Whiteness and White Privilege


On any given day, in any given place in the United States, a person is less likely to be stopped and accused of committing a crime – whether they have committed one or not – if he or she belongs to a group that has historically been defined as white for a sufficient period of time in the United States. People defined as white are also are dramatically more likely to have benefits in terms of home ownership, access to quality education and an inheritance based on previous generations’ access to those privileges of whiteness. Almost no one – white or person of color—is individually asking to be privileged or oppressed. At the same time, understanding white privilege in the context of systemic racism and doing nothing about it constitutes colluding in exactly the way the system was set up to work.

As Linda Faye Williams notes in The Constraint of Race: Legacies of White Skin Privilege in America,”little or none of white privilege is maintained by blatant racists; rather institutional and structural mechanisms and public policy maintain it, both materially and psychologically. Moreover, white privilege is shared by all whites, affluent and poor, albeit to varying degrees…white skin privilege is usually less a matter of direct, referential, and snarling contempt than a system of protecting the privileges of whites by denying people of color opportunities for asset accumulation and upward mobility.”





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