Addressing white privilege… AGAIN.


Let me begin by saying white privilege most certainly exists. There are other types of privilege and discrimination that people encounter, which has no bearing on the existence of white privilege.

If you are a white Appalachian born into a generational cycle of poverty, you may be under the impression white privilege is, as some have so eloquently put it, “a liberal myth.” I’m here to tell you that it isn’t.

You may not have all the privileges a white person in the middle class has and that is because of class discrimination, not institutional racism.

Appalachians as a people are frequently exploited by the coal industry, by mainstream media representations, but you do not experience the same risks as a black man when out in the public sphere.

You are far less likely to be shot and killed by law enforcement, if your child is kidnapped it is going to be promptly addressed, no one is going to ask you to speak for your entire race and, best of all, privilege means you don’t even have to acknowledge your own privilege.

White privilege doesn’t assume that every single white person in the United States is financially well off; it just acknowledges that when compared to people of color in the United States, you’ve been given more opportunities to succeed because institutional racism is in your favor.

If two men apply for the same job and one of them has an Anglo-sounding (read: white) name and the other has ethnic-sounding name (read: non-white) the chances of the second guy getting his application tossed immediately are pretty high. This isn’t necessarily because employers are consciously racist, but we have been confronted with the stereotypes of institutional racism for so long that it is difficult to identify them. Employers see a Hispanic name and automatically assume that person is lazy because that’s what stereotypes tell us. Guy one got the job for no other reason than his name sounded like a white guy’s.

“One study by researchers at MIT and the University of Chicago found that job applicants with names that sounded African-American got short shrift when it came to the hiring process,” NBC reported in 2009. “The researchers sent out 5,000 fake resumes, and it turned out that resumes with names such as Tyrone and Tamika were less likely to get calls from prospective employers than their Anglo-sounding counterparts, and qualifications seemed to have little impact.”

No one is trying to downplay the struggles of impoverished white people by acknowledging white privilege, but you have to realize that by denying white privilege you are essentially spitting in the face of every single person of color who experiences discrimination on a daily basis.

On an individual level we all have struggles that affect where we are in life, but for white people, those struggles aren’t happening on an institutional level.

When you reach for a band-aid its flesh-tone matches your flesh tone, when bronzer is advertiser for “normal to dark skin” you don’t even notice because white isn’t considered a race, it’s the norm.

The best we can do as white people in the United States is to acknowledge our privilege and step aside so people of color can have a voice when it comes to issues that affect them.

Jocelyn Gibson can be contacted at [email protected].