On White Privilege
By Jaylin Paschal
White privilege is extremely hard to explain to white people. I try, but I am rarely ever successful. Having institutionalized, systemic privilege usually means that you hardly even notice said privilege. I know there are some people who are completely confused by and annoyed with the idea of white privilege. And that's totally understandable. Every single human being struggles, and it can't feel good to hear someone tell you about how easy you've got it when you're struggling.
And I do acknowledge that white people struggle. I'm not at all suggesting that their lives are perfect or doubting the severity of their issues. I know that white people struggle just as people of color struggle. The idea of white privilege is not suggesting that white people live life free of adversity or unfairness. White privilege simply points out the fact that there are certain troubles that white people will probably never wrestle with because of their skin color.
A white person gets a good job, or into a good school, and no one will confuse their hard work as Affirmative Action.
A white boy in a hoodie running is seen as trying to get out of the rain, while a black boy in a hoodie is seen as suspicious.
A white person doesn't have to have their head on a swivel in rural Alabama.
A white person does not have to see unarmed white people being murdered on instant replay on nearly every nightly news program, ultimately becoming desensitized to death of their own at the hands of the state.
A group of white friends can usually walk down the street without people locking their car doors or nervously looking away.
A white person will never be told to "get over" 9/11, Pearl Harbor, or the Holocaust like black people are told to get over slavery.
A white mother probably never has to have a conversation with her son at age 10 about how he should behave around older white men and communicate with police.
A white person is labeled as "quirky and eccentric" for doing the same things that get black people labeled as "ghetto".
A white person can almost know for certain that if they are pulled over or followed around a store for no reason, it is not because of their race but because of the mistake/boredom/etc. of the officer.
A white person may never wonder too hard about their culture(s) because white history is taught in schools and published in books. (All of the text books I've read have plenty much skimmed over black people. Of course slavery and civil rights are mentioned, but there is hardly any cultural information included. (African American studies is usually an elective, if even an offered course. (Even "World History" courses focus on European History.)))
A white person is much more capable of learning about their ancestry, where the files and records of an African American's family lineage rarely go back past Antebellum, as slave records were not kept or maintained very often. Ancestry.com wouldn't do much for me.
A white person can see people meeting European beauty standards on television and in the media regularly, where I always search for the people of color in a cast or accurately portrayed in a magazine.
A white person may never have to see their peers in blackface or hear them say "nigga/nigger," and be told to "calm down" or "take a joke".
A white person most likely never gets surprised looks when they prove to be articulate or intelligent.
A white person probably never has to hear, "Wait, your dad still lives with you?"
A white person never has to sit through a lecture on Martin Luther King or Barack Obama and have the entire class stare at them.
A white person is never assumed to be violent or a terrorist (even though some of the most violent crimes in history have been committed by white people *sips tea*).
A white person can shrug off experience-defining ethnicities with one sentence: "I'm colorblind."
A white person is almost always afforded the luxury of being in the company of people who look like them, or at least don't look twice at them when they walk into the room.
I could go on and on and on.
To wrap it up, I'll assert that the clearest evidence for white privilege is the fact that so many white people don't think it exists. They are able to see a rigged society as fair, ultimately rendering them incapable of acknowledging the problem. White privilege is not knowing what white privilege is.
But here's the key point: I am not asking for or expecting an apology from white people. They shouldn't have to apologize for the privileges history and society has granted them. I don't think they should feel bad for these privileges. I don't think they should feel guilty for living with them. I don't think they should feel ashamed for the actions of other white people in the past or in the present--they have nothing to do with those people. All I would like is for them to acknowledge their privilege. And to take advantage of any opportunities they have to make a difference in dismantling an unfair and systemically rigged society.
Now, because I know sometimes white people just need to hear it from white people, here's the whitest white person I could find. If he gets it, you can, too. I have faith in you. Click play.