Race: White Privilege

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By Iola Kostrzewski

“White privilege” – refers to the benefits of access to resources, social rewards, and the power to shape the norms and values of society that whites receive. Consciously or unconsciously. You are born into it and there is nothing you can do to get rid of it.

White privilege will come up nine times out of ten, if you stay around long enough to see a conversation about race go down on the internet, more specifically in social media.

As soon as this term is used the one who has said it is met with comments such as

“That term is racist”

“Why do I have to suffer because I am white?”

Or my favorite

“Just because I am white, doesn’t mean I have money. I am not privileged.”

You don’t have to have money to benefit from white privilege nor do you even have to personally identify yourself as white. As long as society sees you as white, there is no question in whether you will benefit from white privilege.

Yet if you are still confused and have no idea how you are benefiting from the color of your skin answer these questions:

  • Have you ever been followed around a store, questioned, or even arrested after you bought something?
  • Have you ever had been affected by negative stereotypes about your race, which have been going around since your ancestors stepped foot in the country?
  • Are people surprised that when you speak, that you are actually articulate?
  • Have you ever had to sit your kids down and talk about systemic racism?
  • Have you ever received a job due to affirmative action? Or better yet, do people question your qualifications for the job you have?
  • Have you ever realized that you are only one of a handful of students of your race on your college campus?

    If you have answered no to a majority of these questions chances are you benefit from white privilege.

Yet because I am pointing out you have been born into a world of privilege I am not asking the following from you:

  • A feeling of guilt
  • An apology
  • I am not asking you to explain to me how you are not racist. Discussing white privilege is not the same as calling you racist.
  • I also am not asking you to explain how you are a good person; I never said you weren’t.
  • What I am asking you is to acknowledge the fact that you have privilege and to check yourself at the door, before you get into a conversation about race.
  • I am asking for you not to respond with,  “slavery was years ago and to get over it…” When I speak about how slavery has affected and is still affecting the black community today.
  • I would like you to stop saying that you are color blind when it comes to race and that people are just people. Yes in the perfect world this would be great. Yet, this is not the perfect world, and because of your privilege you do not have to face the fact that you are white every day. I, in fact, do have to address the fact that I am black every day. Your color blindness is, in fact, a form of racism. You cannot refuse to see a problem and expect it to go away.

I ask that you listen to me and at least try to understand where I am coming from on any given issue.

White privilege will continue to be around until white supremacy is completely erased from society.  Until that day, I do ask you to use your white privilege for good. When you can understand your own privilege you will finally be better equipped to understanding the systemic inequalities that are going on around you.  You will be better equipped to challenging the system and perhaps making a change.


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8 comments

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  1. Laura Powell 19 November, 2013, 16:10

    (There are some editing needs in the “Have you ever…?” questions. Words missing, double words. Just fyi. Thanks!)

    Reply this comment
  2. Erin S 8 April, 2014, 07:20

    Has anyone ever thought that “white privilege” and racism is actually perpetuated by the very people who are “wanting” to overcome it? I see that anytime a person who isnt white does something they go immediately to racism as to why they were looked upon.

    Reply this comment
    • Jamie Lynne Author 8 April, 2014, 09:16

      From the post: “I am not asking you to explain to me how you are not racist. Discussing white privilege is not the same as calling you racist.”

      From your comment, I think you may be confusing white privilege with racism; both terms are in some ways related, but are also very different. I think this article is linked somewhere in Iola’s post, but if not, this is a great resource: http://amptoons.com/blog/files/mcintosh.html

      Here is an article that better answers your question on racism: http://www.racefiles.com/2013/07/03/why-are-white-people-so-touchy-about-being-called-racist/
      and this one: http://feminspire.com/why-reverse-racism-isnt-real/

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      • Erin 8 April, 2014, 10:18

        No. I meant what I said. Saying that white people get white privilege is in and of itself racism. However, because it is someone who is not white who says it, it of course cannot be racism. This article is just that, however, racist. You cannot talk about “white privilege” without mentioning racism. They are not independent of each other. If everyone, no matter what color skin is had, would just knock off how one race is better than the other, enjoys things other races do not and stops saying that they are being stereotyped based on the color of their skin then things like “white privilege” would not be an issue. I have worked hard for everything I have. My skin color has not helped nor hindered me in any of my endeavors. What has helped and/or hindered me are the personal choices I make/made in my life. I took road a over road b. Road b may have been easier, I will never know. What I do know is that people need to stop blaming others for their personal decisions. Take accountability. If someone is in a bad situation, rise out of it. There are always options. The outcome is based on the person and their own personal decision. Not on things such as “white privilege.”

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        • Iola 8 April, 2014, 12:02

          And you are the prime example if what I was speaking about. Yes let’s hold a group of people back 400 years then complain about how hard they aren’t working because they are still using that racism excuse. If I heals your family back four hundred years prevented you from reading writing being human. Would you still come on here stating get over it?

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          • Kay 8 April, 2014, 13:00

            Your reply is SO incoherent. I’m assuming it’s being done on a mobile, and you’re just getting screwed by autocorrect.

            Regardless, black Americans are not being “held back” by some oppressive power, other than their own attitudes and inability to grow past their own history. This country bends over backwards giving a million legs up and hands out to help educate, advance, and give opportunities to the black community. Moreso than any other ethnic group. And yet it has done nothing but feed a culture of entitlement, victimization, and yes, superiority. And it’s shameful. America does not separate itself from the black community. The black community separates itself from America. And no measure of “inclusion” is ever good enough. There is no solution because it isn’t a societal problem anymore, it’s a cultural problem that is perpetuated by the very culture that is crying foul. Every time a black segregates themselves from society and then blames society for it, THAT’S what is setting this country back. THAT is what needs to change.

            I’m black and apparently from your list, I suffer from “White privilege”. BULL.

        • Kay 8 April, 2014, 12:51

          Erin, you’re spot on. The idea that non-whites, and specifically blacks, can’t be racist is asinine. I’m a black individual and I can answer “no” to pretty much everything on that stupid list, so am I suffering from “white privilege”?? NO. That’s ridiculous.

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