Meme About White Privilege Stirs a Passionate Response

The mere mention of  of race and white privilege can get people very emotional. Check out this dialogue that had been on our Facebook page.

It began with the thought:

“This example could be about race or wealth. Either way …”

Another commenter said:

Thought you might like to see this. I think (hope) you’re like me & want to represent everything we post as factual as possible. Partially true, but yeah – it’s kind of misleading: “McDowell in 2012 received five years in state prison in Connecticut in a plea agreement reached with prosecutors over numerous charges, one of which included felony larceny. The larceny charge resulted from sending her son to a school district in which she did not not live, and it drew a public outcry. But she was arrested again, after the school incident, on charges that she offered drugs and prostitutes to undercover police officers.”

From another:

I am saddened that this post was created ABC’s shared (sic) since it is so misleading. It has nothing to do about the difference between races or money. The first is about the sale of narcotics. This is why we have such a divide in this country, false narratives.

Then a friend added:

“Do you remember when I posted this on my page and people lost their minds? Mostly people with white privilege of course.”

I said:

“I saw that, and we are fortunate that our discussion has a ton of other people to focus on. And the underlying message of race and class discrimination is the real problem.”

To which someone responded:

This is a totally confusing comment when the two situations are comparing something false with something true. Isn’t there a different example of a black woman’s sentence that is based on a true racial bias? Why is it so great to compare these two women to prove racial bias when the one part of the comparison is a false narrative? How does this prove racial bias?

When I asked her to look beyond these cases to see the larger picture, she wrote:

My question is… how do lies about people and situations further a worthy cause? Truth should be shared instead of false stories so people can rally behind a true cause. Why not share the cases that are “beyond” this false one that is supposed to paint a larger picture. To me it just shows that there must not be too much out there if the whole premise starts of with a lie. Feels like reading Alma 11 all over again. Why not share true stories?

Another commenter said:

Has anyone actually gone out and read about this? Google it and read a fact check site. Tanya had 6 additional criminal charges, including attempting to sell drugs and prostitution to and undercover officer, other than the school district issue. Also their crimes were committed in 2 different states. Tanya made a plea deal for the 5 years.

I suggested  we pray for her. The commenter responded:

“We absolutely should pray for these folks. And I also pray for people to read for themselves stop being fooled by the media.”


Here are my thoughts:

While this meme has several structural flaws, it highlights a discussion, as race intersects with class issues …

The problem is real (far beyond these two cases).

African Americans are more likely than white Americans to be arrested; once arrested, they are more likely to be convicted; and once convicted, and they are more likely to experience lengthy prison sentences. African-American adults are 5.9 times as likely to be incarcerated than whites and Hispanics are 3.1 times as likely.  … one of every three black boys born in that year could expect to go to prison in his lifetime, as could one of every six Latinos—compared to one of every seventeen white boys.

SOURCE: The Sentencing Project.

Read more on our blog about this topic

— M.S.

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