Benefits of Whitness…
As a White person, I realized I had been taught about racism as something that puts others at a disadvantage, but had been taught not to see one of its corollary aspects, White privilege, which puts me at an advantage. I think Whites are carefully taught not to recognize White privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege. So I have begun in an untutored way to ask what it is like to have White privilege. I have come to see White privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, maps, passports, codebooks, visas, clothes, tools, and blank checks…
I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.
I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.
I can turn on the television or open the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.
When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.
I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.
If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on White privelage.
I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.
Whether I use checks, credit cards, or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.
I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.
I can swear, dress in secondhand clothes, and not answer letters without having people attribute these choices to bad morals, the poverty, or the illiteracy of my race.
I can speak in public in a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.
I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.
I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.
I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.
I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,”
I will be facing a person of my race.
If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.
I can easily buy posters, postcards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys, and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.
I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.
I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.
I can choose public accommodation without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.
I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.
If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.
I can choose blemish cover or bandages in flesh color and have them more or less match my skin.
I repeatedly forgot each of the realizations on this list until I
wrote it down. For me White privilege has turned out to be an elusive and fugitive subject. The pressure to avoid it is great, for in facing it I must give up the myth of meritocracy. If these things are true, this is not such a free country; one’s life is not what one makes it; many doors open for certain people through no virtues of their own.