On this eve of the day honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a post on white privilege is appropriate. White privilege and racism are recent social constructs. The idea of differentiating between people based on skin color only begins the16th century as a way to justify chattel slavery in the New World.
It is difficult for those of lighter skin color to understand the devastating effects of racism in our culture. As a person of Northern European descent I will never know first hand what the experience of racism is like.
But I do know what the experience of white privilege is like. Those of us with light skin have very different everyday experiences. We are treated differently (meaning “better”) at the grocery store, at the bank or when we apply to a college for example. In addition, those of European descent benefit from wealth (primarily through land ownership which until recently in our history was prohibited to others) and other privileges that are unearned. The benefits of this unearned wealth can and does impact us for generations. Yet our society remains blind to these privileges. Education is the key to removing the blindness.
Removing the blindness is only the first step however. White privilege is embedded in our governmental, legal, educational, economic, religious and social structures. Structures and laws must be changed in order provide fair access for all.
What can we do? Learn more.
1. View the PowerPoint on White Privilege by Dr. Wing Sue – available on Google.
2. Listen to educator Tim Wise talk about the long term effects of white privilege on YouTube.
4. Be swept away into the Deep South, New Orleans in the 18th Century. My good friend J recommended writer Barbara Hambly’s series starting with A Free Man Of Color. Main character Benjamin January, an educated free person of color, deals with the reality of his life and times. He also solves mysteries. The series is entertaining while providing excellent socio-historical information on the evolution of white privilege and racism from the practice of chattel slavery. I have enjoyed all of her novels immensely.
In the end it is about remembering that we are all interconnected and interdependent. It’s not about teaching others “to fish.” People know how to fish. It’s about giving everyone equal access to the pond.
When everyone has equal access to the resources of our society, all of us will be better off.