Social Question

Charles's avatar

Does "white privilege" exist?

Asked by Charles (4823points) May 2nd, 2012

Peggy McIntosh, Associate Director of the Wellesley College Center for Research on Women, describes white Privilege as “an invisible package of unearned assets, which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible
weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, code books, visas, clothes, tools, and
blank checks” (McIntosh, 1989).

So, do whites have hidden benefits?

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47 Answers

tom_g's avatar

Before we jump all over your shit, can you please tell us if you’re kidding or not?

Charles's avatar

Not kidding.

Now answer the questions.

tom_g's avatar

Yes. Are you sincerely wondering if being white does not come with certain current and historical advantages?

Coloma's avatar

No. I don’t believe so.
“Privilege” is based on status and cash flow not color.
Hey, I was just demoted to a lesser checking account because by balance has fallen below 25k. They weren’t looking at my color, only the color of my money, a shade less green than before. lol

nikipedia's avatar

Jesus christ, ABSOLUTELY.

I have never had trouble finding a job, an apartment, or a boyfriend. I am 100% sure if I were a different race, at least one of those would not be true.

chyna's avatar

@nikipedia I think you also have to realize that your looks play an important part of what you stated above. You are very attractive, but if you were extremely overweight and unattractive, you may have trouble at finding a job, apartment and a boyfriend.

janbb's avatar

Are you as naive as you seem from your questions or do you just enjoy stirring the pot?

Sunny2's avatar

Depends on where in the world you live, but I think there’s some truth in your statement.

Blackberry's avatar

Being black sucks. LOL.

Coloma's avatar

@Blackberry Hey, I’m the quintessential cute blonde, blue eyed girl and you know what? I have always wanted to be a black woman. Yep, a black gospel singing, amazing voiced, strong, beautiful black woman. With smoldering dark eyes! lol
Go figure, the color is always greener on the other side of the racial fence.
I think black women are some of the most drop dead gorgeous women ever. ;-)

tedd's avatar

Historically… oh most definitely.

Currently… yes… But I think many times the severity of the advantage is overplayed.. and more and more it has a lot more to do with financial/social standings.

Blackberry's avatar

@Coloma That’s funny, I’ve always wondered what it’d be like to be a white male, lol.

And I agree with @tedd that the severity is overplayed, but this also depends on where you live.

janbb's avatar

I don’t think you can really evaluate white privilege if you are white unless it is somehow taken away from you. There was a very popular book in the 1960s calle Black Like Me in which a white journalist made himself appear black and traveled through the South. Now that was the South and the 1960s but still there are a whole number of unconscious privileges we assume every day; the ability to walk in a rich, white neighborhood, the ability to not get stopped and frisked for our appearance alone, the abillity to wear a hoodie and not arouse suspicion. A good analogy might be to think of being transsexual or openly gay and think about the difficulties you might face going through the day.

And @Coloma, I respectfully submit you may be being a bit naive. You may well fantasize about being a beautiful, Black talented woman and there are many, but I’m not sure you would want to face the issues that the average Black woman has faced in her life.

Coloma's avatar

@janbb Mmmm..I’d disagree. Everyone faces issues and I don’t really see that any issue that causes pain, frustration or discrimination to be any better or worse than another. HUMANS face issues, and all colors are subject. I was the object of extreme racial hatred as a child living in a predominant native american and hispanic american state due to my fathers work as an architect for the bureau of indian affairs and I am no stranger to racial hatred or challenge.

Being the little blonde, blue eyed white girl on the reservation was no picnic let me assure you. ;-)

janbb's avatar

@Coloma I understand better now. So it does sound like you have faced some of those same issues by being an “outsider’” and thus can empathize with what it is like to be a minority within a prevailing culture.

Aethelflaed's avatar

Of course it does.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma So, when it’s you on a reservation, it’s racial discrimination. When it’s people of color in the US, it’s just life?

Coloma's avatar

@janbb Yes, thanks. I just happen to think, racial challenges aside, that black women are beautiful and exotic looking. ;-)

@Aethelflaed No, please don’t distort my sharing. I am a “people” and all people are subject to issues of discrimination. The Q. is about privilege, and I still think “privilege” is more subject to status than color most of the time. Color doesn’t exist when the big bucks are being tossed around and that’s certainly a truth. It does exist on a base level for ALL colors and creeds.

Aethelflaed's avatar

@Coloma No, the question is about white privilege. No one’s denying that there would also be class privilege. It’s not one or the other, they can both exist and even work together.

If color doesn’t exist with big bucks, why are over 95% of the US’s CEOs white? Why is there only one black woman in a leading role on tv right now?

Aethelflaed's avatar

Just FYI, if anyone wants to read Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, there it is.

Coloma's avatar

@Aethelflaed Maybe because not enough minorities WANT to be CEO’s. I don’t think that race has much to do with it really. Everyone is free to pursue what they choose and I think it has more to do with personal drive, choice and desire than white privilege. We have a black president, we have Oprah Winfrey who is extremely active politically, we have Condoleezza Rice, and plenty of others in politics, as religious leaders, on & on.

There are PLENTY of successful people of “color” in politics, Hollywood, and everywhere else. Anyone of any color can overcome if they so choose. It’s about hard work and choice not color IMO.

Facade's avatar

Absolutely. If I was white, my life would be so much easier.
Color still matters; people can deny it all they want.

Michael_Huntington's avatar

Some of you people might find this useful since you’re doing the same shit in this thread.

Blackberry's avatar

Well, it’s sociology 101: there’s a social hierarchy. In America, it might start with the wealthy, religious white male, and then it goes down from there, but so many factors can determine someone’s status on the ladder. Even something as simple as your looks or the clothing you wear can determine your “status”.

It really sucks, but that’s how it is. :/ We should be thankful we live in a place that allows us some movement within this stratification, though.

jrpowell's avatar

My mom is kinda the middle-of-the-road racist. She voted for Obama but still crosses the street when when a black person is walking on the sidewalk towards her.

Knowing that I assume if she was in the position to hire people or rent a apartment she’s probably going to pick the white person.

jrpowell's avatar

And I should add that I dated a black woman and she was totally fine with it. And she slapped me once for saying nigger.

She is simply scared of random black males.

Trillian's avatar

There are hidden and open benefits to being white. But being white certainly does not equal privileged. There are more demographic factors here, as well as looks, age and weight. Oddly enough, I watched Malcolm X for the first time last evening and this morning. What an eye opener that was. I “knew” that the Nation of Islam were responsible for his death. I never imagined (though in retrospect I probably should have) that the CIA may have had a hand in it. It seems the world over that Charismatic leaders who buck the status quo have a way of getting killed.
A shipmate and I were arguing about people of color in America about fifteen years ago. He told me I had no idea what it was like to be a black man. I shot right back that he had no idea what it was like to be a white woman. A single parent serving on active duty.
What I think now is that we were both right, and we were both wrong. I had no way to know what his experience was, and had no business saying that racism didn’t exist. He had no way to understand MY experiences, and had no business dismissing them. Neither was invalid. Neither of us gave the other enough credit or validity.
I keep getting knocked between the eyes every time I think I finally understand another group.
All I can really do is try to maintain an open mind and not be so immediately dismissive. Racism is alive and well, but you know what? So is tolerance. I choose to focus on the positive aspects of life.
Except for idiocy. I still have no patience with that.

ucme's avatar

No, but maybe it should. Give any white sprinter a 20m headstart on Usain Bolt at this summer’s olympics, may make for a close race then.

mothermayi's avatar

Sometimes it does. I think the frequency with which it does, is often overplayed for the sole purpose of playing the victim, though.

roundsquare's avatar

@Coloma “Color doesn’t exist when the big bucks are being tossed around”

Probably (mostly) true, but the point is this: black people have to work harder to get to the situation where big bugs are being tossed around.

Your experience on the reservation seems to confirm this: while living there you would have to work harder to move up on society.

Coloma's avatar

@roundsquare So do women, of any color.
All I’m saying is that I think it is unhealthy to hang onto “stories” about how disadvantaged one is. True, certain biases exist, however, I think that blaming race, politics, sex, whatever, is mostly a cop out. Sure, their are certain truths, but one of them, and the most important is that if you have a victim attitude life will treat you like a victim 9 out of 10 times.

The people that make it in this life don’t cling to “poor me” attitudes, and that’s the truth.
This is the mystery of mind and the resilience factor, why does one poor kid drag his ass out of the ghetto and become a doctor or a lawyer and another succumbs to the crack crowd.
It’s much less about race than it is about a certain mindset.
Keep tellng yourself how disadvantaged you are, how unfair life is, how you shoulda, coulda, woulda, done this or that if only you had a rich family, or were white instead of black or a man instead of a woman.

There’s always plenty of whine to go with that cheese.

woodcutter's avatar

If there is then I have missed that boat. I do work for so many black customers who are doing shitloads better than I am for sure. I just help them out of some of their money.In my real life experience if the black guy went to school and did well then he’s less prone to lament that. A black guy who doesn’t have much is going to say he was held back.generally.

marinelife's avatar

I live in an apartment complex in which being white is a minority. (It is predominantly black and hispanic.) It gives me a funny feeling, which blacks must experience much of the time in predominantly white society.

Still, I have found that when I talk to me neighbors the sense of differentness goes away. They have the same concerns that I do. They care about dogs. They go to work. They worry about money.They are people just like I am.

It is a shame that we are biologically programmed to fear otherness.

Blackberry's avatar

@marinelife Yeah, I live in an area like that as well, and people told me not to move there because it’s a “bad area”. I’ve accidentally left my windows open overnight, car unlocked, and apartment door unlocked. I’ve lived there for 3 years with no problems, but I think it’s because people associate places with less white people to be more dangerous.

marinelife's avatar

@Blackberry I think you’re right. It is almost always quiet here. A few noisy vehicles come in once in a while, but that would happen anywhere. People watch out for other people here.

janbb's avatar

@marinelife Even when fires are set in the woods.

roundsquare's avatar

@Coloma I probably mostly agree with you that it doesn’t do much good for someone on the underprivileged side to spend (much) time lamenting about how things would be better if they were on the privileged side, but there are two other things to take into account:

1) Even if you don’t lament the hand you’ve been dealt, it is important to realize it exists and take it into account.

2) If you are in the privileged side, its important to realize this privilege and the biases that exist.

Coloma's avatar

@roundsquare Agreed. I just think if people want to find a cause for their grievances it is very easy and not conducive to actually finding a solution to their woes.
Everyone has problems and challenges in life, it’s how you handle them.
I’m just not one to wallow in pity parties, I’m a take charge type. :-)

marinelife's avatar

@Coloma You’re right that everyone has challenges. You’re right that it is how you handle it. But coming from a place of privilege, it sounds a little smug to say that to those less fortunate.

Coloma's avatar

@marinelife I agree, my attitude however, comes from being on both sides of the fence. I have experienced rags to riches more than once in my life and it’s my spirited, “can do” attitude that has overcome some extremely difficult times. Again, I do believe the biggest disadvantages are in ones mind rather than their heritage or circumstance.

Facade's avatar

@Coloma The thing is that prejudice and racism are real issues. Saying that White privilege doesn’t exist is like saying that people don’t discriminate against people of different races, but they do. It happens all the time when trying to buy a house, shop at a store, interview for a job, apply for a loan.. I could go on. Even though you in particular may have never been able to bank on being White due to your circumstances, that doesn’t mean that White privilege doesn’t exist.

janbb's avatar

@Facade I heartily agree.

Coloma's avatar

@Facade True, but again, so does prejudice against women in general, Pit Bulls, the mentally ill and a myriad of other things. I’m not minimizing the realities just saying that racism is not the end all and be all of ALL prejudices and that over identifying with racism is more likely to hold one back than racism in itself.

I’m not arguing against facts, I am simply advocating a mind over matter attitude, that’s all.

janbb's avatar

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”

Martin Niemoller

“We are not free until we are all free.”

Desmond Tutu

Aethelflaed's avatar

I hate this idea that the only reason oppression happens is because a certain group of people just hasn’t empowered themselves enough. They are pretty much always constantly trying to empower themselves (no, really. Start reading Colorlines, and Racialicious, and The Grio, and see all the people who want to be movie stars and tv leads and CEOs and all that shit). Empowering is important, but it’s not the whole thing. Racism (sexism, homophobia, etc) isn’t caused because PoC (women, gays, etc) just don’t empower themselves enough, it’s cause by white people (men, homophobes, etc) not knocking their bullshit the fuck off. It’s sorta like how battered women don’t just need to grow a spine, their husbands need to stop seeing them as a viable punching bag.

Coloma's avatar

@Aethelflaed True too, but, the biggest responsibility falls on the individual to make the changes they need to make to better their lives. There are multiple factors at play and they all have merit. For maximum effective change one must empower themselves while also striving for change on a larger scale. The battered women can’t change her husbands outlook on his battering, that might happen, but she can change herself by no longer make the behavior acceptable and she can remove herself from the victim role by making proactive choices to leave her abusive relationship.

There are multiple truths to everything and they all come together to form the bigger picture.

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