After discussions, upon discussions where sometimes I feel like the person I’m talking with genuinely “gets it” and many other times where people just can’t/won’t/refuse to understand their privilege, I’ve decided to spell it out for people and hope they actually read, comprehend and think about what’s coming in this post.
What’s about to be said here is based on MY experiences, what I’ve read by other people who have done research on the topic and who have shared their insights with me over the years. This is fueled by hearing one time too many.. but I’m POOR I can’t be privileged! I don’t treat people like that, stop accusing me of being racist! etc….
First and foremost, understand that white privilege is not purely economical. Privilege s not just about having enough money in the bank to pay the bills and save a little bit here and there. It’s more than having name brand clothes, enough food in the house, etc. Kendall Clark defines White Privilege (hereafter referred to as WP) as:
white privilege, a social relation1. a. A right, advantage, or immunity granted to or enjoyed by white persons beyond the common advantage of all others; an exemption in many particular cases from certain burdens or liabilities. b. A special advantage or benefit of white persons; with reference to divine dispensations, natural advantages, gifts of fortune, genetic endowments, social relations, etc.
2. A privileged position; the possession of an advantage white persons enjoy over non–white persons.
3. a. The special right or immunity attaching to white persons as a social relation; prerogative.
This definition is more in line with how I define white privilege. In my world view, white privilege is defined as:
- Not having to worry about the police assuming you might be a criminal when you walk down the street
- Not having women clutch their purses and bodies if you walk near them
- Being able to walk up to a cop and ask for directions without being seen as a suspect
- Not being the bogeyman in stories of “fake violent black man raped/kidnapped/molested” innocent white women
- Not having people assume you must not be educated
- Never having to hear, You speak so WELL!
- Not having people assume you’re on public aid
- Not having people assume you must have a bunch of kids out of wedlock
- Being able to walk through a store without being followed by security
- Never having to hear, but I never thought (insert ethnicity other than white here) did (activity!)
- Never having people be amazed you have a passport
- Never having people be shocked you know a language besides English
- Never having people want to fetishize you (collective you)
- Never having people assume you’re not like “those other (black/brown/red/yellow) people when you don’t sound like a Step N Fetch it skit
- Not having people assume you’ve been in jail
- Not having people assume you’re doing/have done or sold drugs to get by
- Being able to live where you want
- Being able to congregate in groups without negative assumptions being made about your intentions
and the list goes on… those are just the things that popped into my head as I sat down writing this post. What comes to mind is that people get so caught up in defining privilege along with finances that they immediately go to the but I’m not rich defense instead of understanding that their privilege is just that, privilege that came along with their white skin that cannot be undone no matter how much they may want to rip the privilege away.
I’ve read people’s writings who say they don’t flaunt their privilege, or that they aren’t like those people who use their privilege to their advantage at every turn. In trying to find some relevant information for this post, I came across Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”.
In this article, she talks about how many people may not be aware of their privilege, and gives a pretty good listing of the benefits of white privilege in the article. (link will open up pdf document in a new window). There’s quite a bit of writing on the topic… and its not something easily covered in one or one thousand blogs posts. I felt like i had to get this out of my system and out of my brain before it spilled over into a toxic place that made me seethe and lash out at anyone who thought they could tell me about privilege, race, and all the things that make me see red when I try to discuss this hot button topic with people who can’t see their privilege, or refuse to even look into that knapsack.
I ask anyone reading this to stop, think and look inside yourself… be honest about the privilege in your life if you have any. Don’t just brush this aside with the claim of I’m poor, not privileged. If you do that, then you missed my point of it not just being about money. If you don’t have privilege, think about how that lack has affected you, has it made you bitter, toxic regarding the topic? Have you just shut out anyone who tries to have discourse or do you keep your eyes and ears open about this subject?
Either way, I’d like to push people reading this to have an honest dialog about the bonus and deficit of privilege and where we are today because of it. Commentary welcome but flaming, trolling and such will get you a ban from here as well as your IP address forwarded to the nearest authority if you get out of hand. As a parting gift, here’s a White Privilege checklist for you to use as your starting point.