Reconciling with white privilege

Angela Pisarra

White privilege is a difficult term to explain. It’s a term that attempts to encompass a vast number of racial disparities that exist within American society, and one, when mentioned is met with a wide range of reactions from acceptance to blatant dismissal.  I would like to say that I, when first hearing of white privilege accepted the meanings behind it, but unfortunately, I thought it was a hoax. Sure, I was white, but I’d never received special treatment because of it. And furthermore why should I be made to feel guilty for being white? That wasn’t my fault. Nor were the past mistreatments of other races or the fact that some people were still racist, I certainly wasn’t.

Of course my teenage self didn’t consider institutionalized racism, nor did she want to shoulder the shame and guilt of being white which seemed to come along with this term. Why should I be guilty for the way I was born? Why should I shoulder past sins? My life wasn’t perfect, and it certainly wasn’t easy! But the truth was that I seriously misunderstood white privilege.

White privilege doesn’t mean that being white is something to be ashamed of or guilty for. Nor does it mean that I have to carry the burden of past discriminations and crimes. It certainly doesn’t mean that my life is easy because I’m white, although in some ways my life is easier. Ultimately white privilege is in the way I’m treated within society, in the way I’ve never been told my hair is unprofessional, in the way I take for granted mass media which reflect my skin color and features more often then not, in the way I don’t fear for my life when a policeman pulls me over; in a hundred other ways that I have likely never considered.

Having white privilege doesn’t mean you’ve done something wrong, but it is something that must be recognized. It may not be easy, and it may not feel great, but its something that needs to be done. Only when we’ve recognized this, can we work to change it.