On Racism and White Privilege


Explores issues of race and white privilege

Excerpted from White Anti-Racist Activism: A Personal Roadmap by Jennifer R. Holladay, M.S. (Crandall, Dostie & Douglass Books, Inc., 2000)

On Racism
Racism is a doctrine or teaching, without scientific support, that does three things. First, it claims to find racial differences in things like character and intelligence. Second, racism asserts the superiority of one race over another or others. Finally, it seeks to maintain that dominance through a complex system of beliefs, behaviors, use of language and policies. Racism ranges from the individual to the institutional level and reflects and enforces a pervasive view, in whitedominated U.S. culture that people of color are inferior to whites.

Racist beliefs include things like “White people are smarter than people of color,” or “White people make better teachers.” Racism can manifest itself in terms of individual behavior through hate crimes, or in institutional behavior through employment discrimination. Racism might manifest in individual language through the use of slurs, or in institutional policy through a school’s selection of Eurocentric textbooks.

Related to these relatively obvious manifestations of racism is a subtle system that also contributes to the maintenance of the racial status quo. That subtle system is white skin privilege.

On White Privilege
White skin privilege is not something that white people necessarily do, create or enjoy on purpose. Unlike the more overt individual and institutional manifestations of racism described above, white skin privilege is a transparent preference for whiteness that saturates our society. White skin privilege serves several functions. First, it provides white people with “perks” that we do not earn and that people of color do not enjoy. Second, it creates real advantages for us. White people are immune to a lot of challenges. Finally, white privilege shapes the world in which we live — the way that we navigate and interact with one another and with the world.

White Privilege: The Perks
White people receive all kinds of perks as a function of their skin privilege. Consider the following:
• When I cut my finger and go to my school or office’s first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone.
• When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair.
• When I run to the store to buy pantyhose at the last minute, the ‘nude’ color generally appears nude on my legs.
• When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled ‘hair care’ and not in a separate section for ‘ethnic products.’
• I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores.

My father, who has worked in economic development for 30 years, would explain away these examples of white privilege as simple functions of supply and demand economics. White people still constitute the numerical majority in this country, so it makes sense, for example, that bandaid companies would manufacture “flesh-tone” bandages for white people.

Even if I concede to his argument (and ignore the “buying power” of communities of color), it still does not change the impact of these white privileges. As a white person, I get certain perks that people of color do not; I get the bandages and the pantyhose and the shampoo at the hotel that works with my hair. And in a new grocery store, I will not have to scan the aisles for my hair care products. They will be in the section called “hair care.” This is how I experience the world.

These seemingly benign perks also demonstrate a danger on closer examination. Let’s say that I forgot to pack my shampoo for a business trip. When I get to the hotel, I see that the complimentary shampoo is not the standard Suave product to which I am accustomed but rather Pink Oil Lotion for African American hair. I would be surprised and might even think to myself: “Those black folks and all their lobbying … This is so unfair!” I expect these perks. As a white person, I think I am entitled to them.

White Privilege: The Advantages
Certainly, white privilege is not limited to perks like band aids and hair care products. The second function of white skin privilege is that it creates significant advantages for white people. There are scores of things that I, as a white person, generally do not encounter, have to deal with or even recognize. For example:
• My skin color does not work against me in terms of how people perceive my financial responsibility, style of dress, public speaking skills, or job performance.
• People do not assume that I got where I am professionally because of my race (or because of affirmative action programs).
• Store security personnel or law enforcement officers do not harass me, pull me over or follow me because of my race.

All of these things are things that I never think about. And when the tables are turned and my white skin is used against me, I am greatly offended (and indignant). The police department in my community, like so many other law enforcement agencies throughout this country, uses policing tactics that target people of color. Two years ago, I was driving down Rosa Parks Boulevard, a street that runs through an all-black and impoverished area of town, at night. I was looking for a house that I had never been to before, so I was driving slowly, stopping and moving as I searched for numbers on residences.

Out of nowhere, this large police van pulled me over, blue lights flashing and sirens blaring, and a handful of well-armed police officers jumped out of the van and surrounded my car. I did as I was told, and got out of my car. (“Hands above your head; move slowly!”) I then succumbed to a quick physical pat-down, as well as a search of my car. The officers had pulled me over -- not only because of my erratic driving -- but also, because, in the words of one officer, I was “a white woman driving down Rosa Parks after dark.” They thought I was looking to buy drugs.

When I went to the office the next day, I relayed my story to several white colleagues. They shared my sense of violation, of anger, of rage. These co-workers encouraged me to call our legal department and report the incident. I later told the story to a colleague who is black and who lives on Rosa Parks. “You just never have to worry about those things, do you, Jennifer?” she asked and then walked off. In twelve words, she succinctly challenged my sense of privilege.

White Privilege: The World View
The third thing that white privilege does is shape the way in which we view the world and the way in which the world views us. The perks and advantages described above are part of this phenomenon, but not all of it. Consider the following:
• When I am told about our national heritage or “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
• Related, the schools that I attend or have attended use standard textbooks, which widely reflect people of my color and their contributions to the world.
• When I look at the national currency or see photographs of monuments on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., I see people of my race widely represented and celebrated.

As a white person, I see myself represented in all of these places. And, until a couple of years ago, I never questioned that representation — or why people of color were excluded. After all, people like me have done a lot for this country and for the world. If people of color had done their part, so the theory goes, they too would see themselves represented.

Well, people of color have done more than their share for this country. There is an old saying that the victors of war get to write the history of the world. White privilege works this way, too. Since white folks have been in control for so long, we have determined what is valuable or interesting or useful in terms of education. Greek and Roman mythology, Chaucer, and other canonized works have been selected and revered through the ages as critical components of any “solid liberal arts education.”

I rarely have to question the validity of these selections — this is, after all, what is valuable and considered “the real stuff.” And I am entitled to a good education, aren’t I? I never question how or why some things are valued and others are not — why some things are important to “us” and other things are not. When people begin talking about diversifying a curriculum, one of the main things that opponents say is: “I am not willing to lower standards for the sake of minority representation.”

The Black Student Coalition at my college, for example, lobbied the faculty to diversify the readings for the Literature 101 class, a required course for first-year students. One professor objected, saying: “You want me to replace Chaucer with the likes of Alice Walker?” Why do we value Chaucer more than the literary offerings of Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, or Audre Lorde? Who assigns that value and on what basis?

Things are starting to change slowly. Perhaps your high school hosted programs during Black History Month or during Asian and Hispanic Heritage Months. Maybe your college offered courses in Black, Latino, Caribbean, Native American, Asian or ethnic studies. These are good places to start, but we should not need separate months or classes. Black history is U.S. history; Chicano literature is valuable literature.

White privilege is a hidden and transparent preference that is often difficult to address. Only on closer inspection do we see how it creates a sense of entitlement, generates perks and advantages for white people and elevates our status in the world.


Cite sources

Submitted by Anonymous on 3 February 2015 - 5:50am.

Please give credit where it is due: Peggy McIntosh said this in 1988

Awesome subject !

Submitted by Anonymous on 29 January 2015 - 1:59am.

Can you tell me when we will be doing something about the overrepresentation of Jewish Americans in higher paying jobs ?

Take a Course in Logic

Submitted by Anonymous on 31 December 2014 - 11:21pm.

Most of the examples cited in this article conflate privilege with rights. For example, being treated fairly by the police is not a privilege, but rather a right, and to the extent that blacks are not treated fairly by the police is the extent of an injustice perpetrated upon them. White people do not "benefit" from an injustice perpetrated upon blacks in this case.

In general, this article is a vain attempt by a white person trying to prove their racial "sensitivity", but the only thing proven is the extent of her idiocy.

The Law.

Submitted by Anonymous on 29 January 2015 - 2:01am.

Perhaps they could stop breaking it ?

I've had the police drive up

Submitted by Anonymous on 29 January 2015 - 11:17pm.

I've had the police drive up to me while just walking down the street. They made me put my arms on the hood of their squad car while they went thru my backpack. They asked me all kinds of redundant questions, as if to catch me lying about something. They didn't tell me why they stopped me until all this was over. Here is the explanation..."You fit the description of a suspect we were looking for. A dark skinned male w/ a backpack." My mother is half white and my father half Native American. I am, by no means, DARK skinned. But to those policeman, I was just a black guy. Therefore, already suspect. I think you know your comment is rooted in racism...Otherwise, why say it anonymously.


Submitted by Anonymous on 31 December 2014 - 1:15pm.

Beautiful one, you are truly a breath of fresh air! I'm left speechless after reading the manner in which you shared your transparency!!! If only others could be so real!!! Blessings to You,

Just My Two Cents...

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 December 2014 - 1:20pm.

Well-written article, and how refreshing to see intelligent, thoughtful comments from intelligent folks. Not long ago, I attempted to have this very conversation with a white male co-worker who couldn't understand why it wasn't wise that all six supervisors/managers in our department are middle-aged White women, especially when the worker bees in the department come from all racial and ethnic groups, and many of these workers are male. I once told him that his dollars go further than mine as a Black woman, to which he responded "I dunno 'bout that." Here are some of my TRUE, personal experiences and observations: I was reprimanded by my supervisors for taking two hours every other Friday to walk down the hall to donate platelets, but this male co-worker of mine was free to roam about the entire building with impunity and chat with other employees for a couple of years until one day when no one could seem to find him anywhere for a good two hours...I frequented a well-known drug store in my neighborhood (which is a fairly equal mix of Black, White, etc) until I went to the same store located in my brother's neighborhood (predominately lower-income Black residents) and found prices to be, on average, 30% higher than in my neighborhood...In an affluent area where most of the residents are White, the prices at a well-known pet store are cheaper than the same store in our area where there are considerably more Black customers...Vandals had deface the outer fence that was built along the common area of the subdivision I live in. My husband and I were out attempting to clean the fence, and a White male slowed down, looked at us, and drove off. A few moments later, a police car drove up because he had gotten a "report that someone was vandalizing the fence".(what do you think that passer-by would have done/assumed had he seen a White couple out there cleaning the fence?)...I could rattle on about my own experiences even more, but you all get my point. The truth is, White privilege does in fact exist. I say it not out of bitterness and anger. But just because some Whites can't see it (my co-worker, for example), doesn't mean it isn't still there.



Submitted by Anonymous on 13 December 2014 - 9:06pm.

There are forms of privilege in society that take on many different forms. I'm not going to suggest that there is or is not a form of privilege that 'white' people are afforded, but it is something to which I cannot relate. If someone actually believes that a person is 'privileged' because a bandaid resembles their skin tone closer than someone else's, or hair products are more readily available for their type of hair, well that seems a bit silly to me. If that is criteria for a privilege we, as a society, have completely lost focus of some definition of the word. As a white female, I will not receive the same privilege as a black female when it comes to certain situations, i.e.; college grants or other appropriations set aside for only people of color. Privileges are granted to people for many different reasons, but if this article suggests what society is now considering privilege, perhaps there should be recognition for 'carnivore privileged' (for vegetarians when vegetarian items are not readily available in restaurants), and 'homosexual privilege' and 'Christian privilege', etc. It's offensive to be segregated because of our skin color, and it's something I've never done to another person. People have become too familiar with being apologetic for what they are, whether it's their religion, race, gender, political affiliation, financial standing, or being proud of their heritage, i.e. American…I still believe that, regardless of any of these factors, if you are a decent, hard working person who is a good steward to those around you, you should never feel pressured into apologizing for your background or personal choices.


Submitted by Anonymous on 2 February 2015 - 2:50am.

did you read the article properly? she said the "perks" were finding bandaids that matched her skin tone & hair products for her hair texture and it's ppl like you (white) who think that talking about white privilege is a bad thing. no it's not and you don't have to feel guilty for your skin. white "privilege" isn't something trivial or something you can choose to have privilege for. gay people don't come out to strangers do they? being a vegetarian is a choice and they choose to go the extra mile to buy their products. but skin colour is something painted and defined by you at all times. black people cannot turn their skin colour off and many wish they could. like when they're out at night hanging with their friends and all of a sudden cops come out and mistake them for a gang. this is one of the reasons why we bring up race because it is still a issue today. we also talk about white people and how lucky they are because of the system. if you're a decent hardworking person you'll definitely succeed no matter what colour you are. but it doesn't take a genius to know that poc still go through way more hardships than white people do. bill o reilly interviewing that black Ph.D professor and joking that "he looks like a cocaine dealer" is just another example of how it doesn't matter how successful a black person is, they're still defined by their skin colour :(

PS: don't apologize for being white! white allies are actually pretty cool bcuz white folks listen more from their own instead of an "angry black woman" haha x -i'm 17 btw too lazy to capitalize

No apology necessary

Submitted by Anonymous on 1 February 2015 - 5:48pm.

People aren't asking you to apologize for your identity or background. If you feel bad when you hear about privilege and about the injustice and inequality that different minority groups experience, I think that is natural. (Who wants large groups of people to be mistreated?)

However, no one is asking you to feel bad about yourself - they're just asking you to see that there is a problem, so that you are more aware, and can maybe even help change the state of affairs. This isn't to say that you are personally causing the problem, it is just to say that if you are a member of the majority group, you have a good deal of power to enact change and to be part of the solution.

I don't think people are trying to say you aren't a good, hard-working person, or that you don't deserve what you have in life (though it can feel that way, when privilege is discussed). It is pointing out that many other good, hard-working, decent people are not afforded the same opportunities because of being a part of a minority group.

Consider your example of the 'privilege' of being considered for a grant, presumably because of affirmative action laws. Well, generally speaking, the average white American already has a leg up because their families are less likely to come from a position of poverty, and their values are more likely to be affirmed as the "correct" values to have. These affirmative action laws are meant to help equalize the playing field. They're a way for disadvantaged communities to provide an inheritance to other members of their community - an inheritance that may not have been possible for the receiving individual's family to accumulate (unlike their average white counterpart) due to a legacy of being discriminated against.

People aren't asking you to apologize or be ashamed for who you are. Honestly. It is really more about trying to see the ways that our fellow citizens are not being treated as well - so that we can bring them to the table and allow them to fully join the community as equally valued, advantaged, and represented members of society.

white privilege

Submitted by Anonymous on 11 December 2014 - 8:58pm.

the only thing that I would like about white privilege is that white folks don't realize is that we wear our skin color like it's camouflage. It doesn't sound like much until we understand all of the things that we take for granted.

The Language of Victimization and Denial

Submitted by Anonymous on 11 December 2014 - 1:07am.

Many good discussions herein. Racism in its subtle forms should be erased. But the dialogue around "white privilege" is toxic. It's so ironic that it accuses whites of feeling some universality of position, yet is applied universally to whites. It takes many logical twists and turns to justify its position. It goes far beyond the simple points of band aids and panty hose, to illustrate the subtleties that should be changed. Yes, white people created this mess long ago. We are all now stuck with it. But the dialogue unfortunately isn't about getting along. It's been monopolized by a group from the far left who do not seek equality, but power. It's highly politically charged. The implication of the zero-sum system creates the image of debt, instead of the opportunity to create for one's self. The psychological paradigm of victimhood is a powerful weapon, using the status of victimhood to gain power, and to disavow responsibility. The rhetoric goes beyond equality though. It screams of wanting psychological, emotional recognition. At it's core, it is a psychological cry, and carries many of the indicia of such. The extraction of guilt from the "privileged" is one form of emotional currency. The rhetoric degrades those who achieve personally. It's disheartening, because it offends every single person who improves their circumstances. It's maddening, because no one can achieve that feeling except within themselves, yet it's sought through emotional extortion.

Offended White Male

Submitted by Anonymous on 9 December 2014 - 8:03am.

White privilege seems to imply that as an individual I am guilty for injustices I did not cause or choose to benefit from. As a person who supports Affirmative Action and socialist, liberal economic policies I find this rhetoric defamatory, insulting and highly offensive. I am fully aware of the need to compensate for the generational effects of institutional racism and sexism, so please explain why is my guilt or innocence, and dignity as a human being at the discretion of someone else instead of the content my own deeds and actions? I absolutely refuse to be cast as an insoluble villain for the career gains of a politician.

You DO benefit from white

Submitted by Anonymous on 19 December 2014 - 11:20am.

You DO benefit from white privilege automatically whether you mean to or not. Many of the achievements you have in life can be partially attributed to being a white male in America. When you go to a job interview, you most likely don't have to overcome cultural differences with the person you are interviewing with, giving you a leg up no matter what. White privilege exists because we refuse to acknowledge the inherent biases and racism that still exists in this country. Go watch "What Would You Do?", a show that brings to light many of these privileges. People of color are deemed by the public as "suspicious" when people see them doing something out of the ordinary, like supposedly stealing a bike. However, when they switched the perpetrator for a white male, many did not see him as stealing the bike. They assumed it was his. Those little things tell me that if biases can exist in random daily places, I know it exists in the workplace, schools, etc. People of color have to overcome being part of an environment that is not built from their cultural background all the time. They are the ones that have to assimilate. It's exhausting and unfair to play a role all the time. I'm sure you have never had to change the way you talk and act because your workplace makes you feel uncomfortable to be yourself.

what if....

Submitted by Anonymous on 8 January 2015 - 2:24am.

When you go to a job interview, you most likely don't have to overcome cultural differences with the person you are interviewing with, giving you a leg up no matter what <<< what if the person interviewing yoyu..is the same race as you? People of color are deemed by the public as "suspicious<< if you act like your doing something to create that.. it doesnt matter you're race.. you could have green hair and tatoos.. and ppl may be "suspicious".
and i think depending on where we work we all change our habits.. the way you are at work is not the same way as when you're at home.. this white privilege seems to be used more as an excuse. sure some ppl might look at others races differently.. but that goes for anyone.. white ppl get jugded by black ppl as well.. and if you think you think this way.. then you will doesnt matter the color of your skin.

Offended White Male

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 December 2014 - 8:36pm.

This rhetoric isn't personal. The fact that you feel "insulted, offended and defamed" actually proves the article's point. Of all the white privilege on the planet, yours comes second only to that of RICH, white males. This isn't even about a "need to compensate" as much as it is about a need to ACKNOWLEDGE that it is so! We can't change what we don't acknowledge ...

Offended White Male

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 December 2014 - 8:36pm.

This rhetoric isn't personal. The fact that you feel "insulted, offended and defamed" actually proves the article's point. Of all the white privilege on the planet, yours comes second only to that of RICH, white males. This isn't even about a "need to compensate" as much as it is about a need to ACKNOWLEDGE that it is so! We can't change what we don't acknowledge ...

It is about awareness

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 December 2014 - 10:26am.

I grew up in a small, all white, town in the Midwest. The idea of while privilege never occurred to me until I went to college and had an Asian roommate. Suddenly I learned about being followed while shopping and the difficulty of finding make up if your complexion was different. This isn't about blame or guilt. It is about opening eyes and understanding that there is this underlying aspect of our society. Change cannot occur unless we have these discussions even if they are difficult.

Take it into consideration instead of being offended

Submitted by Anonymous on 10 December 2014 - 4:35pm.

The point is that even though it isn't your fault nor do you ask for it, it's still there, and that's something that the white community have to work towards addressing as a whole. The author isn't saying you're a bad person or villainize you in any way, but there are Caucasians that refuse to even acknowledge that white privilege even exist. The whole point is most of the time, it's unbeknownst to you, but this is what this is.

Celebrating Community Assets

Submitted by Anonymous on 4 December 2014 - 10:37pm.

Two thoughts ---

1.) I think the concepts of under-privilege and over-privilege are based on a very limiting idea of scarcity. But the good news is that the best things the world has to offer are not a "zero sum equation." If one person enjoys a healthy community, beautiful landscapes and parks, the arts, books, good education, sports, technology ... that enjoyment does not take away from the ability of others to enjoy the same things.

2.) Yes, it's important to recognize the barriers and obstacles that face us and divide communities. But not in a way that increases divisions. The most important focus should be on nurturing, sharing and building the strengths of all the families/youth/individuals in the whole community.

Privilege (not just white)

Submitted by Anonymous on 2 December 2014 - 7:46pm.

White privilege is an unfortunate part of American society. To be born white instead of another color means one's going to experience a less troubled life than someone who is born in the minority. Our society still has a white majority, while non-white groups (African-American, Asian, Latino and American Indian together, plus the Pacific Islander race in US Census race category boxes) continue to feel excluded or restricted in what they can accomplish as individuals. It's still a fact in America, white police officers will treat a black person differently than a white person in a routine stop. The Michael Brown incident and Ferguson, MO police officer Darren Wilson's walk away from facing charges reminds us again white privilege is in effect.

There are other kinds of privilege. I'm aware of male privilege, although I'm male, but I'm keenly aware of sexism is a problem alike racism. Women experience limitations and different treatment in society than males. On average, women are paid less (77 cents to a dollar) than a man makes doing the same work. I find this unfair and discriminatory, despite we have laws protecting female employees from sex discrimination practices.

And we have one percent privilege (the very rich), first world privilege (if you're born and live in the USA, Canada, Europe, Australia/NZ and Japan) and middle class privilege (not earning less than average annual income per person or household). Social/income class is another issue Americans tend to not want to face, because we believe we're the "Land of opportunity" for all. Regardless of what color, race, ethnicity or culture you are or originated from, the biggest indicator of privilege is socioeconomic in financial wealth.

Honestly, I want all forms of prejudice and discrimination to go away, but not a realistic goal at least in my lifetime. White privilege, male privilege and other privileges based on one's age, disability, sexual orientation and religion...prevents us from achieving full equality in our society and our lives. We have to realize people aren't going to be treated equally, but we need to change that to ensure all people have to be treated fairly. To have some kind of privilege and not be aware of it may make us ignore or avoid the notion of privilege, and we shouldn't: We must put an end to systematic racism and status discrimination. +

Privilege (not just white)

Submitted by Anonymous on 14 December 2014 - 4:41pm.

Although I do not disagree with what you have said, I would like to add something to your view on sexism. It is not just that males doing the same work as females are paid more than their female countarparts, it is also about the opportunities for females to do a higher level of work (ie promoted) are in many cases limited, unless of course there is some sort of affirmative action involved, in which case, many times women often receive an unmerited benefit.

The Use of "We"

Submitted by Anonymous on 2 December 2014 - 5:50pm.

This excerpt explains racism and white privilege is usefully direct terms but then goes on to describe "white privilege" from the perspective of "we", indicating that the writer is white and is writing for white readers. I think the headline should make clear from the outset that this article is from a personal viewpoint of a white writer and that the writing should be adapted to be more inclusive of readers who are not white. While we readers might expect the default race of a writer to be white in other magazines, I would expect a different approach in Teaching Tolerance.

i totally agree

Submitted by Anonymous on 26 November 2014 - 3:23pm.

I agree with most of the view points on this subject. Ive even wept reading some of of these life experiences.
Experiences that some of you witnessed first hand, because they really hit home and touched my heart.
Now, i agree with this mostly because, being a black man, the majority of what we see on t.v. or movies is caucasion people.
When i apply for a job or credit im always looked at differently from my caucasion peers, its a known fact that blacks are placed in an entire different tax bracket than whites. To this day if a white person walks in a store bare foot, or no shirt or sagging anything is rarely said, but lord forbid if a black kid did the exact same thing, when the sign clearly says no shoes no shirt no service. Thats why i can fully understand first hand, (and by the way i totally agree with the sign in the store, lol).
Now you do have to ask yourself though, why is it that if everything originated from africa, and the true jews are said to be black, all the lighter skin ones is all we see or hear about? In every culture you have your light skinned and dark skinned people. Almost every cultuture depicts lighter skined people on t.v. more so as if the darker skined people are irrelevant or non existant. The lighter skined people hold the most dignified or elite positions around the world more so than the darker skinned people. So yes i can see the privilages that many get compared to the few.
There people of color in almost if not every culture yet you only are shown
by the media the lighter skinned people with the exception of a few.
As i see it we all live in a society where a diverse culture is seperated by wealth and color, and no one race is truly who they claim to be, and until we learn to respect our differences is when and only when we will learn to know how to love one another as the bible tells us to, as brothers and sisters and dispel ourselves from the evil hatred of this world. God does not see color.


Submitted by Anonymous on 21 November 2014 - 5:29pm.

There's no point in racism. There's not point at all.

What is the point?

Submitted by Anonymous on 29 October 2014 - 1:37am.

I agree that white privilege does exist. It's scary when a person of color is shot for simply doing nothing and a white person is sheltered from such a thing.
I'm an underprivileged white girl from a lower class neighborhood. Hardly lived around other white people until I was about 14. Every once in awhile growing up I would be corrected that I was white by brown and black people, and reminded that I was white trash by rich, white elitists.
My issues with this are small compared to people of color who are clearly in danger. They are constantly harassed and even killed.

What can we do to stop this?

What is the point?

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 December 2014 - 3:45pm.

Because you were a small percentage of whites who have to be in the trenches with us I feel you understand. We as people of color experience this in our work place, neighborhoods and communities we forget the few who have to go through the same things but maybe not quite the same your still white. I can remember working with a white man who came in put his feet on the desk talked sports, wore a ankle bracelet for drunk driving and promoted a few months later to management @ a major corporation . Now whose privileged here. We need to treat people as we were all the same color starting by acknowledging were all in this together. Keep the dialog open so that it doesn't get swept under the rug for another 100 years for the next generation to have to struggle with or until some one else dies. I believe our younger generations may try harder to change things for the better they don't see color as we do. GOD made his rainbow for his glory not ours.


Submitted by Anonymous on 11 November 2014 - 1:24pm.

Is it ok to throw around generalizations about "white" people and their alleged privileges? It is not. Racism itself is the problem. The same error in thinking applied to any race is the whole problem. Stop turning the flawed thinking on different races and change the thoughts themselves. Look at people for who they are, not their race. Enough racism.

The fact of the matter is,

Submitted by Anonymous on 27 November 2014 - 7:00pm.

The fact of the matter is, every white person has white privilege. It is the WHOLE race. That doesn't mean that every white person has a perfect life, but they all have the privileges listed over black people, end of story.

end of story...

Submitted by Anonymous on 8 January 2015 - 2:33am.




noun: racism

the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

•prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one's own race is superior.
so that would make white privilege... racist.. and its true.. if a white person..was to come up with lets say.. black privilge.. then it would be called racist.. it seems this white privilege does nothing to help anything.. in fact it just causes more divide.

You're correct, but....

Submitted by Anonymous on 19 November 2014 - 10:11pm.

You are absolutely right. If everyone simultaneously did that, racial inequality would disappear... at least within a couple generations. There would still be economic and educational issues that would be linked to race, but people like the above woman would be on equal footing with people of color.

But that assumption is the problem. Everyone is not going to simultaneously do that, because not everyone even realizes it's a problem. Or maybe they don't think it's a problem, after all, there ARE still racists out there. Either way, until there are no more racists in power and systemic inequality of wiped out (by which I mean large populations of people of color who lack adequate schools and work, for example), telling white people about their privilege will be necessary in order for them to also stop seeing color and fight for equality for all.

The Myth of Racism

Submitted by Anonymous on 22 October 2014 - 8:46am.

Anthropology and medical science have an agreement in studying the one and only Human Race. Racism will continue to be expressed as long as there is an insistence on the myth of there being "white" and "colored" people on this planet.
I could see it if one of us had two noses or three eyes if not a type of blood that is only found in one group of Human Beings. But the fact that anthropologist continue to study the history of the Human Race and Doctors study the medical treatment of all Humans allows me to keep faith that sooner or later the basic fact of there only being one "race" of Humans on this planet will be openly discussed and accepted.
Individuals insisting on discussing the difference of people on the basis of the color of their skin should've been educated to know better by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the millions of American citizens of the 20th Century.
The recent reports by the news media on how "white people think about about being white"only shows how the news media are very slow learners!

Trying to figure this out

Submitted by Anonymous on 16 October 2014 - 3:04pm.

Mostly because of the John Stewart Bill O'Reilly thing from last night -- what is the difference between "white privilege" and "racism"?

Isn't saying something like

"white people don't fear being pulled over by police because they tend to not get shot when that happens"

the same as saying

"black people are discriminated against when they get pulled over and are more likely to be assumed up to no good? (i.e. racism) "

What I am really asking is instead of saying "white privilege is a thing exists" shouldn't we be saying "racism is a real problem and it still exists?"

About being pulled over

Submitted by Anonymous on 28 October 2014 - 10:07am.

Just a thought: Police sometime operate on statistics and what they have witnessed. So, what is the proportion of crimes being committed by white compared to black? I'm sure, by human instinct, they react on this. So, I think it is best to look at statistics and human experience. I believe we should look at the problem as a whole not just parts of it.

As far as "racism is a real problem and it still exists".............Racism will always exist in one form or another. I do believe we need to keep moving ahead in a positive way but we should not over emphasize what does not exist.

To become familiar with what I'm trying to say, go to: http://www.tolerance.org/article/racism-and-white-privilege

Lastly: We need to stop nik-picking and approach problems with grounded, thought-out, data supported answers. Not pie-in-the-sky, Utopian, illogical ideals.

Are you kidding ?

Submitted by Anonymous on 24 November 2014 - 10:35pm.

69.3% of crimes are committed by WHITE people. While only 28.1% is committed by black people.

Talk about illogical. Here you are telling this author to do the very thing you failed to do.

White people commit TWICE as much rape, aggravated assault, larceny, car theft, vandalism, fraud, drug abuse violations and the list goes on and on and on! (Fbi.gov)

Human instinct? Statistics? Go look in the mirror because this article was written for people with your illogical, misinformed thinking.

Are you kidding?

Submitted by Anonymous on 4 December 2014 - 8:01pm.

What percent of the population is white? Roughly 65-70%. 12% black and 18-20% other. 12% commit 30% of the crime. But what percent of black people are institutionalized. Statistics are staggering how much time selling drugs get as compared to any of the things you mentioned. 10/20/life for drugs. From slavery to institutional slavery.

Friend to Enemy

Submitted by Anonymous on 5 October 2014 - 6:54pm.

The concept of "White Privilege" has to be the most divisive concept in the fight for equal rights. It effectively changes us from a white allies to a common and ever present enemy.

It eliminates any chance of white redemption. Seeking to redeem oneself from the actions of our ancestors becomes impossible. Simply existing makes us complicit with the crimes as we are enjoying the spoils of race warfare.

"You don't understand the concept of white privilege," you might say. Your defensive reaction proves your racism.

All I can know or understand is what I see, read and experience. And I have only seen the concept of white privilege used to bully and dismiss white opinions, no matter how grounded in reason they are. I have seen white victims slandered ruthlessly by opportunistic racial vitriol. Issues that didn't involve race are suddenly hijacked and turned into "who has it worse" pissing contests.

Aggressive social justice warriors have told me to my face in front of a room of silent people that I am a spoiled, rich little white christian boy whose opinion means nothing because I have no idea what its like to be oppressed.

They judged me because I was white. They didn't realize I was a disabled, gay atheist who allied himself with black people and has actively participated in equal rights events.

But no, its "I don't like your opinion, so I'm going to throw it away using the concept of white privilege."

I could tell you about all the straight, christian, ableist privilege you have (if you are any of those). I could go further back and show how your religion completely destroyed my people, the Robogdii, their kingdom, and commit cultural and historical genocide, removing all sources of information, and burning any books that illuminate our origins as a people.

But I won't because I don't want to "other" you from my cause. I fear I would take away a possible supporter. So why do black people use white privilege to shake a stick at people who would defend them? It may be that it feels good to chew people out when you have a problem you cant solve on your own. But you can't win this without getting support. I know I can't protect gay people without yours.

Open Your Eyes

Submitted by Anonymous on 25 October 2014 - 1:47pm.

"Aggressive social justice warriors have told me to my face in front of a room of silent people that I am a spoiled, rich little white christian boy whose opinion means nothing because I have no idea what its like to be oppressed.

They judged me because I was white. They didn't realize I was a disabled, gay atheist who allied himself with black people and has actively participated in equal rights events."

Hello, that is white privilege right there. Without even knowing you, you were cast in the light of being spoiled, rich and free from the burden of understanding oppression. You didn't even realize it, and it only offended you because you are disabled, gay and atheist. Those don't come off as easily as skin color. That's what white privilege is. It doesn't make you an enemy, it's something you need to be able to see though. How much more effective could you be in the fight against racial discrimination if you could understand that. Also, I find it difficult to fathom that you truly fight for racial equality when you can make statements like, "So why do black people use white privilege to shake a stick at people who would defend them? It may be that it feels good to chew people out when you have a problem you cant solve on your own," a statement that undermines everything you do. Now it sounds like you feel you're doing black people a favor.

I'm sure black people could

Submitted by Anonymous on 18 October 2014 - 11:29am.

I'm sure black people could use many more white, disabled, gay atheists on their side.

Let me add some more examples:

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 September 2014 - 12:14pm.

Let me add some more examples:

– When you search Google images "baby", you will find mostly white babies. If you want to find only black babies, you have to search "black baby". Google "mother" "grandma" and the same thing occurs. This is true for

– When I search for stock images of people, I never see tags like "white (race)" or "white babies". In addition, white people aren't tagged under "ethnicity", even though white people have an ethnicity.

– Your race is not seen as a "minority".

– Your race (and a few other races) is better depicted. Find a UNICEF poster depicting a WHITE child facing issues.

– Your occupation wont stereotype your entire race. People ask "why are most basketball players black?" but never ask "why are most golf players white?" No one would pay attention if cab drivers were white and not Indian.

– If you're a doctor, people assume your medical education is adequate. No one dismisses you because they assume medical education in other countries is inferior.

– You can dress how you please without being labeled a "gangsta".

That's silly

Submitted by Anonymous on 11 December 2014 - 1:49pm.

What you are describing is simply reflective of the fact that Whites are the majority in this country, and so you naturally expect to find more images of White babies, more Whites on televsion, movies, what have you. There is nothing egregious about it. And it is ridiculous to use as a serious cause for grievance. And part of the way people perceive a certian group has a lot to do with the image they convey, I'm sorry. When you have a youth culture which glorifies being a thug or gangsta (not everyone of course but too many),trying to get people to view you in a postive or neutral light will likely be an uphill climb. Both sides need to be willing to make changes. That is only fair.

Thank you for the other

Submitted by Anonymous on 21 October 2014 - 2:16pm.

Thank you for the other examples. I had never thought about the race of the people in images I search on google... I also tried "doctor" and "teacher."

"Privilege" is natural

Submitted by Anonymous on 21 September 2014 - 12:16am.

Of course there is privilege. If you are a Han Chinese in China, you have "Han Chinese" privilege. In any country the dominant cultural/ethnic group always has privilege, otherwise it would not be dominant by definition.

If you somehow manage to bring white people down, someone else will take their place and will assert their privilege. Ultimately it is always one group versus another and the way these things always fall is along ethnic/racial/religious lines. It's not about who's smarter or better, it's about "your people" versus "the others".

"Privilege" is natural

Submitted by Anonymous on 23 September 2014 - 7:47am.

What you are saying is all fine and dandy if you are not touting his idea of equality. One cannot have one's cake and eat it too. If their is true equality, there is no domination. Domination is usully perpetuated systematically, as this helps to maintain domination. You have absolutely no prove that if white people are 'brought down, someone else will take their place'. In a TRUE democracy, there will be diversity and a system that will not be based solely upon color.


Submitted by Anonymous on 2 November 2014 - 11:11am.

We (United States of America) are not a democracy at all. We're a federal republic. 'True democracy' has never existed, not even the greek inventors of 'democracy' had a democracy! Only free, land-owning males above the age of 18 could vote and even then it was only the first 6000 into the building! We have limits on who can and cannot vote, we have representatives, we have a president, we have senators, we have a constitution. All of those things are not depicting of a democracy, but of a republic. We then modify a few republican ideals and presto! A federal republic is born.
Seriously, read the federalist papers.


Submitted by Anonymous on 15 September 2014 - 12:45pm.

I've read the article and all the comments, and am stunned by one thing: the degree to which people quickly take personally anything that is said about "race." If we're white, (some of us) vehemently try to deny that there is ANY DIFFERENCE between our experience and the experience of a black or brown person in this society. Or, we change the subject, make it all-about-us, and start giving examples of one or several times when WE were stopped by a cop...

This is denial. Why do we do it? Because we don't want to feel guilty. We don't want to feel uncomfortable. We are miffed at the thought that "we" are to blame for the suffering of others. Interestingly, this miffed reaction is also "privilege." Some of us think we are entitled to not feel uncomfortable. So, some of us--when we hear a black person relate how their nephew was shot by police--would prefer that this grieving person just shut up about it, just get over it. We might even advise them to consider what that nephew might have done to deserve being shot...because, if he deserved it, then we won't feel as uncomfortable. We might even start talking about some white person we know who got victimized in some way, because then we won't feel as uncomfortable.

Why are we uncomfortable? Because we think that we're being BLAMED for someone else's suffering or death. But in fact we're not. A crappy situation can exist without it being anyone's fault. We inherited a system of thinking and unthinking, and some benefit from it and some don't. The point is, we're not "to blame;" we are simply "responsible" if we CHOOSE to be. If we get off our narcissistic high horse and stop making it all-about-us, we might notice that we white people DON'T bear the brunt of police violence, stereotyping as drug users, stereotyping as thieves, stereotyping as uneducated, stereotyping as being in gangs, neglecting our children, "playing the race card."

Why does it matter that we KNOW that we are not subjected to these stereotypes? Simply because if a system of inequity is ever going to become equitable (where all are protected rather than all being reduced to NOT being protected), AWARENESS of inequity is essential.

Some here have said that racism is caused by TALKING about racism. They are saying that racism will go away if we stop talking about it, if we stop fueling this now non-existent, perhaps historic but now totally out of date thing that no longer exists or exerts any power at all.

Again, this might be "privilege" that is telling us that some people should just stop "complaining." If I, as a white person or a person of any other color (or gender), say that people need to stop talking about something, it means I think that My perceptions are the more correct ones, it means that I think I have nothing to learn, no questions to ask, that there is no such thing as a blind spot (for me, that is). It means I think I have the right to silence other people's experience, to say that their experience is just vapor, just something they conjured up by *talking about it. They are "crazy" and now they are "racist" too (even though racism doesn't exist...).

For me, the most important realization of privilege is that as a white person with white kids (and one of mixed heritage), I DON'T have to feel afraid while they are out in their car that they will be stopped by police just for being there. I don't have to tell my kids, each time they leave the house, "if a cop stops you for not using your turn signal, keep your hands visible! don't move! he might think you have a gun!" I don't have to tell them this because in our society, looking to be of European heritage is considered normal, respectable, non-criminal, etc. My kids can be out there and just look like 'young people having fun,' even if they are stopped in traffic for something like a missing tail light. Keaton Otis was shot right in my neighborhood (I was there, right after, and locked down in Walgreen's by police) some 28 times when he was stopped for having his tail light out, or not using his turn signal (I can't recall which minor thing it was). The cop said he "looked like a gang member." Therefore, the cop thought he was reaching for a gun when he moved his hands. I know that as a white person I can be confident that if MY tail light is out and I reach for my purse to pull out my ID and my insurance card, I won't be seen as "reaching for a gun." I won't "look like a gang member." Instead, I'll look like "Old-lady-in-a-Saab." That too is a stereotype, a set of assumptions based on appearance, but the point is: "old lady in a Saab" is not a demographic that is profiled / suspected / feared. THAT fact, that I am not subject to a dangerous reduction of protected status, is "privilege." The fact that police are on the look out for young black drivers instead of me even means that my minor traffic offenses and my missing tail light might not even be noticed. In other words, one aspect of "privilege" is that sometimes I am directly benefiting from the fact of someone else's negative stereotyping / targeting. And of course, I can be confident that I'm not likely to be shot and killed based on stereotypes.

Should I feel guilty that I am in a protected category? NO. Can I do anything to help change society so it's not open season on young black men? YES. Should I feel guilty if I don't do anything at all to help change society? NO, but I think I should feel like a fool if I spend any time denying that I AM protected, and denying that the young black men are not.

CNN recently showed the video of two white guys who were there when MIke Brown was shot by the police officer in Ferguson. Their real time account can be heard on the video, where they say EXACTLY what the black witnesses said earlier when asked by the media to give their accounts. CNN described this video as a "game changer."

OK, suddenly, because it is WHITE people sharing their witness account, the CNN audience can NOW take it seriously. ...As if black and brown people cannot possibly give an objective, honest account of what they saw.

This CNN example is the essence of "white privilege." We white people go through life with more credibility--the credibility floor is higher for us. Should I feel GUILTY about this? NO!!!! But if i deny it, I'm part of the problem. Because, the privileges I enjoy should be the birthright of every human. That's what I want. That's what I want to be reminded of each time someone shares their truth about the word "privilege."

Recently on Facebook two videos were circulated, one of a white, jay walking guy waving a rifle and talking crazy in the middle of the street. The cops on the scene wisely talked him down, called him "sir," said they didn't want anyone to get hurt. They spent some 45 minutes at this.

No one got hurt.

The contrasting video was of the young black man shot early in August in a Walmart store. He was talking on his phone to his girlfriend and leaning on a toy gun "like a cane." Within seconds of the arrival of the police, with no questions asked, he was shot and killed. When he heard them coming and turned to the officers aiming guns at him, his last words were, "It's not real!"

In the case of the crazy talking gun-toting white jaywalker, the police said he had a right to "open carry." The black guy, on the other hand, didn't even have the right to lean on a toy.

As a woman, I also know (from long experience) that I have to work much harder than my male equivalent in order to PROVE my skills and knowledge. My long time male work partner is automatically considered to be credible (we both are workplace trainers, and I trained him in many of the tools we both use). He is the normative ideal for workplace authoritativeness--white, educated, middle aged, male. I am: white, educated, middle aged, female. There is also another difference, I am MORE experienced in the work we do. Knowing all this, he and I have learned how to work together to make this process of proving-Trudy's-credibility more efficient.

Should my work partner, Tim, feel guilty about his *automatic* gender-based credibility while I have to *prove* mine? NO. But he takes responsibility to make every shared context work for both of us, and work for the people we work with. I like that. :)

Having said all this, I DO strongly agree with those who have posted about "white privilege," as a term that is very often used in dysfunctional ways. "Check your privilege" is in my view not only a useless piece of advice, it has an implicit blaming, personalizing tone to it, and it is a tactic for silencing(ANY "you" statement is!) There are far more sophisticated ways to raise the issue or create common cause around systemic issues of inequality. To use the gender example again, if white guys in a meeting are unconsciously using far more air time, talking over the women, and listening only / mostly to one another, I'm much better off planning in advance to have that meeting facilitated by a strong and capable person who knows how to draw everyone out equally. I think I am a fool if I think the better strategy is to say to those participants, "hey, check your privilege," or accuse them of "dominating." And, best of all, in the process of experiencing a facilitated meeting, both men and women learn how to manage a meeting in a way that draws everyone out and no one feels blamed. Blaming gets us nowhere(btw, the author of this piece did no blaming whatsoever).

We regular folk (the 99%) spend a lot of time engaging in what is called Horizontal Hostility. That's what I think is happening in so many of these replies to this article. The person commenting about class is quite correct. We (all genders, all races, all sub-groups who are not the 1%) DO fail to see the structure of power. We DO fail to see and then make common cause among those of us on the bottom rungs. We are so eager to turn on each other instead-- on the basis of little or no thought, little or no stepping back, little or no curiosity. We rarely try to build bridges, we rarely hear ourselves saying, "wow, tell me more. I have a different view than you seem to, but I'm interested in hearing how you got to your view..."

Wouldn't that be refreshing? These skills are Dialogue Skills, and rarely do we ever use them.

p.s. Why do these all post as "anonymous?" it makes us all look like we're hiding. My name is Trudy.

Good thoughts, Trudy.

Submitted by Anonymous on 30 December 2014 - 2:09pm.

Good thoughts on the subject. It seems that the term "white privilege" is divisive and causes people to become defensive- shutting down productive conversation. I am white, and acknowledge the existence of white privilege within a system that supports institutionalized racism. As a white woman discussing this issue in online forums, I get told to shut up a lot, called names (including racist, race baiter, etc). That is fine- I don't take insults personally, as the discussions need to be had regardless of whether the discussion makes people uncomfortable. I find that denial and distortion of facts and statistics disturbing, and yes- the denial IS about the guilt that comes with privilege. So- thanks, Trudy. Your comments are insightful!


Submitted by Anonymous on 22 December 2014 - 7:13am.

thank you so much for spending time and effort in posting.
This has really helped me understand more about white privilege.

How? Any thoughts?

Submitted by Anonymous on 20 December 2014 - 12:08am.

Hello Trudy,

Thank you for your reply. I am so glad I came a crossed this article. I will totally cut & paste the example of you and your partner! Today, I learned something new; not to feel guilt. I guess I never really did, but before reading your article I was using "White Privilege" to guilt white people into understanding the privilege... and I'm white.... and 99% of those people I'm attempting to guilt in to understanding are not the least bit racists. However, so many white people out there have NEVER heard of the privilege. I am impressed with your response as you've said everything I've been trying to say -in all of the wrong ways. The idea of the privilege is so beyond the understanding of white people as it was me before college 6 years ago. The death of Michael Brown has blessed us with an opportunity to grab the movement & run with it! I feel now is the time, but HOW? How can we move forward effectively helping our white brothers and sisters to grasp the concept and jump on board? I believe your office example may help open some eyes by seeing it through a different view point. I just want white people to understand the privilege as that is the 1st step -awareness. Have you any thoughts/ideas/resources?
Thank you again. -Tracy

Thank you

Submitted by Anonymous on 25 November 2014 - 10:41pm.

Thank you.