Do You Have White Privilege? OZY Asks This and More of Nashville's Women

Do You Have White Privilege? OZY Asks This and More of Nashville's Women

Carlos Watson hosts Take On America with guests Vanessa Carlton and Allie Beth Stuckey.

SourcePhotographs by Leslie dela Vega/OZY

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Their voices underlined their passion. On the Nashville stage, two women participating in Take On America with OZY went head to head over whether gun control could help stamp out school shootings nationwide, their voices rising as they debated. The show confronts today’s most pressing issues by exploring the diversity of opinions among groups often pigeonholed for voting as a bloc.

“If you’re not voting for politicians who make it harder for people to buy guns, are you an American? You’re watching children die in public schools,” said Abby Brafman, a Vanderbilt student who graduated last year from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, where 17 classmates were killed in a mass shooting in February. “You seem to … feel like we don’t give a damn about you. We do give a damn about you — but what we’re saying is we don’t agree with you,” countered Edie Cornelius, a middle-aged woman from the Nashville area.

Trauma surgeon Raeanna Adams then stood up and cut through the noise. “Watching this interaction … watching women who passionately care about both sides, unfortunately, snark at each other, and shame each other, is not helpful,” Adams said.

I didn’t hire [Trump] to be a pastor; I didn’t hire him to be a role model; I hired him to fix the economy.

Keica Burcham

Theirs were just a few of the many dramatic voices featured in the second episode of Take On America with OZY — which focused this week on the opinions and experiences of 100 women in Nashville. “When I told folks that I was coming to the South, I was coming to Nashville and I was going to talk only to White women … I got a lot of funny looks,” admitted moderator and OZY co-founder Carlos Watson. The first event focused on Black men in Baltimore, and upcoming episodes center around Latino families in New York City and Asian-American millennials in San Francisco.

And in Nashville, despite the awkwardness of asking White women to opine publicly on faith, guns, White privilege and race, important truths about the American experience were revealed. “There is a surprising amount of diversity: diversity of beliefs, values and votes. Maybe even in the way people see the color of their own skin,” Watson said.

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Former Nashville mayor Megan Barry and Allie Beth Stuckey during the taping of Take On America in Nashville.

Across America, many liberals have blamed White women for the 2016 election of Donald Trump as president, after 52 percent of them backed the real estate mogul despite the release of a tape that showed him bragging about sexual assault and marital infidelity. But Michele Bachmann, the former Minnesota congresswoman and Republican presidential candidate, said she wasn’t surprised by the support Trump received. “Women were looking at the issues he was concerned about, not necessarily on gender,” said Bachmann, speaking as part of a panel that included singer Vanessa Carlton, conservative commentator Allie Beth Stuckey, former Nashville mayor Megan Barry and former Irving, Texas, mayor Beth Van Duyne.

“My opinion of the president isn’t about the women; it’s about what he has done as president,” said Robyn Erickson, a Nashville-area resident who praised Trump for signing a bipartisan law to clean up marine debris and helping open the market to generic alternatives to high-priced pharmaceuticals. “I know he is very crass,” added Keica Burcham. “But I didn’t hire him to be a pastor. I didn’t hire him to be a role model. I hired him to fix the economy.”

When a Christian pastor said she supported Trump because of her biblical values, Patricia Villalta, a manager at a local engineering company, questioned her: “I just wanted to ask you if you think it’s biblical to detain children and then kick them out of the country with no one to receive them on the other side?” The issue of Trump’s no-tolerance immigration policy and separated families at the border has divided the Christian community. “I came into this country for freedom, for what America has represented for so long — and I haven’t felt any of that since he became president,” responded one Nashville resident who fled the Bosnian genocide in the ’90s.

As the evening drew to a close, Watson stirred up the debate again by asking: Does White privilege exist? “Absolutely,” said Barry, the former mayor, who said being born in America and into the middle-class also helped. “I got born White. That also gives me much more privilege than other folks.” When Barry said her race gave her better access to education, Stuckey jumped in. “Black people don’t have access to education? They have affirmative action!” said the Conservative Review podcaster and TV personality.

Lisa Stewart worked two jobs during college, drove her great-grandmother’s car to classes and saw her non-White classmates receive scholarships she couldn’t “because of the color of my skin,” and thus she said she hadn’t benefited from White privilege. But Jaden Donovan, who is half-White and half-Puerto Rican, said it’s difficult for those who aren’t of color to understand their privilege. “I’ve been on both sides of this coin for the entirety of my life. I’m boxed in every time I’m seen as Hispanic, and when I’m White, I can do whatever the hell I want.”

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