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Human beings are drawn to community in cliques, so examples of white privilege from observation seem hard to find. We like to shop in our store. We like to stay on our side of town for lunch. We like to go to our own church. These cliques may be comfortable, but they can also keep us blind to the struggles of others. White Privilege is an invisible advantage that occurs every day, and for many people, this unseen privilege is a reality that white people need to recognize and understand.
It is being able to grab a pack of skin-tone bandages that would blend in with white skin. It is walking into the drugstore and finding a shade of foundation without searching for long. White privilege can be seen as superficial or unsubstantial, especially for those who don’t know the history of racial tension in the United States. While white privilege is not necessarily racism, for many, it teeters on the edge of it. This subject must be understood in the context of the nation’s dealings in race issues.
Racism and White Privilege: What’s The Difference?
Racism relies on the thought process called “Racialization”, meaning that people are grouped together based on similarities or differences in their skin tone. Once someone racializes someone, they either act on their thoughts, or they don’t. Racism is what happens when examples of White Privilege are acknowledged as a usable tool, and transferred from thought to action.
For example, if a white woman is walking down the street and notices she is the only white person on the sidewalk, the act of her noticing is not racism. If she sees people of color walking on the sidewalk, and she crosses the road to avoid walking near them, that is a racist act. If a white person treats a person of color differently than they would treat a white person, that is racism.
Why White Privilege Exists
The systemic racism that brought the United States through its birth as a nation, all the way from 1776 to Brown v. Board of Education (1954) encompassed 178 years, or 73%, of our nation’s history as we know it. That is a conservative number, considering the fact that schools were not immediately integrated, and communities still functioned under their idea of “normal” for years.
Three generations of people living together-27% of our country’s existence thus far-is not a very long time. African-American grandparents of today’s young adults were direct victims of systemic racism. This does not mean that racism is alive today as it was 50 or 60 years ago. It does mean that White Americans have the upper hand when it comes to an national history of not being oppressed.
Examples Of White Privilege From Observation
White Privilege, as previously mentioned, is an invisible power that can be used knowingly or without giving it an extra thought. Here are some examples of white privilege that I have personally acknowledged or experienced in the past five days:
- My hair care is found easily, and in most stores.
- My favorite T.V. shows feature an all-white leading cast.
- I can easily surround myself with people of my own race in a place of my choosing.
- If I chose to do so, I could rent a nice apartment in a facility that has nice amenities, and I could afford to do so.
- I can trace my lineage back more than 300 years.
- I can voice my opinion on subject matter that is uncomfortable to hear, and not be judged for my reactions based on my race/ethnicity.
- I can drive wherever and whenever I want, and not have to worry about my children’s or my safety.
- Although I have curly hair, no one ever asks if they can touch it.
- My children’s father is not questioned.
- I am almost always greeted with a trusting smile upon entering a business or store.
Small Steps Toward Kindness And Compassion
With the knowledge of these examples of white privilege from observation, it can be frustrating to not have a “fix it” button. There is no going back and fixing the mistakes that have been made, righting the wrongs, or healing the hurt. There is nothing that can be done except to move forward and try to plant something beautiful in the soil of our history that is riddled with pain, loss, and sacrifice.
If every person sought out one way to reach out and be kind once a day, week, or year, especially with the hopes of bridging the gap between white people and people of color, our world would begin to heal.
Fostering healthy relationships between people encourages dialogue, piques curiosity, and strengthens the unity of all people. Kindness, in its smallest or grandest forms, can never be wasted. By embracing the idea of kindness and relationship, our nation will grow stronger, and its future will be filled with colorful promises of unification and hope.
WANT TO READ MORE?
Check out this article examining different opinions over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
Photo Credit: Unsplash Troy Brewer The Rationalists New York Times
Source: What is White Privilege, Really?