…, and imagining that American racism means “blaming the fact of black inferiority on white people”. The fundamental assumption of white superiority never crosses their minds as an excellent example of white privilege in action. It does, indeed, bear resemblances to Dunning-Kruger… but an effect built in to the very neighborho…
Yes. Exactly this. Thank you, Judith, for reading and for spelling this out.
I’ve been studying systemic racism and privilege (of all majority types: white privilege, male privilege, economic privilege, cisgender privilege, heterosexual privilege, etc.) for about 3 years now, and the one constant I see over and over again is white people taking offense — getting seething angry, even — over the phrase “white privilege.”
More often than not, they don’t even know what it means, but the phrase immediately triggers them — because they’re judging it based on a faulty perception of what it seems to mean, rather than what it actually means, by definition.
They assume it means “you didn’t work hard, earn, or bust your ass for everything you have in life.” They assume it means, “you’ve had everything handed to you on a silver platter. Must be nice to be you!” Or they assume it means, “you don’t deserve how good you have it because you’ve never struggled or endured hardship.” Some even think ‘white privilege’ means “you’re an uppity, holier-than-thou, stuck up snob who hates people of color.”
All of these perceptions, of course, are flat out wrong.
White privilege is not an insult. It’s not a slur or a pejorative. Using the term is not derogatory or “racist.” White privilege is simply a fact, a sort of statistic. White privilege means that, in the U.S., if you’re white— even if you’re not an overt racist, even if you know in your heart of hearts that you never, ever discriminate against people based on the color of their skin — you still benefit (through no choice or fault of your own) from the way that systems and institutions have been set up to function in this country.
White privilege, as famously described by Peggy Macintosh, is “an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in every day, but about which I am meant to remain oblivious.” In other words, if you’re white in America, by virtue of the color of your skin, you were born with a few advantages not afforded people of color.
It also means that you’re socially conditioned to be unaware that you have privilege (again, not your fault).
You might be disabled, you might not be privileged in the way of gender, mental health, or social status, you might not come from upper class — or even middle class — income, but if you’re white, you are statistically more likely to be hired for a majority of jobs because of your skin color.
To deny that truth, which is backed up with tons and tons of research and statitstics, is to choose to remain willfully ignorant.