An open letter to my fellow white students

In recent days, we have witnessed an egregious attack on Asian women and Asian-owned or run businesses in Atlanta, Georgia. Although many in media have claimed it was purely sexually motivated, it is impossible for me and many of our peers to remove the event from the exponentially growing trend of anti-Asian hate crimes and discrimination. 

In our politics, in our society, in our schools, Asians have been targeted with verbal abuse, physical assaults and discriminatory practices at alarmingly growing rates with at least 3,800 racist incidents against Asians in the past year according to Stop AAPI Hate. “China Virus” and “kung flu” may be more visible, memorable signs of racism in our country, but it seeps deeper. Only with a strong understanding of white privilege can we see where structural racism persists.

White privilege does not say that we won’t have factors that make success difficult for us in our lives. It simply talks about how our race and skin color is not one of those factors. In the US, race is a notably powerful factor. Our history includes slavery of African Americans, genocide and displacement of native Americans and the lynching of both of the formerly mentioned groups and Asians and Latinos. We have diminished their opportunities to succeed and limited who can have the American Dream from the very start. 

According to a 2016 study, minorities that “whiten” or remove mentions of race from their resume are far more likely to get an interview. Furthermore, per million of the population, Black people are over twice as likely to be fatally shot by police than whites (35 to 14) Simply looking at ‘Rate My Professor,’ you can see people write off professors here at Calvin for “not being able to speak English” or having a thick accent. Only a few years ago, “white power” and a swastika were written in the snow on a car windshield at Calvin.

When expanding to the intersection of faith minorities and perception of communities, the ISPU reported that in Pennsylvania and Oregon laws originally used against Catholics by banning head scarves were also brought to ban hijab-wearing Muslim women and the Sikh community from teaching in the public school systems, which is a very striking example of the everyday structural problems affecting minorities for their racial and religious identities. Another example is the uproar when Rashida Tlaib swore in with Jefferson’s Quran instead of a Bible. Muslims have been the recipient of abuse, harassment and assaults on a regular basis since 9/11 and there have even been talks about Muslim immigration bans. These are only the tip of the iceberg.

White privilege does not mean that you haven’t worked hard to get where you are. It’s not a threat. It is a reminder that we have fewer barriers to success. We have power in our society. Being Christian is praised in the US; we even have an area we call the Bible Belt. Being a white English speaker means that we don’t worry during security checks and have the ease of being an active citizen in our nation. Education favors us and we live without fear of being shot arbitrarily or receiving abuse. In the United States today, white men can self-actualize in this world without much consideration of gender and race. Our neighbors cannot. 

If we are to love our neighbors, perhaps we should actually start to listen to them and finally start to act against racism, religious bias and all forms of othering in the United States.