White ≠ better


art by Maddy Mueller

Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi

White privilege shows prejudice alive and well
While visiting my father in a federal prison camp in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, about a month ago, my mother, brother and I had an unfortunate experience that will stick with me for years.
There is a rule everyone who visits federal prisons knows. No one may enter from 9-11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday. Visitors may arrive either from 8-9 a.m. or from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., but not during those restricted hours.
We reached the prison at 8:50 a.m. We entered, but because of a problem with the computer system, my mom, brother and I were specifically not allowed to visit with my dad. Finally, when the problem was fixed at around 9:50 a.m., after waiting an entire hour, we hoped the guard would allow my father to come visit us even though it was during the restricted hours. However, even though the error was the prison system’s and not ours, the guard did not let us enter until 11 a.m.
While we were waiting, at 10:30 a.m a woman wearing a hijab walked in with her two-and-a-half year-old son to visit her husband.
Immediately, the guard stood up and told her she would have to wait until 11 a.m. to visit. Since it was cold outside, the woman asked if she could sit in the empty visitor’s hall with her son for the 30 minutes before she could visit the person she had come to see. The guard refused, so the two walked out to wait until the appropriate time.
Ten minutes later, three white adults walked in to visit an inmate; the time was still before 11 a.m. They came to the desk, and the guard told them they had to wait. They asked the guard if they could wait inside until 11 a.m., the same question the Muslim lady had asked the desk just 10 minutes prior, and the guard said yes.
The guard forced that poor woman and her child to wait outside in their car in the cold while allowing these three people to wait inside in the heated building. Both had the same question, yet they received opposite answers.
What happened was disgusting. I immediately elbowed my brother and whispered to him the scene that had just unfolded. Knowing I could have easily been in the place of that woman made me feel like a second or even third class citizen.
Those who claim white privilege does not exist or used to exist and is no more, are oblivious to the reality. One in every 15 African American men are imprisoned compared to one in every 106 white men.
I believe when a person talks about white privilege, it is not meant to offend white people. White privilege exists, though most of the time it occurs subconsciously. According to Mother Jones, New York University neuroscientist David Amodio conducted a study in which he showed pictures of white and black people and, subconsciously, people reacted differently to the black people compared to the whites.  The fact is that if most people in this country, and in other developed nations, see an African American guy walking down a street and a white guy walking down a street, they would probably be more intimidated by the black guy, even if they are dressed the same.
According to the Huffington Post, although African Americans make up only 14 percent of drug users, they are 37 percent more likely to be arrested for drug distribution or use.
People like Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity, who refuse to believe white privilege exists, are too arrogant and ignorant to see past their point of view. O’Reilly always mentions the story of how his father got a home near New York only because his father was a veteran.
What he fails to acknowledge is African American veterans from the same war were not offered the opportunity to purchase a home there because they were black.
Even today, according to ProPublica, there is discrimination when people wish to buy houses. Banks deny four million African Americans and Latinos the chance to buy houses each year.
We need to learn that people are still people, no matter what race, religion, ethnicity or class they are. White, black, brown, Muslim, Christian, Jew, poor, rich, Asian, African, Hispanic or Arab; everyone should be offered the same opportunities, whether that is being allowed to sit in a heated hall while waiting to visit your close family or friend, or given the same treatment from the police, because no one chose to be born the way they are. It is not just or fair in any way to treat one type of person different than another just because of the way they look. People are people.
By Abdul-Rahman Abdul-Kafi
Art by Maddy Mueller
Have you ever experienced any instances of white privilege? Tell us in the comments section below.