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White Privilege: History and Understanding Essay

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Updated: Jul 25th, 2020

Privilege is a complicated and diversified phenomenon, as it is not seen by those who are not granted it by nature. On the other hand, it is vital to people who are different from the others, so they feel the lack of a particular privilege in every sphere of their life. White privilege is a set of benefits granted to those whose skin is white. However, the volume of such benefits can vary based on appearances, sexual orientation, religious, socioeconomic, and educational background, etc. still, the primary criterion is the race. That said:

White privilege is an institutional (rather than personal) set of benefits granted to those of us who, by race, resemble the people who dominate the powerful positions [and] have greater access to power and resources than people of color do; in other words, purely on the basis of our skin color doors are open to us that are not open to other people. (Kendall, 2012, p. 62)

White privilege benefits the White in many ways. First of all, we can refer to history and the epoch of slavery in the United States. Then, there were numerous laws that made holding Blacks as slaves legal. Later, we can mention segregation of all spheres of life when the people of color were not allowed to be in one building with the Whites. For years, African Americans had no right to vote, equal pay for equal work, freedom of migration and speaking their native languages or living under the postulates of their religion. Altogether, these factors ingrained the belief that white people are better than those of color.

Today, white privilege is the foundation for prejudice, inequality, and racism. However, the race is never understood as a disadvantage. People with different ethnic rights are not limited in their freedoms, but when there is a choice between the White and the Colorful, the White almost always receives the benefits. For example, in most cases, the whites are more likely to find the job sooner or get higher wages or better grades while studying even if the level of education and skills is the same with that of the colorful person. Even if we study the history of receiving Oscar awards, the Whites receive them more often than the Blacks. Furthermore, Blacks are often prejudiced to be criminals or rude and illiterate. In general, what I want to say is that people are judged for appearances, not their hearts.

Even though white privilege exists and has a robust impact on relations between people of different races, it is ignored and, for the most part, invisible. The decision to defy it is a complex psychological and societal pattern based on a subconscious underestimation of the Blacks or simply the members of the minor social group (McIntosh, 1989). I believe that the invisibility of white privilege can be made visible in a few ways. First of all, I recommend reading the article named White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack by Peggy McIntosh. Even though it was written almost 30 years ago, it is still timely because the author helps understand the essence of this phenomenon and that the Whites do have benefits because of their skin color.

Another way of making white privilege visible is shifting the emphasis from combating racism and discrimination to acknowledging the existence of a white privilege, thus, make the general masses aware of this cultural phenomenon (Burnett, 2014). For example, it might be more advantageous to stress the contrast in the socio-economic environment of the Whites and the Colorful than accentuate the manifestations of racism in everyday life. I am strongly inclined to believe that if white people realize that they do have this privilege, they will change the way they treat people of color, and it will finally solve the problem of racism and discrimination.


Burnett, Z. (2014). A Brief History of White Privilege. Web.

Kendall, F. (2012). Understanding white privilege: Creating pathways to authentic relationships across race. London, UK: Routledge.

McIntosh, P. (1989). White privilege: Unpacking the invisible knapsack. Peace and Freedom Magazine, pp. 10-12.

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