College President Wants All Whites to Acknowledge Their ‘Privilege’

Head of the private Seattle University says people must 'make compensation or reparation in practical ways'

by Elizabeth M. Economou | Updated 14 Feb 2018 at 7:00 AM

In a polarizing opinion piece entitled “White Privilege Diminishes Our Humanity: 10 Commitments for Meaningful Change,” Stephen V. Sundborg, the president of Seattle University in Washington State — and now an apparent social justice warrior — calls on white people in this country to acknowledge their “privilege.”

He offered what he called 10 “Commitments for White America” — which seems a clear play on the Ten Commandments, the biblical law of the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Seattle University is a private Jesuit college. This action seems to perpetuate a narrative of victimization and also indirectly demonizes law enforcement — themes that have become cliché in academia.

A Jesuit priest, Sundborg published his op-ed in The Seattle Times on Sunday, a few days ahead of the start of Lent on Wednesday, February 14 — also Valentine’s Day — as recognized by Catholics worldwide. Sundborg highlights division instead of delivering a message of forgiveness.

His opinion piece appears based on unsubstantiated claims, such as, “More than half of all Americans who apply for jobs get them not only because of their qualifications but also because of who they know and their networks. Whites must go out of their way not just for nondiscriminating hiring practices, but to be those persons in companies and part of that network that give blacks in practice equal access to jobs.”

And this: “The most segregated morning in America is Sunday morning, when whites and blacks are more apart in their church communities than at any other time of the week.”

Let’s pause on that point for just a moment. In my own church last Sunday, the Lord’s Prayer was recited in four different languages, including Slavonic, Arabic, Greek and English. Congregants include Eritreans, Greeks, Russians, Armenians, Palestinians, even converts formerly from other Christian denominations. Not too long ago, a visiting bishop from Kenya offered the homily — and all are welcome.

Still, perhaps most troubling is Sundborg’s support for Black Lives Matter — which maintains that police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today. Yet Sundborg does not address the problems of absent fathers, drugs, violent crime, or corrupt politicians in inner cities across America, including Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, and even Philadelphia.

And let’s not forget Ferguson — “a narrative as stubborn as it was false,” said Heather Mac Donald of the Manhattan Institute, author of “The War on Cops: How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe.”

Sandborg insisted, “Whites must show up and be present and protest with blacks in demonstrations such as Black Lives Matter — because black lives have not mattered to whites as much as have white lives.”

He also wrote, “Whites should accept black athletes taking the occasion of the national anthem to make visible the injustices they face often daily, even as those players honor those who have fought for our freedom.”

Sundborg might consider recognizing what Mac Donald already has. As she noted in her book, “When the cops back off, blacks pay the greatest price. That truth would have come as no surprise to the legions of inner-city residents who fervently support the police and whose voices are almost never heard in the media.”

In the months after the Ferguson incident in August 2014 — when police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed 18-year-old Michael Brown in self-defense — the media, left-wing politicians, and college presidents, according to Mac Donald, amplified the lie that the event was racially motivated. The year after, homicides spiked nearly 17 percent in our country's biggest cities — in what the author has termed as the "Ferguson Effect," a lethal combination of depolicing and rising crime.

Sundborg's embrace of such a divisive group is enigmatic at best. LifeZette reached out several times to Seattle University for clarity on this matter and others, but did not hear back before publication.

What's clear, though, is that Sundborg, who earns in excess of $300,000 annually as a university president, risks alienating a lot of people — as comments on his Seattle Times opinion piece indicate.

Related: Our Kids Are Being Taught They're Flawed if They're White

"You, sir, in your academic profession may have had white privilege, but most of us had to go through a lot of work and turmoil to earn what we got," wrote one reader. "Feel free to leave the college campus and learn what life is really about."

Despite his calls for "meaningful change," Sundborg's support of divisive identity politics may further erode communities in desperate need of being built up — and that would be a shame.

Here are a few of his explicit 10 "Commitments for White America," as quoted from his op ed:

Reread the true American history, including all the black heroes who built our country and suffered terribly ...

Make compensation or reparation in practical ways by providing young black people strong mentors in school, extra financial assistance to attend college and better advice to know how to succeed within education.

Every white person needs to visit a prison or a jail to know firsthand the black persons who undeservedly and disproportionately are there, and the conditions they live in ...

He also says, "All whites must ask themselves, how many black friends do I have? How many times have I been in their homes, enjoyed and relaxed with their families and lives, included them in my life? Friendship is the most essential fulcrum for prying loose white privilege."

Elizabeth Economou is a former CNBC staff writer and adjunct professor. Follow her on Twitter.

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