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.
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.