The Racism of White Privilege

I am so sick of hearing about “privilege.”  And, of course, nobody cares, because I am a fat, white, cis-gendered, straight guy from a nuclear family.

The notion of privilege is rooted in determinism; where one’s entire being is set in stone by their birth conditions or conditions out of his or her control.   It is to give up on the idea that one controls his or her own future, and says to this person that to try to change one’s circumstances is useless.

Advocates of “privilege” point to mounds of statistics where all manner of people are divided into non-essentials (race, gender, sexuality, birth circumstances, etc.) and the economic and society status of each group.

This is detrimental to those of the “underprivileged” group.  It preaches the clear message that there is no escape; no matter how hard you work, it will never be as good as having been born differently.  Why work to improve your circumstances?  It won’t matter anyhow.  Furthermore, it teaches the underprivileged group to devalue the privileged group, increasing the social divide between these groups.

It is also detrimental to those of the “privileged” group.  First, it is detrimental because even the privileged group did not decide their birth circumstances.  A white person can no more “decide” to be white than a black person can “decide” to be black.  Second, it degrades those who are perceived as privileged, but perhaps aren’t.

Those advocates can say that the value of a person is not to be judged by non-essentials.  Great, I agree.  However, in the very next breath, the mention of “privilege” says, “because you are (white, straight, cis-gendered, male, etc.), you have it easier, and I can tell this because of non-essentials.”

On the surface, I am of the most privileged class.  My parents helped me afford college.  I was never hungry.  I was fortunate.  However, I have never NOT held a job.  I have worked multiple jobs at a time since I had my first work permit.  During my college days, I often went to school full time during the day, and then worked full time during the nights and weekends.  I didn’t have a cell phone until I graduated college in 2005.  Every internship and every opportunity was one that I made.  Yes, I made them.  They did not exist before I showed up and made it work.  I fell asleep with a textbook on my chest almost every single night starting my sophomore year.  I never cheated on a single assignment; every F was mine, as was every A.  Most of my lunch breaks at work were spent writing essays or working through math or physics problems.   I went to only a handful of football games (even though my school had a very good football team) and only a few parties.  I don’t drink, and never have.

And for all my hard work, all of the countless hours awake, all of the assignments, time spent studying, the balancing of jobs and work- is all lost every time someone brings up my race, gender, family background or some other nonessential.  It’s a way of dismissing the effort I’ve put into making my life the way it is.

Is it fair to assume that classes are magically easier because a person is Asian?  Isn’t that just an ugly stereotype?  Why then, is it acceptable to assume that because I am white, that college was easy?  Why then, is it acceptable to assume that if I get lower grades than an “underprivileged” counterpart, that I must be lazy?

This is also not to downplay what work an underprivileged student experiences.  I have known plenty of single mothers who work miracles every day to succeed at college while raising their children.  I know plenty of people from varying ethnic backgrounds who had neither the resources nor the mentors to succeed at college- and did anyway.

All I am asking is the recognition that each person is an individual, complete with their own struggles and hardships.  Instead of pointing the finger at “who has it easiest,” why don’t we instead work together to understand what struggles we each have?  Instead of demanding that the “privileged” service the “underprivileged” or vice versa, why don’t we spend our time dealing with what is possible in each others’ lives and how to make it so?

Thank you for reading my post.

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