Abigail Z. Maryland

White Privilege

The effects of white privilege on America today.

Dear Future President,

What does White privilege mean to you? As a young, White, female, who is considerably liberal and accepting of all people (ethnicity, sexual orientation, race, etc.), I found it odd that I didn’t know how White privilege affected my life. For the longest time I had assumed that White privilege didn’t apply to me; but, in reality, I was operating upon a false definition of ‘White privilege’. White privilege can be defined as, “people with White skin having advantages in society that other people do not have” (Cambridge University). Many people would argue that White privilege isn’t a thing, but ignorance is bliss, right? Actually, that is wrong. White privilege goes against America’s core values of freedom and equality. Considering that people of color (POC) currently make up about 37% of the US population and are on the path to being majority of the US population by 2060, this is a social problem that negatively affects more and more American POC each day (Kayne). White privilege needs to be eradicated, or else POC will continue to experience increased amounts of police brutality; discrimination in the workplace; and the reduced version of the American dream, which will only further diminish the idea of “liberty and justice for all”.

Since the death of Trayvon Martin in 2013, police brutality against POC has hit the headlines of essentially every major news source in America seemingly weekly. Countless videos and first-hand accounts of such acts have been spread across major social media networks such as, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr. Javarre Wilson mentions in an interview with the Associated Press (AP) that, “White people don’t have to worry whether their child will be at the receiving end of a cop’s baton or handgun.” This can be concurred by a gallup poll collected by American citizens in 2014-16, where 58% of White Americans were pleased by the work of police, as opposed to only 29% of Black Americans. Many Black rights activists from the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement have also spoken on the topic, pointing out many of the innocent black people that were shot and killed by White officers increasingly over the years. In 2015 alone, over 102 unarmed black Americans were killed by police; five times the rate of White people (Mapping Police Violence). Personally, I’ve never felt threatened when police officers have spoken with me on the streets or been around me in general. I grew up operating upon the understanding that police officers were here to protect the American people, but I never fathomed how petrified many Black people are when they see policemen until now.

In the workplace, POC continue to be discriminated against. The discrepancy between what White males earn and Black males, or even Hispanic women is almost too monumental for belief. Black males make 75.1% of what White males earn; White women make 78% of their male counterparts; and shockingly enough, Hispanic women make 54% of what White males make (Bureau of Labor Statistics). In my research of White privilege, I’ve found that White people essentially have 25 metaphorical steps forward, compared to every single step for POC. For some reason, I carry the shame and guilt for the actions of my ancestors who developed the Jim Crow laws, which are the very reasons that White privilege exists today. With the creation of Jim Crow laws, White people ensured that Blacks wouldn’t be able to receive the same quality of education that Whites were entitled to, they eliminated any chance for Blacks to start trust funds or save enough money for anything important or develop virtually any relationship with big businesses, and essentially kept majority from being able to establish wealth. The combination of those things has led to the wage gaps seen today, as well as the poor Black representation in businesses. Even Black people who are much more qualified for certain jobs are beat out of a job because of a White person’s possible connections. POC have to exert themselves much harder than Whites just to be close to where a White person begins in the average American workforce today.

Since my first day in Kindergarten, I’ve been taught that the “sky's the limit” and that I could be whatever I dreamt of being. I’ve been raised in a society where this is true, for White people. A White doctor is seen as the norm, yet as soon as one comes across a doctor who is anything but, one may be curious to know how they got to their position. They may question their ability to practice, or better yet if they deserved that position (or if it was just a benefit of affirmative action). As a nation that is continuously recognized for its diversity, shouldn’t we be able to look at a non-White American doctor just as equally as their White counterparts? This goes for all occupations. We should tell every American child that they can achieve their dreams, and actually have a society that allows each child a fair shot at that dream. As high school comes to an end, the child gets what their parents can afford. If their parents can’t afford to send them to college, they end up working at a minimum wage job where they can barely, if even at all, afford to pay their bills. It feeds to the continuous cycle where POC are on the bottom, and Whites are always at the top. This needs to come to an end.

The reason that White privilege persists is because many White people don’t think much of it, or refuse to believe its existence. A Common misconception that people have about White privilege is that believing in White privilege makes you a racist. The dictionary definition of racism is “a person… who believes that a particular race is superior to another” (Oxford Dictionary). White privilege is a phenomenon that was created by our racist society. By acknowledging it and actively trying to make positive strides towards equality, then you by definition, are not a racist. White privilege is an issue that all people should be educated on, and not only should people be educated on it, but also they should be taught to be respectful to people of all genders, races, and ethnicities. As of 2016, there’s a larger number of White people dead in the U.S. than there are living. With this trend persisting and POC becoming the majority of the U.S., we need to learn how to be respectful to everyone. The last thing that anyone in America needs is another Civil War. Education is the key to preventing White privilege from evolving and it needs to be done, or else America will become subject to another war over race.