The Truth Behind White Privilege

Post by Ben
Featured image by Don Wright

“I am going to stop calling you a white man and I’m going to ask you to stop calling me a black man.” – Morgan Freeman.

White Privilege is a topic widely discussed across America. Many believe that it exists while others argue it doesn’t. In my opinion white privilege doesn’t exist. Everyone that lives in America has a chance to achieve their goals, no matter what the skin color they have.

There are lots of rich black people in America

Lots of rich people in America are black, whether they be founder’s of big companies, such as Robert L. Johnson, or famous television stars and athletes such as Oprah Winfrey and Michael Jordan. Oprah Winfrey’s story of how she came to get all her money was especially phenomenal. She was born to her single teenage mother Vernita Lee, and sent to live with her poor grandmother on her farm in Mississippi. Her grandmother was so poor that Oprah was forced to wear potato sacks as dresses and from there literally rose from rags to riches. Today she currently has a personal net worth of “2.9 billion dollars”- says Celebritynetworth.com. Other rich black people include Tiger Woods, Mariah Carey, Magic Johnson, Bill Cosby, Tyler Perry, Shaquille O’Neal, Beyoncé Knowles, and many many more.

Lots of white people live in poverty.

While there is a arguably larger percent of blacks than whites in poverty there are still quite a lot of white people in poverty. While only 10% of whites live in poverty compared to the 27% of blacks and 24% of hispanic people living in poverty the number of whites is actually a lot higher. Around 19,027,400 whites live in poverty compared to the 10,312,400 amount of blacks and 12,853,100 amount of hispanic people living in poverty in the United states-Kff.org. When these numbers are converted into percentages it deceives some people as they don’t actually know how many whites live in America compared to blacks, hispanics, and other races that live here.

Another kind of privilege

While I still believe that there is no kind of privilege between races, for those of you who still do believe in white privilege that means there has to be be some kinds of privilege – granted that they might not be great ones – for other races. Some black privileges that I know I’ve seen before -without ever thinking about them as being privileges- would be people considering you being superior at sports without it being considered racist, or being able to get away with violent crimes – although black people are usually suspected of doing wrong more often – without people thinking you did it because you’re racist, or making insensitive comments about other races and not being called out on it.


Heres a link to a video that I think helps to prove some points I went over – I’m not going to put the actual video as it has quite a good deal of swearing, but I still recommend you watch it. In the first part of the video Ami Horowitz asks the black people at Ferguson if America is a racist country and most respond with yes, and then go to point out how white people are the racist ones, and not blacks. In fact the first guy Horowitz goes up to talk to states that Ami is racist because he’s white. Horowitz then goes on to ask him if a black person could be racist and the man responds no and that it’s impossible for a black person to be racist. Horowitz then asks that if “you hate white people does that make you racist” and the man responds with “We don’t hate white people. Ya’ll the devil.” The man the Horowitz is interviewing is pretty ignorant to the fact that black people can be just as racist as white people and even completely contradicts his statement right after he says it. This shows how anybody can be racist, no matter what skin color they have. Horowitz also asks them about what has President Obama done for African-Americans. Most of them respond with “I don’t know” or that the President hasn’t done anything for them. President Obama has actually done quite a good deal of things for African Americans, such as increasing access to health care, creating jobs, revitalizing schools, and the development of targeted job creating investments in underserved communities- Whitehouse.gov. While much more is still needed to be done progress is being made to help blacks in poor communities. Lastly I sincerely apologize to anyone who might have been offended by anything I’ve said in this post as I do realize that this is a very controversial topic.

 

7 thoughts on “The Truth Behind White Privilege

  1. Hi Ben. I don’t know if you know me, but my name is Chase [last name removed] and I’m a senior here at ERHS. I just wanted to say I read your post and just wanted to talk to you about it. I can see that your heart is in the right place, but unfortunately white privilege does exist in our culture today. Some points you made I do agree with, but I will address those later. Firstly, you defined white privilege by social standing as far as money is concerned. This, however, is not the view I take on the issue. I believe that white privilege is simply the idea that life is inherently different for someone who is black than someone who is white through racially charged regulations and ideals. Whether this is on a friendship, community, or societal level, white privilege is white privilege. Accumulated wealth and social stature is a factor in the idea of white privilege, but a very small one. However many of the examples you used were based solely on where they are now, and not how they came to be. Many African Americans and other minorities struggle for even the most basic rights given to whites, making their hardships to become successful that much harder than those of whites. The best analogy I can think of is a hurdles race, except the hurdles for whites are 4 ft and those for minorities are 10 ft. Yes, it is possible for them to overcome these hurdles, like your examples prove, but it is much harder. A study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research proves this. In their study, they had identical applicants with the same resume send in said resume to 1,300 employers in various fields except that each set of resumes had different names. One had a white male’s name, a black male’s name, a white female’s name, and a black female’s name. On average, it took 10 resumes for the people with white names to receive a call back compared to 15 for those with black names. Also, it was shown that African Americans were twice as likely to be unemployed when compared to whites and were paid on average 25% less.

    You also made a case on a societal scale of white privileges absence. I would agree with you, but that does not mean it does not exist. It is there, just on a smaller scale. Communities and certain groups of people, like you mentioned with Ferguson, express racism and white privilege. I few days ago I watched a TED talk on racism for one man. I’ll post the link at the end of this and I would highly recommend everyone watch it. In this, a black male talks about his experiences while in the Air Force. He dealt with everyday racism, such as his inability to rent an apartment for his family or a room in a hotel because of his color. It’s very moving and shows the way racism and white privilege exist today, in the everydayness of life. In Ferguson, a man was shot and killed after committing a crime. These facts are undeniable. The racism involved, whether Michael Brown charged Officer Darren Wilson or not, whether he put his hands up, all of this is debatable, as no solid witness testimony or physical evidence exists. However, in a governmental report, it was shown that the police of Ferguson had conducted themselves in discriminatory ways, predominantly towards blacks. Now, these practices are not as severe as those conducted under Jim Crow laws, but they are racially charged none-the-less.

    In your blog, you displayed a study about the black community of Ferguson and their racial attitudes towards whites, then made a commit stating that this shows anyone can be racist, regardless of their skin color. On that, I agree with you 100%. Anyone can be racist and believe a lot of people are, as unfortunate as that sounds. However, if you are to look across the scale, you will see that white privilege exist everywhere, no matter how much we wish it wouldn’t. But, me and you Ben, we can speak to this issue fully. A good friend of mine, Hannah Lee, who I believe is also planning on committing on this blog, has experienced racism in her everyday life and we talk about the issues she faces being an Asian American and how it has affected her. Unfortunately, I cannot empathize with her in the way I would like to. I have not experienced racially charged insult or stereotypical views. I believe I can make a safe assumption and say you have not either. We don’t know. We are given the privilege, so we don’t see the hurt it causes to others. It is not our fault that it happens, but is our fault if we are blind to it and don’t do something about it. That identity that we associate ourselves with, white, does not see the entire picture. For a book we are reading, Invisible Man, we had to read an article on the Great Migration. In that, they talked about how during the time of Jim Crow, blacks were routinely tortured and lynched. In one such case, an 18 year old boy was burned to death before a crowd of 15,000. If that doesn’t make you sick to your soul, I don’t know what will. We don’t have that cloud, we don’t have that struggle, we don’t have the everyday battles that exist simply by being a minority. It’s easy to claim nothing is wrong nothing is wrong from the top, but that doesn’t make it right. Racism, in any way, shape, or form, no matter what color the person saying it is, is not right. The everyday struggles for the most basic of respect against those who obtain it freely: thats white privilege. It exist, no matter how much we wish it didn’t.

  2. Hello, Ben. My name is Hannah, I’m a 12th grader at Elk River – you may or may not be familiar with who I am. First of all, I’d like to address that Chase and I are not commenting on this blog post to attack you. We were both approached by teachers who asked us to shine some light on this topic. Chase and I, both being in Ms. Harmer’s AP Literature class, have been reading some classic novels that are very heavy handed in the realm of not only racism, but also the defining factors of being Black or White (examples include: Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness and Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man). You are very right in what you’re saying regarding the achievement of goals – everyone has that opportunity! However, I am troubled in the way you go about relating this to a “nonexistent” white privilege.

    Secondly, I’d like to make it known that I am a Korean-American. I am very deeply indulged in my roots as a Korean (my dad’s half speaks solely Korean, we eat traditional Korean food at least once a week, etc.) and at the same time very well rooted in “westernized” society. I’d like to make it very clear that this issue you’re addressing is not only among Blacks and Whites, like LeeAnne mentioned, but afflicts all races living among “white people.” I experience racism everyday and although I know you aren’t a racist and this post wasn’t intended to seem as such, this racism I experience attributes greatly to your idea of white privilege.

    The first point made focuses mostly on the income of the minority. Yes, these celebrities that have been listed to make quite a deal of money, but is it being implied that these white people in the same position do not? For example, is it being insinuated that Ellen Degeneres, Kevin Love, or Lady Gaga do not have the same opportunities to make millions? I’m sure there are plenty of individuals who have came from nothing, shared similar struggles and still manage to come out on top. This issue of income does not regard the same issue that a “nonexistent white privilege.” Rather, the issue of income becomes an issue of who is willing to work the hardest for the highest pay.

    Leading into the second point made, it again becomes an issue of competition. Everybody has the chance to “make it or break it.” This point does not support how white privilege is unreal in any way, it merely becomes a statistic.

    Minority as a whole have had to work a great deal for the rights and privileges that they have now. It seems to us (at least) that the white people have came here, settled, and then told us all what to do. Prior to the Civil Rights Movement, the whites had the “privilege” to boss the blacks around and there are Black Americans still fighting for the same treatment and respect that their white counterparts receive. Don’t get me wrong, a lot has changed, but it becomes quite the stretch to say that the whites have not had a slight advantage over the course of history. Often, I see signs or t-shirts that say, “Keep America American” or “Immigration is crowding out the White workforce” or whatever. My dad immigrated here when he was 13 years old and has contributed greatly to society, minds his business and works hard, yet is still faced every day with racial slurs, questioning glances and a lessened respect by his white coworkers, friends, and family. This is something that a white man who acts/performs in the same way would never experience. It’s just the foundation that history has set for minorities – We have always been treated as inferior. The treatment is getting better, but there are still some pretty noticeable discrepancies.

    Again, Ben, you make a wonderful point – everyone in this whole world has the same opportunity to make it or break it for themselves. I just don’t find your relation of this point to a nonexistent white privilege to be sound. I think a better way to have approached this issue would have been to talk about abolishing all privilege or lack of. Like Morgan Freeman questions, “Why even is there a ‘Black History Month’ if there isn’t a ‘White History Month?'” Everyone should be treated equally regardless of history. It’s almost as though western culture glorifies the past treatment of African Americans (by use of “Black History Month”) in order to show what an improvement there has been since. That is just my take on this issue and how I would have gone about this blog post! White privilege still exists; I experience it every day and it sucks. I hope this comment doesn’t freak you out and I hope you don’t think Chase, myself or any of your classmates think any less of you because that is not the case! There is a lot of power in your words and it’s fantastic that you can take a stand for yourself on an issue – this is a terrific skill to have in your arsenal. I hope that I have not offended you or hurt your feelings in any way. I promise I’m not a big, scary senior and I’m not going to bully you in the hallways or anything silly like that. I found this post very interesting and I hope that you continue to test your boundaries and raise questions like these – you are fueling a change you wish to see in the world and that is an amazing feat as a sophomore in high school! 🙂

  3. First of all I’d like to thank the people that left the comments, as I have read them all. Secondly I’d like to address a sentence that I put in as a typo, which was the one about blacks being able to get away with violent crimes. Obviously that’s not true and they don’t just get off Scot-free. It was rather meant to say, they are able to get away with crimes without being seen as racist. We hear in the media more about the racist white cop killing someone whose black, rather than a racist black cop killing someone whose white. Sorry for the confusion, I wrote this blog kinda last minute, so everything might not be looked over on my part very well.

  4. First of all I just want to say, having your own opinion is completely fine and writing about it is fantastic. Unfortunately, I feel that many of the points are not supported well and many contradict each other and I hate to say it, many are just blatantly false.

    The post mentions that there are tons of rich black people but it lists Oprah and sports players, as if white sports players don’t make as much. You related the sports ability to skin color, which as a very uncoordinated black female, I can confirm that’s untrue. I also wish it would’ve included other examples, such as Asian-American, Hispanic-American, or even Native-American. Not to offend you but there is just a lot of things you won’t understand about the disadvantages of other people not in your race.

    The post talked about how black people are accused of committing crimes they haven’t done, but then it says we get away with crimes easier…I think you can tell how contradicting that statement is. Another good idea would’ve been to talk about wages or job opportunities for minorities compared to the majority. In a way, I feel like the post is kind of condoning racism and prejudice throughout this whole article, whether you meant to or not. The inclusion of Ferguson, Missouri seemed like a last ditch effort to back up your opinion. This is just one account of hurt people exhibited due to death after death without a good outcome for the victims. I have experienced loss like this and it is very hard to hold back feeling during emotional times.

    I admit, black people do have some hard feelings when it comes to white people, and that’s not okay. But saying that there’s no fuel to that harshness caused by opinions like this article is very hard to believe. I have a lot more to say about this but I don’t know how I could say it without offending you.

  5. I can see the point you are trying to make but privilege doesn’t start and stop at money, privilege expands to how they are treated and looked at now and throughout history, if you just look at America’s history and how ill-treated African Americans have been from the beginning of slavery and now to how there is always a negative stereotype that wraps around how we as white Americans have seen black people, for example why black people were separated from white people on public transit was because bigoted white men thought all black men would either rape or rob innocent white women. White people need to stop this self pity and change history by not letting this state of mind continue.

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