In a world of color, white meets black.
In a world of color, white meets black.

White privilege: realizing the world is light

December 9, 2016

It wasn’t until second grade that I realized the challenges of being black. As I stood in line waiting for lunch, a classmate looked at me with worry in her eyes and said,  “Khalea, [my friend] doesn’t like your skin color.” At just 7 years old, I was confused. I remember asking myself how and why someone would not like the color of another person’s skin. It’s just skin; so what about mine made it possible to dislike in any way. It had never occurred to me that skin color alone could make someone feel uneasy. I looked around and was shocked to find I was the only one of color: The world around me was light.

What is white privilege?

According to Peggy McIntosh, author of White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, “white privilege is an invisible package of unearned assets that white people unknowingly count on each day.” These assets are natural born benefits only relevant in the white community. Living a lifetime with a gift prevents people from seeing how special it is. It’s just like how a twin is unaware of their uniqueness because they don’t know any different. A white person doesn’t realize their privilege for the same reasons, it’s all they know so therefore they have difficulty understanding their advantage. Therefore, they are often blind to the everyday hardships faced by minorities.

Where is it in everyday life?

Well for those who don’t know, white privilege is turning on the television and seeing people of your race vastly represented. White privilege is opening up a magazine and seeing your race as the face of beauty. White privilege is walking into a store and not being followed around because your race isn’t stereotyped as thieves.  

Comedian Louis C.K. said white people can hop into a time machine, travel to any time in American history and it would be amazing, because their race hasn’t ever been oppressed. Black people can’t even come close to saying the same. Neither can Asians, Hispanics or any other racial minority because they have all faced injustice. Historically, the only time in America that was hard for white people was when the enslaved people were taken away and given freedom. Freedom, on the other hand, has always existed in the white community, and freedom is privilege. Living a lifetime with a gift prevents people from seeing how special it is.

Moving forward, what should be done?

White privilege isn’t a bad thing. It’s inherent; it’s the unacknowledgement of that privilege that is unjust. For every privilege a white person has, a minority does not. Choosing to not be ignorant of this allows for these disparities to be better addressed. Acknowledging our differences helps to expose the divisions between us and, in turn, allows for improvement.

Maybe then, when little second graders realize the world is light, they won’t also have to differentiate between races. We will all just be people.

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