a "white-pride" group (yes, you read that right) at Towson University is organizing to patrol their community due to a "black crime wave" and Oberlin College had to cancel classes to hold a "Day of Solidarity" after Black History month posters were vandalized with racial slurs and someone was allegedly spotted on campus in Ku Klux Klan-style attire.

Clearly, conversations about white privilege need to happen on college campuses, and they need to happen now.

It's necessary for students to start engaging in dialogues and being productive in social action against inherent forms of racism instead of perpetuating backwards, ill-informed ideas (here's looking at you, Abigail Fisher and Suzy Lee Weiss).

This is an invitation to Fisher and Weiss -- better yet, it's an open invite to any and all students who need one -- to find some down time, pick up a copy of Peggy McIntosh's essay, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack and start unpacking.

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