What is ‘White Privilege’?

Listen up, if you are white, you have white privilege, whether you realise it or not. Whether you are racist or not. Whether you are comfortable with that fact or not.

Am I making you uncomfortable? Good. Because nobody ever created meaningful change by remaining comfortable.

No doubt many white people will read this, outraged, because they will say that they are poor. Surely you cannot be poor and yet privileged? You can. Because poor white people will still always be more privileged than poor black/brown people. Look at the examples below – these types of privilege have nothing to do with your wealth and everything to do with the colour of your skin.

White Privilege is…

  • Using a counterfit $20 bill in America and later, being able to laugh about it at parties. (Instead of getting a knee on your neck until you breathe your last)
  • Moving house and not having to wonder whether you or you children may be subject to racial abuse in a particular neighbourhood.
  • Going to school in the UK and being taught about how your race made the world great and “civilised.” (As opposed to the history and contributions of your race being completely ignored except for when it’s convenient and you can be portrayed negatively)
  • Walking into a shop and seeing that make-up in your skin tone is almost always in stock. (Instead of being told they don’t have your ‘match’ or that they would need to order it in.)
  • Having the ability to criticise your national government without being dubbed an ‘ungrateful immigrant’ or outsider who doesn’t understand your nation’s values.
  • Not being the only person of your skin colour in the room.
  • Walking into a shop and seeing that flesh-coloured tights (pantyhose) are er… actually the colour of your flesh.
  • Excelling at something minor without being called a ‘credit’ to your race. (Because it is assumed that if you are a black/brown person you must have a low moral standard/be uneducated/stuck in a cycle of poverty or violence)
  • Not being stopped by the police/security guards because of your skin colour.
  • Going into a supermarket and easily being able to locate the staple foods from your culture. (As opposed to always being confined to a single, ‘world foods’ aisle.)
  • Never being expected to represent or speak on behalf of an entire race.
  • Being able to read books or watch movies where the majority of characters will be of your race and you don’t have to fear mis-representation or stereotypes because the white characters are nuanced, real and varied in their personalities since they are so numerous.

Do you understand, now?

White privilege is something which is invisible and has been taken for granted by generations of white people for centuries. It is invisible because it is all around us and so deeply ingrained into the everyday lives of white people. It is invisible because it benefits an entire race and is not problematic – at least not to white people.

But this is wrong. Because if white privilege lifts up one race, in order to do this, it must subjugate all others. This is dangerous because this is how white supremacy ideologies are formed. Racism is not a problem just for minorities to solve, it is a problem for all of humanity. The very least that white people can do, is acknowledge their white privilege.

Photo by Shane Aldendorff on Pexels.com

In a more academic sense, the term, White privilege is something that is widely attributed to the work of Peggy McIntosh in 1988. However, it is only now, more than three decades later that people are starting to understand this concept. The focus of her work was asking herself, “on an everyday basis, what do I have that I didn’t earn?”

So the question is, what are you going to do to level the playing-field? Because if current events in the USA have taught us anything, it is this: it is not enough to say that you are not racist. You must actively show, promote and advocate anti-racism. Be proactive instead of reactive.

(Stay tuned for more because my next post is going to address just that.)

UPDATE: Here’s the post on what to do with your white privilege.

5 thoughts on “What is ‘White Privilege’?

  1. Hi Misbah. Thank you. I appreciate your comments on my post and am moved by yours. I think it is one of the hardest parts of any change — acknowledging that I’ve contributed, through my actions, including infections, to whatever it is that needs to be changed. We like change to be free of discomfort, painless — l’ve yet to experience that!

    Your list is powerful. It also hits home – because I have the privilege of going through each day without encountering any of those things in my life.

    I am sorry that in the past, I seldom thought of my role in keeping these constraints/mores in place. I’m sorry I didn’t do more to help change it.

    I look forward to reading your next posts and learning and growing and changing. Because like you, I believe this matters now. And we must all awaken to how we can create change that heals all the world.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Louise,

      Thanks for reading and taking the time to understand something which may not have been so pleasant for you to read.

      Unfortunately, many white people turn a blind eye to racism since they feel that this is not an issue which affects them. However, issues of injustice and humanity affect us ALL and can only be tackled when everyone comes together. Thanks for being able to see this and for your commitment to learn and grow; my next post will be out tomorrow.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I have adopted/embraced the concept that — to be good for me it must be good for all.

        It is not good enough if in my having ‘a’ it means someone else’s life is lessened or harmed or made more difficult.

        I look forward to your next post!

        Liked by 1 person

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