Importance of Higher Education Due to Privileges

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The college atmosphere and college itself is complex in nature; there are so many factors that help to determine what a perfect college environment would be. As a result, colleges often falls short of some of these key factors. One of the most commonly missed factors when it comes to college environments is the acknowledgment of white privilege – a subdivision of social privilege. The lack of acknowledgment of white privilege is due to the societal division that has derived from segregation, which has been in place since early higher education. That division has a major effect on minorities and their performance. Although there are attempts to rectify this wrongdoing in modern times by several universities, there is still a forever lingering presence of white privilege.

When thinking about what it means to be part of the majority or being privileged, it may be linked with the idea of a numerical advantage. On the contrary, privilege does not have to do so much with the number of people in any group, but their access to ideological and material resources. White privilege is defined as the unearned access, resources and social status that is systematically given to white people at the expense of people of color (National Conference for Community and Justice). White privilege is often invisible to the white people who have it. “As a group, White people experience privilege not because of any action on their part necessarily, but merely due to the fact that Whiteness and normalcy are assumed to be one and the same in our society.” (Lemaire 3). Their lack of understanding about their privilege gives room for that privilege to ensue, creating a vicious cycle of constant privilege. The lack of knowledge about privilege is omnipresent in white people’s lives and is automatically passed on to their offspring because “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” so therefore the parents lack the ability to then teach their offspring about privilege (Cambridge Dictionary). This cycle has been in existence since before the beginning of higher education.

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In addition, higher education has existed in the United States since 1636 (Oldest). Furthermore, education was segregated until the 1954 Supreme Court decision of Brown v. Board of Education. Now originally that supreme court decision may have been meant to apply to only the elementary and secondary school level but shortly the postsecondary level followed suit; meaning there have been about 300 years of division where whites and people of color went to different higher education institutions. Those years of severance displayed the low quality and unequal education that people of color, especially blacks, had to endure. Non-white segregated schools lacked funding for proper books and school resources that promote educational growth. That educational lack causes a huge disparity in lifestyles between people of color and whites. With more resources, whites are able to get higher paying jobs and live a more relaxed lifestyle. Now, a racial division leads to a socioeconomic division. Segregation not only hindered the growth of minorities as students but that division was the start of white privilege and socioeconomic privilege as result as well, within higher education.

These days, a college degree serves as one of the few tickets into a socially and economically comfortable lifestyle. As Charles B. Rangel once said, ”Encouragement of higher education for our youth is critical to the success of our collective future.” However, the majority of the minorities in college don’t graduate. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, the 6-year graduation rate in 2014 was the lowest for Black and Indian/Alaska Native students at 41 percent. Therefore, informing the young minorities to attend higher education institutions to better the state of their respective minority communities and themselves is not feasible if higher education does not rectify the white privilege environment that prevents most of the minority from succeeding through graduation.

Despite higher education being in an integrated school system, a 2010 study conducted by Annemarie Vaccaro, described the social climate on a college campus in the northeast as hostile for women and people of color. According to studies at other institutions, researchers have reported that 65 percent of people of color endure racial harassment. In fact, about 50 percent of white students admit to displaying open hatred toward others due to race, involving physical violence, name calling, and negative facial expressions (Boatright et al.). Daily verbal, behavioral offenses steered toward people of color mold a negative environment for minorities. That environment for people of color in higher education is an impracticable circumstance for people to graduate in. People of color in college are expected to jump suddenly into white norms of behavior, without consideration for the unique conditions that contribute to that expectation being difficult, if not impossible, to meet.

If people of color mention white privilege, they risk being seen as individuals who are merely seeking illegitimate special favors. Attempts to address matters of privilege with white people are often met with a wall of triviality, possibly even hostility that is very difficult to infiltrate. (Boatright et al.) This is the hindrance when it comes to moving towards a better environment.

Today, this country prides itself on the vast strides it has taken to develop equality and unity. Numerous universities have attempted to include diversity training as part of the curriculum. History and literature courses honoring non-white cultures are widespread in schools. Furthermore, various affirmative action admission policies and scholarship programs are accessible to minority students. There is no denying that efforts have been made to decrease the immense gap between white and minority advantages. However, amidst these well-intentioned efforts, white privilege continues to mold the realities of both white and minority students.

Higher education, ideally, should tremendously increase the knowledge, skills, and capability for critical thinking in its students. However, in this racially imbalanced society, college is the culmination of a “white” education, and regularly overlooks its own participation in long-standing social injustices and inequities. White education gives no training to help white individuals recognize themselves as an oppressor, as an unjustly advantaged person, or as a cooperator in a corrupted culture (McIntosh 31). However, it has been recognized that simply presenting white students with Peggy McIntosh’s list of white privileges can have a measurable positive outcome on their views about privilege. Following those results, professors need to be instructed to teach their white students to comprehend their own privileged statuses in the college environment relative to those of marginalized groups. (Boatright et al.) As teachers, race relations can improve in this country by helping our white students become more aware of situations that are influenced by racism and privilege. (Boatright et al.) The most logical solution to the lack of acknowledgment of white privilege is a Privilege Awareness Training. Similar to Georgetown’s Bystander training that is used to help prevent sexual violence/assault. PAT would be a mandatory higher education program that breaks down the borders of societal division in the community. With the assistance of staff and even students who have previously participated in the program could help white people understand different perspectives besides their own groups, and how their lives differ from those of minority backgrounds. This type of training will not only improve the college environment but will also improve society itself (life after college). It seems like common sense but if you only know about your life or people similar to you then how can you know about another group’s circumstances?

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Importance of Higher Education Due to Privileges. (2022, Feb 01). Retrieved from

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