If this post makes you uncomfortable, literally in your own skin, and makes you think a little harder about the world around you, I will have succeeded in purpose. You guessed it, it’s time for Sociology again. The other day in class I was shown a video a faced with a question that I had never before considered: Does White Privilege exist?
I want you to take a moment to think about this, and if you find yourself question what White Privilege actually is and itching to Google it, hold off for a minute. You’re not alone in that lack of knowledge and I’m going to help you understand better what it is.
While you’re thinking about that, pause for a few minutes and take one of these quizzes for me. You don’t have to share your results although I would be curious to hear what they were, rather I ask you to keep your results in mind as you read the rest of this post.
After my class the other day and being faced with this question, I was curious about what others had to say, so I turned to Facebook. I asked a few questions:
1. Does white privilege exist and if it does, why does it exist?
2. How has white privilege affected you?
3. Does reverse racism exist and is it the same thing as white privilege?
With the responses I got, a few things were obviously apparent:
- People don’t know what White Privilege really means
- They also don’t know what Reverse Racism means
- People are very adamant about their beliefs
- Most of their beliefs on this topics are based on a few experiences and not educational experiences on the actual subjects (to be expected)
- I was surprised by the people that responded
That all being said, I got a large variety of answers all of which were really interesting for me to read and I want to discuss some of them but first, some definitions.
White privilege has many different definitions as it is a socially constructed concept, but in my own words, “White Privilege is the tendency for Whites to be treated with unearned benefits due to their skin color (whether consciously or subconsciously) by the majority of society.” Please take note now that my own interpretation and definition may not be the same as yours. Also, this is a MACRO idea. This means that this idea applies to society and institutions on a large scale, not individuals personally. That means that you may say, “Well I don’t treat people differently based on their skin color!” And while that may or may not be true, it doesn’t matter because this idea doesn’t apply to you. Rather it applies to large groups, such as an organization, city, state, etc.
That all being said, also take notice that White Privilege is not how you treat others, but rather how whites are treated and “privileged” in society. Here’s some examples of how that could happen. While going through this list, I ask you, no matter your skin color to see how many of those things actually apply in your opinion and tally them up and then tell me. I’ll tell you how many I can apply to my own life: 48/50. I can also tell you that when I first read over this list, I was really surprised by a lot of things on there. My thought was, “People really have to worry about this? I thought everyone had this benefit.” But because that list was even written, I know that someone of a different skin color than mine has felt the opposite of every single thing on that list. That right there is evidence to me of the existence of White Privilege.
So now take a moment to look over that list one more time. This time think about someone of a different skin color than you. How would they agree/disagree with those statements? Does it surprise you? Every time I look through that list I find another thing I’m surprised by. No one should have to go shopping alone with fear that they will be followed or harassed. I don’t face that, I’ve never have and I likely never will. But someone does and it’s because of their skin color. I have a privilege that they don’t. That is White Privilege. Now before you get all upset, I’m not condoning this or bragging on my skin color, I’m just trying to help you understand what White Privilege is.
White Privilege is the stories that plague the media these days about whites committing crimes and getting let off easy. It’s this. And this. This. This. And this. And this. It’s why I can wear any one of these and people will tell me it’s cool. It’s why people think this movie is funny. Open your eyes. Look here. Or here.
Go ahead and tell me it’s not real, I will listen but you better have some good arguments to make your case.
That being said, some of the arguments against it are interesting to me (borrowing from things I’ve heard and from responses to my Facebook post).
- It’s a made up term: Yes, thanks for noticing, it definitely is. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value or isn’t real. Race is a socially constructed concept as well and you don’t argue very often that that isn’t real (a post for another day). Nearly everything in our society is socially constructed. Why does money have value? Because we say it does. What the heck is a selfie? You can answer this, because the term was made up and became popular.
- It doesn’t exist because I’m white and I’ve never been given anything just for that: See the list I linked to above. Maybe you have and you just haven’t realized it. Also remember again that this is a Macro idea and doesn’t necessarily apply to you alone.
- No, because sometimes I’m favored in society and sometimes people with different colored skin than mine are more favored than I am: While this may be true, remember again that this is not a Micro idea and doesn’t apply to just you. There are more factors, including class, gender, age, sexual orientation and religiosity but based on our social stratification, we can attribute much of privilege to skin color.
- Everyone has equal opportunity: Tell that to the family living on the corner, see how they like your comment, and surely don’t give them anything to help them out because they of course have the same opportunities you do.
- What about whites having less opportunities because of minorities taking them? (I.e. Jobs, Scholarships): Look up the statistics and then come back to me with this same argument. I dare you.
So basically in my opinion, White Privilege is very real and apparent in our society. Racism is very real and apparent. The facts are sad. I’ve nearly cried writing this post while looking at a few things and I’m still not finished. We still have more to talk about. Ready?
Reverse Racism, I’ve realized, is a very misunderstood topic and term. My definition of Reverse Racism would be something along the lines of, “A form of racism that occurs as a response to or result of past or ongoing occurrences against group A, where group B was the group originally wronged.” That being said, I’m just going to tell you now that I think this is real too. It happens back and forth and it’s similar to White Privilege in that that may be one of the responses or causes of White Privilege.
This term is also socially constructed and you could argue that it’s simply racism. I would argue back that it is only a form of racism. I’m going to be blunt and point out simply that racism and arguments between people of different skin colors seem to always be “whites” against “insert skin color, ethnicity or ‘race’ here.” Am I wrong? Maybe in some instances but in my experience and education it’s always been just that. Sometimes it’s even whites against whites, but still.
For example, Reverse Racism is what I would call it when Whites complain about scholarships that are directed towards and exclusively for people of a specific “race.” These whites feel as though they are being discriminated against. Racism generally occurs from a majority population to a minority population. Reverse Racism is the opposite, when a minority is discriminate against the majority. Doesn’t happen? Look here.
I’m not going to point of the disputes of Reverse Racism because the responses I got basically consist of disputing the term—which is a concept whether you like it or not—or misunderstanding the topic. If you do have an argument though, I will happily discuss.
Anyways moving on, to sum up here’s a few more interesting thoughts and things to think about:
- On the conversation of “Black Lives Matter” vs. “All Lives Matter,” Why do people say “All Lives Matter?” Ex. Is it just a way to distract/detract from the meaning of Black Lives Matter and put them “back to where they belong in social stratification”?
- How would you say the Social Stratification in our country is organized? I.e. Who has the power in society?
- Are the Young or the Old more empowered in society and why do you think this?
- Is one group or section of society more ignorant to these concepts (everything discussed) and why do you think this? Statistics to show for it?
- What should be done about inequality?
Thank you for reading and I hope this was enlightening. Comments are more than welcome and I’d love to hear more opinions (So go poll your friends and come back with more data for me 😉 )
So long, King Kong!