Letters to the Editor

Gretchen M. Engel: White privilege persists

The Dec. 19 letter “ No ‘white privilege’” questioned the force of white privilege and suggested “good morals” and hard work could overcome the effects of 350 years of slavery followed by a century of Jim Crow.

The Dec. 20 obituary of Tuskegee Airman Lowell Steward (“ Airman broke barriers in sky”) offers a sound rebuttal. Despite flying more than 100 combat missions during World War II and earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, when Steward was discharged in 1946, he couldn’t get a loan for a home because he was black. Meanwhile, white veterans were buying homes with the help of the GI Bill.

Although Steward eventually got a house, thanks to redlining and residential segregation, he was unable to amass the same level of wealth as his white counterparts. Consequently, despite Steward’s strong work ethic and unimpeachable morals, his children and and grandchildren will inherit less than the offspring of white World War II veterans.

That’s the insidious nature of white privilege. It persists through generations despite our best efforts to ignore the power of history.

Gretchen M. Engel