White privilege: Maybe you’ve heard of it and can identify. Maybe you don’t see how it impacts your life. Regardless, I’ve made a list of just fifteen ways I experience white privilege on a regular basis. It has taken time to reach this point of realizing the ways I benefit from my whiteness since it can be difficult to identify something unless you feel the lack. But when we realize our privilege, we can be better allies to those who don’t experience the same privileges.
These are not in order of significance but rather in the order that they came to mind from my experiences. I encourage you to read to the end and consider what ones resonate or what I may have missed!
- Band aids match my skin almost perfectly and can be found at any corner store. In fact, that’s what inspired this blog. I cut my toe, put on a band aid, and could barely detect it through a camera. Go ahead, try to find it:
Brands like TruColour are trying to change this, but what if mainstream band aid brands took on the task as well?
- I am not followed or questioned when I shop, even though I wander back and forth quite a bit at grocery stores these days since I always go to a different one and do not know the layout. I have heard that others are watched more closely, however.
- Not being called racist slurs, ever. In all my 21 years, I cannot recall having ever experienced anyone degrading my humanity by calling me a derogatory, race-related term.
- I have a President (#NotMyPresident) who is my race and loves my race and prefers it over others, as do most other people in power in my country. This sounds like Nazi Germany now that I write it out, and it has a name: White Supremacy. This leads to a lot of policies in “my” favor, even though I desperately crave equity instead.
- Dolls with my skin color are the norm. I see a lot of young black girls in my city playing with white dolls, braiding their straight brown or blonde hair, but these children themselves are highly underrepresented. And although I have seen one or two black baby dolls in my time (eek, compared to hundreds or thousands of white ones!), I have never seen an Asian doll.
- White people are seen as the good ones in movies. They are generally the only ones in movies, to be honest, but when there is a person of color, s/he is usually stereotyped and put in an unflattering light. Even in Barbie movies, those with light features are the good ones who save the day and become princess, while the dark haired person or people are the villains. (Raquelle, anyone?)
- English, my first language, is the standard language that everyone else in must use to get by in the United States. Important documents are in English. Job applications and interviews are in English. Spanish is a common second language in certain neighborhoods of certain cities, but it is not accepted the way English is, and African American Vernacular English (AAVE) or Ebonics is not considered acceptable in formal environments. Moreover, immigrant languages like Swahili and Burmese are unrecognizable by most Americans, and Arabic could even cause alarm. But English, the language I was born speaking, is accepted in every American setting, and others are expected to learn my language instead of me stepping into theirs.
- Makeup in my color is easy to find. In my wealthy, white college town, it’s next to impossible (or actually impossible?) to find makeup if you are black or brown. Even in the city where I live now, it may depend on the neighborhood. But I have light skin and can always find foundation or powder to match my face.
- I have never been questioned or talked to by police. I have never been in trouble by them, and they have never had their cautious eyes on me. But I have witnessed this happen to one of my Afro-Latino friends while we walked together downtown.
- Barring the recent natural disasters, I can ignore most news with no consequence to my racial community, and many people would say that it is okay to do so. This attitude of “take a mental break and focus on something ‘positive’” demonstrates potential apathy towards the stories of others whose live experiences are different than my white peers, and regardless of either genuine or apathetic intent, it always demonstrates the privilege we have to step away without being directly affected by that action.
- “Skin color” crayons mean peach or apricot (which, oddly enough, are yellow fruits but white-skin-colored crayons) instead of brown. I have had both a white peer and a young brown, Latina friend refer to crayons in this way and have spoken up to say, “Which skin color?”
- Shampoos and conditioners for my hair type are cheaper than those suited for Afro-textured hair. I need something to lock in the moisture for my combination of soft and course 3A curls, but the Aussie brand does this well while being about two-thirds the price of hair products for more textured hair at Walgreens.
- I am not questioned if I belong anywhere I go. I have multicultural, multiracial friend circles that are welcoming. People in my African church thank me for coming as the only white person because they see it is rare and potentially difficult due to language barriers. (It’s my pleasure, honestly; it’s my church.) And in public, one of the most white settings I experience these days, I am seen as harmless. I can come and go as I please (refer to #2).
- My name is easy for Americans to pronounce correctly, and because my family name sounds European, I have statistically higher chances at hearing back from jobs (Bertrand and Mullainathan 2003; Pager et al 2009). Yes, I experience privilege simply because of my white-sounding name.
- Others want to look like me. I am reminded of this every day when I wake up to see my roommate’s lightening cream sitting on her bed. White European beauty standards reign not only in this country but around the world. I am of White European descent, so my light skin tone and my sister’s silky straight hair are traits that many others seek to attain, even if their bodies are naturally darker or their hair kinkier. (Don’t try to be me. Be you. You’re gorgeous as is.)
Most of the things on this list may seem small, but they add up. This post does not delve deep into systemic issues but scrapes the surface of privilege. Once you grasp this, however, you can dig deeper to see the ways these examples form patterns that affect every aspect of a person’s life, both for white people and people of color. As white people, we just receive unearned benefits, hence the term privilege.
What are some ways YOU have experienced white privilege or seen it play out in the lives of others? Comment below, and let’s keep learning together!