Race Relations and White Privilege.

So I have run across this conversation a lot lately…and it gets pretty weird sometimes. But before I dive into my thoughts on the subject, I have to disclose that I am a CIS White Male. According to the press this will make me resistant to the concept of any kind of privilege and based on the conversations I have seen, it is a fair assumption. But, rather than work with assumptions lets go over it a bit.

First off we have to talk about the word privilege. According to our good friends at Merriam-Webster (definition link); as a noun privilege means, “a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor” and as a verb it means, “to accord a higher value or superior position to”.

The phrase white privilege is stating that white people have a right or immunity granted to them. This can be cross applied to male privilege, binary privilege, or any other sub group that has the real or imagined advantage in our society.

Seems simple enough.  So is it real?

If I was a legitimate reporter or student, I would spend the next 500 words citing historical and current statistics and would build what would be an unassailable case that would prove that such privilege exists to everyone but that one dumb ass in the back that somehow still believes that people of color (or women, or non binaries) are somehow less than him.

But I would rather give you an argument from my personal experience…as a straight, white, male… who has grown up and lived in a wonderfully integrated city (that is still imperfectly balanced in terms of opportunity).

To set the stage, I grew up on the east side Indianapolis, after the great white flight to the surrounding suburbs that was caused by the racist response to bussing and forced integration of public schools. I attended those public schools. Being from a lower middle class family, I am sure you realize that I grew up as the minority in my neighborhood (slightly) and absolutely in my schools.

Even with that background, never once in my life have I been in a position where anything but my own merits held me back. Not once.

At the same time, I watched over and over as the people with darker complexions in my community were denied opportunities (usually in what we would consider small things…an interview here, a place in a class, not being “given a break” by a cop….but sometimes larger issues), that were readily available to me.

I seldom knew the particulars of any given instance, and in some case that I did know them, it was the person getting in their own way more than it was the lack of their privilege. But all too often, people just weren’t given the benefit of the doubt because of their race (and/or cultural differences associated with it), and with no other reason.

Based on that life experience, I believe that white privilege is a thing. It can be explained simply as an obstacle that isn’t placed in your path to success. In our society, having dark skin places obstacles in that path.

On the other hand. I don’t feel guilty about it…and I don’t think you feeling guilty about it is useful (unless you are actively carrying out endowing a group with one of these types of privilege…then yeah shame on you).

What is useful, is acknowledging that white privilege exists.

What is useful is not judging someone who doesn’t have your privilege for not making it as far as you. They had to go around those obstacles.

What is useful, is people realizing that you privilege isn’t something you have done wrong. It is a lack of obstacles in your life that others don’t enjoy.

What is useful, is not propagating those obstacles.

What is useful, is removing those obstacles for other people by treating them as equals (they are), and forcing other people to do so along side you.

What is really useful, is recognizing that none of this is difficult and acting accordingly. People aren’t asking you to kiss their ass (and if they are shame on them). They are asking to be given the same considerations we have come to expect.

Just to be treated the same.

If we can just start there, I think we will all be surprised how far we can go.

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About Robb

A husband, Dad to 5, and Grandpa to 9. US Navy Vet. 18 Year Postal Employee turned full time Realtor. I enjoy a wide variety of things, but you will find that here I mostly write about Indianapolis, government/politics, recent news, and whatever book I am reading or have just finished at the moment.
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