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January 22, 2015

"Heroin addiction sent me to prison. White privilege got me out and to the Ivy League."

The provocative title of this post is the headline of this provocative Washington Post piece authored by Keri Blakinger. Here is how it gets started (with links from the original): 

I was a senior at Cornell University when I was arrested for heroin possession.  As an addict — a condition that began during a deep depression — I was muddling my way through classes and doing many things I would come to regret, including selling drugs to pay for my own habit.  I even began dating a man with big-time drug connections that put me around large amounts of heroin.  When police arrested me in 2010, I was carrying six ounces, an amount they valued at $50,000 — enough to put me in prison for up to 10 years.  Cornell suspended me indefinitely and banned me from campus. I had descended from a Dean’s List student to a felon.

But instead of a decade behind bars and a life grasping for the puny opportunities America affords some ex-convicts, I got a second chance.  In a plea deal, I received a sentence of 2½ years. After leaving prison, I soon got a job as a reporter at a local newspaper. Then Cornell allowed me to start taking classes again, and I graduated last month. What made my quick rebound possible?

I am white.

Second chances don’t come easily to people of color in the United States.  But when you are white, society offers routes to rebuild your life.  When found guilty of a drug crime, white people receive shorter sentences than black people. And even after prison, white men fare better in the job market than black men with identical criminal records.

It was prison that clued me in to just how much I benefit from systemic racism in our society. Until then, I hadn’t thought much about white privilege, which is exactly how privilege works — as a white person, I could ignore it.  But sitting behind bars, I saw how privilege touches almost everything, especially the penal system.

January 22, 2015 at 09:39 AM | Permalink


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In my experience, it's not just whiteness that leads to some getting breaks that others wouldn't, although whiteness is certainly part of it. Socio-economic status and femaleness contribute too.

Posted by: white female AFPD | Jan 22, 2015 10:39:00 AM

@white female AFPD

Indeed. I'd argue that class is the more important factor here. What got her into Cornell in the first place? All that cultural capital. Why should Cornell let all that investment go to waste because of a little...youthful indiscretion....(ahem.)

Posted by: Daniel | Jan 22, 2015 1:16:52 PM

If she exploits the White Privilege rap she will gain some notoriety and get ahead. Did she have sex with anyone to get ahead?

Posted by: Liberty1st | Jan 22, 2015 11:40:53 PM

What the baby boomers are doing to the Millenials is unforgivable. History's Most Annoying Generation persuaded this child of their left wing lying propaganda. Does her privilege have anything to do with her frickin' IQ of 150? Again, welcome to the Twilight Zone. Up is down, black is white on this crazy lawyer planet.

Imagine a black feminist Muslim lesbian with that IQ. Who would get the privilege if she tried to compete for some slot anywhere?

The statutory and cultural privileges are going to under performing, crybaby minorities, not pulling their weight. If the hierarchy comes across one with the slightest competence, they go to the head of the line. Despite a low IQ, and possible dementia from diabetic effect on brain arterial blood supply, Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor, was admitted to Princeton over several students with better grades, from the same deprived neighborhood, with probably far better character. Being a total bitch on wheels adds 10 points to the sick calculus of the vile feminist lawyer seeking the destruction of America.

The Washington Post is now a propaganda outlet owned by a homosexual. It has the same credibility as the web site of David Duke. Filled with Kissinger lies.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Jan 23, 2015 1:19:17 AM

Regarding the first comment -- yes, various criteria influence things here, though in each case things like race, gender, class etc. make it that much more difficult all things being equal.

Posted by: Joe | Jan 23, 2015 8:20:15 PM

Miss White.

Takes some guts and strength to recover like you have and admit your status because you are white.

You will go far, i wish well. Hang in there. If by chance you can help a person of color avoid the mess, do so. Knowing most wouldnt, but that person is just as deserving as anyone else.

Keep your nose clean and stay on the straight and narrow road. Besh wishes.

Posted by: 187Midwest Guy | Jan 23, 2015 9:39:18 PM

Was it the fact that she was female thus a benefit from "affirmative action", apply?

If she were male would this happen, or was she 1/4 black thus benefiting from being white but can claim "minority status"?

Posted by: alex | Jan 27, 2015 2:07:13 AM

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