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Where’s the White Privilege Emoji?

Whites Aware of Racism

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While awaiting my latte, I scrolled through Facebook and noticed a story posted by CBS News. It detailed a probe of an officer who handcuffed a Black man that had been viciously attacked by a group of four white people.  The incident took place at my alma mater East Carolina University, located in Greenville, N.C. I decided to share it on my Facebook timeline. What happened next shocked me.

My theatre teacher from high school commented, “That’s not the story. He attacked a woman downtown and got the s*** kicked out of him. The cops detained him for his assault on the female! You idiots believe anything race baiting! It’s pathetic!!!”

I wasn’t expecting such a response from a teacher who taught me that it was OK to express myself.

His response felt like a shot of ignorance dipped in white privilege. I questioned his perspective and called out his white privilege. This didn’t go over too well, as he issued a threat that when I returned back to the area I would “catch these hands.”

The man I had admired so much had became someone that I felt ashamed of.

White privilege has been a constant topic in the media. So much so that candidates of the 2016 presidential election have been questioned about their own white privilege. White privilege is not an assault on white people or their culture. It is a phenomenon that exists because of the hardships that people of color have had to deal with at the hands of white people. Understanding this term can allow people of color to have healthy conversations with whites about race in this country.

If we continue to ignore the 50-foot elephant in the room, we won’t be able to progress in this country. America is a melting pot with people from many backgrounds.  The stories of police brutality and the killing of unarmed Black men has reached a boiling point and I for one am sick of it. This is America, and we all have the right to express our ideas and pursue our dreams. I reject the notion that discussing these issues is “race bating.”

I long for the day where a healthy exchange of ideas can lead to true change for this country, but until then, I’ll spread my voice through activism…. and Facebook of course.

Bradley Cannon is a current Strategic Communication grad student at American University. He has previously worked in advertising at The Washington Post and The Chronicle of Higher Education.