“First world problem” or no, it’s a perfect example of how white privilege isn’t just about money but about dignity, and that dignity is frequently denied to people of color even when they are wealthy…or even just better off than the average Jill and Joe flying economy class. So often I hear white people whine about the concept of white privilege because they don’t see themselves as privileged, since they aren’t wealthy like black sports figures. And while it is true, class privilege is a big measure of privilege, a black person of the same class will be LESS privileged, and will be subjected to indignities — and dangers — that a white person of the same class will not endure.

I am reminded of something I observed some time ago at an academic conference I was attending in Chicago. One evening a group of black women attending the conference came down a staircase in our hotel dressed in beautiful, expensive looking evening wear. They were ready for a fun night on the town. But a white security guard humiliated them. He stopped and interrogated them, having assumed the women, by virtue of their race, were high priced call girls. He directed them to leave the hotel and never come back.

These women were college professors — black women with PhD’s, one of them a top administrator at her university.

The women took the issue up with hotel management — they were not about to be treated that way. But the damage had been done. And of course, the worst of it is that it’s the kind of thing professional black women, and other professional women of color, have to endure constantly.

So, “first world problem” or not, those incidents represent how persistent racism is, and how being professional or well-off provides no real escape from it.

Retired professor, feminist, writer, photographer, activist, grandmother of 5, overall Wise Woman. Phd UIA School of Journalism & Mass Communication, 1994.

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