White Privilege: A Case of Unwitting Participation, Willful Intent or Both?

DEFINITION: White Privilege “is a term for societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. Academic perspectives such as critical race theory and whiteness studies use the concept of “white privilege” to analyze how racism and racialized societies affect the lives of white or white-skinned people.”

There has been somewhat of a groundswell as of late regarding the topic of ‘white privilege‘ in America. To many, the topic seems only a latest ‘fad’ in the gamut of social and racial issues. However, in actuality, the term pre-dates the 1970’s as a concept. And like most concepts which are rooted in racial analysis, the term has been distorted, misconstrued and unfortunately delivered in a divisive manner to the citizenry. To be sure, it’s effects are negative and divisive but the attempts at education on the topic should not be.

There still remains a chasm of defensiveness on the part of whites and a tendency to be accusatory on the part of minorities when it comes to the concept of white privilege and its effects. The fact of the matter, most of western white individuals who participate in white privilege do so unwittingly. There is, however, a segment of white America who are aware of the concept, who agree the concept is a reality but do not see the concept as wrong as they believe America is a nation for white people. Once such person is Richard B. Spencer, a nationally renowned white supremacist who has called for an “ethnic cleansing” in America to halt the “deconstruction” of the European culture. Spencer conveyed to CNN analyst W. Kamau Bell that he “wants to make white privilege great again” and that he wants to “bathe in white privilege.

Even so, our research strongly shows, through conversations with white leaders in the community, business  and education sectors, a strong desire on the part of white Americans to raise awareness of both the origins and effects of white privilege on our nation’s minority population. That, in effect, individuals like Richard B. Spencer are in a rapidly declining consensus on the topic although they would have us believe otherwise by their bombastic and flamboyant statements in the media.

So because there has been so much debate about what ‘white privilege’ is, we will take the liberty to define clearly here what it is not:

  1. It’s not about compelling white individuals to feel guilty for being white. Everyone should be unabashedly proud of their heritage. This can and should be done without condescending to or being dismissive of individuals of differing heritage.
  2. It’s not about compelling white America to give minorities hand outs or even a “hand up”. Just keep the playing field free from racially motivated assumptions and bias.
  3. Although it’s been delivered in the media to the contrary, it’s not about causing division. Rather, it’s about building a bridge of understanding for the purpose of breaking the deep racial divide and misunderstandings embedded in this nation’s DNA.

There are those—whites and minorities—who will forever refuse to acknowledge that ‘white privilege’ exists, which, of course, is the very text book definition of the social ill. But all one has to do is look at how are society operates when it comes to criminal justice or workplace opportunities in this country. Just look at the numbers and the disparities are as glaring as they are telling. Simply put: if you are white in America, you will get greater and more frequent opportunities than your minority counterparts and if you get in trouble with the law, you are far, FAR more likely to be shown leniency whereas your minority counterpart is far more likely to receive the maximum punishment allowed under law for the same crime. If you are a minority in America, you are much more likely to be pulled over and very possibly murdered by police than your white counterparts. Even when it is known that those white counterparts have actually taken lives, whereas a stop for a simple traffic violation can result in the death of minority citizen.

So yes, ‘white privilege’ exists and many white Americans have benefitted from it unwittingly. But when we know better, it is upon us all to do better.


Think Passionately. Disrupt Strategically.
-A. Lawrence Haskins

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