The Problem with Denying White Privilege
Having white privilege doesn’t make one a bad person. Denying it does.
For my white brothers and sisters who sincerely want to know why pointing out white privilege is so important
I recently shared this meme on social media:
White privilege example #204:
When a white person characterizes Trump’s rhetoric as just
“saying dumb things.”
Someone wanted to know — and I think he was asking in a genuine way to understand the issue — “How is this white privilege?” Or more to the point, “How is denying Trump’s racist comments a privilege of being white?”
This is a fair question and I want to give it a thoughtful answer.
This is an example of white privilege because only a white person who is unaware of his privilege can hear Trump’s blatantly racist comments and use euphemisms like “He just says dumb things.” There are no racial minorities in this country who hear his rhetoric and think “Oh, that’s not racist, that’s just dumb things.”
Perhaps this analogy would help: if someone said to a Jewish person born in South Pasadena, CA “go back to that shit hole country Israel you came from!” would you characterize that comment as anti-Semitic, or just a dumb thing to say? (I hope you answered A. If you answered B, I’m pretty sure you’re a Trump supporter.)
Let me make this clear. ALL WHITE PEOPLE BENEFIT FROM WHITE PRIVILEGE (see my statistical and mathematical proof). In and of itself, it’s not a bad thing. As I keep reminding people, ALL MEN HAVE MALE PRIVILEGE. There are certain ways of being in this country and world as a man that a woman doesn’t have. That’s male privilege.
Having a particular privilege is not inherently bad. Having male privilege does not make one a sexist, and having white privilege does not make one a racist.
DENYING IT is what makes it bad. Why? Because in denying it you lose the empathy you need to hear and understand the people who may be living a life subject to the consequences for not having that privilege.
We have a president who has shown for 4+ decades he’s racist. When people of color raise a voice against that, white people who deny their privilege will be less likely to care, because to them, we’re making a mountain out of a molehill. “Trump is not racist! Come on. He just says stupid things sometimes. How can he be racist. He took a picture with a black person once.”
Meanwhile, people who attempt to raise awareness of racial injustice get shut up and shut out — and the white privilege deniers are less and less moved.
And that is what’s most dangerous. Here’s why.
The connection of privilege and power is the key
You could argue that all demographics have some kind of privilege. But if you belong to the “ruling class” demographic (starting with cisgender, white, straight, Christian males, then working your way down) you are the ones with the power to affect change. Ultimately, it took white people sympathetic with Martin Luther King and the things he fought for to help make a change in this country for civil rights. Not the least of which, the white president at the time who signed the civil rights act into law. If black people were the ONLY people who ever cared or fought for civil rights, I would most likely still be riding in the back of a bus.
When the ruling class demographic denies their privilege, and in doing so, euphemizes racial and hateful rhetoric (especially rhetoric from the President of the United States);
Or when the ruling class demographic whines and complains about yet ANOTHER blog post about white privilege;
Or when the ruling class demographic says things like, “Why do you always have to make everything about race?” (which is white privilege example #3, by the way)
When all these things happen, and continue to happen among those who belong to the ruling class demographic, the change we need to happen won’t.
That is why I and so many other people of color keep making a big deal about it. And that is why it’s frustrating, debilitating, and deflating when we come up against people in the ruling class who not only deny their privilege, but go out of their way to make sure other people deny it too. (Yeah, I’m talking to you Ben and Jordan).
Originally published at Dungeons ’n’ Durags.