Recently, I was having a conversation with a white female friend about white privilege. She denied that white privilege is real and told me that it’s a concept designed to shame white people. I thought about this, and realized that I don’t feel ashamed of my white privilege. I actually feel grateful for it.
What is white privilege?
To me, white privilege means that I get to drive my car without being frequently stopped by police, and to be stopped only when I have clearly violated a traffic law. White privilege means that if I am stopped, my car and person will not be searched. It means that I’m less likely to be arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. According to statistical analysis, white privilege means that it’s relatively unlikely that I will be harassed, abused, incarcerated, and killed. There are many other ways that my life is easier and more pleasant than it would otherwise be because of white privilege.
Why do I feel grateful?
Of course I’m grateful for living in freedom and with ease; who would not be grateful for that? That I’m grateful for my white privilege does not mean that I am grateful that I am not a person of color, nor does it mean that I am grateful that people of color are more likely to harassed, imprisoned, and killed. In fact, the exact opposite is true. I would like for all people, including people of color, to enjoy the freedom and ease that I enjoy. I would like for all people to know what it’s like to have white privilege. Of course, as that becomes a reality, these things that us white people take for granted will no longer be called white privilege. At that point, they will simply be called human rights.
Why do I want equal human rights for all?
Why would I want for all people to have human rights, to be treated with dignity, trust, and respect simply because of their humanity? Why would I want that when I’m grateful for my white privilege? It’s because I will be even more grateful to live in a society in which I can know that my fellow humans are not being unnecessarily abused, a society in which I am not complicit in causing unjust harm to its members, harm that injures all of us in its perpetration. I will feel even more grateful for my tax dollars to not be wasted on paying for large amounts of systemic abuse, abuse of which even the individual perpetrators are often not consciously aware. I would like for innocent and harmless people to be free to contribute to society and for us not to be paying enormous amounts of money to punish them and to keep them incarcerated. I will be even more grateful when white privilege no longer exists. As with every desire that anyone has, it’s truly and deeply selfish.
But is white privilege real?
To those who claim that there is no such thing as white privilege, I respond that I am open to that idea, I wish that it were true, and I am willing to consider any evidence that supports that conclusion. I have a Ph.D., which means that I have spent years learning how to collect, assess, assimilate, summarize, and conclude on masses of data, while attempting to be aware of, and keep in check, my personal biases. The balance of evidence that I have so far be exposed to suggests that white privilege in the USA, and even in the multicultural San Francisco Bay Area where I live, is a real phenomenon. I’m open to white privilege not being real, and I’m also open to it no longer existing, which is what I want.
Why did I write this article?
It seems to me that one of the main reasons that white people deny white privilege is that they either feel ashamed of it, or believe that they are supposed to feel ashamed of it. They say, “But I didn’t do anything!” or, “But I don’t see people of color any differently! I’m not racist!” When something is shamed or made shameful, it will be met with psychological resistance. White people, the people who currently (in a statistical sense) have more power to actually change things in our society, are not going to make space in their minds to consider whether white privilege really exists if it means that they will be blamed and shamed for something that they believe they took no action to create or to maintain. The shame perpetuates the problem.
I wrote this article because I would prefer for white privilege to not exist and because the first step to change is deep acceptance of the way things are. The most powerful way to accept anything is to start by finding a way to feel grateful for it. Thank you white privilege. I am grateful for what you have given me and I now release you. As my awareness increases, I now welcome something much better and more fulfilling. I welcome liberty and justice for all, regardless of the color of a person’s skin. I choose for everyone to experience what I have been experiencing simply because my skin is white.