Sociology Graduate Student Wins Prize from National Organization

Posted: July 26, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

By Ryann Doyle

Mason sociology graduate student Victoria Watson recently received a best paper prize from the Racial and Ethnic Minorities Division of the Society for the Study of Social Problems. Her award-winning paper is titled “White Privilege as an Agent Utilized to Perpetuate Racism in the United States.”

Watson chose to explore white privilege because she believes it is a modern-day, invisible system of racial domination that is used to oppress people.

“Being a Caucasian woman of French and Scottish heritage, I am given opportunities that are denied to my counterparts of color,” explains Watson. “Though I was born into this system of racial privilege, I do not have to accept such a system, and I can work to dismantle it.”

Originally written for her Racial and Ethnic Relations graduate course, her paper is meant to help start a dialogue about this issue. Watson claims that white privilege hurts both those it privileges and those it disadvantages, and it needs to be exposed if further strides are to be made to eradicate racism in the United States.

In her paper, Watson writes, “The first step that needs to be taken by white people is for them not to be afraid to admit that they have benefited from white privilege. This does not mean that they are frauds and undeserving of their success, it simply means that they face a choice about what to do with their success.”

Watson argues that by engaging in difficult dialogues around issues of white privilege, and through developing cooperation with and empathy for people of color, white people can make progress toward a social change and a more equitable society.

Watson plans on exploring white privilege further, but probably not until she completes her master’s program and pursues a doctoral degree. In the meantime, she is working on her thesis on the stigma of HIV/AIDS.

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