Tabi on racial matters: How you could use your white privilege to create a better world

| March 13, 2021

In its literal sense, White privilege is the unearned advantages and entitlements afforded to a dominant group, so for example in Australia, this is White people of European decent. A sociologist scholar, Peggy McIntosh’s “Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” identifies the daily effects of privileges that she has as a White woman.

To have White privilege does not make you a racist. You have these privileges because you’re simply born White.

Societal systems, laws, policies created to govern a country like Australia, are often enacted by the dominant group, Whites, therefore, skewed towards benefiting that group more than anyone else.

There has been a lot written about what it is that the underprivilege groups are missing, and needing support for, but there is little understanding of what White privilege is. The hierarchical division that determines where we are located in society, the illusional line that places some people above and some below has the power to change the course of one’s life.

What about Class privilege?

Whether you feel that you have power, status material worth or the ability to attend an exclusive private school or not, as a White person, you’ll still have White privilege, just by being White.

Class privilege, although an important topic for another time, is often what people think of when discussing White privilege. Class privilege often acquired through heritance, is the way in which society is structured and classified according to material worth and power.

Class privilege is not the same as White privilege because all White people have White privileges, but they may not necessarily have Class privilege.

In the 1930s and beyond, many Black scholars spoke of White privilege and the underlying concepts in the way systems placed Black people and non-whites on the back foot and at the same time, enabling Whites to move ahead.

Scholars such as W.E.B. Du Bois, Angela Davies, Toni Morrison and Patricia Hill-Collins, just to name a few wrote extensively on the topic of White privilege. A notable piece of writing by Du Bois, (“The Souls of White Folks”) details the state of White privileges at work in America. But it took Peggy McIntosh (a White scholar) in the 1980s to make the use of White privilege to gain popularity in social discourse.

Seeing White privileges for what they are

We are taught that racism is about individual acts of meanness towards Blacks and non-whites. This definition is true, as well as the structures and systems created to govern our societies to dominate others to keep them on the side of disadvantage.

White privileges manifest in many ways, here are some examples of the (“Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack”) by Peggy McIntosh: –

  1. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area that my neighbours in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  2. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
  3. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
  4. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.
  5. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin colour not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
  6. I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
  7. I do not have to educate my children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.
  8. I can be pretty sure that my children’s teachers and employers will tolerate them if they fit school and workplace norms; my chief worries about them do not concern others’ attitudes toward their race.
  9. I can talk with my mouth full and not have people put this down to my colour.
  10. I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
  11. I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
  12. I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to the “person in charge”, I will be facing a person of my race.
  13. I can be pretty sure that an argument with a colleague of another race is more likely to jeopardize her/his chances for advancement than to jeopardize mine.
  14. My culture gives me little fear about ignoring the perspectives and powers of people of other races.
  15. I can worry about racism without being seen as self-interested or self-seeking.
  16. I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having my co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of my race.
  17. I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
  18. I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
  19. I can arrange my activities so that I will never have to experience feelings of rejection owing to my race.
  20. If I have low credibility as a leader, I can be sure that my race is not the problem.

The opposite of privilege is disadvantage and although not all White people are born with the “silver spoon” in their mouth, most won’t have to negotiate the world with the daily racial slurs on the street, being racially profiled by police or being followed at a shopping centre.

For Black folks, your experiences of racism matter, so please voice them (here).

Your White privilege can support anti-racism

To really understand your White privilege, is liberating.

But even more powerful as you decide to use the privilege in service of others can be transformational for you and our world.

When White privilege is used for anti-racism, it counters the systems that perpetuate harm to non-White and everyone else.

Although as a White person you may think that you didn’t ask for the privilege and so you can’t be blame for it, but you can decide to put it to use by being compassionate in your actions, not as a saviourism, but to help create a fairer world.