White Privilege

White Privilege “Is the societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people.”  

“Lord, whatever I know to be your will. I will do it. Regardless of the cost and regardless of the adjustment.”  

Yesterday I was in discussion with a couple of guys, one black and one white, who I love and respect deeply, which is why the debate was very troubling. I referred to white privilege, not being pejorative in any way. My white friend became extraordinarily defensive, and the black guy became the white guy’s defender, see that picture for a second. I realized that if white Christian friends of mine have trouble with the term white privilege and the thought they benefit from it, we are far away from racial justice and equality. “We can change what we can’t acknowledge.”  

Researcher, Dr. Peggy McIntosh published a groundbreaking essay. “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” That I encourage everyone, especially if you too struggle with this idea, to please read. Just on its face, if racism is real and if we accept the simple and universal definition that it puts people at a disadvantage because of their race, wouldn’t that mean the corollary aspect is that it puts someone at an advantage because of their race?   

I understand how the term can land for some white folks, especially if you honestly feel you are not a racist. White privilege and its benefit are different than racism. However, being defensive derails the conversation. White privilege is not the suggestion that white people have never struggled or necessarily that they enjoy the opportunity. It is not the assumption that what white people accomplish is not earned. Success and sustaining it can only happen with hard work.  

White privilege is a built-in advantage separate from a person’s level of income or effort.  

The term white privilege has been around since the early 1960s, before even the Civil Rights Act. It was a less commonly used term then it is today. Still, it referred to advantages given to white people by the United States, such as citizenship, the right to vote, buying a house in the neighborhood of your choice, shopping where you wanted and marry who you loved. White privilege can’t be only where white people say it exists, like in the prison system or related to interactions with the police. That in and of itself is white privilege. Both black and white people get conditioned to believe things are supposed to be the way that they are.  

  • The first-aid kit has ‘flesh-colored” band-aids that only match the skin tone of white people.  
  • The hair products white people need for their hair being in the aisle labeled “hair care” rather than in a smaller, separate section of “ethnic hair products.”  

These examples may be small to white people, but they communicate a message to both black and white people that indicates something beneath the surface. The needs of white and black people are different. One comes to expect their needs getting met while the other recognizes that gaps exist and that their needs are on the margins.  

The American ideal that “people should not be judged” before they get the opportunity to prove themselves is not granted to black and brown people with dire consequences like it is given to white people. 

 

  

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