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White Students and Fairness

August 24, 2009


I find that when I talk about race issues in class, my white students are the first (and the only) group to argue that there may be some racial bias out there, but that things are mostly fair, and that anyone who tries hard can make it—if they don’t make it, it’s their own fault.

Simultaneously, it is this same group of students that is most likely to accuse the professor of being unfair or blame the professor if they have difficulty with or fail the course.

That is, white students seem the most “tuned-in” to and outspoken about bias when it affects them (even when the “bias” against them is imagined), but least likely to be “tuned-in” to or appreciative of bias when it affects others. They can’t compensate for white privilege because they refuse to see it, although they require everyone else to see it when bias is directed at them, or when anything interrupts the privileges they’ve grown to expect.

This is a privilege of the dominant group—the privilege not to have to notice one’s own privilege—and it is why, for instance, that saying “Happy Holidays” is received as an attack on Christians but saying “Merry Christmas” is not an attack on Jews.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 24, 2009 6:51 pm

    Having just listened to Aristotle’s Politics Chapters 1-5 on audiobook makes it really hard not to make a very un-PC comment now.

  2. August 25, 2009 4:40 pm

    The dominant group strives mightily to hold onto their place at the top. In order to do so they must ignore the plight of those beneath them, and be hypersensitive to anything (real or imagined) that might endanger their position.

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