Controversial ‘white privilege’ essay contest divides Westport

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WESTPORT -- There is controversy brewing in a Fairfield County community over an essay contest.

The organizers of an essay contest for high school students in Westport, Connecticut say they're surprised that they've received some criticized for the essay topic: white privilege. The essay contest asks kids to write about how white privilege has impacted their lives.

"I do believe it sheds a negative light. I mean, personally, I'm from Mexico and my family is from Mexico as well and I don't really see the white privilege here," said Alejandro Perez-Elorza, a junior at Staples High School.

But the local diversity council and Westport Library, who are the cosponsors, were surprised by the blow-back they've received, saying the subject of white privilege is "perfect" given how the presidential election played out.

"I think for stuff like this we should be discussing it because if we don't then it's not... then we don't realize it's a problem for others," said Jeff Stiller of Trumbull.

"The kids need to be thinking about this bubble that we live in and how it's not really representative of the real world," said Shelley Keyes of Ridgefield.

Despite the opportunity to win up to $1,000, Perez-Elorza will not be participating in the contest.

"As a junior I have a lot of course material as well as the ACT and you know preparing for college. So, I'm not really interested in added stress load," he said.

"Why not have a topic on how we can get together? How we can make the country work for everybody?" wondered Fred Bonito of Guilford.

No one behind the essay contest responded to FOX 61's request for comment, including Staples High School, whose faculty approved the subject.

The deadline for entry is February 27.