Earlier this week, my mom was standing in a line, waiting to be called. She waited and waited, watching as people from other lines got called. Eventually, she turned to the man behind her and said, “Stand in front of me. Maybe if they see a tall white man here, they’ll start calling our line.” He took her place, and was called in less than 10 seconds.
Also earlier this week, this article was sent to me: https://shine.yahoo.com/healthy-living/princeton-student-s-essay-on-white-male-privilege-stirs-controversy-182554683.html
It discusses a Princeton student, Tal Fortgang, who essentially argues that the concept of white privilege reduces the value of his accomplishments in an unfair way. White privlege is generally defined as “the set of societal privileges that white people benefit from beyond those commonly experienced by people of color in the same social, political, or economic spaces.”
Fortgang argues that his ancestors lived very hard times, and that he has worked hard to achieve everything he has. I have no doubt that either of these statements are true. However, that is not to say he has not benefited from being white. One of Tal’s arguments in the article is that his family has seen many struggles–his grandfather fled Nazis in Poland, and came to America. However, as also mentioned in the article, his grandfather, if he came to America before 1952, would not have even been allowed to come here become a citizen unless he was white. Which he was.
This is the thing I really want to put out there–White people should not be afraid of the concept of white privilege. Well, we should all be afraid of it. But they shouldn’t feel afraid for themselves. If you are white, you are a product of white privilege, to some extent. This is not to say you have lived an easy life, or that you don’t work hard, or that you are in anyway a bad person. It simply acknowledges that there are some things that people of color have to endure that you likely do not. Hate crimes, for example. Random searches by police and security, discrimination when applying for jobs, under-representation in the media. These are not things white people have to be worry about for themselves. But they are a daily reality for many people of color.
Say a white guy and a black guy are both born into impoverished families. Their lives are identical, except for their races. Will the white guy still face difficulties in life? Of course. Would I call his life easy? Not at all. But would he have to worry about being the victim of a racially-fueled hate crime? Probably not. And that’s really all that the concept of white privilege is saying. It does not determine the kind of life–easy or hard–white people will lead. It just acknowledges that, in today’s society, white people are viewed in a different way than non white people. This is just undeniable.