This is a question every white person needs to ask themselves. If you haven’t before, then now is the time.
If you’ve been living under a rock, I’ll provide a simple definition for you.
White privilege is everything you get automatically from society for simply being a white person due to institutionalized racism. A deep history of racist people have done everything they can to make white people superior while also making life extremely difficult for people of color.
There is no exception to the rule. I’ll say it again for the people in the back: THERE IS NO EXCEPTION! If you are a human who interacts with other humans, you are affected by society. Therefore, white privilege will affect you.
As a white woman growing up in a mixed family, I saw first hand the different expectations and things I had to worry about vs what my siblings had to worry about. I didn’t think it was fair, but I saw clearly the distinct advantage my sisters and I had over my two siblings.
Some of the smaller things started with beauty products. I noticed that band-aids, stockings, and anything “natural” was always white skin tones. Who decided natural meant white?
White people did.
Growing up, my family always got stares in public. My stepdad was pulled over simply for being a black man with three little white girls in the back seat. The officer asked the little girls if they were okay as if he had kidnapped them. The anxiety of simply driving as a person of color is another example of white privilege. When I am pulled over, my first thought is the price of my ticket, not my safety. This lack of anxiety is white privilege.
One time I went to the dollar store with my friends, (three people of color) and the manager claimed she didn’t hear the beeps saying they paid for the items. She asked to check their bags. I asked if she needed to check mine (she didn’t know I came with them) and she said no. My whiteness made me trustworthy in her eyes.
Skin color does not determine character and yet white people still hold their purses closer when walking past people of color. It’s rampant and despicable.
Then there is representation. I never had to go searching for a Barbie doll who looked like me. I didn’t even remember the first time I saw my face reflected back to me on TV. Everything was whitewashed. The numbers don’t add up, and without having experienced this personally, it’s hard to understand the psychological impact this has on the psyche. To be told, outright or otherwise, that you are the “other” has lasting negative impacts. Look up the phrase “double consciousness” if you’d like to know more about those effects.
It is our job to unpack this and understand the distinct advantage we were just handed. It is our job to do this work and admit we had it easier due to our skin tone.
This does not mean you had an easy life, it’s just that your skin tone never made it harder.
There are endless examples I could provide about white privilege. I could cite studies that find housing, job hiring, wages, loans, etc. are discriminatory. This article could be hundreds of pages long and I would have barely scratched the surface.
I say all this not to make you feel defeated, but to inspire you to do better. Check yourself and your privilege. If a friend tells you that you have been racist or have a certain privilege, BELIEVE THEM!
It is not up to you what privilege you have, but it is up to you how you react to it. It is not up to you how your actions are perceived, but it is up to you how you respond to it. Acceptance is the first step. You can apologize, but know the damage is done. Strive to never make that mistake again.
Use your platform where you are seen and trusted to speak out about injustice. Call out those confederate flags. Check a racist joke. Share articles and posts educating on problems facing people other than your own.
Also, don’t be racist, but even that is not enough.
“In a racist society it is not enough to be non-racist, we must be anti-racist.” ― Angela Y. Davis
No one is above racism, including me. We must do better, and talking then acting about it is the only way it will change.
I hope you found some enlightenment from this article, but unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Please continue to read up and educate yourself on these topics. Follow those that post about it. Watch everything you can. Read everything James Baldwin writes!
Do better to be better….no exceptions.