White privilege means that you are less likely to be discriminated against because of the color of your skin.
Recognizing privilege doesn’t mean suffering guilt or shame for your lot in life. Recognizing privilege simply means being aware that some people have to work much harder just to experience the things you take for granted.
Yes, there are white people in the world who are struggling. But those people are not struggling because of their race.
Belonging to one or more category of privilege, especially being a straight, white, middle-class, able-bodied male, can be like winning a lottery you didn’t even know you were playing.
Examples of Invisible Privilege
There are many different types of privilege, not just skin-color privilege, that impact the way people can move through the world or are discriminated against.
Citizenship: Being born in this country affords you certain privileges that noncitizens will never access.
Class: Being born into a financially stable family can help guarantee your health, happiness, safety, education, intelligence, and future opportunities.
Sexual orientation: If you were born straight, every state in this country affords you privileges that nonstraight folks have to fight for.
Sex: If you were born male, you can assume that you can walk through a parking garage without worrying that you’ll be raped and then have to deal with a defense attorney blaming it on what you were wearing.
Ability: If you were born able-bodied, you probably don’t have to plan your life around handicap access, braille, or other special needs.
Gender identity: If you were born cisgender (that is, your gender identity matches the sex you were assigned at birth), you don’t have to worry that using the restroom or locker room will invoke public outrage.
Understanding and accepting your privilege, especially white privilege, is hugely important because denying it—getting defensive and hurt—erases the racism people of color face every day.
It’s not your fault that you were born with white skin and experience these privileges. But whether you realize it or not, you do benefit from it. You can have privilege and still have had a tough time. You might still struggle to get work, to earn money, to be happy and healthy—but it won’t be because you are white.
We cannot tackle racism if we pretend it doesn’t exist. If you are bringing up all the difficulties you’ve faced when discussions of white privilege come up, then you are denying the fact that you do not face discrimination because of your race. That doesn’t erase or deny the struggles you’ve faced. When the topic of privilege is raised, know that your difficulties are not being erased.
Here’s an online quiz you can take to check your privilege: How Privileged Are You?
Do something with that privilege
Knowing that you are less likely to be a victim of police brutality, you can stand at the front of a protest to shield others from violence.
Being aware that you’re not going to receive racist abuse—at least not at the same level of a Black person—for speaking about race, you can share articles, encourage people to sign petitions and donate, and challenge people you know on their racist views.
You can push for diverse hiring choices by standing up for your colleagues, and by analyzing how your company’s hiring processes might be influenced by racism and privilege.
Because you have gone through life without the burden of racism, ask what you can do to lift that burden for those who have to carry it.
Be the change!