Privilege: you keep using that word…


…and I don’t think it means what you think it means.

When most people hear the term privilege, they envision having something that someone else doesn’t.  In a different context, this may be considered ‘privileged,’ but not in terms of how we perceive ourselves and our world.  White privilege is something that occurs on an unconscious level, so it can be hard to define.  It doesn’t make anyone racist because it is not something that is exerted, for it simply is.  Privilege is not having to think about something because it has never been an issue for you.  It is not simply being white and somehow being superior.  It’s walking into an establishment you’ve never been to before and having no one question why you are there.  You never had to think about that.  When you are a minority, you may have experienced walking into an establishment for all the eyes to be on you asking why you are there.  I know I’ve had this done where it’s actually become verbalized.  These people may not mean to be racist or have intentions of being racist, but they are wondering why a girl that looks like me is there when a girl who has the same skin tone as  them who has never been there will not be questioned.  Those are two completely different experiences that exist based off skin color alone.

Imagine if you were in a foreign country where you were the minority.  Everywhere you go, people may be curious as to where you originally came from and if you are visiting.  They may ask if you understand the language.  They may assume you don’t know the culture and traditions.  Then imagine you were actually born there and know all these things, but you have a different experience from them because you have always been perceived as an outsider.  It may get annoying at times.  This may cause you to question people’s motives and situations you are in because you are usually treated differently.  This is not always the experience of minorities, as we are all individuals, but most of us have experienced some form of this.  White privilege, in this country, means not having to question who you are when you  encounter situations as these.  It means always being a part of the majority, where Band-Aids are your skin color, make-up is in your shade, and the world you live in is catered to you.  It doesn’t make you or the world you live in racist, but if people never even acknowledge this privilege, those in the minority will always be made to feel as outsiders.

My boyfriend is white and understands white privilege and acknowledges it and his role as a straight male.  In college, he didn’t have to think about locking his dorm room because there was a spate of rapes.  He never had to think he had to worry about people who may ostracize him for holding hands with me in public.  He does, however, understand these things and acknowledges them, but even though he does, small things still escape him because he just never had to think about them because he is white.  At trivia, he asked why I didn’t know as many things as him since I was just as capable as he was.  I told him it was because he was white.  He did not understand this as he thought they were just asking facts.  I told him they were facts, but they were written from a white person’s point of view.  There is nothing wrong with that because a writer must always draw from their experiences, but if they don’t consider other viewpoints, other views will not be displayed. The writers’ questions are mostly geared toward those who also share their experiences.  The majority of the television shows they asked about were ones with white leads and relatively few with black leads.  The music was more alternative, rock and country and not hip-hop, rap, and blues.

White privilege is not about the inherent racism in systems, although it could be.  White privilege is more about the unconscious choices you are granted in life simply based off your skin color.  It does not make you racist, but when you refuse to see it, you also refuse to see what minorities encounter.  We are equal in the eyes of the law, but we are definitely not equal in how we are treated based off of the unconscious biases of those in the majority.  To acknowledge these differences is to accept the inequalities in the world, for sometimes the most you can do is to simply accept that social injustice exists.

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