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Brown U's Editorial Board 'Deeply Troubled' by Politician's Denial of 'White Privilege'

Susan Jones
By Susan Jones | November 12, 2015 | 9:28 AM EST

 

The Speaker of the R.I. House, Rep. Nicholas Mattiello (D-Cranston), has drawn the wrath of The Brown Daily Herald for saying he doesn't think "white privilege" exists.

As noted in a Nov. 11 editorial, Mattiello told The Providence Journal on Oct. 31: "I'm not sure I've ever thought of the phrase 'white privilege.' I don't think there is a white privilege."

(The newspaper called it ironic that Mattiello made the comment while advocating passage of legislation banning racial profiling.)

Mattiello also told the newspaper, “I absolutely disagree with that phrase. I don’t think anybody in society views any particular nationality as having any privilege over any other. I certainly don’t.”

The Daily Herald editorial board responded: "We are deeply troubled by one of the most powerful politicians in the state government denying a reality that affects his constituents and Rhode Islanders more broadly, including students here at Brown. To argue that white Americans do not have unfair advantages over people of color ignores both the voiced experiences of people of color and the corroborating data."

The editorial points to a survey released by the Associated Press showing that more than half of black millennials know a victim of police brutality, while less than one third of white millennials do -- "a poignant reminder of how white privilege inheres in our own generation," the editorial says.

"Further data — like that demonstrating that white job applicants are more likely to receive a callback after submitting job applications than people of color, or that of the 46,235 New Yorkers stopped by police last year, 55 percent were black, and only 12 percent were white -- illustrate how entrenched white privilege remains in our society and how misguided Mattiello’s statement is."

'Microaggressions'

Completely unrelated to the Brown newspaper editorial, The Los Angeles Times on Thursday published an article explaining that on many college campuses, "microaggressions" are seen as "the new face of racism."

Microaggressions include "everyday slights and snubs, sometimes unintentional,"  rather than "blatant acts of bias."

According to the newspaper, the phenomenon "is drawing widespread attention across college campuses and kicking up a debate about social justice and free speech rights."

Students are sharing their experiences with microaggression on websites and Facebook pages at -- you guessed it -- Brown, as well as Harvard, Oberlin,  Dartmouth, Swarthmore, Columbia, Willamette and other universities."

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