Jaala Brown writes about the 6 privileges white people benefit from every day, that people of color do not.
In the world we live in, there are certain people who will always have a leg up on you, they will always have an advantage. Those people who we consider to have more of an advantage in society, are what we call privileged people. Is it fair no, but is it true yes?
So what is privilege?
Privilege is when one’s social class, age, size, race and ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation give a person a special advantage or entitlement in life, where they are benefited over others based on these factors.
But there is a specific type of privilege that I’m sure we all have heard before, white privilege.
In the wake of recent racial injustices, such as the murder of George Floyd, that occurred in the year 2020, white privilege became a discussion that some people were willing to talk about and address, while others not so much.
But white privilege existed well before the year 2020, it has always been around for generations and will continue to stay if the people who benefit from white privilege refuse to admit that it’s a real thing.
Research conducted in 2015 by L. Taylor Phillips, a Ph.D. student at Stanford Graduate School of Business, and Brian Lowry, a Ph.D. senior associate dean at Stanford University’s School of Business, found that many white Americans deny they have benefited from white privilege when shown evidence of racial privilege.
From my personal experiences as a black woman in my 20 years of living, I can say that despite what anyone tries to deny, white privilege is most definitely real. I have witnessed it with my own eyes. Some of the people I know have confessed that they realized some of the things they have in life are due to their privilege. While many on the other hand that I know and have seen, still do not attribute any of their successes in life to white privilege.
Oftentimes I hear statements such as “my life wasn’t easy” or “I worked hard for everything I got” from some white people. This is very true, by no means does being white mean you haven’t faced a fair share of hardships or that life is easy for you, it just means that those hardships weren’t met because of race and racism.
For those who don’t believe in white privilege and try to downplay the seriousness of it, here is a breakdown of some of the things white people benefit from, that people of color do not.
1. Privilege of knowing you will be represented
When turning on the television, say to watch a movie, show, or cartoon, nine times out of ten, white people will see individuals who look like them on the screen. They don’t have to worry about not being represented. This is not the case for black people. A 2020 study by the National Research Group found that two in three African Americans say they don’t see themselves or their culture represented in movies or television. But this lack of representation goes for all aspects of life.
When my father would take me to the store to pick out a new Barbie doll when I was younger, I struggled to find a doll that looked like me because the aisle was filled with white Barbies. In my 6th-grade art class, we were assigned to do a self-portrait. While my white classmates found paint and crayons that matched their skin color, I did not.
Another example of white privilege is not having to put “black girl” behind a statement you google online. When I google “wavy hairstyles” immediately hundreds of images of white women show up. In order for me to find a hairstyle that represents my hair texture and style online, I always have to put “black girl” because online systems cater to white people rather than blacks. White people have the privilege of knowing and are reminded that they are the beauty standard in society.
White privilege is as simple as knowing you don’t have to worry about not finding something, somewhere that represents you.
2. Privilege in the classroom
White students do not have to worry that their history will or won’t be taught in the classroom, because it is not an elective. A majority of the curriculum throughout the school year is white history and teachers sometimes touch on black history during Black History Month, while others “choose” not to. White students have the option of choosing not to learn about black history.
In February, at Maria Montessori Academy, a predominantly white school in North Ogden, Utah, parents of students asked if their children could “opt-out” of the Black History Month curriculum and the school allowed it. After facing backlash, the school went back on its statement and required all students to participate in the Black History Month curriculum. This is a prime example of privilege, and even blatant ignorance and racism. Black parents will never get the opportunity to ask if their children can “opt-out” of white history.
Not only is curriculum a problem, but so are stereotypes in a classroom. White students walk into a classroom knowing their teachers or professors won’t think less of them because of their skin color. Black students walk into a classroom knowing they have to prove themselves to their peers and their instructors that they are intelligent despite what stereotypes say about them.
Many times teachers, administrators, and principals look at black students as troublemakers, disproportionately more than white students due to their own bias. Researchers say that black students are more likely to be disciplined than their white counterparts for the same behavior. According to data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office For Civil Rights, in the 2015-2016 school year black students were more likely to be suspended from school compared to white students.
Ahmed Mohammed, Sudanese, was arrested in 2013 for bringing a homemade clock to school that was mistaken for a bomb. Kiera Wilmont, black, was also arrested in 2013, for bringing a volcano-like science project to school that was mistaken as a bomb. It is no doubt that race played a factor into the two arrests.
Lastly, white children are more likely to receive a better education than students of color. A study in 2020 by the Economic Policy Institute, found that black children are more than twice as likely as white children to attend high-poverty schools. In high poverty schools, there is less funding and allocation of necessary resources, resulting in black children falling behind compared to white students, who attend predominantly white schools with better resources.
3. Privilege of knowing race won’t stop you from landing a job
White people have the privilege of knowing their race will not be a reason they don’t get a job offer from employees. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the U.S. Department of Labor, white people have the lowest unemployment rate at 5.1%. Asian American’s rate is at 5.5%, Hispanics’ rate is at 7.3%, and African Americans, being the highest unemployment rate, is at 9.1% in 2021. This is because black people are denied jobs due to their race more than their white counterparts.
A Northwestern University study found that white applicants are 2.5 times more likely to get hired. Applicants from a majority group were 53% more likely to get a call for an interview than minority applicants.
The study found that hiring managers are likely to reject people of color who are qualified applicants, simply because how they dress or come across is different from white candidates.
White people also don’t have to worry about trying to accommodate their resumes when applying for a job. Many studies throughout the years have shown that resumes with names that come across as ethnic are less likely to get called for an interview. Because of this many people of color try to make their race appear less on an application in hopes of trying to get a job. In a 2016 study, it was found that African Americans and Asian Americans who “whiten” their resumes, were more likely to get a callback from employers than if they did not whiten the resume.
This is just something that white people probably don’t even think about when applying for jobs, and that’s a privilege.
4. Privilege of knowing you will get approved for housing
Being able to own a home is one of the biggest successes in life. Being a homeowner is a major way Americans build upon their wealth. However, in 2020 a report by Redfin found that 73.7% of white households own their home, while only 44% of black households own their home. This is because it is statistically proven black people are denied loans for housing solely because of their skin color.
According to data from the 2020 Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, lenders deny mortgages for African American applicants at a rate 80% higher than white applicants. White people have the privilege of knowing they most likely will get approved for a loan to buy a house. They have the privilege of knowing their race will not set them back financially.
5. Privilege of not fearing the police
White privilege is not having to worry about run-ins with the police turning deadly. Yes, it is normal for anyone of any race to be scared of getting in trouble with the police, but white people know they can get in trouble or have a run-in without losing their life.
People of color, specifically black people grow up watching people who look just like them get murdered and receive no justice, over and over. Watching Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Sandra Bland, Eric Garner, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and so many others murdered at the hands of police, doesn’t make me or any black American comfortable around police officers, who appear to have no regard for black life.
White people, on the other hand, have the privilege of knowing police officers have their back. In 2015, Dylann Roof walked into a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina, and shot and killed nine African Americans. After a 16 hour manhunt, police arrested Roof and took him to Burger King to get something to eat.
On January 6, police once again showed how white people are able to trust them more than black people. On the day many of us will never forget, hundreds of Trump Loyalists stormed the Capitol. On that day it was shown that many cops let the insurrectionists into the building and were even seen taking selfies with the rioters.
But, Tuesday marked a year since peaceful protesters, demanding justice for George Floyd in Philadelphia, were tear-gassed by police. The simple difference is, white people have the privilege of knowing police really will “protect and serve” them, black people do not.
6. Privilege of not having to be associated with negative stereotypes or be negatively portrayed
White people have the privilege of not worrying about negative stereotypes that are associated with race. Black and Hispanic Americans for example are stereotyped to be criminals, unintelligent, or lazy. With those stereotypes, people of color constantly being looked at as that. While white people can walk in a room knowing no one thinks less of them or that they are a danger to society.
When black people, like myself, enter a store just to shop, we are followed around by employees because they assume we will steal. White people are not. In 2019, R&B singer SZA, went into Sephora hoping to buy some of R&B singer Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty products. While shopping, an employee assumed she was stealing and called security on her.
This happens too many times, as you can see to celebrities and regular day people. Reasoning behind why some people look at us this way could be because of the media. The media portrays and highlights black people and other people of color in such a negative light compared to white people.
In a study by Color of Change, it was found that 37% of black family members were represented as criminals in the media, but only 26% of family members were actually arrested for criminal activity. White family members represented 28% of criminals in the media but made up 77% of those arrested for criminal activity.
Privilege is also demonstrated when white criminals get more sympathy from the media than black victims do. Whenever there is a mass shooter and the shooter is white the media will portray him as a kind human being who suffered from mental illness. However, when a black man is killed by the police, the media will have a field day digging up their criminal history.
Eric Bellucci, white, who murdered his parents, was described in a headline as “Son in Staten Island murders was brilliant, athletic—but his demons were the death of his parents” in the media. Trayvon Martin, black, who was killed by security officer George Zimmerman was described in a headline as “Trayvon Martin was suspended from school three times” in the media as if that had anything to do with his murder. Another example is when Georgia’s Sheriff Captain Jay Baker described shooter Robert Aaron Long, who killed eight people, including six Asian American women at a spa, as having a “bad day” back in March.
White privilege is knowing that because of your skin color, you will almost always be given the benefit of the doubt when it comes to how you are portrayed.
White people have the privilege of not dealing with any aspect of racism, and they benefit from that. They have the privilege of seeing how racism works, but never actually experiencing it. The privilege of ignoring all racial issues presented because it doesn’t affect them.
There are even more privileges that white people benefit from such as the entire notion of racial inequality and the racial wealth gap. This is just a shortlist of privileges, the list could go on and on. These factors are something my grandparents, my parents, and I have had to deal with. That’s three generations of no change. Change is only made with recognition.
Every white person shouldn’t be to blame for how white privilege works. It is just an element of how racism continues to function so well in this society. The goal now is for everyone to recognize their privilege and own up to it because ignoring it only does more damage and gaslights those who are underprivileged. The goal is to stop racist systems from allowing this privilege for some, to prevail.