I was not surprised to read that when Joseph Trenn (March 8) was stopped by police recently, they just told him to get his car inspected and carry his license. I, too, have been stopped for an outdated sticker, and I also was simply urged to get right with the law.

I am not a person of color, as I surmise is true of Trenn. I know that if he and I were not colorless people, we might have been treated more harshly.

However, freedom from harassment and oppression is not privilege. By definition, privilege is the special favorable treatment of a few, not the normal treatment most people receive, which all should receive.

I expect the term “white privilege” will continue in use, because distorting the plain meaning of language is irritating. It seizes attention, even if its logical dissonance and apparent manipulative intent are sensed only subconsciously.

Of course Trenn is correct that a discussion of race is necessary now, as it was when I heard Martin Luther King Jr. preach in church in the early 1960s. Unfortunately, it probably will be for a long time.

But to claim that the problem of oppression is a problem of privilege is dishonest. Expecting others to agree with such a claim is to treat them with contempt. Misuse of language for emotional effect will not foster a meeting of minds, which we badly need if the evils of oppression of some among us is to end, or even decline, in our lifetimes.

Richard Andrews


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(1) comment

Heather Juliussen-Stevenson

There’s nothing dishonest about telling the truth: white people collect interest on their color every day. When I was 17 or 18, I was hanging out with my best friend (a woman of color) because school was cancelled. Two police officers approached us to make sure that we weren’t skipping school, and while I was supposed to be pulling out the flyer announcing that school was cancelled, I pointed a finger pistol at the officers and told them to “Put ‘em up.” If I wasn’t white, I would’ve died that day. The (white) police officers laughed. It may be the single stupidest, most selfish, racially insensitive thing I’ve ever done.
Students of color in Vermont are disproportionately targeted for punishment and are punished more harshly for the same infractions as white students (http://hrc.vermont.gov/sites/hrc/files/publications/Kicked-Out.pdf )
Vermont Law Enforcement agencies are more likely to search blacks for contraband than whites even though whites are proportionately more likely to be found with contraband (http://mediad.publicbroadcasting.net/p/vpr/files/201803/a_deeper_dive_into_racial_disparities_in_policing_in_vermont_3.26_final.pdf)
Vermont has one of the lowest percentages of people of color in the country, but it ranks #1 when it comes to incarcerating black men (http://hrc.vermont.gov/sites/hrc/files/publications/2017-12-15%20%20Report%20and%20Recommendations%20Act%2054%20Final.pdf and http://www.sentencingproject.org/publications/color-of-justice-racial-and-ethnic-disparity-in-state-prisons/)
But keep on crying because people want to do make sure we’re balancing the ledgers accurately. White skin pays. It’s not like I’m passive in this. I’m actively enjoying the benefits.

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