Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, Blogger, Speaker

What Does White Privilege Mean to You?

Former Westport Resident Talks About White Privilege

TEAM Westport is our town’s committee dedicated to multi-cultural awareness. The acronym TEAM stands for is Together Effectively Achieving Multiculturalism. I am a member.

This year's contest topic is White Privilege.

Presenting a prize awarded in the 2016 contest with TEAM Chair Harold Bailey, left, and First Selectman Jim Marpe.

We are holding our 4th annual essay contest for high school students. The contest announcement says, “In 1,000 words or less, describe how you understand the term ‘white privilege’. To what extent do you think this privilege exists? What impact do you think it has had in your life—whatever your racial or ethnic identity—and in our society more broadly?”

Quoting Dan Woog in his blog 06880 on Wednesday: “Now it’s received international attention, through an AP story and on a host of TV newscastsThe controversy struck close to home for one Staples High School grad. Elizabeth – who grew up here, and now lives on the West Coast – writes:

I’ve been thinking about my own privileges a lot recently. One thing rings particularly true: Privilege is invisible to those who have it. . . .We assume that all others have these same privileges, because the absence of a privilege is something we do not often have to think about.”

You can read the rest of her post at Dan’s blog. There have been 47 comments at last count! I hope we get an equal or greater number of entrants in the contest.

Susan heads TEAM’s essay contest. She may correct me, but I think I suggested this topic. It has certainly aroused interest.

Another View of Privilege

Two panels from Toby Morris' comic strip on privilege

Two panels from Toby Morris’ comic strip on privilege. Richard’s home is warm; Paula’s is damp and drafty.

My niece Comet posted this on Facebook yesterday. “Toby Morris, an Auckland [New Zealand] based illustrator, has created a comic strip which can teach us an important lesson: that not everyone has the same opportunities in life.”

It is not about race, but rather about the different experiences that lead to different outcomes.

Read all the panels. The last two make the point so well!

Do Our School Buses Need Seat Belts?

On public radio yesterday I heard that our Connecticut State legislature is to consider a bill to require seat belts on school buses. Not just any seat belts, but shoulder and lap straps. Maybe the buses in Westport already have these. Our children were grown when we moved here so we never had school bus riders.

The legislation has come up before. It was defeated because of cost – $12,000 per seat!

I couldn’t help thinking, when I heard this, how much good that money could do in under-funded schools in our cities. I was imagining children in Bridgeport riding with their seat belts on. Then they get to school. The teachers are underpaid. Resources are scarce or non-existent.

A mother is promoting another try. Maybe if I had lost a child or feared for my child’s safety on the school bus, I would feel differently. But we can’t be safe from every possibility of harm. Otherwise one would just stay in one’s house all the time, not drive, fly, or venture far from home. What do you think?

My Gymnast Granddaughter 

Nkiru at recent meet

Nkiru at recent meet

I’m so proud when I see my granddaughter Nkiru performing her gymnastics routines. She’s amazing.

She started gymnastics when she seven. The practices are long and hard.

She has been dedicated. She’s persevered through changes in coaches and gyms.

Of course her parents’ dedication has also been amazing. Driving her to the gym, waiting or returning to pick her up, going to meets on weekends, all have required commitment.

She landed successfully on the beam!

She landed successfully on the beam!

Her dad has been a hero. His work allows him a greater flexibility than my daughter has.

I haven’t been to a meet recently. But I’ve seen pictures. She posted a few on Facebook recently. I asked her to send me her favorites!

Now I’m sharing two of them with you.

Update on Boko Haram

The Nigerian online media Daily Post had a story by . He reported on an update by Theatre Commander of Operation Lafiya Dole, Major General Leo Irabor.

“He said in spite of the regrettable occurrence of January 17 which saw accidental bombing of civilians and medical workers, troops had continued to gain traction by recording successes in operational engagements.”

According to the piece, over 3000 Nigerian Boko Haram militants and twenty six foreigners from Chad and Niger were captured. The major general recounted eight specific actions with more details than you’ll probably want to read. But still no news on the 200 still-missing girls from Chibok.

Buchi Emecheta from British Council Literature

Buchi Emecheta from British Council Literature

Buchi Emecheta Honored in Letter from her Son

I’d had the novel The Slave Girl by Buchi Emecheta for ages. I started it once and didn’t finish. I finally read it on the way to Nigeria in December and finished after I arrived. I loved it.

The Slave Girl recounts the story of a girl who was ‘obanje,’ a child who dies repeatedly and is reborn only to die again. Her father endured hardships to get the charms to end her ‘obanje’ status. She is also given facial tattoos so that she will not die or be sold into slavery.

Emecheta's The Slave Girl

Emecheta’s The Slave Girl

But her parents die of the ‘felenza’ epidemic in the early 1900’s when she is seven.

Her brother struggles with his conscience but ultimately sells her to be a slave in Onitsha. He needs the money for his ‘coming of age’ ceremony.

I loved the way Emecheta described life in Onitsha at the time. The market scenes are completely realistic.

I finally figured out the ‘felenza’ was influenza. Other English words too are given in their Igbo ‘interpretation.’

Emecheta died recently. Her son wrote a wonderful tribute.




Author: Catherine Onyemelukwe

Author, blogger, speaker. Born in New York, grew up in mid west United States, lived in Nigeria for 24 years, back in U.S. since 1986. Advocate for racial justice.


  1. So much to comment on in this post. I’ll take seat belts wearing my Public Health hat. School busses are big, clunky, yellow and seldom have accidents. Very seldom. When they do more often it’s rollovers. Seat belts can trap small children in that circumstance. Having seat belts on school busses also requires a plan (personnel?) to make sure the littlest ones get theirs on and off. If I still had young children at home I would oppose seat belts on busses for their safety. Five hundred children are killed in automobile accidents every year, only four in busses. Estimates are that three point seat belts on busses would reduce those four deaths to two.