White Privilege is a concept that causes angst and dissension. However, it is actually simple and straightforward. Let’s take the second question first: Do You Have It? Yes. If you are white or perceived by others to be white, you have it. So, What Is It?
Simply stated, White Privilege is the ability to live your life doing your ordinary, daily activities without having to worry that you might become a target. If this is still unclear, here are several examples.
White Privilege is deciding to go shopping at an upscale department store and not being worried that you will be trailed by a security guard or intimidated into leaving because you don’t look like “our type of customer.” Read about two such incidents that happened at Barney’s in New York City where the customers were not white.
White Privilege is being in a car accident, knocking on the door of a nearby house to request help, and not fearing that you will be shot through the door instead. The white homeowner who shot and killed a black woman asking for help was later convicted of murder, but that was no consolation to the woman.
White Privilege is being a boy playing in a park with a toy gun and not having to worry that a police officer will drive up and kill you. White Privilege is also being able to kill that child and not having to go to trial and be convicted of murder. Instead, the officer was fired. Later, he was hired by another police department in Ohio, but quit when there was a public outcry.
White Privilege is being taken seriously as a medical professional during a medical emergency on a plane, even when you offer no proof, simply because you are a white male when the first physician to offer help is ignored because she is black.
White Privilege is eating lunch with your girlfriends in the school cafeteria and laughing uproariously without having to worry that you and your friends will be dragged off to the office and strip-searched for drugs. Why else would you be laughing if you weren’t high? The school denies ‘strip-searching’ although they do agree that the girls had to remove at least some of their clothes and that they were given a medical exam. Governor Cuomo is investigating. As someone who has an uproarious laugh, I am disturbed to think that laughing could be considered a sign of drug use.
White Privilege is being a man who loves cars, owns a really nice one, and never worries about being randomly pulled over by police officers who think a man like him could not/should not own a car like that. Highly-educated, professional black men always have that concern in the back of their minds when they are driving.
White Privilege is entering your home and never having to think that someone might call the police on you to accuse you of breaking and entering. Even when a non-white person proves to the police that they are in their own home, they still risk being arrested.
White Privilege is a type of Power, even for those white individuals who think they are powerless. White Privilege allows those perceived as white to shop, play, laugh, work, ask for help, drive a nice car, and feel safe in their home without worry or fear that they will be targeted, arrested, or even killed for being the ‘wrong type of person.’
Since White Privilege is Power, those with this Power need to use it to aid those who do not have it. When you see someone being targeted simply because that person is not white, intervene. Use your Power to make your community a more welcoming place.