Oops, Your White Privilege is Showing!

White privilege: a hot-button, somewhat unsettling, controversial at its core, form of liberal ammunition that’s gained recent popularity in the wave of glamourized left-leaning majorities. Despite the sour taste “white privilege’ has left in the loud mouths of conservatives, it’s an important topic to discuss nonetheless, especially in the midst of Black History Month celebrations. This article is for everyone: the social justice warrior, the “liberal” college student, the archetypical white person, and even the conservative who denies the existence of white privilege all together.

Let’s face it, it’s 2019, it’s time to have a little heart-to-heart with your own privilege. Look in the mirror. Confront your colorist, binary-heavy, racist world (that couldn’t be color-blind no matter how hard it tried), and realize how privilege affects both the big (going through a job interview) and small (walking through a department store) moments.

But don’t get me wrong, I completely understand that acknowledging privilege, no matter how you politically identify, is an uncomfortable, and at times, disheartening, experience. After all, what it mean if our successes all boiled down to the households and skin we grew up in? What if the world really isn’t a meritocracy? What if, despite our deepest hopes, color-blindness isn’t a virtue, but that which will lead to our demise? In my own personal life, I’ve faced a great deal of anxiety in the process of confronting my white privilege, along with my cis privilege, and hetero privilege, and upper-middle class privilege. What if my 4.0 is built upon the opportunities my parents gave me, the white shell that is my skin, and the lack of discrimination and political obstacles I faced, rather than my own skillset, my own hard work, and my own determination. I know of course, this isn’t entirely true, but part of it is—and it took me a very long time to be completely comfortable in that conclusion. But despite popular belief, acknowledging your privilege doesn’t mean forfeiting the value of your skills and talents in the process. It’s social awareness. It’s the purest form of empathy. But it doesn’t have to be a debilitating ego hit. It can simply be a basic form of human decency, in seeking to understand the racial experiences of others.

I know what you’re thinking. How dare those pesky liberals demand empathy, of all things! (Yuck!) Especially when the alternative (the color-blind argument) acts as a comfy political shield that protects you from any possible “you’re a racist” commentary. But I want you to know that it’s okay to recognize that your skin is unlike the skin of the person sitting next to you. It’s okay to see someone’s blackness. It’s okay to discuss someone’s blackness—in fact, it’s vital. As the daughter of a woman of color, I know how important it is to discuss the injustices she faces.

Though privilege is an intersectional experience (a matrix of racial, gender, class, and sexuality oppression). She is still subject to the racist world she inhabits, even despite her class privilege. People have asked her to turn in her bag at cash registers, before she shopped. They’ve told her that she couldn’t afford the expensive handbag she’d chosen. And sadly, when I’m around her as a white person, it seems to offer a protective racial bubble, that shields her from any looks of judgment, from fellow white salespeople that trail behind her while she shops for handbags. But when she’s alone, it’s a whole different ball game. But I’m not here to claim her experiences, or steal her voice away from her in the name of whitesplaining (yes, I used the term whitesplaining, and I’m not sorry), what I am here to do, however, is to offer whatever evidence I can in an argument for the very real existence of white privilege. Just as I am trying to argue that we need to use our privilege for good, and defend those victimized by prejudice and discrimination on a daily basis. But to do so, we must first recognize or privilege, and where it makes its greatest appearances in our lives. So, without further ado, here are 10 ways you didn’t realize your white privilege was manifesting itself.

  1. You can enjoy TV shows, movies, and magazines with actors/actresses and models that look like you. You’ll never doubt that you, too, could be in a feature film, nor will you ever wonder if you fit the Eurocentric beauty standards of publications that worship white skin.
  2. You can walk into a store and purchase a foundation shade that matches your skin tone perfectly, without having to worry that yet another makeup brand has named the color of your skin after a dessert or baked good.
  3. When you take your time shopping, without having to worry about sales associates following you, questioning whether or not you are shoplifting.
  4. You can earn a scholarship, without anyone crediting your success to affirmative action’s pity.
  5. You can be pulled over by an officer without having to worry that the situation could escalate to a violent level, without warrant.
  6. You can be late to a meeting, without people profiling all people of my race as negligent, disrespectful, or perpetually tardy.
  7. You have access to historical texts and documentation that follow the lives and successes of people who look just like you.
  8. If people doubt you credibility and my intellect, you can rest-assured that it isn’t because of your race.
  9. Your heritage, cultural practices, and traditions are honored, rather than erased.
  10. You will never have to worry about being fetishized on the basis of your race, nor will you ever face the insult of being considered cute for a [your race] girl. 

(List inspired by Project Humanities

The first step, all clichés aside, is recognizing that you have a problem, or more so society has a problem. Black or white. Democratic or Republican. Conservative or Liberal. There’s always room and always time to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.

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