White Privileged Like Me

There are 26 Comments

Mark_Smith's picture

I have seen this definition given for the term white privilege:

"

What is white privilege?

White privilege is a set of advantages and/or immunities that white people benefit from on a daily basis beyond those common to all others. White privilege can exist without white people's conscious knowledge of its presence and it helps to maintain the racial hierarchy in this country.

The biggest problem with white privilege is the invisibility it maintains to those who benefit from it most. The inability to recognize that many of the advantages whites hold are a direct result of the disadvantages of other people, contributes to the unwillingness of white people, even those who are not overtly racist, to recognize their part in maintaining and benefiting from white supremacy.

White privilege is about not having to worry about being followed in a department store while shopping. It's about thinking that your clothes, manner of speech, and behavior in general, are racially neutral, when, in fact, they are white. It's seeing your image on television daily and knowing that you're being represented. It's people assuming that you lead a constructive life free from crime and off welfare. It's about not having to assume your daily interactions with people have racial overtones.

White privilege is having the freedom and luxury to fight racism one day and ignore it the next. White privilege exists on an individual, cultural, and institutional level.

"Being white means never having to think about it."
-James Baldwin

"

Bert Perry's picture

I've been the only "WASP" in a number of settings, including at least five church settings (two asian, three black), and I've got to confess that I've got limited patience for talk of "white privilege".  Sure, people have different cultural assumptions, different clothes, and the like, but are we under any impression that caucasian culture is monolithic?  That whites do not need to adjust to different cultural assumptions, too?  Those who would argue that white culture is somehow a de facto monolith really need to get out more IMO.  Compare New York Italians and Jews with southern rednecks, Chicago Poles....  Doesn't it come down to Paul's note that he was a Jew to Jews, a Greek to Greeks....?

Really, the privilege that I've had in life is not my need for SPF 50 when I'm out in the sun, but rather parents who taught me how to work, taught me how to live, and the like.  Stuff like "Son, get that ticket paid or your next interaction with the police officer will end in the graybar hotel."  Or, as Walter Williams would not, if you get your diploma and can read it, get a job, stay out of crime, and marry before having kids, you won't likely be poor.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Sean Fericks's picture

I agree that "white privilege" is a thing.  But so is middle class.  So is US Citizen.  So is son of a businessman.  Each of these comes with unearned privilege.  Rather than apologize for the success of our forefathers (white, black, or otherwise), we should build upon that success, and help others attain their own success.

I am white, and my forefathers never owned slaves.  Many black people have forefathers that did own slaves.  I won't mope around and feel guilty for my privileges. Rather, I will rejoice that God has given me great opportunity, and I will use that opportunity to glorify God by helping myself, my family, and others.  One step to ending "white privilege" is to stop thinking about people in terms of skin color, and start seeing them as individuals.

JohnBrian's picture

Bert Perry wrote:
I've been the only "WASP" in a number of settings, including at least five church settings (two asian, three black), and I've got to confess that I've got limited patience for talk of "white privilege".

Agreed!

I categorically reject the notion of white privilege and see it as one more way to create tension between races.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

Bert Perry's picture

I can't reject the principle of "white privilege" entirely, as I've been witness to some rather embarrassing behavior towards black people where caucasian friends of mine revealed that they believed all those nasty stereotypes.  And confirmed a few of them about white people, to be sure.

But that said, I've got to guess that the factor of race pales before that of how you present yourself.  To draw a picture from my own life, I used to have a flattop in college, and it struck me that I could save money by shaving my head instead of going to the barber once a month.  Looked great on Michael Jordan!  Then I realized that yes, when a black man shaved his head, there was a resemblance to #23, but when a young white man did so in those days, he was generally saying he was an Aryan Nations type.

So I kept the flattop, just as I never got into wearing t shirts from heavy metal bands, leather motorcycle gear, or the like.  I knew it said something about me.  

Another example; I once went to buy sheets in ratty jeans and a t shirt, and not surprisingly the sales-lady steered me towards the 50/50 poly/cotton blends.  I kept my sense of humor about me, however, and boy was she surprised when I left with a set of the best sheets they had.  She hadn't even touched them before I suggested to her that she ought to feel how soft they were.  

So if someone tries to tell me that nobody profiles white people....well, I guess I'll tell 'em some stories, won't I?

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Doug Flynn's picture

"It's about not having to assume your daily interactions with people have racial overtones."

Seems to me that the "white privilege" crowd has a profiling/hypocrisy issue to deal with. If you're going to go around assuming the worst about 80-90% of the population, you've got a real issue to deal with, and you are going to wind up with a chip on your shoulder.

(fwiw, I'm not assuming that Mark endorses the definition he posted - this isn't an attack on Mark)

Joel Shaffer's picture

I am going to attempt to address white privilege from an urban missionary's point of view.  I will state the issue in the context of black and white people.  even though I realize that the conglomeration of more and more people/ethnic groups in America continues to make this issue even more complicated. 

 When the subject of white privilege is brought up, I often hear two radically different responses by white people.  The first is white guilt.  Often times those who are more progressive and liberal in their worldview see the centuries of systematic racial injustice and oppression in our country. And despite all of the racial progress since the Jim Crow years, they realize that there are still advantages that white people have in life which have to do with their skin color.  But as a way of trying to make the guilt go away, they try to do things that might bring forgiveness and acceptance in the eyes of black people.  I've seen it all at anti-racism trainings, racial reconciliation meetings, diversity seminars and etc..... Letting black people know that they voted for Obama, actual groveling and apologizing on behalf of whites against blacks for every racial injustice that they can think of that happened in America, becoming the great white hope that will right the wrongs through aggressive government social redistribution programs.  The last one becomes a form of racial paternalism, because it assumes that blacks are not capable of solving these problems without the help of the great white hope.  (By the way, I've also seen some positive things come out of a few of these meetings as well......)

The second response is the one that I've observed here on Sharper Iron.  It is a posture of white defensiveness.  In my interactions with many whites that are quite defensive, I have been blown away that so many are closed to the idea that racism is still a problem, (although not nearly what it was 50 years ago).  I can give example after examples of racism that many of my students and my friends have dealt with on a regular basis, but often times my words are met with suspicion.  If I bring up that I know many instances of my students being followed at the mall, the typical response is "what were they wearing?" If I bring up instances where I know people that were unfairly stopped by the police, the overwhelming response seems to be to blame the people that were stopped.  Its as if many unconsciously doubt the depraved sin nature with certain people with authority, but at the same time, they surely want to point it out with black people.  By the way, I have seen several instances of my neighbors or students playing the race card in certain situations that weren't motivated by race and I am quick to call that out too (I am an equal opportunity offender)

The assumption that many who are defensive with the term white privilege is that it is a politically correct term to drive a wedge between the races or a term that thinks the worst about white people.  Or an excuse for certain people of color who are poor to stay in poverty and collect a government check.  

Rather it is a phrase that helps people come to terms with the social-economic obstacles that many non-whites face in our country, that the many white people don't realize.  The privilege that we whites have is not a bad thing!  Its nothing that I should feel guilty about.  Rather it is something that I will try to help change so that all people have the same privileges that I have (but not through aggressive government social distribution programs).  

By the way, here is a great article that shares and explains study after study that demonstrates there is a white privilege here in America.  I like this article, because it also points out that when it comes to race, many of us have good intentions but may unconsciously have a racial bias.  http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/upshot/the-measuring-sticks-of-racial-...

Joel Shaffer's picture

Also, as an urban missionary in my neighborhood where the majority of my students and their families are African-American, my response to the term white privilege cannot afford to be defensive, but must rather be cross-shaped along the lines of what Paul talks about in Phil. 2:1-11.  

dmicah's picture

Joel, great summary of the issue regarding the two camps of reactions. For those turning this into a concept of image & profiling & being one in Christ, that's actually a bit off point. White privilege is an intangible institution of sorts requiring complex analysis. In fact, the OP article really didn't explain WP, but simply accepted it.

But it certainly exists. Acknowledging its existence and feeling guilty about being white are two different things. On one level, it's simply history and math. I don't feel the least bit guilty about US history or my race. I have control over neither. 

On another level, it's fairly insidious and arrogant when people in the majority refuse to listen to the minority when they explain an intangible sense of oppression, systemic institutional and statistically verifiable bias, and repeated circumstances in which they experience veritable acts of racism.

Before you reject WP, ask yourself a question? Do I have at least two relationships with African-Americans that I would label as close friendships?

What I usually hear from whites is a token relationship "from work" or "from the gym" or "back in the military". My point is that if you don't have friends of color who you interact with, i.e. pick up the phone and call, text, Facebook, serve with in ministry, have over to your home, go out to eat with, spend recreational time with, etc., then you really can't speak to the topic. You'll only hear the real story when you engage in dialog with people who've experienced the effects.

FYI, my context is North Carolina.

Jim's picture

Can it be quantified? Are there degrees? Should it be remediated?

  • Quantified? Are there metrics? Does it apply to recent African immiigrants?
  • Are there degrees? Pale white ... Pink white ... Tan White ... Tan ... Dark Tan .... Brown .... Black
    • My son-in-law was born in Afghanistan. He is dark tan
    • I have a nephew: White mother ... black father. He is dark tan. He married a white woman and they have two tan white children
  • Should it be remediated? 
    • What would they be?
    • What subgroup should remediate?

Thanks

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dmicah wrote:

On another level, it's fairly insidious and arrogant when people in the majority refuse to listen to the minority when they explain an intangible sense of oppression, systemic institutional and statistically verifiable bias, and repeated circumstances in which they experience veritable acts of racism.

The real question of course is not "Do the majority see that privilege exists for the majority?"  The question is, even if the majority does admit such a thing, what is the minority expecting?  I think the real reason people don't acknowledge any sort of privilege in their upbringing, whether race, economic factors, whatever, isn't that they can't see it.  It's that they fear what will come next if they do acknowledge it.  Because the answer isn't "Since things were so unfair for this group, we now need to make it unfair for other groups now (aka, giving preference to the underprivileged group)."  We have the record of history for extreme results of that theory during the aftermath of the French revolution.  So what else is there that the minority would actually accept as a real solution to the problem?

I think it does no good to talk about "white privilege" if we can't talk about good solutions at the same time.  And I have to say this -- what many of those talking about "white privilege" say are the solutions are clearly non-starters for most of the majority.

Dave Barnhart

JohnBrian's picture

dmicah wrote:
Do I have at least two relationships with African-Americans that I would label as close friendships?

I only need 2!

My family is multi-ethnic, so that's more than 2.

I grew up in Jamaica as an MK, and as a TCK considered myself Jamaican, not white. Add all the people I played with, went to school with, interacted on a daily basis with, and the count rises into the hundreds.

No white privilege for me!

The Myth of White Privilege

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

dmicah's picture

this isn't a snarky question, but honestly, what does being Jamaican or growing up there have to do with the American White Privilege? The question still stands since you basically answered in the past tense. Can you or others speak knowledgeably to this topic if you don't have American friends of color?

(And please don't confuse my disagreement with your position to be an assumption of racism/discrimination.)

dmicah's picture

dcbii wrote:

 

I think it does no good to talk about "white privilege" if we can't talk about good solutions at the same time.  And I have to say this -- what many of those talking about "white privilege" say are the solutions are clearly non-starters for most of the majority.

What point are you trying to make? That we should discuss it because there could be solutions? Or since there are no good solutions we shouldn't mention it? I'm not quite understanding where you're going.

As to solutions, I'm not sure it's an equation. I'm saying those who pretend minorities are, for lack of a better term, whining, come across as unwilling to hear someone else's pain. To dismiss this out of hand is more than a pittance of hubris. God's people have always been in the minority, which should make us more sensitive to the plight of those who start with an uphill battle. 

Back to what the majority should do? Listen, acknowledge, get to know people outside of our typical lily white circles. Make every attempt to cut racial discrimination from our lives and pass that to our children. Be willing to stand with victims of injustice. Don't allow overt or subtle racism to go unchecked. Just some simple things like that would be a good start.

JohnBrian's picture

"Cause the players gonna play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off" (quoting Taylor Swift - no doubt a first on SI)

dmicah wrote:
Can you or others speak knowledgeably to this topic if you don't have American friends of color?

You have fallen prey to political liberalism in this regard and you need to shake it off!

Many of my Jamaican friends have migrated to the US and my dearest friend from my senior year in high school lives in VA. A number of years ago, he told me that American companies hire non-American blacks for the single reason that they don't come with the victimhood baggage that American blacks do. He and his wife's combined income every 2 years is greater than my cumulative income for the past 35 years, so clearly I have no advantage over him because of white privilege.

A number of those who have migrated from Jamaica have started churches in the north-east and this year the fellowship of those churches will hold their 25th anniversary conference. I serve on the board but have been unable to attend the event for the past few years because of financial constraints.

One of the saddest things I have observed has to do with the American born children of those who migrated to the US. I am friends with some of them on FB, and one young lady in posting on the shooting of Brown in Jefferson last year, wrote about white cops driving through black neighborhoods looking for black boys to shoot. She had read an article and concluded that Brown had been shot gang-land style by the police. I read the article and it was written in a way that would lead someone who was convinced that white cops assassinate black boys, into just that conclusion, even though the article didn't say that.

The problem is that the shuck and jive dudes of the Jackson and Sharpton ilk, are not interested in resolving racism in this country because they profit by promoting the notion of racism, and shaking down large companies.

How Sharpton gets paid to not cry ‘racism’ at corporations

There is an article in the weekend Wall St Journal titled, Shelby Steele’s Thankless Task (may need a subscription to read).

...people who, despite their endless cries for social justice, in one way or another have a deep emotional if not financial investment in keeping black Americans in the sad conditions in which so many of them continue to find themselves

...what takes courage is telling truth to listeners who have grown accustomed to thinking themselves victims, have accepted the ultimately inadequate benefits of victimhood and, touchier than a fresh burn, take offense at the least criticism.

As far as I'm concerned, the notion of white privilege is not real, and victimizes black Americans who feel it. We don't help people by embracing the lies that they are led to believe, and white privilege is one of those lies that folks need to shake off.

CanJAmerican - my blog
CanJAmerican - my twitter
whitejumaycan - my youtube

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dmicah wrote:

What point are you trying to make?

That as long as solutions put forward by those screaming about "white privilege" are going to make the division worse instead of better, it really doesn't do much good to grant their point, or even acknowledge it.  Once the point is granted, then the majority will be pushed into implementing those "solutions" that are not helpful long-term to eliminate the problem.  When we talk about solutions that can work that both sides can agree on, then real progress will be made.

Quote:

Back to what the majority should do? Listen, acknowledge, get to know people outside of our typical lily white circles. Make every attempt to cut racial discrimination from our lives and pass that to our children.

Not only is that reasonable, it's what I already do.  In fact, I do have one black friend of the type you mention, someone I have known for over 20 years, and although this person moved away a couple years ago, we still call, she visits with my wife and I when she returns to see her family, and we are close in every way friends can be.  However, it is just one friend, not multiple, though I have close friends of other races.  And I'm sure she wouldn't be considered a good example by the minority, since she worked her way up from her very modest non-middle-class background to the point where she is now the assistant chief of operations of the medical school of an American university.  We knew her when she was "just" a secretary, and our friendship has not changed even though she now moves in circles much above mine.

Also, with my children, I taught them what I believe, which is essentially race blindness.  I don't actually believe in "race," and I have treated people of all colors and nationalities we have known, not just black, as equals in every way, neither better nor worse than our white family.  I have not concentrated on any differences; in fact I've gone out of my way to ignore them, because I don't believe the problems between "races" will go away until we just don't notice "race" any more -- all we see is people.  And although that thinking (race blindness) is out of fashion with the liberal intelligentsia these days, I think it's quite in keeping with "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

Dave Barnhart

Joel Shaffer's picture

JohnBrian wrote:

"Cause the players gonna play, play, play
And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate
Baby I'm just gonna shake, shake, shake
Shake it off" (quoting Taylor Swift - no doubt a first on SI)

 

dmicah wrote:

Can you or others speak knowledgeably to this topic if you don't have American friends of color?

 

You have fallen prey to political liberalism in this regard and you need to shake it off!

Many of my Jamaican friends have migrated to the US and my dearest friend from my senior year in high school lives in VA. A number of years ago, he told me that American companies hire non-American blacks for the single reason that they don't come with the victimhood baggage that American blacks do. He and his wife's combined income every 2 years is greater than my cumulative income for the past 35 years, so clearly I have no advantage over him because of white privilege.

A number of those who have migrated from Jamaica have started churches in the north-east and this year the fellowship of those churches will hold their 25th anniversary conference. I serve on the board but have been unable to attend the event for the past few years because of financial constraints.

One of the saddest things I have observed has to do with the American born children of those who migrated to the US. I am friends with some of them on FB, and one young lady in posting on the shooting of Brown in Jefferson last year, wrote about white cops driving through black neighborhoods looking for black boys to shoot. She had read an article and concluded that Brown had been shot gang-land style by the police. I read the article and it was written in a way that would lead someone who was convinced that white cops assassinate black boys, into just that conclusion, even though the article didn't say that.

The problem is that the shuck and jive dudes of the Jackson and Sharpton ilk, are not interested in resolving racism in this country because they profit by promoting the notion of racism, and shaking down large companies.

How Sharpton gets paid to not cry ‘racism’ at corporations

There is an article in the weekend Wall St Journal titled, Shelby Steele’s Thankless Task (may need a subscription to read).

...people who, despite their endless cries for social justice, in one way or another have a deep emotional if not financial investment in keeping black Americans in the sad conditions in which so many of them continue to find themselves

...what takes courage is telling truth to listeners who have grown accustomed to thinking themselves victims, have accepted the ultimately inadequate benefits of victimhood and, touchier than a fresh burn, take offense at the least criticism.

As far as I'm concerned, the notion of white privilege is not real, and victimizes black Americans who feel it. We don't help people by embracing the lies that they are led to believe, and white privilege is one of those lies that folks need to shake off.

John Brian, 

So you are going with the Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson argument for dismissing White Privilege?  By choosing these race-baiters/race-profiteers as your normative reason for rejecting white privilege, you have created quite the strawman argument which is much easier to bash than the arguments that I presented. I can literally give hundreds of examples of racial profiling/bias that happened among the students and families to whom I minister in the inner-city that would not happen to you because of you are white!  But of course being an urban missionary and having several thousand African-American students come through our programs for the past 23 years really doesn't mean much to some people.  On some of these situations, I was even mistaken by the police as a drug addict (because of course a 20 something year old young black man would never hang out with a middle-aged bald white man unless he was selling him drugs!).  Also, I mentioned this story before, but I have a former white student of mine that got away with stealing thousands and thousands of dollars worth of merchandise at a mall over an extended period of time because he realized that all the mall security were following the black students! Oh the irony!  

And of course the data from study after study that's been done on racial bias backs up the fact that there is white privilege in many different arenas of life (health, housing, employment, consumer, and etc...    http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/04/upshot/the-measuring-sticks-of-racial-...

By the way, you might be surprised that I actually agree with much of what Shelby Steele says.  I couldn't access this article, but his books "The Content of Our Character" and "White Guilt" were good reads.  He does a great job addressing the issues and destructive behavior patterns of victimhood and white guilt.  But what I am trying to say is that acknowledging that white privilege does exist in America doesn't have to lead to the unhealthy behaviors of black victimhood and white guilt! Of course there are some (especially the media pundits from the left) that publicly advocate this unhealthy way of thinking and then their solutions end up as another failed government social intervention program.  

 

dmicah's picture

You have fallen prey to political liberalism in this regard and you need to shake it off!

If by political liberalism, you mean giving some thought and making some rational observations, then ok. Otherwise, no, I'm about as far from political liberalism as possible.

Also, any dude who injects Taylor Swift into an argument with a straight face should lose their man card for a period not to exceed thirty days. Biggrin

I agree with Joel, you're creating a straw man and have yet to really answer the question. Sharpton/Jackson are clowns, but their behavior has little to do with the overall discussion. But it's not worth going in circles.

Be good...

Bert Perry's picture

The smart aleck in me wants to joke that almost no Minnesotan can speak to "white privilege" simply because it's a state of pallor.  

But seriously, that's not exactly true, as there are a fair number of minorities of all shades if one will look around.  My family gets to interact with a fair number of asians, Haitians, filipinas (Negros Island is actually named for the skin color of the people), and US-born african-americans.  I would agree that there is very often a very different experience by the native born vs. immigrants from the Caribbean and Africa (and attitudes of the same), and of course there are lots of reasons for that.

One thought that occurs to me is that in interacting with those convinced that Michael Brown was basically murdered (I have, FWIW) is that there are some things that we can all support to really defuse the situation.  Wouldn't we all support dash cameras and body microphones/cameras on police so that instead of arguing about testimony, we can just say "roll tape"?  (and then of course argue about whether the tape was edited, of course)  Wouldn't we all support taking a close look at the data and evaluating whether the prosecutors gave a fair shot to the grand jury--and work to remove them if they haven't?

And on the flip side, we can point out that nobody ought to want to do double jeopardy and void the decisions of grand juries--the biggest advance in race relations in the past century is the notion that blacks ought to have the protection of the law, after all.   But all in all, I'm thinking that there is a great amount of positive movement that we can achieve if we're smart about it.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Sean Fericks's picture

"Free your mind...the rest will follow.  Be color blind...don't be so shallow."

I agree that white privilege, American privilege, Fericks privilege, European privilege exists.  I also agree that many people have far less privilege than me.  However, this does not require me to mope, make two token friends, or feel guilty.  The solution to the disparity of privilege is to treat humans like humans.  

There is not black or white race.  There is only the human race.  In the early 1800s, some people viewed humans as multiple races, and divided them in destructive and ungodly ways.  Today, some people view humans as multiple races, and divide them in destructive and ungodly ways.

I don't have white or black friends.  I have friends.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Sean Fericks wrote:

"Free your mind...the rest will follow.  Be color blind...don't be so shallow."

[...]

The solution to the disparity of privilege is to treat humans like humans.  

There is not black or white race.  There is only the human race.

[...]

I don't have white or black friends.  I have friends.

Amen.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

Sean Fericks wrote:

"Free your mind...the rest will follow.  Be color blind...don't be so shallow."

I agree that white privilege, American privilege, Fericks privilege, European privilege exists.  I also agree that many people have far less privilege than me.  However, this does not require me to mope, make two token friends, or feel guilty.  The solution to the disparity of privilege is to treat humans like humans.  

There is not black or white race.  There is only the human race.  In the early 1800s, some people viewed humans as multiple races, and divided them in destructive and ungodly ways.  Today, some people view humans as multiple races, and divide them in destructive and ungodly ways.

I don't have white or black friends.  I have friends.

I'll join Sean and Dave (?) in this, but it also strikes me that I would be a fool if I didn't use what I know about a group's experience to make bridges.  For example, I had a wonderful conversation last night with a dear brother from Haiti, where he noted how hard it is for Americans to understand life in developing/third world countries unless we've been there.  If we get out more--even just to read old National Geographics--we're going to find a lot of treasures waiting for us in our ministries.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.