Thinking about my white privilege

This week’s class discussions were based mainly on the concept of white privilege. Although I understood the idea of white privilege before, the ways that we talked about it in class really opened my eyes to a lot of things I’ve never noticed. Every day, I benefit from white privilege in a number of ways. For example, I walk into each of my classes and am surrounded by people who not only look like me, but have had similar life experiences because of their race. I am able to access a college education along with additional resources to help me get an advantage in law school admissions. I’ve never had to consciously think about the possibility that my actions could be attributed to my race. These are just a few of the ways that I experience white privilege every day.

Every white American benefits from white privilege. So why don’t we all recognize it?

Some individuals may not recognize their white privilege because of the guilt associated with it – many people feel that they never asked for systemic advantages and even wish to give their privilege back. This is simply impossible. It is necessary to recognize that privilege is not something that is taken willingly, nor is it optional. What really ends up mattering, as we discussed in class, is how you spend your privilege. As a white American, I have the option of forgetting my privilege. Perhaps this is the greatest privilege of all – the ability to ignore the fact that my race has placed me at an advantage in just about every area of my life. The other option is to recognize privilege and to use the knowledge of privilege as a tool in becoming an ally against the system of privilege, oppression, and racism. I have chosen the second option, and am challenging myself to encourage others to do the same. What are the most efficient ways for us to get white Americans to recognize their privilege? How can we convince others to become allies against racism?

4 thoughts on “Thinking about my white privilege”

  1. Wow, Amanda, I had never thought about that before – and I totally have done that. Thank you for calling out that practice. I never realized how not describing White people as White buys into the idea that White is normative and therefore doesn’t need to be described. And Bri, I really liked your post. I think one way we can spend our privilege is by educating others and continuing to educate yourself. What that looks like depends on your context and your day to day experiences, but I think it can be as simple as sharing a fact we learned from this class with a friend or a family member, when an appropriate time presents itself. Or it can be more intimidating, like calling out a friend on their privilege when you see it. Or, it can be working in a field in which you can potentially change public policy (like law) and through that potentially educate others on their privilege.

  2. I think the way you described using your privilege is pretty cool. To use your privilege to fight that same privilege is extremely bold because though it’s for a good cause it would take away the exact same privilege you mentioned before. I would imagine it to be a whole new world filled with much more insecurities and you might feel a lot more unsure of things you once took for granted. I think because of that, many people won’t want to do exactly what you’re doing. People won’t want to go from a place of comfortably to a place full of insecurities, especially since we all have insecurities we’re dealing with already. It is absolutely commendable for you to recognize your privilege and use it that way. I’m not sure if taking A class about racism will make white people recognize their privilege and use it in the same way you are/ plan to use it but classes is definitely one place to start.

  3. I think one of the most effective ways to get people to realize how much privilege they have is to point out things they think are “normal” or do not regularly notice. I remember when I first learned about White privilege, someone pointed out to me that many White people describe other White people by what they’re wearing or their hair color while they describe non-White people by their race first. White is a race, too, but because it’s considered “standard” it’s not something I thought to point out previously. Noticing things like that really had an impact on me, maybe it would have the same effect on others.

  4. Nice post! I think you’re right to say that the greatest privilege may be the ability to forget about race. It allows people to understand how racism oppresses people of color but to still go on with their daily lives and refuse trying to fight it.

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