A college professor asked her lecture class to raise their hand if any of them would be ok if they were treated like people of color, blacks and browns, were treated in our country.
No one raised their hand.
Would you have raised yours?
Racism and white privilege
Great morning and thank you for returning to our Sunday Service this morning. We are journeying through a discussion on racism and how it affects both white people and people of color.
Some of you may be saying, wait, how does racism affect white people? We’ll be delving into that subject this week.
Have you asked yourself if you are a racist? Honestly? Or ‘brutally honest’ as Dr. Phil would say. I would believe almost everyone has some racist issues in them. But we would have to be totally honest with ourselves, which may be something we have a hard time doing.
And why is that? Well, my Tuesday class would probably respond, our ego. Our ego wants it to be correct all the time, wants to be in charge. And having ‘you’ be right is what ego wants, even if it is the ego actually making the choice.
Maybe take some time today and the following week to ask yourself those hard questions…starting with, ‘am I a racist?’
I can walk into a room and, except for someone’s prejudice, they would see a now older white woman, with some graying hair, currently walking with a cane. They have no idea if I came from some European country or was born in America, what the economic status of my family was or is, and except for prejudices, what my sexual orientation or gender identity is.
Yet, if I was a person of color, everyone in that room would know that now. Though some people of color can pass for white, most cannot. So, they would have to face any others prejudices right away…without a word passing between each other.
People of color cannot hide that they are black or brown.
Last week, we talked a little about how ‘white’ became the race of power, of rights, of choice. If you were born of the white race, you have some privilege already.
Sure, there are other categories you can be born into that give you a bit more in society:
Citizenship: Simply being born in this country affords you certain privileges that non-citizens will never access.
Class: Being born into a financially stable family can help guarantee your health, happiness, safety, education, intelligence, and future opportunities.
Sexual orientation: If you were born straight, every state in this country affords you privileges that non-straight folks have to fight the Supreme Court for to get and to maintain!
Sex: If you were born male, you can assume that you can walk through a parking garage without worrying that you’ll be raped and then have to deal with a defense attorney blaming it on what you were wearing.
Ability: If you were born able-bodied, you probably don’t have to plan your life around handicap access, braille, or other special needs. After the hip replacement surgery, I have learned about the lack of access for people who are limited in ability. One thing is handicap parking…there needs to be more.
Gender identity: If you were born cisgender (that is, your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth), you don’t have to worry that using the restroom or locker room will invoke public outrage. We heard a lot about this as schools were trying to provide access to restroom to accommodate students identified as transgendered.
So, if you are “straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied male, it can be like winning a lottery you didn’t even know you were playing.”
Then why is white privilege so important?
“Think of white privilege as an unearned, almost randomly assigned head start,” explains Mikki Kendall, author of Hood Feminism. “It doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win the race. It just means that you get to start a few feet further forward. White privilege doesn’t mean you don’t have any hurdles, it just means you have fewer of them.”
White privilege (or white skin privilege) is the societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.
With roots in European colonialism, the Atlantic slave trade, and the growth of the Second British Empire after 1783, white privilege has developed in circumstances that have broadly sought to protect white racial privileges, various national citizenships and other rights or special benefits.
In the study of white privilege, and its broader field of whiteness studies, academic perspectives such as critical race theory use the concept to analyze how racism and racialized societies affect the lives of white or white-skinned people.
For example, Peggy McIntosh, in “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” describes the advantages that whites in Western societies enjoy and non-whites do not experience, as “an invisible package of unearned assets”.
She lists 50 daily effects of white privilege that she could identify more to skin-color privilege than to class, religion, ethnic status, or geographic location.
White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice.
These include cultural affirmations of one’s own worth; presumed greater social status; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one’s own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.
Some commentators have observed that the “academic-sounding concept of white privilege” sometimes elicits defensiveness and misunderstanding among white people, in part due to how the concept of white privilege was rapidly brought into the mainstream spotlight through social media campaigns such as Black Lives Matter.
White privilege had been researched for many years before being brought into the limelight recently.
The concept of white privilege is frequently misinterpreted by non-academics; researchers have been surprised by the seemingly sudden hostility from right-wing critics since approximately 2014.
It only takes a few moments to realize that white privilege is real and has been here for decades. Here are some simple examples of white privilege:
1. Your Wages Aren’t Lower Because Of Your Race
Just as there’s a gender wage gap, there’s also a racial wage gap that stems from our country’s history and segregated education and housing systems. According to Bureau of Labor statistics on gender and racial pay inequality, white and Asian men are the highest earners, and black and Hispanic/Latina women are the lowest. The median weekly earnings of a Hispanic/Latina woman are $548, about half of Asian men’s $1,080 and 60 percent of white men’s $897.
2. People Don’t Make Assumptions About Your Intelligence Because Of Your Race
According to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, white people subconsciously associate African Americans with lower intelligence. Another study in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences found people hold the same assumptions about Hispanics.
3. You Don’t Feel Pressure to Represent Your Race
I never have to worry that if I make a mistake, people will assume I’ve made it because white people are less capable. On the other hand, President Obama makes a few mistakes, and Donald Trump says another black president won’t get elected. Being white absolves you from this pressure to defy your race’s stereotype so that your mistakes don’t hurt others of your race.
4. Most Products Are Geared Toward You
A white person can go into a store to buy Band-Aids, beauty products, and other items related to skin tone and walk out with something that suits them. People of color at best have a small section of products tailored toward them, reminding them that in the eyes of mainstream culture, they are invisible.
5. Most Media Is Geared Toward You
In addition to knowing I can buy products geared toward me, I can feel fairly confident that I will see people like me represented on TV, in movies, in magazines, in books, and all over the Internet. In particular, I am able to see examples of people like me succeeding, which has given me the message that I, too, can succeed. And rather than seeing my culture reduced to a stereotype, I have been shown a wide representation of people of my race.
Here’s an even better example…Marine Sergeant Jason Thomas, a black man, went directly to the wreckage after the 911 attacks and saved the lives of New York Port Authority officers. But when the movie of this event was made, he was portrayed as a white man.
6. Beauty Standards Aren’t Rigged Against You Because Of Your Race
The rigid beauty standards depicted in the media harm all women, and that harm can be due to factors other than race. But at least white women don’t usually feel pressure to have lighter skin, differently shaped eyes, or thinner hair on top of everything else. Due to racist beauty standards, one third to one fifth of women in Seoul, South Korea have undergone plastic surgery, largely to make their eyes look more like white people’s, and black women get fewer replies on OKCupid than women of any other race.
7. Jobs Won’t Discriminate Against You Due to Your Race
In an Auburn University study, researchers sent out identical resumes with white-sounding and black-sounding names to different companies to see who would get interviews. Black applicants got called in for interviews 15.2 percent of the time, while white ones did 18 percent of the time. Some white people might complain that diversity efforts lead people of color to be hired over them, but it actually works the other way around.
8. People Will Trust That You Deserve to Be Where You Are
When a white person joins a company or goes to college or wins an award, people will assume that they deserved it. When a person of color does, people wonder if they were chosen to fill a diversity quota. The reality is that people of color have earned just as many of these opportunities but aren’t getting them, which is why diversity efforts are necessary.
9. The Police Are Looking Out for You
Of the 3,000 uses of Tasers in Maryland over three years, 64 percent were used toward black men. And according to The Counted, which tracks deaths of Americans killed by police, Native Americans are killed by police nearly 2.4 times as often as white people. Blacks and Hispanics are also killed more often than whites and Asians. Racial profiling isn’t just in people’s heads; it’s very real, and it means that while white people may feel they can turn to the police for help, people of color are often targeted by the very group meant to protect them.
This is just a small example of what white privilege means if you aren’t white, if you are on the wrong side, shall we say, of the privilege track.
Remember what we said last week, equality means the quality or state of being equal the state of being equal, especially in status, rights, and opportunities.
We have been reminded for centuries, what is ours to do…it’s found in
“The King will answer them, ‘Most certainly I tell you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’.