This post is part of a series about white privilege, in which I discuss my views on the topic and how it affects our greater community. Click here to read the entire series.
Sometimes it’s difficult to articulate what white privilege is, but what it basically boils down to is a set of rights for whites that is distinctly different from those of people of color. It amounts to extreme inequality and an overall lack of acknowledgement or response to this inequality by whites. So why aren’t whites responding and furthering equality at a level that could dissipate much of society’s racist activities? The answer is white privilege.
In talking about white privilege, I think it’s helpful to separate those who benefit from white privilege into two groups. There are those who are aware of their privilege and seek to retain their advantages and historic, unearned status (white supremacists). While the second group are whites who are simply unaware that they are the beneficiaries of privilege and have not placed themselves in a position to counteract their biases.
So why are there what seem to be two different kinds of racism in society? How did some whites become unwitting participants? The answers are rooted in our history. They are rooted in the fact that some whites KNOWINGLY created imagery of “savages“, birthed the “3/5 law” and explained slavery away by simply removing HUMANITY from the equation. Powerful whites did so with intention, they did so to retain their power, they did so to RATIONALIZE the inequalities that they were creating. All of this was systemic or “institutional“, it was not a mistake and stories had to be created in order to fool those of us who would question these inequalities. Scientific “research” was conducted in many cases to present “proof” to those whites who may be skeptical or to promote the misguided assumptions of prominent, historic “scientists”…and for a long time…IT WORKED. We bought into the stories, we believed that we were the “superior race“ …and while many of us many not believe this (in a concious sense) today…those messages are still programmed in our psyche…deeply embedded and still affecting our perceptions of people of color and the choices that we make in their regard.
Learning our history can help prevent us from repeating it. What has been your experience? What history have you studied or uncovered? Do you agree that these historic events still play into modern day race relations and hinder equality?