White privilege is a challenge to identify or define, at least for whites. For non-whites, it can be hard to explain. It’s something we feel but can’t quite pinpoint. The reason for this is that white privilege is masked in plain sight. It’s disguised in actions/behavior/words deemed “normal” or ‘mundane.’
So, in no particular order of importance or frequency of utilization, I list the top 5 white privileges:
This would seem self-explanatory, except that it’s not. We live in a Eurocentric world–a world dominated by people of European descent. White people are used to other people doing things for them, or their way whether they know or acknowledge it. They expect things done a certain way and if it isn’t, only then do they notice something’s wrong and demand that it be changed to please them. Case in point: the Teabaggers in the U.S., mostly comprised of angry, older white Conservatives who say things like “we want our country back” or “we’re the real Americans” or “we’re for traditional values.” All of these expressions are thinly veiled ‘code’ phrases for “we don’t like the multiculturalism in our country that allowed for a black president,” “whites are the real Americans” and “let’s go back to practicing discrimination.” Or, *minorities* should be serving under us, on our terms and not the other way around.
When a white gun man (see Timothy McVeigh or the Holocaust Museum shooter) commits a heinous crime (i.e murder), he’s often described as a “lone ranger” or someone acting alone. Crimes committed by whites are not blamed on whites collectively. Why? Because whites are deemed individuals. On the other hand, whites view non-whites as ‘collective individuals’ (case in point: Major Malik Nidal Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter). The entire Muslim/Arab community was deemed responsible.
I recently read an article on the Science Fiction website documenting an argument between a producer/writer and director of a sci fi series in the mid-1990s. The argument stemmed from the director’s decision to hire a black actor for a key role in the series. Here’s a dramatized version of the argument:
Producer/Writer: why’d you make the character black?
Director: Why not?
Producer/writer: The script did not say the character was black.
Director: It didn’t say the character was white, either. The character was raceless.
Producer/writer: Exactly. Which means he’s white (De facto race). If he were black, I would have described him as black.
Tied to Racelessness, whites are ‘normal’ and non-whites, by default, are abnormal. Therefore, whites cannot be minorities. Only non-whites are ‘ethnic’ or ‘exotic.’ Whites are simply, just normal.
5.The Benefit of the Doubt
Tied to individuality, and the perceived belief about white superiority (in contrast to blacks), when whites screw up, it’s an honest mistake. When others (i.e. blacks) screw up, it’s because they’re incompetent. When a white person applies to a prestigious college/company and gets accepted/hired, it’s because he/she’s fully qualified and therefore accepted on merit. When a black person gets into a prestigious college/company, it’s due to Affirmative Action and reverse racism (this is especially true if the black person was hired over a white person).