Discussing race is always a pretentious topic, it’s been my experience that (in general) it is very difficult for some white people to understand what white privilege is and how it affects both white and non-white people. Many of my white peers do not believe that they have any type of privilege. They don’t recognize what they have inherited to be privilege because it’s just normal to them. It’s normal that my white female friend is able to turn on the television, or open a magazine and see her image represented in diverse and beautiful ways. It’s normal that my white female friend is able to walk into a cosmetics store and find her shade of foundation or cover up. It’s normal that my white male classmate is able to go into a classroom and learn about the history of European and western civilization and all the contributions “his people,” have made to the world. It’s normal that my white male classmate would have an easier time finding employment upon graduation. It’s normal that my white female friend would not be followed around the pharmacy because she looks like she belongs there. It’s normal that my white female friend can go into the country club because she doesn’t have to bother knowing that her private country club has a policy that doesn’t admit non-whites. It’s normal that my white male classmate wouldn’t understand what it feels like to be told “you’re playing the race card.” To many white people, none of these things are privileges…they just are.
You see, what may be normal to you as a white person and what “just is,” is completely abnormal to so many other people of color. I feel the effects of white privilege every day. I have to go out of my way to find positive representations of myself, I have to seek special books and courses just to learn where I come from as a Black person. I, as a person of color, have to stay silent when I know that I’ve been discriminated against in a job interview. I, as a person of color and a minority, have to face the fact that the majority of the people I’m around will never understand exactly what that feels like. When I (as a Black person) point of the privilege, it’s hard for some white people to understand because “their ancestors didn’t own slaves,” or “they don’t see color.”
Look at white privilege this way:
Imagine that you are a little girl at a birthday party. Some of the girls at the party are wearing pink ribbons, some of the girls at the party are wearing blue ribbons. The first set of blue ribbon girls arrive early and sit at the party table. Later, the first set of pink ribbon girls arrive and sit at the table. When the second set of blue ribbon girls arrive, the pink ribbon girls refuse to help arrange the favors for the party, instead, they make the blue ribbon girls set the table, pass out the goodie bags and hand out the cake slices. The pink ribbon girls hog the chairs, hog the goodies and force the blue ribbon girls to sit on the floor. They take two slices of cake, extra juices and an extra goodie bag. Later, the second set of pink ribbons shows up. They notice that the blue ribbons are sitting on the floor with no cake, no goodie bags, no juice and no chair. However, when the first set of pink ribbons sees the second set of pink ribbons, they make room at the table and give the second set of pink ribbons extra cake, goodie bags and juice. The second set of pink ribbons notices that not only do the first pink ribbons have extra cake and goodies, but they too have extra cake and goodies, while the blue ribbons have none. Nevertheless, the second set of pink ribbons sit down, eat their cake, drink their juice and enjoy their goodies.
In the above scenario, did the fact that the second set of pink ribbons weren’t the ones who originally stole the share of cake, goodies and juice that belonged to the blue ribbons exempt them from the fact that they deprived the blue ribbons of their cake? Couldn’t the second set of pink ribbons have shared their extra cake and goodies with the blue ribbons?…Couldn’t they have made room at the table or told the first pink ribbons to give their extra cake slices to the blue ribbons? Or couldn’t they have called in the mother to resolve the issue and tell the first set of pink ribbons to stop being so spoiled?
They could have done any of these things, but they chose to sit down at the exclusive table, while the blue ribbons sat on the floor and eat the extra cake and goodies that belonged to the blue ribbons anyway. Then later when someone offers to give the Blue ribbons some cupcakes because they never got any cake, the pink ribbons jump up and down and shout “THAT’S NOT FAIR THAT THEY GOT CUPCAKES, WE DIDN’T ANY CUPCAKES!” All the while they don’t acknowledge that they got extra slices of cake, candies and goodies, so the Blue ribbons never even get to have their cupcakes. How greedy is that?
If you look at white privilege that way, maybe it will help you understand that even if your ancestors didn’t “own slaves,” even if you think you don’t see color or have privilege, you do.