From an unbiased point of view, white privilege and black privilege are just symptoms of an underlying problem in our society.
It is understandable that one group of people will feel discontent by not having the same opportunities that another group, just as a kid would feel bad when his sibling is constantly getting more attention. However, we’re not kids—We’re a society that still struggles with the idea of racial differences, despite all the progress that has been made.
One would expect that by now, racial issues are just something from the past, but unfortunately, that’s far from being true. The problem is that racial privilege is not an act of racism per-se but a consequence of years of conditioning and racial bias, which are different things and sometimes make it harder to identify.
Understanding the terms “Privilege” and “Racism” is key to recognizing these forms of inequality.
White privilege is a term that is often used to describe the inequalities and the social privilege that benefits people of the white race over other races. Even to this day, being white comes with an array of advantages not shared by people of color—particularly when they’re under the same social and political circumstances.
Black Privilege, on the other hand, is a more recent term which is used to describe the same advantages and benefits of being black—Benefits which are supposedly not available to other races, particularly White.
As the later term is becoming more popular and polemic, it is also starting to face a hostile response and it’s often seen as another form of aggression.
Let’s define privilege
Merriam-webster’s dictionary defines privilege as the “right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. Especially when such a right or immunity attached specifically to a position or an office.”
Therefore, social privilege means to have an unearned advantage based on social class, age, ethnicity, religion and other social conditions. Understanding this is the key to understanding the difference between Racism and Racial Privilege. Both are very closely related, but are not quite the same.
Racism is defined by Matthew Clair and Jeffrey S. Denis as processes and structures implicated in the reproduction of racial inequality. The definition is very academic but it can be easily translated into “the actions taken to produce racial inequality.”
Racial privilege stems from racial bias, which is a belief. Not necessarily translated into action biases still have a strong influence in our lives, even if it is an unconscious belief. Basically, all the years of racism, social conditioning and a wrong belief system has pushed members of our society to create biases based on social conditions and the color of the skin.
It’s not a secret that being white has many advantages, it is not racist to recognize this either. In fact, unlike many other social topics, white privilege can be measured.
Many studies have been made in regards to this and the results are disturbing. Looking at some facts anyone could draw their own conclusions, but sometimes, the results are unexpected and very clear about racial issues.
Predominantly black communities tend to have less well-founded school systems and healthcare centers. Chances of being convicted, sentenced to jail crime and getting longer sentences increase by more than 20% just by being black.This alone should be concerning enough.
Another concerning fact is that black-sounding names tend to have fewer job interviews. A Harvard study found that changing a “Black sounding” name on a resume to a “White sounding” one resulted in a 15% increase in interviews.
So, white privilege is very real and tangible. But, what about the privilege that only black people enjoy?
Black privilege is a very polemic term. Some well-known activists like Peggy McIntosh say that black privilege is not real. Other people say that those who believe in it are racist and this is just another form of justification.
There is not as much information that supports the existence of black privilege as there is for white privilege. However, there are some statistics that are usually brought up to defend this position.
Some very common statistics include the NFL and NBA “Black to White” ratio. Over 90% of players are black as compared to the small number of white players. Also, some people find it offensive that black race can be celebrated, but celebrating the white race would be automatically considered an offense. There’s even a “Black Privilege Checklist” that lists the advantages that black people have over white people.
A good example is the number of associations that cater specifically to this racial group while creating an association for the white people would be deemed racist. There are also scholarships specifically for members of the black communities, but granting a scholarship exclusively to white people would definitely be racist.
There are many more examples of this but one thing is clear; at one point or another, people always feel some degree of discontent.
The Underlying Issues Of White And Black Privilege
Racial issues are not an easy topic to talk about for several reasons, what some might consider right others might see it as offensive. But, at the end of the day, isn’t attacking one group or the other equally unproductive?
What makes it so hard to address is that racism, biases, and privileges should be seen through the lens of historical context without disregarding where we are standing today. Racial bias, for example, is a consequence of years of social conditioning, but the reality that we live nowadays is not the exact same as it was 50 years ago.
So much has changed in such a short period of time that it is no surprise that “society” has not been able to catch up with such changes. However, inequality still exists, and learning how to identify these deleterious patterns is the key to achieve a real, long-lasting change.