A very popular “buzz” term in media these days is “white privilege”. From being used in discussions about the numerous instances of police brutality against minorities to the titles of rap songs (read my write up on that here), those two words are seemingly everywhere.
White (adjective) \ˈhwīt, ˈwīt\: of or relating to a race of people who have light-colored skin and who come originally from Europe.
Privilege (noun) \ˈpriv-lij, ˈpri-və-\: a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others.
Essentially, the concept is that Caucasians have certain societal advantages over people of color, encountering much less discrimination in our daily lives than minorities do. This is a fact. It’s honestly laughable that people exist who still swear up and down that white privilege is a “myth”, or a “tactic” used by liberals and people of color to gain sympathy and inflict guilt on whites. What makes that theory so ridiculous is the reasoning behind it.
Those who try to debunk white privilege as a fallacy often use flimsy examples like affirmative action to back up claims of “reverse” racism, which completely deflates the argument, being that affirmative action was introduced to help combat white privilege and increase diversity in the workplace. Therefore, if white privilege was really a “myth”, the very piece of ‘evidence’ conservatives often use to argue against its existence would never have existed itself.
The short video featured at the start of this article has been circulated around social media quite a bit recently; despite being filmed years ago, its message is still very relevant, now more than ever. In the clip, renowned anti-racism activist Jane Elliott asks a room full of white people to stand up if they would be happy to be treated the same way that blacks are in modern society.
SPOILER ALERT: they all remain seated.
That action (or lack thereof) speaks louder, and more volumes, than any words by any white person attempting to debunk their privilege ever could. Elliott’s observation at the end of the video is to the point and completely valid: since these white folks don’t want the same treatment as minorities in America (as evidenced by them remaining seated), why do they allow and accept it happening to other ethnicities at all? That allowing, that acceptance, is the most glaring negative of white privilege personified.
But having white privilege does not make a Caucasian citizen inherently “wrong” in any way; it’s simply a matter of whether they recognize that privilege and take responsibility for having it. As the refrain at the end of the aforementioned Macklemore track goes, “your silence is a luxury”; that is exactly what divides those aware of white privilege from those who deny the reality of it.
Those who remain silent (or, in the video’s case, seated), thankful that it’s not those with their skin tone or racial makeup being unfairly persecuted and discriminated against, are just widening the divide between whites and all other races by not even speaking on that very gap. But those of us who realize the privilege we have because of our background, and then are able to speak on how unbalanced those inherent benefits are while taking action to lessen the space between us all as human beings, like Jane Elliott has been doing for decades, are helping to overcome it.
Racism is not embedded in the human psyche. It is not an innate ideal. It is taught and learned, either directly or by unknowing example. The awareness of white privilege is absolutely necessary in order to help eliminate the negatives regarding racial differences in society. Like the first of the well-known “12 Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous says, the first step is admitting the problem, or in this case the privilege, is there. What we do after we recognize it is up to us.