“Racism is descriptive, and the only way to undo racism is to consistently identify and describe it – then dismantle it” – Ibram X Kendi
I rarely play any of my privilege cards intentionally. But there are plenty of times that I don’t try to use my privilege – whiteness, class, education – yet still benefit. It doesn’t help to pretend I do not. But it does helps to identify it. By identifying and describing the ways that white people have privilege, we start the process of undoing it. To begin that process in my own life, I start by naming just a few of the ways that my white privilege benefits me (without me even asking for special treat meant or benefits).
Gas stations and convenience stores: When I get gas (sometimes in a transitional neighborhood, sometimes in a wealthy one) I don’t ever get a receipt. Same when I buy something from the c-store. I don’t want the paper. I would prefer they don’t even print one – save the paper. I don’t worry about it because the chances of someone falsely accusing me of stealing gas or electrolyte water is really low…because I am a white woman.
Hoodies: I came of age in the 90s. I love hoodies more than most people. They are super cozy. I love having the hood up when it is chilly. When it is sunny I have sunglasses on, but still could have my hood up. You know what I don’t worry about? I don’t worry that anyone thinks I am carrying a weapon or going to hurt them…because I am a white woman.
Running: Other than my Road ID because I have chronic conditions and run alone/without my phone I don’t take ID with me to prove where I live or who I am when I run. Most of the time there are a very limited number of people who even know where I am. I don’t worry about what I am wearing being threatening (I consider visibility for car safety and wear a shirt because of my body issues). I just run. I don’t worry about much.
Biking: Mostly the same as running except I usually have my phone and maybe a credit card to buy fluids (or a snack). I carry my park pass if I am starting/ending in the park. When there’s a super long line of cars and I am coming back into the park I have been known to bypass the gate since I already checked in earlier. Privilege that others can’t even consider.
Police: Don’t get me wrong, I have had some really crappy interactions with police. I’ve even cussed at them because they were rude. But I was never chased, threatened, cuffed, or arrested for it. When I call for them, they show up quickly and are respectful because of my address. I am able to give them the benefit of the doubt.
Driving: I have some moving violations. I deserve more than I’ve had. I have also been pulled over for ridiculousness. But none of those interactions have ended worse than with a ticket.
Buying/refinancing my house: I bought in the days of zero percent down and was able to buy in a neighborhood way above my pay grade. After I lost my job and started working at 60% of my former pay we refinanced and consolidated the loans. I didn’t have perfect credit or two years’ worth of pay stubs…but we were able to refinance at a great rate. We were able to stay in the house through some rough financial times. It isn’t as easy now and especially if you aren’t white.
There are many more ways I am the recipient of white privilege on the education, jobs, financial side, some that are tied to systemic issues…this quick list just scratches the surface of the privilege I know I experience. This is something that I acknowledge, and something I am trying to challenge.
What am I doing to learn how privilege benefits me and how I can challenge it? First, I’m reading Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor as a part of the next CS virtual book club read. I’m also taking the on demand, 4-week, free course Race and Cultural Diversity in American Life and History. Both are available to you as well.
How do you benefit from privilege? What steps are you taking to identify and combat privilege in your life?