Spelman College President Beverly Daniel Tatum recently announced she would be stepping down from her position after more than 12 years of leading the historically black, all-female college. But before she passes on the torch, she stopped by HuffPost Live to discuss her legacy with the institution.
Tatum weighed in on how “privilege” affects higher education and recalled a particular conversation with a professor who lamented that white students “lost out on the opportunity” to go to school alongside bright, young black students.
“The concept of privilege is really important,” says Tatum. “I was speaking to a white educator who said, ‘I love visiting Spelman and I can see why young women of African descent want to be here, but I think it’s unfortunate that white institutions don’t have access to these students.'”
While Tatum understood what the professor was articulating, she pointed out why such a statement was problematic.
“I understood what he was trying to say, but I also heard in that question a lot of privilege because the understanding was … white kids are losing out because these students are here,” she said. “And I thought, when that parent struggles to write the check to Spelman, they’re not thinking about what the benefit is for white people. They’re thinking about what’s going to be best [and] most empowering for my young woman.”
As Tatum suggested, the professor’s own privilege may have overshadowed his understanding of the complex issues at hand and could reflect some of the deeply-seeded problems within race and education.