Letter: White privilege is real, unfair

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To the editor:

I am writing in response to the thoughtful June 27 letter submitted by Mark A. Hanford, "Unfair cartoon adds to divisiveness." Mr. Hanford's personal story is exemplary: He was raised to be unprejudiced. He has worked with diverse people, and respects them all. And he has worked his way up from the factory floor to "a seat in the front of the company offices." Mr. Hanford even has the insight and humility to say that his worst sin is his failure to fully understand what it means to be Black in America today — and that he wishes he could add something to begin the process of healing.

He is insulted by the cartoon, which shows a white guy with a briefcase and a coffee cup on a pedestal with the title, "White privilege still standing."

I'm also a middle-aged white guy who was raised not to be prejudiced, and I've worked with diverse people, respecting them all. And I'm a second-generation American, whose grandparents immigrated from Poland, so I certainly have no family history related to slavery.

But I am the beneficiary of white privilege, as is Mr. Hanford. For one example, my father came home from WW II and got invaluable aid from the GI bill, which was explicitly racist. The GI bill was not available to Black GIs. I don't even know all of the privileges my family and I have had simply because we are white.

That's the problem — and the point of the cartoon. Mr. Hanford is not a racist, but because he's white, he has benefited from laws and practices at all levels of government and society, while Blacks have been excluded from those benefits. The different treatment of whites and Blacks is real and pervasive. Not knowing, and not asking for it, may absolve us from blame, but does not absolve us from taking responsibility now.

I, too, wish I could add something to begin the process of healing. What I'm starting with is recognizing that Blacks in this nation have never had full citizenship, equal treatment, or true integration into the larger society. That must stop. So I will look for ways I can lend my voice and my energy in some small ways toward that end.

Shelby Marshall,

Stockbridge

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