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'White privilege' essay contest stirs controversy in wealthy Connecticut town

The bedroom community of Westport is 93 percent white, and the average home costs $1 million.

A suburban Connecticut community is facing backlash over a town-sponsoredessay contest intended to get high school students thinking about white privilege.

In its essay contest, the Westport Diversity Council asked students, in 1,000 words or less, to define white privilege and describe to what extent they believe it exists.

"What impact do you think it has had in your life — whatever your racial or ethnic identity — and in our society more broadly?" the prompt asked.

This is the essay contest's fourth year in the affluent bedroom community, located about 55 miles northeast of New York City. The average home costs more than $1 million, annual medianincome tops $163,000 and 93 percent of residents are white, according to 2010 census data.

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On that point, the winning essay in 2014 highlighted the lack of diversity in the town.

"The dearth of diversity means there are perspectives I’ve never heard... I don’t think I can really complete an education in life until I join bigger, more varied conversations,” the studentwrote, adding she was lookingforward to being exposed to more diversity as the U.S. population changes and as she is in new environments.

While some parents,like Bert Dovo, a white father of two college-aged children, said he liked that the idea helped students "talk about it and embrace it," other parents said the subject matter oversteps the boundaries of public education.

"I wouldn't go there,"Janet SamuelstoldThe Associated Press.The mother of two grown children saidit is the parents' responsibility to talk about privilege with their kids.

On Twitter, people argued whether white privilege exists at all.

The contest is open only to Wesport students and essays are due Feb. 27. Winners will be announced April 3, with the top prize of $1,000.

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