White privilege is the benefit the white population gains because of the sociocultural attributes of their skin color. The concept of white privilege is explained here with the help of 18 examples.
She has authored the essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack", written in 1987, due to which the concept of white privilege was acknowledged and discussed in academic circles thereafter.
Favors or rights are not enjoyed by everyone, despite all the principles and legislation trying to enforce equality. Inequality towards a group is always seen in terms of disadvantages faced by a group. However, disadvantage to one also, in turn, means favoring someone else. This idea of favors contributes to the concept of 'white privilege'.
The classic essay by Peggy McIntosh explained how racial inequality is not just about the disadvantages to the minority race (non-whites), but also includes the advantages or benefits enjoyed by the majority white race. Privileges are experienced by some and not by others irrespective of all other factors being the same.
Definition of White Privilege
It refers to the different benefits that white people gain in a society, exceptional from what the non-white people experience as part of the same socioeconomic or political environment.
It is rather the social milieu from which the whites (referring to the people of European descent) benefit indirectly individually, economically, and in professional life. It is mainly observed as a characteristic of Western societies.
These privileges are not earned; in fact, generally they are unnoticed, as people do not explicitly recognize them as privileges. It is argued that the whites are conditioned to be ignorant and oblivious to these factors.
Examples of White Privilege
The trust factor in society works in favor of the white people more than people of color. Employment or employability for whites has nothing to do with their racial origin or culture, it is strictly merit based. Preferring white employees over other persons of color is a form of racial discrimination, which the privileged whites never have to face.
Getting a call back from the employer is more likely if the job applicant is a white candidate. Many people of color have shared their experiences where they got a job offer or a call from the employer after they changed their names to indicate European descent or white racial origin.
Individuals can get a job and be sure of the co-workers not thinking that they got it because of their race.
Financial transactions are an effortless task for whites. They may not be questioned as to their reliability or targeted on assumption of their tendency to appear on a defaulters list.
Designing the school curriculum considering the grasping capabilities of kids is of great significance. Some kids are privileged, in context of the material used for teaching and assessing their performance. A child from a colored family may not relate to the content (stories, characters, concepts in social science topics, or even history) in textbooks.
Getting into the university of one's choice and opting for any course, one desires is also an example of white privilege. Social networking or the kind of contacts one has, tends to determine one's career path.
Where the medium of instruction and studies in schools is the standard English, the differences in dialects stand as a hindrance in learning for the colored kids. This leads to a biased assessment of students' language performance as the white kids gain a benefit.
Mostly, white people hold the authoritative or respectable positions in the media industry. It could be TV, radio, or print media. Rarely is a TV show host a person of color. This trend does not lead a non-white kid to naturally dream of being in one such position.
The idea of what is beautiful appears to be very prejudiced. When thinking of a beautiful model, the image that comes to mind is of a white female dressed in stylish clothes. This understanding of beauty, though biased and flawed, is a fact of society's perception of colored people.
White privilege counts a lot when seen as a factor contributing to easy access to housing, or renting a house, in the neighborhood of choice, without any queries pertaining to racial origin, for the whites. Buying a house (especially a big space), in an advantageous location at affordable rates is a task for the non-white population.
The neighbors treating a person or a family nicely, helping them get acquainted with a new place may seem natural behavior, but it turns out to be a privilege of the non-colored many times.
White men and women have the privilege of not being easily suspected or blamed for any crime. People of color (especially African-Americans) get caught by the police more often due to the racist identity that is presumed to be at fault.
Sentencing Project, a group advocating prison reform reports:
Racial minorities are more likely than white Americans to be arrested One in every three black men would go to prison at some point in his lifetime. They are also more likely to be stopped by the police while driving.
When talking of civilization or national heritage, a white student is led to believe that it is something that people of his or her race have build or achieved.
Behavioral Freedom: Whites can dress up in secondhand clothes, speak the way they want (swear), behave in any manner, and not be labeled as illiterate, poor, or ill-mannered people, attributing this behavior to their race.
Unrepresentative: "So, what do you have to say on this as a ...?" Many African-Americans or Asians are asked for their opinions on certain issues or criticisms largely related to their race. They are seen to be representative of their race, community, or even that issue. This does not happen with the white population.
An example is of the 'flesh-colored' bandages that match with the skin tone of whites only. When buying cosmetics, say hair care products, whites don't need to go to the ethnic section where products for people of color are placed differently.
If a white man or woman requests to talk to the person in-charge, it is presumed that he or she will come across another white man or woman. This shows how ingrained the thought process is, of course, stemming from existing social realities.
It will better to conclude with this quote from Peggy McIntosh, "disapproving of the systems won't be enough to change them. I was taught to think that racism could end if white individuals changed their attitudes. (But), a "white" skin in the United States opens many doors for whites whether or not we approve of the way dominance has been conferred on us."