Privileges are the economic extras that those of us who are middle-class and wealthy gain at the expense of poor and working class people of all races.
Benefits, on the other hand, are the advantages that all white people gain at the expense of people of color regardless of economic position. Talk about racial benefits can ring false to many of us who don’t have the economic privileges that we see others in this society enjoying. But though we don’t have substantial economic privileges, we do enjoy many of the benefits of being white.
Whites have huge wealth edge over blacks (but don’t know it). Psychologists at Yale recently asked hundreds of Americans these two questions:
- 1. For every $100.00 in wealth accumulated by an average white family, how much wealth does the black family accumulated?
Answer: For every $100.00 in white family wealth, black families hold $5.04.
- 2. For every $100.00 earned by average white family, how much do you think is earned by an average black family?
Answer: Black families in United States earn $57.30 for every $100.00 in income earned by white families.
You should know that... It's not about what white people do get, it's about what they don't get
The opposite of privilege is disadvantage. While a person might not feel like significant opportunity (like the private schooling or the car) has been handed to them on account of their whiteness, on the flip side - and more importantly - disadvantages haven't either.
White privilege doesn't mean that you get to walk into a supermarket, shoplift and not be reprimanded. Instead, it means that you are less likely to be racially profiled and followed around by store security with the assumption you're going to steal, because you're not white. When you are white, you are less likely to:
- Have been called racial slurs.
- Have been the victim of racially motivated abuse.
- Be asked 'where you're from' in a way that is not polite.
- To have marched in a protest in order to demand equal rights for, or call out the suffering of, your race.
- See your cultural ethnicity hanging on shelves of party stores as a costume.
As long as the history and enduring impact of oppression on both the oppressed and the oppressor isn’t lamented, confessed, turned from and reconciliation work done, then we will still be debating if someone’s hurt feelings via social media are the same or equal to entire people group’s being shut out of institutions and social structures for centuries.
Today, white privilege is often described through the lens of Peggy McIntosh’s groundbreaking essay “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Originally published in 1988, the essay helps readers recognize white privilege by making its effects personal and tangible. For many, white privilege was an invisible force that white people needed to recognize. It was being able to walk into a store and find that the main displays of shampoo and panty hose were catered toward your hair type and skin tone. It was being able to turn on the television and see people of your race widely represented. It was being able to move through life without being racially profiled or unfairly stereotyped. All true.