White person uses white privilege as platform to discuss white privilege
So there’s this thing that happens in America. You’re black, you get caught with drugs, and you go to prison for a long time. You know the story.
Well, here’s another story for you. while I was at Cornell there was this senior who was arrested for possession of Heroine. We’re not talking a small amount of Heroine. We’re talking $50,000 worth of Heroine. Her name is Keri Blakinger, and the thing that’s makes her “unique” is that she’s white.
How the tides have changed for Blakinger since her arrest in 2010. Her recovery has been as swift as her deterioration. She’s out of prison, graduated from Cornell, and has begun a bright career as a journalist. The most interesting part of this whole story is that Blakinger is now an expert on the topic of white privilege. She recently had a pretty decent write-up on the topic in the Washington Post.
Her article makes some really important points. Blakinger describes the various mechanisms through which she experienced this privilege firsthand in prison. She received a 2.5 year sentence, a much lower sentence than most people receive for similar crimes. Her treatment in prison was also much better than her peers. There were many instances when black prisoners were treated harshly and punished severely for things that she just got away with.
She also describes the mechanisms of inequality within the criminal justice system. Although black people only make up 13.2% of the New York State population, they make up 50% of the state’s prison population. Across the country, black people are more likely to get pulled over, searched, and arrested than their white counterparts. Just as Blakinger experienced first hand, black people are sentenced to more time for the same crime than white people. Most strikingly, although black youth are less likely to sell drugs than their white counterparts, they 10 times more likely to be arrested for drug crimes than are their white counterparts. Her article makes all of these important points.
Where Blakinger goes wrong is that she limits her white privilege to the criminal justice system. The very way in which she is able to turn prior conviction into a story that can be capitalized on for personal gain is entirely a result of her privilege. I’m not saying she’s bad person or wrong to be talking about this issues. But she’s missing a big part of the story.
When I did a brief search of articles and editorials in the Washington Post covering white privilege, I found that almost all the articles were written by white people. That’s messed up.
Privilege doesn’t just manifest itself in how different people are treated in the criminal justice system. It’s everywhere. Privilege is why Keri Blakinger was able to go back to school. It’s why she was able to get a sweet job as a journalist — post conviction. It’s why she, a white person who is the beneficiary of white privilege, can become the de-facto spokesperson on white privilege. This makes me uncomfortable.