White Privilege Is Real: How Understanding It Can Only Help Race Relations in America

By Olivia Pan

It seems as though you cannot look at social media lately without stumbling upon a viral video, showcasing white people calling the police on African Americans for patently ridiculous reasons. Many people feel these videos depict racist white folks blatantly harassing black people. For instance, a nine-year old black child recently had the police called on him for accidentally brushing up against a white woman in the supermarket. Another white woman actually attempted to block a black man from entering his own apartment building, as she did not believe he actually lived there. I could go on, but I think we have all heard about these types of stories, as they occur quite frequently.

 

What many people fail to recognize is that there is a distinct privilege in America that comes simply from being white. This is not an insult, nor does it mean you are racist. Rather, it’s an inherent condition taken much for granted, as it is and always has been a silent component of our society. And it’s not something you have to feel ashamed of if you’re white, but you have to acknowledge it. This may get white people on the defensive, but there’s nothing to get defensive about. Acknowledging your privilege is the only way you can recognize someone else’s struggles.

 

There is much confusion over what the phrase “white privilege” even refers to. Many people confuse “white privilege” as indicative of being wealthy. This is a common misconception. It’s understandable for a white person who works two minimum wage jobs to ask: how am I privileged in any way? The truth is, having white privilege does not have anything to do with economic status.

Having white privilege is simply the luxury of being able to move through the world without fearing discrimination or prejudice based on your race. Just as there is undoubtedly male privilege, there is also white privilege. Both groups are afforded luxuries others are not with regards to how you are able to navigate the world.

 

For white people who deny having benefited from white privilege, think again. You benefit every day in ways you don’t even realize. Think about it. The cops can pull you over without you fearing for your safety. You can walk into a store without being scrutinized by the shopkeepers. You can simply take comfort in the fact that the way others treat you is not because of racial prejudice. If you are white and someone is rude to you, you do not have to wonder if a racial component had anything to do with the behavior. If you are white in this society, whether you are well-off or barely able to make ends meet, you are still free of everyday common micro-aggressions and thinking of race and how that plays out for you on a day to day basis.

 

However, we also have to ask ourselves: is this phrase, “white privilege” dividing us and creating racial tension in our country? The primary items that create racial tension in the culture are misunderstanding, miscommunication, the denial of white privilege, and racism itself. And let’s not forget: racism can come from anyone, not just white folks. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that a person of color can’t be racist. Acknowledging the existence of white privilege does not create racial tension. Quite the contrary. Acknowledging the fact that you receive certain benefits from being white in this country is necessary. And if you’re a man and heterosexual, I expect you to be evolved enough to acknowledge that those benefits are even more greatly bestowed upon your segment of society.  

In conclusion, denying white privilege is like saying, “I have no benefits from being wealthy”, and that is nonsense. By acknowledging that those who work, play, raise families, and socialize as white people are free from many of the challenges that other fellow Americans face is to close down the dialogue of race, race relations, racial divisiveness, and making things better between the races. You cannot heal that which you do not acknowledge.

 

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