The Power of White Privilege
Tags: inequality, prejudice/discrimination, race/ethnicity, racism, white privilege, 00 to 05 mins
Summary: For a lot of people, the notion of a white privilege is a difficult one to grasp. As sociologist Peggy McIntosh argues in "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack," white privilege is akin to an invisible package of unearned assets that whites can count on cashing in each day. As just one example, McIntosh notes that she "can go shopping alone most of the time," well assured she "will not be followed or harassed." Despite plenty of empirical evidence attesting to the existence of white privilege, many people—white people, in particular—are unable to recognize it in their daily lives. This invisibility appears to be by design, and indeed, unearned privileges are powerful and persistent precisely because whites are socialized not to see them. Yet failing to acknowledge unearned privilege is failing to acknowledge the existence of institutionalized racism, and what is not acknowledged stands little chance of being fixed. In the above clip, author and educator Joy DeGruy recounts a story about a time she went shopping with her sister-in-law, who happens to be light-skinned and often "passes" as a white woman. While enduring a blatant instance of discrimination from a suspicious store clerk, DeGruy recalls that her sister-in-law stepped forward and confronted the clerk. In other words, she went further than simply recognizing her own white privilege, and in this case, she used it to call out an act of discrimination and highlight the injustice for onlookers. Note that this clip might work well with a number of other clips on The Sociological Cinema, which similarly take up the concept of white privilege (here, here, and here).
Submitted By: Lester Andrist
10/1/2012 05:11:41 pm
White privilege is a myth. What we really have in America today is black privilege.
10/11/2012 12:47:09 am
Wow, that is a classic example of white privilege.
11/5/2012 11:55:36 am
I have a wonderful black female caregiver. I am very aware of how differently we are treated when she takes me out. People are more often rude to her. Not as rude if they ralize she is working for me. Rude to me if they think we are just 'together'. I do not see 'black privilege' -- and now recognize what I had not been aware of before.
12/8/2012 02:31:03 am
My son was walking along the sidewalk with his best friend one day. They are 9 and 11, both young, both quite vulnerable, both very innocent and sweet in appearance. My son is white; his friend is black. This day, however, a police officer happened to be driving by. And he decided that something was so terribly awry with this situation that he needed to pull over, stop, and ask my son if everything was all right. My son. Not his friend. He asked if he needed a ride home. My son answered yes and no. Then the police officer drove slowly behind them all the way home. It really creeped them both out.
12/8/2012 04:21:05 am
An excellent example! I'm curious as to what part of the country did this take place?
1/24/2013 05:23:25 am
People of Color have had their wealth stolen from them for centuries, while wealth among white families have accumulated. The laws themselves privilege Whiteness. For you to argue that white privilege is a myth is amazingly dense.
7/5/2015 06:29:50 am
The people in other countries never had wealth, dumbass....
4/3/2013 10:38:59 pm
Darah, to whom is your comment directed? The way this thread is set up makes it sometimes difficult to see who has responded to whom. Thanks!
2/25/2015 09:55:17 am
Oh. So thirty years of progress toward equality, followed by twenty years of backsliding, erases over four hundred years of slavery, Jim Crow, lynching, and Affirmative Action for Whites Only? Oh. I see your very white point. Pathetic.
9/2/2016 02:45:36 pm
you just proved it.
5/19/2019 10:33:48 pm
I would like to know how you think black privilege is current in today's time. This is not an argument, but a discussion I would like to understand. Currently a lot of data tells us that Black women are underpaid significantly to the white woman, and even more so to the white man. If the wage gap is not based on priveledge, than why are black woman still underpaid significantly for the same work they do in comparison to a white woman? If what you are claiming is true, I would like to see further documentation on it and have an intellectual conversation about this. I also would appreciate if your documentation stayed away from the use of food stamps, medicaid, or any other government service since statistically we see African American's are using those services because many black men are incarcerated and therefore black woman have higher rates of being single mothers, and therefore government aid is given to them based on trying to support the wellness of their child. Let's stick to only the wage gap question and see where I conversation illuminates from there.
11/5/2012 12:02:07 pm
What I am aware of is white prvilege. And typo - realize. We have a long way to go it seems to learn we are all human beings with the same hopes, dreams, feefings and fears. That will be true equality.
11/29/2012 09:48:54 pm
As a white male, born and raised and having lived my entire six-plus decades in the south, I see the impact of white privilege all the time. A simple example comes from a visit to a fast food establishment. If I and a person of color approach the person taking orders at the same time, the vast majority of the time I will be asked for my order first....even if the person taking orders is a person of color. White males, like me, take a lot for granted in life. It takes a big mirror for us to see that we presume a lot just because we are white and male. Doors have always opened to us more easily than for those of color and for women. It's wrong. There is no justification for it. We just need to continually point out how wrong it is whenever we see it. I suppose Mr. Herrick just lives in a different world than I do. It is so sad that his own racism blocks his vision of his privilege.
4/2/2013 12:53:28 am
In 2013 this concept is so difficult to explain, especially to the demographic that you are, White and male, so i had to say i really liked your comment, and ca appreciate your character from it. Separately i want to say it does not stop and end with Blacks in America, one particular group that pulls my heart strings are the First Nation's people of America, being excluded from American social programs like VAWA.. Now my position is that social programs like this that involve safety should include everyone, but I think that it is an egregious social injustice that the original Americans are still such an ostracized group. Its 2013 :(
4/2/2013 09:18:20 am
Oh, I don't think it's difficult to explain white male privilege to that demographic. The larger issue is having them accept it as reality. I've explained it to many who want to argue its very existence with me! The "privilege" is so much assimilated into who they are they don't even see it. If they would pay more attention to some of their colleagues who can barely put together a coherent sentence and notice how "high" they've risen on the corporate ladder, that might help. But I don't hold my breath. I've had to bite my tongue more than once when someone told me they didn't get the job because they were not a person of color. I knew their qualifications were far from adequate but couldn't really say anything because I was in management and/or human resources. One just shakes the head in amazement.
5/19/2019 10:36:06 pm
Thank you for your testimony Bruce! As we saw in the Civil Rights Movement it is only through support, love, education and compassion that we can understand others. I appreciate your testimony!
5/20/2019 07:55:03 am
Thank you Marie. This is an ongoing struggle against ignorance that births prejudice which harms us all one way or another. I try to keep doing what I think I am called to do.
1/24/2013 05:52:45 am
I somehow doubt that Mr. Herrick has "heard" a single word that any of us have written. Again, he must live in a different world than I do. So sad not to be able to see injustice. Perhaps being part of the injustice blocks vision??
4/5/2013 01:21:02 pm
While I will not deny that some form of "white privilage" exists. It does not exist everywhere and is not given by everyone. There are no institutions that give "white privilage". In fact I would not call it a privilage as privilages are generally earned. I would say circumstances where whites are treated differently" given special treatment" than other races is only seen in specific instances and does not represent society as a whole. On the other hand minorities are given "special treatment" all the time. Specific instances I can recall: A white female who is waitlisted for a college while her black counterpart is accepted. Their classes and activities are identical the only difference is race. There is a United Negro College Fund, an NAACP, Black Entertainment Television. We are 40 years past Jim Crow, we have a Black President. I have never owned a slave and dont know anyone else that has either. We need to stop talking about suspected "white privilage" and other things that divide us. People are people and what counts is the individual
4/5/2013 10:42:57 pm
I guess all I can say to you, Mr. Kent, enjoy your ignorance. I'm an almost 64 year old white male and continue to see the evidence of white male privilege all the time. It is subtle sometimes. The reality remains that white males do take a lot for granted just because they are white males. That's one of the reasons we have had to enact laws to foster equality.
2/25/2015 10:02:07 am
Mr. Kent, what phone booth have you been hiding in?!
9/19/2021 11:59:14 am
I’m not sure why I’m bothering replying to this ignorance but you took the time to point out your white fragility but did not take the time to research white privilege. And all of those “social” programs ended up benefiting more white women than any other group of people. Educate yourself
9/19/2021 01:52:10 pm
Fascinating that this thread is still drawing comments after some 8 years after it began. But that is not surprising either. We continue to see our political leadership dodge, avoid, explain or whatever the issue on a regular basis....but never acting to change it.
6/12/2014 01:53:44 am
Privilege Mr Kent is a thing one normally earns. You are right. White privilege is something you enjoy and take for granted, regardless if it's earned or not. That's the whole point of the argument! Most white people are oblivious to this unearned privilege, especially if they live in a white dominated country like the US and the UK. To deny this is foolish. I work as a Nuse in a London well known teaching Hospital. I am in charge of a department along with a colleague and very good friend, who is white. Let me tell you, in order for me to get this job I had to go through hell and high water. That was just to get to the interview! My colleague does not have the qualifications I have. In other words I have twice as many qualifications that she has to do the same job. What I'm saying is I can't be as qualified as her I have to be more qualified. This was something she did not have to contend with. Her white skin secured her position and still does. I am not knocking her. We are friends. But I know this and so does she. But working with me she notices these things that ordinarily she probably would not notice. For example it is always assumed she is more senior than me just because she's white! It is always assumed she is more knowledgable than me because she is white. It is always assumed she earns more than me because she's white. I could go on and on, but I'll stop there. The point is white privilege is invisible to white people because they benefit from the same. Just saying.
2/25/2015 10:04:27 am
Thank you, Valerie! You nailed it.
2/25/2015 10:49:23 am
For those who still think white privilege is a myth, I suggest you go to this link: http://nyti.ms/1GnS1kk (you may have to copy and paste into your browser). It is a study that shows how prevalent and how subtle white privilege still is. Passing laws addresses part of the issue, but that is only a small part.
10/2/2015 09:17:28 pm
What will it take to change "White Privilege" in your opinions???
2/10/2016 11:40:23 pm
Uncle Tom Barack Obama who is too scared to prosecute Hillary and dumbo Beyonce support Hillary? Really? What MORONS.Hillary's got more than Monsanto ties. Hillary Clinton praises Margaret Sanger, a woman who wanted to KILL BLACKS poor and disabled people. Are blacks this STUPID that they would vote for Hillary Clinton? No wonder Hillary is pimping herself out for Black lives matter. What a JOKE! OMG people wake up.Seriously! What is wrong with anyone who would vote for Hillary Clinton? You would have to hate blacks, disabled and poor people to support Hillary Clinton because this is what she values. People who do the same. Get it? Duh. You have been hoodwinded by Clintons. They hate blacks. They hate disabled. They detest the poor. They are sociopaths preying on your ignorance. Vote for Berine now! Feel the Bern! Berning away the evil of the Clinton’s non stop lying and scandal machine.
3/26/2016 12:11:33 am
I am white and I am glad that you think I have more privileges then you will ever have. Let's take it another step further I am Russian and that make me the most superior ethnicity of all the whites.
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