White Privilege

African-American university student Vivian Malone entering the University of Alabama to register for classes. Until 1963, non-white students were not allowed to attend.

When we talk about white privilege we don’t mean that your life is easy because you’re classified as white. You’ve probably worked very hard in your life. But some groups of people have the deck stacked further against them than other people. For example, if you grew up in a lower socio-economic class than someone else that made life harder for you. (Not growing up wealthy you probably wouldn’t have stumbled into the Presidency for example as did George W. Bush or Donald Trump—both of these men were abject failures but saved by money and connections.)

However, if you are classified as black (race is NOT a biological category it is a social category) you had additional obstacles. For example, if classified as black you were not eligible for FHA loans in New Deal legislation;  if you served in WWII and were classified as black you were not eligible for the GI Bill, if you are black you can’t buy housing in certain neighborhoods, etc. (Trump’s father famously didn’t rent to blacks.) Other examples of systematic racism include not being allowed to do virtually anything (go to most state universities, vote, stay at most hotels, etc. etc. etc.

So again the idea isn’t that being called white means life is easy, just that it provides some advantages to being black. And powerful racists have used that fact to turn working-class people against one another for a long time. That’s why they remind you that you’re better than the black guy. At least you’re white they tell you. But your real enemies are those who really steal the money from society. Not the guy trying to rob the 7-11 or steal a pair of shoes because he has no money or job prospects. But the billionaires, none of whom went to jail after the financial crisis of 2008; or the corporations that pay no taxes; or the billions that have disappeared in the latest government stimulus program. They are the ones really looting from society.

Ok. So here are some specific examples of how society usually respects my basic human rights as a white person because I can do all of these things without worry:

I can go birding (#ChristianCooper)
I can go jogging (#AmaudArbery)
I can relax in the comfort of my own home (#BothemSean and #AtatianaJefferson)
I can ask for help after being in a car crash (#JonathanFerrell and #RenishaMcBride)

I can have a cellphone (#StephonClark)
I can leave a party to get to safety (#JordanEdwards)
I can play loud music (#JordanDavis)
I can sell CDs (#AltonSterling)
I can sleep (#AiyanaJones)
I can walk from the corner store (#MikeBrown)
I can play cops and robbers (#TamirRice)
I can go to church (#Charleston9)
I can walk home with Skittles (#TrayvonMartin)
I can hold a hairbrush while leaving my own bachelor party (#SeanBell)
I can party on New Years (#OscarGrant)
I can get a normal traffic ticket (#SandraBland)
I can lawfully carry a weapon (#PhilandoCastile)
I can break down on a public road with car problems (#CoreyJones)
I can shop at Walmart (#JohnCrawford)
I can have a disabled vehicle (#TerrenceCrutcher)
I can read a book in my own car (#KeithScott)
I can be a 10yr old walking with our grandfather (#CliffordGlover)
I can decorate for a party (#ClaudeReese)
I can ask a cop a question (#RandyEvans)
I can cash a check in peace (#YvonneSmallwood)
I can take out my wallet (#AmadouDiallo)
I can run (#WalterScott)
I can breathe (#EricGarner)
I can help with medical emergencies as an MD (#DrFatimaCodyStanford)
I can live (#FreddieGray)

Take a minute to consider a black person’s experience today. #BlackLivesMatter

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4 thoughts on “White Privilege

  1. Those aren’t privileges; they are basic human rights. I think it more appropriate to state that blacks do not have these basic human rights. It’s not that whites have it good, it’s that blacks have it bad.

    Then I go one step further to quantification. What percentage of blacks who are arrested are murdered? What percentage of blacks who play loud music are murdered?

    Then I turn the tables. What percentage of whites who are arrested are murdered? What percentage of whites who play loud music are murdered?

    Then I look at the first time derivative of these numbers: how have these numbers been changing over the last fifty years?

    This all muddies the image. There’s still an image of injustice, but it’s not as stark or clear.

    It’s always more complicated than we thought.

  2. addition to list:
    I can help with inflight medical emergencies (as MD physician) without being pushed away or questioned about credentials (#DrFatimaCodyStanford)

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