Social Question

airowDee's avatar

Do you believe white privilege exists?

Asked by airowDee (1791points) October 13th, 2009

If you do, do you believe that all white people, on some level, benefit from white privilege or do you believe that there are many or few white people who are left out on the cold from this so called privilege?

This is such a controversial issue, I personally think that not all white people benefit from privilege for being white, obviously. There are people of color who have it better than some white people, there are people of color who abuse white people who have less privileges, But I can’t help but agree that one of the root causes of inequality is institutional racism anbd it does exist in favor of the dominant group, which happens to be white.

Tom Wise stated that white privilege is actually a tool created to divide and conquer the working class, making poor white people feel superior about their superficial whiteness so they will fear or oppose people of color instead of working with them to overthrow the ruling elites. That in fact white privilege is something that hurt poor people, both white and non white.

What do you think?

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46 Answers

eponymoushipster's avatar

I sure hope so. It’s about all i’ve got….

derekfnord's avatar

This is a tough issue to nail down, because no one really gets to see it from both sides. But It seems to be largely regional. There are some places where there seems to be little or no “white privilege,” and places where there’s unquestionably a lot of it. But overall, if I had to say, I’d say I suspect it’s a bigger deal than most white people realize, and not as big a deal as many people of color think it is. I’d say it’s persistent, but not pervasive.

Likeradar's avatar

Yes, I believe it exists. I can answer “yes” to pretty much every question in this article.I don’t think I can say yes not because of anything I did, but simply because of the color of my skin.

GA, @derekfnord

Zen's avatar

Not sure what colour I am. I think I have other privileges.

ABoyNamedBoobs03's avatar

racial issues are so circular it’s absurd…

dpworkin's avatar

In the United States, not only does White privilege exist, it is so pervasive that reasonably intelligent people (presumably white) are so used to it that they claim to be unaware of it and deny its existence while they are in the midst of benefiting from it.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

On one hand, people try to tell me that skin color doesn’t matter. Then on the other hand, they tell me that because I am white, I have some sort of privilege that people of color do not have. I know rich white people, rich black people, rich every other goddamn color in the rainbow people, and I know poor people in every category as well. I say we drop the whole racial concept and narrow it down to something easier to grasp. Money. Who has the most green and who doesn’t. Let’s leave racial profiling in the past, where it belongs.

If we are going to discount race as not important, then when actually are we going to do that? I’ve had enough of Politically Correctness, and I’ve had enough of the whole absurd concept of White Guilt.

Everyone talks about leveling the playing field, but there never is a true concept of levelness. If all men are created equal, when are we going to start acting like it?

DominicX's avatar


I think in a way, we do narrow it down to who has the most green and who doesn’t. The problem is that in America at least, that happens to often correspond with race.

airowDee's avatar

I hope everyone does check out this video above

I don’t really think as a society, we are suffering from too much political correctness, I think there are more pressing issues like inequality, provety that we should focus on , instead of setting up a straw man argument about everyone being too polite to minorities.

And i do agree money has alot to do with power. Race is just one of the many issues.

Zen's avatar

Green is the colour: what colour is Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Barack Obama, Bill Gates and Steven Spielberg? Who cares.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@DominicX tell that to the poor whites that live pay check to paycheck, that drive older vehicles, and have never been to college. When college educated whites with degrees and money talk to me about whites having privilege, I have to laugh. I am white and poor, and have never been to college, and didn’t graduate high school, and have had to work for every damn thing I have.

What do I have? I have a 1991 Toyota truck, a 770 sq. ft. house, and a job that pays barely over ten bucks an hour. I also have the best woman in the world, but she came to me of her own free will.

White privilege? Yeah, right. I got your white privilege, right here, buddy.

DominicX's avatar


I don’t know why you interpret “happens to often correspond with race” to mean “THERE ARE NO POOR WHITE PEOPLE”. That’s not what I said at all and I didn’t say there was any privilege.

In 2007, the United States Census determined that 8% of white non-Hispanic United States citizens were living in poverty and 25% of black United States citizens were living in poverty. (21% of Hispanic citizens). The numbers are even farther apart in urban areas. In Los Angeles County, 14% of the people under the poverty line were white (early 2000s). 60% were Hispanic.

Of course there are poor white people. But the fact of the matter is that poverty rates are higher (more than 3 times higher) among American Hispanics and African Americans.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@DominicX don’t yell at me, sonny. I watched that video, I know who the enemy is, and it isn’t the people of color. It is, and always has been, the people with money, and power, and who divide the people with no money into classes. The wealthy like to point to poverty figures as if they even care, but they aren’t doing the really important things, like making the changes where they count. They point out the inconsistencies, as if that is the problem. That isn’t the problem; the problem is the greed of the capitalists, and the well-to-do, who make their money off the sweat and blood of the working class.

I didn’t get to the age I am by being stupid. With age comes wisdom, and someday, you might discover that. I thought I knew it all when I was 18, too. I found out that I could learn from my elders, and that respect was something they deserved, whether I agreed with them or not. but this is the fucking internet, and no one is responsible for their words, or their actions, because we are all faceless lines of text, and we are only what other people project upon us as being.

DominicX's avatar


I don’t even get what you’re arguing. What are you arguing? All I did was present statistics, didn’t say anything about privileges, “the problem”, or “the enemy”. It’s not an argument; it’s statistics. I said that poverty rates are higher among non-white people in America. It’s a fact. I am not talking about “the problem”, I am pointing out the poverty rates based on race since this question is about race.

People with more money are the ones with “privilege” regardless of race, but I didn’t even mention that word once. I simply pointed out that just because there are some poor white people, doesn’t mean the rate of poverty is equal across the board among race. I didn’t even say anything about the significance of that. Society is divided largely on class (evidenced by your response, for example. It’s “the wealthy” as if they are some alien race apart from other humans), but when class coincides with race (particularly in urban areas), race becomes an easier means of division.

And being condescending isn’t going to help anything, just so you know.

bennihan's avatar

I completely agree. I’m adopted from South Korea by Caucasian parents and grew up in a suburban neighborhood where you could count the minorities in my high school on your hands.

After graduation I went to South Carolina for College and being a white kid myself in a Korean body I have to say that racism and hate still burn strong. Being white maybe has its privileges sometimes, but especially in the South.

Zen's avatar

@bennihan I love that: white kid in a Korean body. Good for you. But if we were to meet, I’d simply notice you as a kid, and listen to how you spoke; not seeing your colour or race.

rooeytoo's avatar

It’s an interesting thing to ponder. From my perspective, there are many opportunities, privileges, benefits offered to one group of people that are not offered to others. These perks are offered based on ethnicity. So there is a certain amount of privilege that goes hand in hand with the color of your skin and I guess that is a fact of life. And which way those privileges swing depend on where you are and when you are there.

This is true also of age, there are many benefits offered to young that are not available for older people.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@DominicX I’m not arguing, but hey, if you think that’s arguing, then let’s just call the whole thing off. sheesh, got a thin skin, or what?

DominicX's avatar


No, I do not have a thin skin. And yes, I do think it’s arguing but I do not think there is anything wrong with arguing.


Is it true that they are not being offered to them, or are they being offered but they are simply not being seized? What kinds of examples do you have in mind (just curious)?

DarkScribe's avatar

I don’t know about white privilege, but white advantage certainly exists.

nikipedia's avatar

I grew up poor and white. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I have had opportunities that I would never have had if I had not been born white. I worked my ass off to get where I am in life, but that isn’t enough. If I had worked this hard and been born a different color or size or shape or a thousand other things, it would never have come together to land me where I am today.

I won the genetic lottery. I was born the right color in the right time in the right place. I don’t doubt for a second that I was granted a ton of advantages that 99% of the world doesn’t get. So I absolutely believe white privilege exists.

OpryLeigh's avatar

I agree very much with @evelyns_pet_zebra ‘s first post. Humans created this divide in race and equality many years ago and, even though we all insist that it is about time race wasn’t even an issue, it is still a major issue. It seems to me that there is a lot of talk about beating equality and not enough action and people of colour are as bad as white people.

There are too many people victimising but also too many people who happily play the victim and while these people exist on both sides we will never have equality.

The short answer to this question is yes, I am sure white privilege exists and like @derekfnord said it is probably regional.

Jayne's avatar

@evelyns_pet_zebra; The people you say “try to tell you that race doesn’t matter” are saying that it doesn’t determine a person’s character; they are not saying that race does not shape a person’s place in society. Race shouldn’t matter, but it does, and there is no contradiction in this. Yes, of course money does matter; that’s the whole point of capitalism. But that doesn’t preclude race from having a strong effect as well. And aside from your contrived attempt to force a contradiction by misinterpretation, and the statistically meaningless examples of poor white and rich black people whom you know, you have presented no actual argument to the contrary.
And yes, I am being a bitch here, because trying to discredit @DominicX on the basis of his age, rather than actually addressing his argument, was really not cool.

aprilsimnel's avatar

Yes, of course. If you are a white man in America (and yes, I’m aware there are different levels of privilege in American white society as well), you have a much better shot of being taken seriously, and to have it assumed that you arrived where you are in life on your own merits. That you are a person first, and not just white. White is normal. White is default. Look how the Irish and Italians tripped over themselves to hate blacks and Native Americans when they got here. They wanted to be white so bad, even I can taste it. Why would anyone be that way unless there was a social advantage to being white? And they’re still not seen as the equal of a WASP. Being a WASP is tops in American society. I wish people would just admit it.

It’s always assumed that only affirmative action helps African-American and other people all the time, and that we’d be unqualified for any good job or education without it. And that black people are always black first, and not people.

How was this brought home to me? At uni during my sophomore year, my grades slipped due to some pretty heavy emotional problems I was dealing with. One day, the Dean of Students called me into his office and yelled at me for letting him down. You see, I got into my school without affirmative action (I had stellar grades in high school, aced the ACT, and my results on IQ tests would make Charles Murray scream and cry in frustration). My bad grades, in the Dean’s mind, were making it look like all black kids were dumb. “You have to try 3x as hard to equal the perception of being as good as a white man,” he told me, and that wasn’t the first time I’d heard that sentiment and it’s not been the last.

If I have to work that hard, and if everything I’ve done and do has to be not only indicative of my own personhood, but also to carry the weight of an entire race of people? Then yes, I think white folks have some privilege. I’d love to see or hear of a white someone saying, “Son, you have to work three times as hard to be considered the equal of a black woman.” A cold day in hell, chums, when that happens. Or at the very least, I’ll be long dead.

hookecho's avatar

I was born poor and white. I don’t believe I would have been any worse off had I been poor and black, or any other race. When your at the bottom everything looks the same.

Facade's avatar

It exists. It’s why I can’t find a job~

hookecho's avatar

its very easy to blame things such as privilege instead of taking a look at yourself. Im sure all the white people currently out of work have excuses of their own.

Facade's avatar

I was definitely joking…

hookecho's avatar

ok well disregard my smartassness then. :D

jw67's avatar

Maybe there is such a thing as “white privilege”, but sometimes it works the other way too. About ten years ago my best friend and his wife went to apply for financial aid, since they were broke and only one of them had a (low-paying) job. Plus they had a six month-old baby. So the interviewer told them they couldn’t get any aid. My friend’s wife started crying and asked why, and the interviewer said “Off the record? Because you guys are the wrong color.” Meaning they were white and not Mexican or black. Then of course there’s the issue of illegal aliens getting a free ride, whereas I’m a white citizen and haven’t gotten anything free since public school.

noelasun's avatar

White privilege; as it’s been answered, works both ways. Detrimental to everyone, because how much harder does it make for us to take each other seriously when we assume how the other person got here is through “special privilege”?
I can’t count the number of time classmates in college would say something like “I hate you, you take all my financial aid.” Now that I’m working, I find that being a minority, female, and young make it absurdly difficult to get any respect in the workplace. (reminds me of the turkish astronomer mentioned in The Little Prince) Everything is marvelous over the phone, but as soon as we meet face to face, suddenly my english becomes difficult to understand.
While I do believe that white privilege isn’t something every white person actively benefits from, but I do think that if I looked white, people would magically re-understand my english.

hookecho's avatar

Don’t forget theres a book out now called stuff white people like. Apparently all white people are the same because of our skin color. Yes I am aware that its a comedy, however, can you imagine the reaction if there was a book called stuff black people like?

Facade's avatar

@hookecho There is a website for stuff black people like, as well as one for stuff asia people like. Quite funny, if you ask em :)

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

@Jayne, agreed, to a point.As for your defense of the little rich boy, well that is your perogative. I see no respect towards me in his words, and therefore, I assumed it was because of his age and privilege.

See I can be a bitch, too. If you people want a flame war, try someone else, I’m not biting.

DominicX's avatar


And I saw you completely ignoring what I said as your first response to me had little to nothing to do with what I said, which is not respecting anything I said. Don’t expect respect if you give none. Which you are continuing to do by referring to me with condescending epithets and commentaries on my private life, which you know next to nothing about.

I am no longer going to discuss this here. Switch to PM if you wish to continue.

rooeytoo's avatar

I think it should be noted that the true form of this white privilege goes to young, tall, good looking, well built, males or WASPS.

Being a white female in the workplace has never seemed to me to have much privilege.

But as you age, even the WASP business starts to diminish.

hookecho's avatar

“Being a white female in the workplace has never seemed to me to have much privilege.”

we aren’t just talking about the workplace. We are talking about all aspects of life. You do realize that women almost always get the better end of the deal in a divorce, and are almost never in as much danger as men during a war? I guess you could call those things female privilege.

rooeytoo's avatar

Since I didn’t get the best deal in my divorce and since I am not allowed to go into combat whether I want to or not, they didn’t really enter into my thought process.

Statistically, the human I described, young, tall, good looking, well built, males or WASPS, get the most privilege in life generally, not just the work place. I forgot to include in that description, blond and blue eyed, that statistically seems to help also.

hookecho's avatar

I am a white male with blond hair and blue eyes. Since age 6 I was raised by a single mother raising 2 other kids on 1 income. We were on welfare for a year, frequently had to go to the food bank, bought almost all our clothes second hand, and lived in government housing for 2–3 years. Since I was about 9–10 till I was in my mid teens, I had almost no social life because after school I would have to babysit my younger siblings because we couldn’t afford a sitter. Birthday presents were commonly 1 new piece of clothing and a book. At age 16 I took the only job I could find in the small town I was living in, a Greek restaurant where I was the only non-greek working in the kitchen. As a result, I was everyones bitch and had to work the hardest. After 4 years of working there, I had enough money saved to move to the city and start a new life.

but hey, thank fuck im a white man with blond hair and blue eyes, otherwise my life might have been hard.

rooeytoo's avatar

@hookecho – I am answering the question about white privilege from my perspective which is female. I responded to the comment you directed towards me regarding female privilege by telling you in my case, you were incorrect.

I haven’t and would not presume to tell you about your experience.

Now if you want to tell sad stories about unpleasant childhoods, start a new thread and we call all tell our stories.

hookecho's avatar

@rooeytoo I understand what your saying

my point is that skin color is only one of many factors that can give someone “privlege” There are plenty of people, both white and not, who have had worse experiences than me. Just like there are many people, both white and not, who had it much better. But this idea that white blonde blue eyed men have everything handed to them in life is fucking bullshit.

rooeytoo's avatar

@hookecho – I completely agree.

airowDee's avatar


Like I already told you , I think there are many privileges in the society. There are such great posts on here, i am so glad for everyone who pariticpated. No one can take away our own personal experience, that is very important, no one wants to be looked upon as just a person who is oppressed or someone with privilege because of a superifical difference. I know you are not too happy about me bringing up this topic of white privilege, but i know you know that I do not see you as a white person with privilege and i don’t encourage anyone to look at white people in this way. Everyone should be seen as a person and they have their own personal struggles and stories to tell.

Race privilege is one of the many things that could be added on top of our life story.

gemiwing's avatar

I’ve been stewing about this for a while. It’s so difficult to put down, on the internet, a point of view without being misunderstood. Tempers run high with race/class issues as well.

Have I had white privilege? Probably. It’s a sneaky beast that you don’t notice until it’s pointed out really. Have I been treated differently because of my race? Yes I have. Did I get a nice cushy job and a ferrari because my skin is ‘just so’? No way.

I get harrassed at bus stops, parking lots, hell even in front of my own house. I’ve been kicked, punched and choked because I was the wrong color at the wrong time. This is not unusual for any race really. There will always be someone who hates you without even knowing your name. Humans are funny that way.

There is one thing that affects me more than being white, or even female.

My teeth.

I have horrible teeth. They’re so bad I swear I’ve seen them on Springer before.

I have been turned down for jobs, housing, friends, casual bus companion, been asked if I was in prison (for crying out loud), teased that it’s because I’m from the South, been called names that would make my mother die if she heard me say them. I’ve watched people’s eyes as they lower my IQ by fifty points in their minds.

What I’ve learned, so far, is that humans love to segregate themselves into smaller groups. We will usually use any method at our disposal- most notably physical features. Blonde and super buff- over in this corner. Short hefty women with frizzy hair over in the other. It’s what humans do.

Human sociology is like a cobblers toy for children. The more we pound down on what we don’t want to face about ourselves the more the pegs show up on the underside. We have to acknowledge that we do classify people- and wrongly most times- in order to move forward in social evolution.

So, yes, I’ve had white privilege. I’ve been on the underside of privilege’s cobbler bench as well. We all have. ‘Privilege’ always has a flip side to it. What we should be working on is removing the pegs as best we can.

airowDee's avatar

Thank you, Gmiwing! That is such a great response. kudos.

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