White Privilege Explained, Not Shamed

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White privilege can be a bit difficult to explain to people. I’ve noticed that often, white people will tell me how poor they are, or how hard they have to work to get what they have. Their life is hard. They are white. Hence, there can’t be white privilege. Right? Yes, there can be. White private isn’t a blanket that covers every white person.

Another thing that makes it hard to explain is people’s understandable defensiveness on topics of race. However, you don’t have to be a bigot to experience white privilege. In fact, white privilege is most often a subtle thing that you don’t recognize in the moment. Sometimes, it will go completely unnoticed.

Similarly, the culture that props up white privilege is often subtle. It’s not driven by klansmen marching in the streets. Rather, it is often perpetrated by people who look and talk like us. Many of whom don’t even realize they are doing it. Thus, it is not my intention to embarrass this woman. I don’t know her. Moreover, I have no reason to believe she’s a racist. However, she slipped twice in this video exposing the very type of subtle biases that perpetuate white privilege. Therefore I offer this as a teaching moment, not a moment of condemnation.

White privilege

The subtle biases that prop up white privilege.

Below is a video of a trucker who was recently defrauded by a group of con artists at a truck stop. They made off with her cash and jewelry. Additionally, they got her bank info from the ATM and hit her account too. In this video, she is explain this part of the scam. I want you to pay attention to what she says beginning at the four minute mark.

This was a group of white guys that could’ve been… that 70 year old man that came up to my door could’ve been my grandfather. The other gentlemen… criminals, could’ve been my brothers. They were my age.

Notice, several factors put her at ease. The age of the con artist who approached her, and the age of his accomplices. However, there’s another crucial detail. They were white. She continues.

All white guys. Never once did I feel threatened.

Now, if you’re getting angry at her, stop. Go forward to 5:35 in the video. A viewer raises this point, and she responds telling him why she clarified.

Yeah, you’re right, but I said that because a lot of people assumed that umm… that it was not white guys that did it. They assume that it was… umm… I don’t know. They didn’t assume it was white guys, that’s all I’m saying.

2 examples of racial bias.

First, she felt comfortable because the con artists were white. Second, when she posted the video “a lot of people” assumed it was minorities who did it. The first example is a subtle bias. The second example is flat out racist. But how does this apply to white privilege?

Simple. When we feel more comfortable with people, we cut them slack. In this case it burned her. However, at a desk in a bank, it determines which loan application gets approved. At a job, it determines which candidate gets hired. The student a teacher feels comfortable with will get the most help. It affects every aspect of life.

We all have biases. If we are aware of them, we can take steps to make sure we don’t act on them. However when we do act on them, we negatively impact people outside of the privileged group.

The compounding factor in white privilege.

This woman’s feelings were innocent. However, it appears that many of her viewers had not so subtle feelings of bias that extend into racism. So while she probably wouldn’t knowingly deprive a minority applicant or candidate, some of her viewers obviously would. Hence, assuming she hires or loans to the guy she’s comfortable with, they deny opportunity based on their negative stereotypes of the race of the individual in question. Her subtle bias makes it that much harder for a minority to get a fair shot. Moreover, it makes it that much easier for…? You guessed it. The white guy. And that, my friends, is white privilege.

Notice, not every white person gets to split the loan the minority applicant is denied. Furthermore, not every white man will get the job for which he was turned down. The privilege is in the increased odds one has for getting the desired service because they are white. Moreover, the discrimination is in the lowered odds that the minority faces.

Don’t minorities have similar biases?

In some cases they do. However, studies have shown that black children often share the bias against dark skin inherent in the culture around them. If you receive the signals at a young age that lighter is better, this can become engrained in your world view.

I want to thank Trucker NaeNae for posting this video, and for responding to the comments of the people who assumed the perpetrators were minorities. Hopefully this will be a learning experience for some people. It’s a conversation we need to have. I welcome your thoughts and insights in the comments below. I will leave you with these lyrics from a song we sing at church called “Wake Now My Senses”.

Wake, now, my conscience, with justice thy guide;
join with all people whose rights are denied;
take not for granted a privileged place;
God’s love embraces the whole human race.

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