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Whiteness: The Power of Privilege

Whiteness: The Power of Privilege

In a nation where there are several racial and cultural groups, such as the United States, it is impossible to remain unaffected by racial issues. One thing that is evident in the US is that there are some racial groups, particularly the white people, who are more privileged compared to other groups, such as African Americans, Latinos, or Asians. The privilege that comes with white skin color has allowed its subjects to feel good regarding themselves, raised self-esteem, simplified existence, and ensured identity in the society. Uncovering the notion of privilege is important, because it is the only way a person can understand the consciousness of the elite culture (whiteness) in concept and language.

 

White Privilege

White privilege entails different elements which need to be observed. First, the privileged group’s characteristics involve enjoying benefits within the societal norm. It means that, since the white are privileged, the concept allows them to take advantage of their status. Secondly, it is easier for them to rely on their privileges and avoid being subjected to oppression of any kind (McIntosh, 1989). The whites belong to the privileged group, and they experience various benefits that come with their position in the society. For instance, the practice where a white man receives preferential treatment over a black man is common in the society today. White privilege can, therefore, be defined as an advantage that is connected to belonging to the white race in the society. According to Wise (2003), the people of color are kept unequal in a society due to racism and the whites retaining full control. These are some of the practices that form white privilege; they tend to have control of everything happening in the nation because of their white supremacy.

In the contemporary U.S. society, whiteness is privileged and normalized. It means that anyone who looks white is deemed normal in appearance and is unlikely to ever experience prejudice or apprehension due to their race. According to Shams (2013), passing for “the norm” gives the individual an advantage, which will improve their chances to achieve success both professionally and socially. For instance, Shams father, despite being Iranian, managed to acquire professional success, partially, because of passing for a well-tanned white person.

Invisibility of Privilege

When a person looks deep into the background of whiteness, they will find that racism hides in it. The invisibility of privilege can, therefore, be defined as the pattern of assumptions that have been passed to white people. The assumptions are a conspiracy of silence, which involves racism among the whites that has been protected by the society making it invisible. This unacknowledged secret has given the white people power to secure unearned privileges that result from their skin color. The assumptions lead to white supremacy, which is culturally conditioned into white people’s lives without their consent. It is hardly possible to combat invisibility in a society like the US, and, as a result, privileges can regenerate, recreate, and perpetuate themselves.

In most cases, language is the major contributing factor in the invisibility of privilege. The invisibility of privilege is sustained in the modern societies, especially in institutions such as schools, government bodies, businesses, courts and law agencies. In essence, the white supremacy shields institutional operations by couching it in a language of standard operating procedures, equal criteria application, and equal treatment to make white privilege invisible. However, when all these operations are broadly applied, the effects are inequitable, especially to people of color, while the whites are given preferential treatment.

Class and Race

There is a strong relationship between race and class in the US. Shams (2013) narrates his story of belonging to the lower class white group. He was considered “white trash,” an expression that was used by the rich white to describe someone less affluent. He is a good example that shows that not only does the racist notion of skin color’s importance have to be discarded, but the class an individual belongs to in the society should follow. The white from the lower class, such as Sham, are also limited because of their position in the society. They do not enjoy the white privileges like their compatriots from the middle or upper class group. It means that despite a person identifying as white, they remain vulnerable to discrimination because of their economic position (Shams, 2013).

On the other hand, some people of color, such as the Iranians, have achieved financial success. This has in turn earned them strong connections with white groups, because their financial success raised their status. According to Graham (2014), white privilege can insulate a person from prejudice and discrimination. The case of the Iranians being successful in America shows that the economic system of capitalism encourages selected Americans to take advantage of the privileges that result from belonging to a particular class. This is because the economic system of capitalism puts them in a position to have social connection and acquire privileges like other superior groups in the nation (DiAngelo, 2006).

My Case Study

As a white individual, I have learned that race gives me an advantage. My family was economically privileged and, thus, most of the time, received the associated respect, unlike less wealthy white people. I used to watch the way my parents were treated in malls because of their class. It is different from the way other whites from middle or lower class were treated. The latter have never received much attention like my father and I did. I rarely associated with black people because very few were in my social circle. Nevertheless, based on this research, I agree with Dyson (2014) that we still live in a society which is two sided: one side is black, another one is white, and this separation is often definitive.

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In conclusion, it is important to uncover the notion of privilege, because it is the only way a person can understand the consciousness of the elite culture (whiteness) in concept and language. In the US, whites are considered the privileged group and acquire various benefits because of their position. The unacknowledged secret has given the white people power to secure unearned privileges due to their skin color.

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