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White Privilege and Fragility: Acknowledging Your Privilege Is Not Activism

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at McGill chapter.

What is White Privilege? 


White privilege does not mean that your life has been without difficulty or struggle. Even if you were not financially privileged, white privilege means that you did not have additional barriers of racism and systems of oppression geared against you. 

White privilege exists as a direct result of the historic and deeply rooted endurance of racism, biases, and practices designed to oppress People of Colour (POC). 

White privilege means that you actively benefit from the oppression of People of Colour. It is common to normalize oppressive systems when you have benefited from them. 

Ignorance of White Privilege is a tool of Racial Domination and its continuation. 


“White privilege is requesting to have things explained in a way that makes sense to you instead of spending more time sitting with the discomfort of others.” — @thisisyolandarenteria on IG


There is often a notion that Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) must be the bigger person to those who invalidate, shame, and gaslight them. It unfairly puts the work and accompanying trauma on oppressed groups to re-educate their oppressors.


Having a BIPOC friend or partner does not speak to your openness and inclusiveness, not when you continue to justify and normalize oppressive systems, especially ones that make life more difficult for the same people you claim to love and accept. 


What are you doing with your privilege besides acknowledging it?


Acknowledging your privilege is NOT activism! By actively using your privilege to enter and occupy spaces instead of using that opportunity to uplift and make room for historically oppressed groups is reinforcing systems of oppression. What are you doing besides identifying that you benefit from oppression? Feeling bad or guilty about having white privilege is neither helpful to BIPOC nor activism if you do nothing to unpack and utilize it for good. 


What is White Fragility? 


  • It is not addressing the real problem. You are not exempt from racism because you don’t wear a white sheet. White supremacy manifests itself in systems and even your own biases, beliefs, and actions. 
  • It perpetuates oppression. The inability to discuss and confront racial inequities is the very reason why white supremacy continues to oppress BIPOC. 
  • It centres on whiteness. It forces BIPOC to downplay their trauma and experiences to become digestible and non-confrontational (content designed not to hurt white feelings).


Are you more concerned with being called out as a racist than you are about actually fighting racism? 


Activism requires action. 


Acknowledgement of a problem without action to alleviate it is being complicit. There is no neutrality to be had towards systems of injustice. 


silence is violence protest sign
Photo by Phil Roeder from Flickr


Public acknowledgement of your privilege is not a way to justify occupying space over marginalized voices and your undoubted complicity in oppressive systems. Identifying your privilege is no doubt a prerequisite to entering the conversation on equality, but it is not the whole conversation, and it is certainly not the work required to dismantle systems of inequality. It is hard to hear and learn from someone over the sound of your own voice. Stop and listen. 


Perfection is NOT a prerequisite to participation. – Danielle Coke (@ohhappydani, Twitter) 


Don’t feel pressured to get it all right on the first try. Go beyond acknowledging your privilege as a way to sympathize with BIPOC and start utilizing your privilege to uplift marginalized voices and needs. 

You cannot be anti-racist and complicit with racism. Hold yourself and others to the same standard of accountability. Re-educate yourself on racism. Decolonize the education that perpetuates harmful stereotypes or false re-tellings of history. 

You cannot claim to fight for equality while continuing to turn a blind eye to racist comments and oppressive systems. 


Photo by James Eades on Unsplash


Are you using your platform or privilege to amplify marginalized voices? 

Are you calling out racism when you see it? 

Are you acknowledging your own unconscious biases? 


“Anyone can see white supremacy when it stands there in a white hood but the real work is identifying and challenging it in the people you work with, those you call friends, your family, your spiritual leaders and above all in yourself.” — @everydayracism_ on IG 


Black Lives Matter protesters
Photo by Phil Roeder from Flickr


Instagram Pages to Follow for Resources and Further Education and Reflection: 


  1. @thenextgenerasian “Empowering and inspiring action within the next generation of Asians through media, storytelling, spotlights, and more.”
  2. @thepeahceproject “Celebrating Asian identity through media.” 
  3. @everydayracism_ “Anti-Racism Activists amplifying stories from BIPOC.”
  4. @thevoiceofcolour “Voicing the realities of racism in the UK and beyond.” 
  5. @courtneyahndesign “A Korean-American woman using design and illustration to educate others and confront systems of racial injustice and inequality” 
Hailing from Hong Kong, Michelle is in her second year at McGill University studying Political Science and Communications. A self-proclaimed Luke Combs enthusiast and an intense shopaholic, Michelle is also passionate about activism and advocating for the importance of maintaining good mental health. Pre-covid, she enjoyed brunch with friends (a firm Mimosa and Moscato D'asti lover), playing Just Dance with friends, and travelling. You can find her on Instagram at @mjd0ubleu!