A variety of factors within our society prevent equal opportunity. We still live in a racialized society where the color of our skin often determines how we are treated. Many white people do not recognize, or want to recognize that race still significantly impacts lives. Many white people are taught growing up not to think as racial beings, and this may contribute to many denying the privileges that go along with being white. Historically, the goal for equality and opportunity for everyone has not always existed and this has caused a heavy influence on society today.
My research focuses on and investigates knowledge and perception on the importance of race, and how denial affects us all. White privilege is a social relation that benefits white persons over non-white persons. A said advantage enjoyed by persons of a socially privileged class based on the color of their skin. A racial category, which involves European-Americans and the “invisible norm” (IAW. 350) against other racial categories. It’s important to understand white privilege and how it affects society.
A lack of understanding and recognition of unearned privilege may lead us to lack a desire to create a diverse atmosphere, and ways we can be more aware. White privilege may affect how we interact with each other and how those who do not share such advantages are affected. Some question, if white privilege still exists, and if it’s that big of a deal. And, if so, how can we work on reducing these effects? The idea of white privilege is said to divide whites and blacks into their own economic categories.
While white people are given opportunities and benefits, dark colored skin people may be at a disadvantage to these opportunities and benefits. “Many analysis of white privilege interpret whiteness as an intangible economic good” ( Black Reconstruction in America: W. E. B. Du Bois. ). White privilege is the original form of racism that has existed throughout much of American history. Race has been used to define cultural categories of ‘white’ and ‘non-white’ human beings. Whites were defined as being the superior species and blacks were considered inferior and incapable of advancing themselves.
The history of this way of thinking and racism go back hundreds of years and is the foundation of white privilege. Institutions gave preferential treatment to people whose ancestors came from Europe compared to people whose ancestors came from Asia and Africa. The white class was granted political and economic rights that people of color were denied. These past laws and the idea of race is what have directly contributed to our social inequalities, but do social inequalities currently exist? Many people today will contest that white privilege does in fact still exist.
Most often, the person contesting is a white person being accused of enjoying social privilege simply because they are white. White privilege is a term that universally describes and views all white people as being granted with these advantages, but the majority of white people have to work hard to get to the position they desire. These positions aren’t reserved based on the color of our skin. We aren’t born with the right for a free ride, and we earn our way up just as any other person has to. This seems to be accurate and may give a quality argument to white privilege.
Although, for white people born with greater resources it may be hard to see, and may not feel privileged or more powerful than others. Growing up comfortable and privileged may just be a way of life that we take for granted, unconsciously knowing we do. “Many people are unaware of their preferences for lighter skin” (The Persistent Problem of Racism: Skin tone, Status and Inequality. 238). Those who do enjoy these white privileges, it’s just normal. However; white privilege does vary depending on many factors. This may include sex, age, socioeconomic status and others.
White skin may in fact be the favored group in our society. Statistics have shown white men and women hold more power positions than black men and women. We may be unaware that being white matters, but we still participate, intentionally or not. In her essay Seeing and Making Culture, Hooks, describes what it is like growing up poor. She says, “Many middle class black folks have no money because they regularly distribute their earnings among a larger kinship group where folks are poor and destitute” (IAW. 433). As I read this essay I noticed the terms ‘black’ and ‘white’ were used many times to describe a person.
Also, it was as if she was implying most black people are poor and white people portray an economic class privilege image. She does acknowledge white poor people, but seems to focus on being black and poor. She explains what college was like as a young black girl, and says, “Students in the dormitory were quick to assume that anything missing had been taken by the black and Filipina women who worked there” (IAW. 433). The essays claim is the way we see and judge poor people, but it makes an attempt to acknowledge disadvantaged poor black people as well. This is an example of the way humans group other humans, stereotyping by race.
As a white person we may feel being viewed as white and privileged people will automatically think we are spoiled jerks. The creation of our system in which race codes superiority over others has been bestowed upon us. Even though it’s confusing it’s purposeful American history. We must remind ourselves this system is not based on each individual white persons intentions to continue claiming that white privilege is rightly ours. Regardless of our personal intent the effects are the same. Our society, throughout history, sees white as normal and all other races as different from normal.
Today, white people’s privileges may be something we cannot not get. For example, if I buy a box of band aids that say flesh color, I know it means the color of my white skin. White people have been educated to understand our culture and our race as being the social norm. Social norm is defined as beliefs within a society of appropriate behavioral expectations. An example of behavioral expectations of our white society is a young white boy reading a book as the social norm, but a young black boy reading a book is ‘acting white’. The white boy seemingly normal but the black boy performing a ‘white persons’ behavior.
Comedian Chris Rock often talks of white privilege, and uses the issue in his stand-up routines almost always. At one point he says to an audience of many white people, “None of ya would change places with me! And I’m rich! That’s how good it is to be white! It’s not like slavery ended and then everything has been amazing” (Chris Rock. About America). Even in an interview about life as a comedian he says, “Black people have first- hand knowledge on racism” (Chris Rock. Hilarious Interview). Racism is so deeply rooted in our society. Is it even possible for people of any skin color to just look at people as humans?
It is assumed, no matter our skin color, we gravitate to people who look like ourselves. This includes personality, religion, morals as well as features. We are naturally attracted and comfortable with people who resemble ourselves. This seems like a normal behavior. It doesn’t necessarily mean we dislike other races. Regardless of skin color, people who are white/black/brown, all discriminate against other races and cultures. Most all humans are guilty of making judgments against another before knowing or learning anything about the person. This applies to people of all groups and of any color for many different reasons.
It is an unconscious act, and a part of our human nature. White privilege is an unwilling and non-owned racism that has been ingrained into our mindset throughout history. Racism comes from both sides. People of all colors are continuing these behaviors and racism continues to be a modern day battle. Racism is affecting us all. If white privilege is inequality among races it is creating dysfunctional relationships between races. Many black people feel white people have an obligated duty to clean up the racist messes they have created throughout history.
People with dark skin have negative feelings toward people with light skin for slavery and civil rights. How is this fair? Most people dislike racism, and this includes white people. Our society has created a practice of stereotyping into categories by skin color. Many white people feel targeted for their white privilege. Are we in denial white privilege still exists, or is it a misunderstanding? It has been said an advantage of white privilege is white people having more wealth that is being passed from generation to generation. We benefit from this financial assistance giving white people a better starting point in life.
Although, in my experience, my family and ancestors have worked hard for their money and some of my family living in poverty. I have not benefited from any wealth being passed down to me. Throughout history white people have worked hard and in return they claim the land and wealth. Is white privilege today being confused for cultural differences, or are we taught not to recognize it? “Many white Americans have lived under the assumption that if they worked hard, they would be rewarded. Now more white Americans are sharing unemployment lines with “those people” – black and brown” (Tim Wise.
White Like Me. ). People of color say they worry about being discriminated against for the color of their skin. They feel disadvantaged when seeking housing, employment or simply shopping in stores. They feel they have worked just as hard as white people, but they still don’t make it to their level of success. Also saying having light skin is one less worry white people have, and People who are poor and white, still have the benefit of ‘looking white’ and the advantages that come along with having white skin. White people have even claimed the identity of who we are as Americans.
It seems history continues to echo, making ‘white’ the default race in America. There are Asian Americans, African Americans, Mexican Americans and Americans, and we automatically assume American is a Caucasian person, without adding something extra to the name. It seems white dominates the American population. A white American is considered to be the model race. It has been consistent that white is the national identity. White people are the majority in most regions. We have stayed confined in a world that doesn’t challenge this distribution of power and this allows continued inequality and injustice in the United States.
Shouldn’t we understand there’s only one race, the human race? As humans we are different. We have different hair color, eye color, personality and skin color. “The accident of where one is born is just that, an accident” (IAW. 669). Is the idea of different races ignorant thinking, I mean we can all reproduce with one another! My first day of high school I was surprised when I stepped out of my mother’s car and looked around to see the majority of students were black or brown. I have to admit I was a bit intimidated. I was worried I may not fit in. This high school was very multicultural.
Still today, when I tell people where I went to high school they may make a racist joke, or say, “oh the gangster school”. I get irritated, because it’s a typical stereotype. My experience was ok. I had friends with brown, black and white skin. We all came from different backgrounds, but we were all very close friends, and most of us are still today. Some of my dark skinned friends would joke around and call me white devil or white girl. It was ok and considered normal for the dark skinned kids to make jokes about the white kids, but NOT ok for the white kids to make jokes about brown/black kids.
Although, we made friendships work, the white kids never completely fit in to the cliques. We were the ‘white’ boy or girl of the group. “Back when television was dominant, young whites could consume black style and expressive culture” (IAW. 514). This describes almost every white boy or girl, and my high school experience. And now today, “the racial perceptions and biases we develop in our off-line lives, they conclude, likely creep into our online lives” (IAW. 515). So, just like my real-life high school experience, it has continued into our new age technologically advanced generation, where social media is taking over.
Myspace and facebook are the new age cliques. And, as in the real world, is racially divided. It is being said more white people are using facebook and darker skinned people are using myspace. “Researchers began to ponder how social inequalities impact engagement with the internet” (IAW. 506). Social media mirrors our social divides in the real physical world. People migrate towards others who share the same values and beliefs, and who they are most comfortable interacting with. “Social inequalities still matter in the physical world. And as we are learning they also matter in the virtual world” (IAW. 507).