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Opinion: We must speak clearly, analyze views other than our own on White privilege

In The Times’ weekend edition, I see that Rep. Emory Dunahoo is raising questions about the teaching of “White privilege.” I encourage The Times to explore this issue in an article or editorial because I feel that the term means one thing to someone on the left and something else to someone on the right. When two sides approach an issue, it is important that both sides mean the same thing when using the same term, or confusion will ensue.

Dunahoo defines “oppressive” as “malicious, unjust, wrong,” whereas the five dictionaries I consulted define it as “burdensome.” His usage of the term opens the door to misunderstanding.

I Googled “White privilege” hoping to find a simple definition. The following comes closest to what I was looking for: White privilege does not mean that White people don’t have to struggle to overcome difficulties, but it does mean that those difficulties are not likely to arise because of the color of their skin.

The mention of White privilege might come up in school while discussing literature. For example, if a class were reading “To Kill A Mockingbird,” a teacher could ask, “Is the testimony of the White man given more credence than the testimony of the Black man simply because he is White?” If the answer is “yes,” then that would be an example of White privilege.

Please forgive me if I am reading too much into Dunahoo’s action, but his questions seem to imply that schools indoctrinate students. I would like to suggest that his questions reflect a naivete about young people and education. I taught high school English for 20 years, and I found that, in most cases, high school students had already formed their worldviews, and their views closely aligned with those of their parents and the communities in which they were raised. Getting students to consider views beyond their own was the challenge.

I would never deny that we humans are easy to manipulate: Advertising works. Political propaganda works. But the danger is not that a “Proud Boy” will take a class on White privilege and thereafter dedicate his life to Black Lives Matter. No, what’s dangerous is when we just listen to propaganda that reinforces what we already believe.

Parents, I want to assure you that, in general, you have successfully passed on your values to your children. You have little to fear from a high school teacher or college professor whose views represent a perspective different from your own. If your children have been taught to think critically (analytically) they will recognize bias in what they hear or read. That is what is important.

Brian E. Moss


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