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What Is White Privilege, and 7 Signs You Have It.

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

What is White Privilege?

As the Black Lives Matter movement gains its well-deserved momentum, the concept of white privilege has come up in many articles, Instagram posts and tweets. But for some people, the concept of white privilege is confusing. They don’t understand that a person can be privileged and still have a difficult life. Oftentimes, when the concept of white privilege is brought up, people use the fact that they have depression or grew up in poverty to argue that it doesn’t exist. Nobody is saying that these people don’t have issues or their own set of challenges. However, when we talk about privilege, we’re talking about how these personal issues are not because of or made worse by the whiteness of your skin. Your problems, while real problems, are not rooted in racial bias and hate. So, for white people, who, like me, didn’t at first understand their privilege, I’ve compiled a list of seven signs that you have it, even if you aren’t aware of it.


7 Signs You Have White Privilege


1. About a year ago, I was pulled over on a highway for going 75 in a 60 (I know, I know.). When I realized the cop was chasing me, I became so flustered that I even hit the guard rail as I was attempting to pull over. The cop knocked on my window, asked for my license and registration, gave me a quick speech about the dangers of driving over the speed limit, and let me off with a warning. I never once feared for my life during this interaction. The police officer didn’t watch me pull out my license and registration to make sure I wasn’t pulling out a gun and not once did he raise his voice at me or make me get out of my car onto my hands and knees. I realize now that if my skin were a different color, that experience could have gone very differently. So, if you have ever been pulled over on the side of the road and the sound of police sirens didn’t frighten you, or make you fear for your life, congrats. You have privilege. 


2. If you have ever been passed over for a job or rejected from the neighborhood you wanted to live in, and never once wondered if it was because of the color of your skin. Can you guess what I’m about to say? Ding-Ding! You have privilege. 


3. As a white girl, I could probably count the number of movies or TV shows I’ve seen centered around Black leads. Oftentimes, Black actors and actresses are cast as sidekicks to the white leads. If you can always count on movies and TV shows to cast actors that look like you and you’ve never had a hard time finding someone with your skin color on the screen, look at that! You have privilege.


4. When I was little, American Girl Dolls were all the rage. They had a lot of white dolls, more white dolls and, surprisingly, even more white dolls. I never had a problem finding an American Girl Doll that looked like me (the exception being my insanely curly hair). If you never had an issue finding dolls that looked like you, it’s no secret. You have privilege.


5. Throughout history, light skin has always been seen as more beautiful than dark skin. If you look up “skin lightening” on Google, you’ll find articles like “How To Lighten Your Skin” and “Top 3 Skin Lightening Creams” littering the results page. These methods of skin lightening are often incredibly harmful to the body, and the creams contain dangerous chemicals that could cause a number of health problems. Despite the risks, these skin lightening practices are very common in India and a number of African countries. The popularity of these practices leads to an incredibly dangerous and distorted concept that white skin is beautiful and dark skin is not. So, if you have never been made to feel ugly for the color of your skin, and have never been told “Wow, you’re really pretty for a white girl,” you guessed it! You have privilege.


6. In the same way that light skin is seen as more beautiful, straight hair has always been seen as more professional. Many Black men and women have been made to feel as if they need to straighten their naturally beautiful hair just to be considered for a job. If you never had to change your natural hair in order to be seen as more professional, it’s official. You have privilege.


7. You’ve seen racial injustices occur and have done nothing because it does not affect you. If you have watched people riot over the deaths of innocent Black people like Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd and have been comfortable in your silence, no doubt about it. You have privilege.


7 Ways You Can Use Your White Privilege To Better the Lives of Black People


1. Amplify Black voices. A simple retweet or reblog can do so much in the way of educating other non-Black people on the injustices Black people have to face on a daily basis.


2. Support Black art. It’s no secret that Black creators have always had to fight for a place at the artist’s table. By buying Black art and streaming Black music, you are directly supporting Black culture and Black lives.


3. Attend Black Lives Matter protests and stand in the front. If you are standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, you must remember that you are not, and have never been, the target. A white person has never been killed for being white. So, when attending protests and rallies where police are present, stand as a barrier between them and Black protesters.


4. Have conversations with other white people about racial injustices and white privilege. As a protestor worded so brilliantly, “It’s not activism if you’re having conversations with people who already agree with you.” Use your white privilege and have those uncomfortable conversations with people who may disagree with you. Make it clear that the murder of innocent Black lives is not a political issue but an issue of human rights.


5. Vote. This one is self-explanatory. When you vote, you have the opportunity to elect people that actually care about racial injustice and want to ease the suffering of Black communities and remove the ones who don’t.


6. Educate yourself. Remember that is not the job of a Black person to educate you on your privilege. Read books and watch films that discuss the history of Black suffering and ways to combat racism. The more you educate yourself, the more you are able to have conversations on the topic.


7. Support Black businesses. Generational wealth is something that white people tend to have a lot of, while Black people typically have much less of it. When you support Black businesses, you support and empower Black communities.


It’s no secret that racism has had and always will have, a place in our government. It’s no secret that Black people have always been hurt by the very people sworn to protect them. Also, it’s no secret that, although white people love to pretend that the death of George Floyd was an isolated incident, these types of racial injustices have been occurring for centuries; the cameras have just been off. As we continue to educate ourselves, let’s remember to keep up the momentum. Let’s not wait for another innocent Black person to be killed to start speaking up again. As white people, we will never understand how it feels to be Black in America, but we can support Black communities as they navigate this reality. Let’s do so with open minds and loud voices.