If you are white, you have white privilege — the invisible benefit of being the dominant part of society in numbers and, therefore, in mindset. You have the privilege of not having to wonder whether you didn’t get the job because of your skills or because of your skin. You also have the privilege of feeling guilty when realizing you may have prevented someone else from getting the job because your boss is racist. The minute you become aware of that white privilege, you suffer the consequence we call “white guilt.” The faster white people can accept this privilege, the faster they can address their own natural bias.
We were conditioned to feel empathy toward those who look like us: in white people’s case, the rest of the majority. We were conditioned to believe that colored people are more likely to be criminals because, statistically, more colored people live in poverty and grow up in environments that would lead to criminal activity. White people have the privilege of looking like someone police officers can trust. When my roommate told a UW Police Department (UWPD) officer that someone in the library tried to steal her bag, it was her word against the black male’s. Luckily she was telling the truth, but she still felt terrible. For everyone who has felt that privilege affect them and cried themselves to sleep over the benefits they never wanted: Privilege can be translated to something wonderful.
I normally write for the minority. In this vast sea of white, I try to reach out to small populations and make them feel like they’ve been heard. But for everyone else — the roughly 66 percent of Seattle that the U.S. Census Bureau qualified as “white” in 2010 and near-50 percent of the UW — I hear you, too.
I hear your white-privilege guilt, your sincere and undeserved shame. All you educated white males, I understand it’s not your fault your natural-born skin and sex don’t predispose you to less respect and less pay in this country. No, it’s not your fault, and yet you still feel awful about it. For that, I love you.
Bow your heads in shame, walk with your tail between your legs, because it’s the only way you can cope with your own natural-born privilege. Attempt to discuss racial issues in anthropology classes by immediately pointing toward your own white self as a counter-example.
All of these awkwardly embarrassing moments for you don’t happen in vain: It’s the only way historically oppressed populations continue to love you despite your paleness. You are the heroes all other uninformed white people perceive themselves to be. You are the rising hope for the rest of society in the United States.
Because it’s the powerful who make things happen, first through education and then through acceptance. It’s difficult to point toward unfairness against yourself inflicted by others; it’s all the more difficult to point toward injustice of another. It’s most difficult of all to crack open your own implicit bias.
I hope that everyone who has that privilege understands how powerful it can be in raising awareness. Take that white shame and make some use of it — spread your white guilt like a disease, take that knowledge and ram it into the ignorant, and break those stereotypically white students by making them question the world.
Like words reclaimed by communities, the words “privilege” and “power” can overcome their negative foundations and instead be translated into something positive: awareness. With great power comes great responsibility; only when you remember those words can you translate white privilege into courses of action that lead the United States toward achieving social justice.
So when watching your minority-free TV, look down at your God-given skin and begrudgingly repeat after me: It’s OK, it’s not my fault. I was born with this. I’ll embrace the power — and something good will come out of it.
Reach Development Editor Hayat Norimine at
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