"Power from unearned privilege can look like strength when it is in fact permission to escape or to dominate."
White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Backpack
by Peggy McIntosh
I am white. Thus by definition I must have white privilege. What is white privilege? This thing, this apparent power I never knew I had until someone who didn't like it told me I had it? White privilege is what racists give to white people while they are being racist to non-white people. Just as the victim of racism cannot control the racist, or the acts of racism, so the victim of white privilege cannot control the racist, or the acts of white privilege. Each is a byproduct of racism.
What am I to do about receiving white privilege from racists? Black people learn how to alter their behavior to avoid being targets of racism. In the past few years I have heard black parents relate stories of how they teach their children how to avoid confrontations with police. I know of a black man with a good job and great career who drove a very nice car but grew tired of being pulled over so he reverted to driving a not so nice car. My white privilege is I do not have to teach my children about how to avoid confrontations with police. My white privilege is I don't get pulled over as often. My white privilege is I do not arouse suspicions when I browse in a department store. My white privilege is I am less likely to serve prison time, I more likely to receive a better education, and I am more likely to find decent pay for a decent job. Is that really white privilege?
What am I to do about receiving white privilege from racists? The problem with racism is not black people, the problem is the racists. The problem with white privilege is not white people, the problem is the racists. Of course, in this example the racists are white. Racists can also be black, and in those situations is there a such a thing as black privilege? If I am a victim of racism at the hands of a black person then it stands to reason there are some who are victims of black privilege. Or brown privilege. Or yellow privilege. Or whatever privilege. Just as historically in culture and society men have held the power and so sexism by men is seen rightfully as the greater evil, historically in culture and society white people have held the power and so racism by white people is seen rightfully as the greater evil.
What is up with the "white privilege" movement? There are many who never witness racism and thus say racism is not a problem. Those combatting racism shout "white privilege" in an attempt to raise awareness among those who do not experience racism. "Look! You receive these benefits because of racism!!" I get it. Raising awareness. Accusing someone of white privilege just because they are white is racist in and of itself, and a white person simply receiving a benefit from a racist is not white privilege.
The term "white privilege" implies an expectation of favorable treatment based on the color of your skin. This is form of racism. They are two sides of the same coin, white privilege and overt racism. On the one side is how you treat others differently (worse) because they are not your race, and the other side is your expectation of being treated differently (better) by those the same race as you.