Reflections on Race: Sophie Mann-Shafir

I am white. I am an American Jew. In other places, at other times, being Jewish could have cost me my life. Instead, today, my race—being white—facilitates certain privileges. In my daily life, I am not confronted by as many disparaging stereotypes that affect the way others see me—or the way I see myself. I can walk into a shop without being scrutinized for appearing “threatening” or “suspicious.”

Racism is usually thought of as a set of attitudes that is detrimental, rather than beneficial, to a group of people. However, white privilege is evident in just about every corner of society, and it is clear to me that it provides many advantages on a daily basis. For instance, in school, I believe that the standards I am held to do not reflect my race, which cannot be said for everyone.

White privilege has shaped my world into something of a bubble; I am exempt from many of the hardships faced by people of color, which puts me at an advantage. Until recently, I did not even recognize that there was a bubble. Now that I do, the bubble and its privileges horrify me: there is no legitimate reason why one race should be more deserving of this privilege than others. White privilege is even more appalling in light of recent events such as the police shooting of an unarmed person in Ferguson, similarly the choking in Staten Island, or the statistics regarding American incarceration. Many remain ignorant to the racial privileges they have and how unjust those advantages are.

The privileges I experience are, for me, the norm—I cannot picture what my life would be like without them. I am committed to working towards a world where everyone has these advantages. While my race brings me many privileges, perhaps the most powerful is the ability to disregard my race.


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