The definition from Cambridge Dictionary of white privilege is, “People with white skin having advantages in society that other people do not have,” however, every person has a different view and definition of what white privilege is.
In an Instagram poll conducted by a staff writer for The Point between January 31 and February 1, 2019, 87 people responded to a question about white privilege. 78.16% of respondents said that they do believe in white privilege, and 21.84% reported not believing in white privilege. These responses came from people of a wide variety of ethnicities and races, illustrating the concept that there is a divide across many types of people when it comes to white privilege.
A PLNU student who asked to be anonymous, and who agrees with the 21.84% of the Instagram poll respondents who do not believe in white privilege, says that there are factors of privilege other than race. “Being born in America, having two parents, or how much your parents make,” are examples from this source.
In reference to those who say they do not believe in white privilege, Jamie Gates, the PLNU director of the Center for Justice & Reconciliation, says, “They have invested interest in not seeing it. They haven’t been raised to hear other perspectives. [For] those of us who have been raised in a dominant culture, white privilege is a scary thing—to contemplate that I might be caught up in a system that’s biased.”
Akur Oryem, a sophomore international studies major, says that white privilege can be a hard topic to approach because we don’t engage in discussions about it.
“I think people are so shy and scared to talk about it because the conversation can get political and historical really fast,” says Oryem.
Gates points to subtle signals of white privilege, from the “skin” color of Band-Aids to much bigger issues, such as the war on drugs that took place during the early 70s. These examples of what could be considered white privilege are varied, but show just how deep this conversation goes.
An article by J.B.W. Tucker showcases the statistics in the realities of white privilege. To find work, Tucker’s charts show, “A black college student has the same chances of getting a job as a white high school dropout. Meanwhile, a white male with a criminal record is 5% more likely to get a job than an equally qualified person of color with a clean record.”
The trends continue once the discussion is moved into the workplace. A black male makes 72 cents every dollar a white male makes, according to Tucker’s statistics. The results from Tucker’s article regarding race and the law say, “Young black boys and men, ages 15–19, are 21 times more likely to be to be shot and killed by the police than young white boys and men.”
Tucker’s article also shows that one in every 15 black men and one in every 36 Latino men are currently incarcerated in U.S. prisons, however, only one in every 106 white men are imprisoned.
“Some people may be limiting their approach to how they are disadvantaged based on class but are not seeing how they have advantages based on other aspects of who they are,” Jimiliz Valiente-Neighbours, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Social Work at PLNU, says. “This more complex approach is paying attention to intersectionality.”
“It’s important that we talk about it so that we can resolve it,” Oryem says. “‘White privilege’ should not be a blame game.”
Gates acknowledges that admitting that white privilege exists can be painful.
“But if others can help you see the constructional sin you’re caught up in and we can confess it, it opens up a whole new world of relationships,” Gates says.
Written by Kylie Miller.