8 Things You Should Know About White Privilege

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1. It’s not a myth. Research proves it really exists.

A study conducted by two economists at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, shows how white privilege, or systemic preferential treatment, occurs on a day-to-day-level. In a field experiment involving more than 1,500 observations the researchers discovered that if a white person got on a public bus in Brisbane and didn’t have enough money for the ride, they were more likely (at a rate of 72%) to let white people ride for free than they were to let black people. There was evidence of some favouritism towards people of the same ethnic background but even black bus drivers gave white testers the benefit of the doubt more often.

2. No, white privilege is not about being wealthy. It’s what happens when you are always given the benefit of the doubt.

It’s wrong to assume that white privilege is simply about money, that white privilege only impacts the richest white people. In fact, white privilege means despite your income level, rich or poor, you will not be feared by society and you won’t be forced to prove your worth. I have a number of black and Turkish friends in Germany (all born in Germany) who tell me that people regularly ask them how they speak German so well. Uh, they were born there? White people will never be asked why they speak their own native tongue so well.

3. White privilege means the ability to put on other ethnic traits if you wish.

You can have dookie braids, box braids, dreadlocks, a perm, a spray tan. You can put on black vernacular speech and you can do an EGOT worthy performance of “ethnicity.” But at the end of the day, when the show’s over or when you’re bored, whichever comes first, you get to return to the comforts of whiteness. The problem with this is that it reduces race to a set of visual cues that can be conveniently put on or wiped off as you see fit. A Halloween costume.

4. White privilege is the privilege of telling brown people their experiences are invalid.

When a brown person complains about a race-related thing that bothers them and you either A) bring the situation back to white people (“well what about white people?”) or B) tell them their experience is “a load of crap” or say something like “I’m sick of hearing about this,” this is perhaps the pinnacle of white privilege.

5. White privilege is to be able to completely forget about brown people.

A recent controversy in Brooklyn saw a cultural institute schedule a screening of Paris Is Burning, a key cultural text concerning the black and latino queer and transgendered world of voguing, during New York Pride Weekend but did not think to book a single queer or trans person of color for the panel discussion. This is white privilege.

6. White privilege is monetized.

When white people move into a neighbourhood, property values do not go down.

7. In the United States, white privilege is knowing your people are the standard for beauty in nearly every type of media.

White privilege means that when you open up a magazine or go to a movie or see a television show you will see people who look just like you. If you get a magazine the person on the cover will almost always be a beautiful white person, which in turn has a measured impact on our tastes, desires and sense of self. This doesn’t mean there aren’t a host of other things wrong with the beauty industry, like body size and age. But it does mean you are more likely to see a beautiful white person than a beautiful Asian person.

8. Brown people can never “put on” whiteness.

I could lighten my skin or straighten my hair. I could engage with every white person stereotype that black and white comedians from the last 30 years have spelled out for us in detail. But people will always look at me and see a black boy. They might say something like “you’re not like other black people I know” without even knowing, I suspect, that being able to make that kind of remark is a mark of privilege. TC mark

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