Teens Explore The Impact Of White Privilege

“There wasn’t really a moment at which I realized I was a different race than my parents, I just knew that I had dark skin while theirs was light. They explained adoption to me at some point but I never really wondered why I was black,”  said Portland High School senior, Moses Small.

As a teen, however, race has played a much bigger role in his life.

“I’ve been lucky not to have experienced violence, but I’m treated very differently depending on how I dress. If I am wearing a suit, I don’t have any problems in stores. But when, for whatever reason, I wear basketball shorts or a sweatshirt, I’m followed in stores. It’s not really a single event, but a collection of them that shows how inconsistently I’m treated as a young black male,” said Small.

Race is a controversial topic in the United States, one of that makes people feel uncomfortable and is undeniably woven in the fabric of our culture in endless ways. It has been 151 years since slavery was abolished and 52 years since the Civil Rights Act was passed, yet, there is still a great deal of racism within the states.

Since the Black Lives Matter campaign brought race and the forefront of American culture, Campaign, there has been a sometimes equally vehement denial that racism exists in our modern world and at the same time an ugly resurfacing of open hatred and racist behavior.

“I honestly think that the problem isn’t just white privilege. The problem is everyone believes they are entitled to everything just because they are American. White Americans do tend to believe that they have the upper hand,” said Biddeford High School alumni Hannah O’Neil.

White Privilege is the idea that white people have an advantage in life. Many people disagree with the idea of white people having a privilege over minorities. Yet countless studies have proven otherwise.

According to the NAACP or National Association for Advancement of Colored People, Black people are incarcerated at six times the rate white people are incarcerated. Black people now make up 1 million of the 2.3 million incarcerated population.

“To start off if anyone thinks white privilege doesn’t exist, then well, congratulations, you’re enjoying the benefits of it. And because of that very reason it’s a huge problem in the States, and it will continue to be a problem unless we do something about it…If a white person goes on a mass shooting they’re considered to be a loner or suffering from a mental illness, while that might be true… No other races ever have that benefit of the doubt. If a black person causes a mass shooting it’s because he’s a ‘thug’. If someone who practices Islam goes on a mass shooting that person’s a ‘terrorist,” said senior Ann-yong Shibles

This tendency to stereotype minorities especially when it comes to crime, is seen in smaller crimes as well.

Slovan Metellus, a junior who is currently attending Ayer High School in Ayer Massachusetts (about an hour outside of Boston), has witnessed this first hand.

“A person I know (who is white) was driving his mom’s car and did a count of illegal things, not just traffic infractions, and I believe that if the person had been black, it would’ve been a different story because a black teenager is already looked upon (as a whole) as a trouble maker,” said Metellus.

According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, The most common reason for contact with the police is being a driver in a traffic stop. White (8.4%), black (8.8%) and Hispanic (9.1%) drivers were stopped at similar rates but black drivers were about three times more likely (12.3%) than white drivers (3.9%) to be searched during a traffic stop.

“It all depends on how you present yourself but I do believe that there are people out there that would prefer to hire a white person then a black person,” said Metellus.

Metellus believes this bias seeps into all areas of daily life including the workplace.

Research done by economists in 2015, Marianne Bertrand and Sendhil Mullainathan proved that resumes with white-sounding names were 50 percent more likely to receive a call back compared to resumes with black-sounding names.

Not only do black people have to be cautious of how they present themselves but when they are presenting themselves acting educated or with respect, it is viewed as they are acting white.

“As a black person adopted into a white family, I’ve gotten to see a dichotomy between how I am treated versus how my family members are. So of course it’s a problem, every time I show intelligence or creativity it’s met with the phrase ‘well you act white anyways,” said Small.

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