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Woman Explains How White Privilege Took Her From Prison to Ivy League

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The incarceration rate among black and brown people far surpasses that of whites. For most blacks, having a prison record means being headed for a deαd end, with close to nothing available in terms of future job opportunities or education. One white woman, however, arrested for selling heroin, explains how her white privilege got her out of trouble.

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

Photo Credit: The Washington Post

In an essay published in the Washington Post, Cornell University alum Keri Blakinger describes how she was caught with a large sum of drugs, but still managed to re-enter society relatively unscathed.

“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,” she writes.

That’s a lot of heroine, and considering how many black men are locked up for carrying relatively small amounts of marijuana, one would assume that Blakinger was locked up for at least 10 years. That assumption would be wrong.

“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,” she concluded.

According to Blakinger, is was her white privilege that saved her from the plight of most drug offenders.

She observes: “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.”

Blakinger wonders whether she would’ve been allowed to finish her Ivy League education had she been a black student convicted on a drug charge. Sadly, most black people already know the answer to that.

1 Comment

  1. Sally G

    January 24, 2015 at 9:21 am

    Brava for Ms Blakinger for speaking up! It would be all too easy to breathe a sigh of relief, bury this, and not look back. (Although I guess one would always be in fear of the facts being discovered, but it still takes courage to make this public.)

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