Black Teen from Wealthy Connecticut Town Wins Essay Contest on White Privilege

“Honestly, I never really thought much about white privilege until I moved to Westport," wrote sophomore Chet Ellis.

Staples High School sophomore Chet Ellis says he never thought much about white privilege until he moved to the affluent town of Westport, Connecticut, whose residents are overwhelmingly white (93 percent), college-educated (76 percent have at least a bachelor’s degree), and fabulously well-to-do (the median household income is just under $163,ooo).

Ellis, who moved to Westport from Manhattan’s Morningside Heights, won first prize in the town’s essay contest on white privilege, which drew criticism from some who felt it unfairly characterized the town as unwelcoming. His essay, titled “The Colors of Privilege,” recounted an episode from his U.S. history class, in which one student used the N-word during a discussion about race relations in Fairfax County.

“As a black teen in Westport, race issues in and outside the classroom are unavoidable,” Ellis wrote. “One afternoon at track practice, some white friends were discussing how hard it would be to get into college and then out of nowhere one said, ‘Chet you don’t have this problem because you’re black.’ I was stunned and mumbled something instead of firing back, ‘Your parents are third-generation Princeton and your father runs a hedge fund and yet you think my ride is free?'”

Ellis, the son of a black Columbia University professor and a white University of Hartford sociology professor, told the Daily News he would like to pursue a career in law or social work in order to help people.