What is White Privilege?

silver spoons

“Privilege exists when one group has something of value that is denied to others simply because of the groups they belong to, rather than because of anything they’ve done or failed to do. Access to privilege doesn’t determine one’s outcomes, but it is definitely an asset that makes it more likely that whatever talent, ability, and aspirations a person with privilege has will result in something positive for them.”

-Peggy McIntosh

White privilege is not something that is automatically or necessarily pleasurable for white people (Ruce, 2015, p.3). However it is a perk that is experienced by white people and not earned. White privilege is a preference for whiteness and things related to it. It is often described as the “other side of racism”. Awareness of white privilege is not always prevalent among white people. White privilege is engrained in many societies and can be glossed over and widely accepted. It can have large, negative, impacts on both white people and people of color. It reflects a standard or norm that has been created and white people can knowingly or unknowingly benefit from it. These benefits can range from everyday comfort and familiarity to financial profit and societal leverage.

Below are examples of some privileges that white people experience. These thoughts have been gathered from White like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son by Time Wise, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy Macintosh, and On Being White by A.J. Ruce:

  • Not being asked to represent or speak for all people in their racial group.
  • Be able to easily buy magazines, greeting cards, poster cards, posters and picture books that show people of their race.
  • Be able to choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more less match their skin.
  • Have a wide variety of books from all genres to choose from in which characters look and speak like them.
  • Be able to do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to their race.
  • Be able to enroll in a class at college and be sure that the majority of the professors will be of their race.
  • Be able to be articulate and well-spoken without other people being “surprised.”
  • Not have to think about their race  on a daily basis.
  • Be able to wear and act however they would like without being labeled a thug, low life, gangster, etc.
  •  White privilege means not being affected by negative stereotypes that have been perpetuated and ingrained so much into American society that people believe them to be fact.