“Privilege is when you think something is not a problem because it’s not a problem to you personally.” – David Gaider
As we turn on our TVs each morning or sit at the table with the latest copy of the newspaper, we see a new story about racism and prejudice in our society. Children are getting shot and arrested daily, rallies and retaliations are continuously occurring and people are genuinely supporting racist leaders.
That’s just the world we live in. What’s scary is that racism and equality are an age-old fight that people have been advocating and dying for even after the enactment of the Civil Rights movement in 1964.
While there are masses of people who acknowledge racism and inequality and do not agree, a large proportion of those people aren’t doing anything to stop it. The idea that racism will just “die out” is as false as any lie. Ignorance is taught and by acknowledging the faults in our society, we can teach a more loving and kind approach to equality. It all starts with awareness.
The idea of white privilege and whether it exists is as controversial as it gets. Everyone has an opinion and many times these clashing beliefs cause more hate and disruption among others. The disregard of the idea of white privilege should not be left without a discussion because of a fear of denial and disbelief.
White privilege is a term used to describe societal advantages or privileges beyond what is commonly experienced by all races that benefit people who identify as white in Western countries.
Now white privilege isn’t the only kind of privilege that exists today—male/female privileges, heterosexual privileges, etc.—but it is one that many like to pretend doesn’t exist. These privileges may not seem apparent because a lot of white people today have struggled and worked hard to get where they are. We know that regardless of gender, many people have struggled, worked overtime, are faced with poverty and have to go beyond what others have based on the type of lives they were given.
This isn’t to say that white privilege means that white people haven’t worked hard or deserve to be where they are today. I’m saying that in this generation and country where we pledge allegiance to a symbol “with liberty and justice for all,” we should be aware of societal disadvantages that plague a portion of our population.
There are varying extremes of white privilege. From the simplest of things such as a hotel not having complimentary shampoo and conditioner that works for your hair to the less subtle mass murders and long-prospering racist groups like the KKK.
Many of these privileges are uncontrollable—they were gifted upon you for being born white. You may think you aren’t privileged because you’ve had to work just as hard as the next guy but some privileges definitely do exist and by just being aware of them, you are starting to make a difference.
In his Huffington Post article, Chris Boeskool writes, “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression. But it’s not. What you’re feeling is just the discomfort of losing a little bit of your privilege.”
Teaching Tolerance, a website promoting ideas of diversity, equity and justice outlines several examples of privileges in our society. The article then states, “As a white person, I get certain perks that people of color do not; I get the (skin color) bandages and the (nude) pantyhose and the shampoo at the hotel that works with my hair…This is how I experience the world.”
The author goes on to say that the benign perks that come with being white come with expectations. “Let’s say I forgot to pack my shampoo for a business trip. When I get to the hotel, I see that the complimentary shampoo is not the standard Suave product to which I am accustomed but rather Pink Oil Lotion for African American hair. I would be surprised and might even think to myself: “Those black folks and all their lobbying … This is so unfair!” As a white person, I think I am entitled to them.”
Recognizing your privilege isn’t a bad thing. It simply means that you are aware some people have to work harder or may never experience things that you may take for granted.
I am privileged for even being able bodied, for being natural born, for having a white sounding name and skin color to match. I am privileged that my first language is the national language. I am privileged to go to school and be able to pursue post secondary education. I’m lucky enough to have never been taught by my parents to be aware of systematic racism for daily physical protection or be worried that walking alone at night could get me arrested and shot. I am aware of my privilege and I want to use this privilege to help others.
Those people who reject the idea of white privilege, who are angry at statements such as “Black Lives Matter”, who reject gay couples because their religious freedom is being infringed upon, who hate Muslims and immigrants and equality, they don’t acknowledge their privileges. They don’t recognize how much harder these people’s lives have been. They feel entitled and these kinds of thoughts are the reason why racism still exists. It’s why no matter how much people try to end inequality, others lack of awareness and feelings of entitlement to their privilege restrain it.
In his newest album This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore (with Ryan Lewis) released a song titled “White Privilege II” a sequel to his original song “White Privilege” from his 2005 album The Language of My World. In the song he writes:
A lot of opinions, a lot of confusion, a lot of resentment
Some of us scared, some of us defensive
And most of us aren’t even paying attention
It seems like we’re more concerned with being called racist
Than we actually are with racism
What if I actually read a article, actually had a dialogue
Actually looked at myself, actually got involved?
If I’m aware of my privilege and do nothing at all…I don’t know
Macklemore takes a stand in this song and acknowledges that people don’t understand their privileges. He talks about how we can’t just pretend we care about ending racism, people have to be involved and do something. Once you know about your privilege and the inequality that people still face, you have to keep making others aware if we ever want this battle with racism to come to an end.
Regardless, many people still won’t agree or believe that white privilege is a real issue in today’s society. You yourself may not discriminate or be prejudiced or show racism to others, but the fact of the matter is that there are still people who do. It’s still common and apparent. You just have to be willing to acknowledge the existence of this unfair lifestyle and be willing to stand up for others to make a difference.
If you are still unconvinced that white privilege or racism is actually real, consider clicking here to read about statistics and data from the FBI concerning blacks and whites.
Don’t get offended. Take the idea of it into consideration. Be aware that sometimes in certain areas, people are treated differently. If you don’t want to call it privilege then don’t, just stand up and help your neighbor because you never know if the tables may turn on you. Acknowledge that you have certain advantages and make others more aware so that one-day these advantages will be equal for all.