What is White Privilege and How Can Our Society Overcome It?

By Katherine Fry, CEO/President Mediafy Communications Group

White privilege is a complicated truth in our society. To some, it is seen as direct advantages given to Caucasians over other ethnicities. These advantages can exist in the business world, the medical field, or everyday life. Some believe that white people are given more opportunities to prevail because of white privilege. While white privilege may not be intentional, it is nevertheless a very real issue. Throughout our country’s history, it has become embedded in our society, and it is only through the acknowledgment that such an issue can be overcome.

Before the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the term white privilege generally referred to both the systemic and legal advantages provided to white people within the United States. Examples include the right to purchase a home in the neighborhood of one’s choice, citizenship and the right to vote. The persistence of discrimination after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act led to “white privilege” being interpreted as something more psychological—a subconscious prejudice bolstered by white people’s lack of awareness of holding such power. White privilege could be found in daily transactions and in the ability of white people to navigate their professional and personal environments with relative ease. (1)

Contemporary dictionaries define “white privilege” as “inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.” (2) White privilege is often perpetuated in a nonchalant manner by perpetrators who are often unaware of the motivations or results of their actions. Essentially, it seems to just happen, making the existence of white privilege very difficult to prove, much less overcome.

How do we as a society bring the issue of white privilege to the forefront, when people are not even aware they are abiding by it? One simply can not assume that a person’s achievements are because of the color of their skin. Additionally, It is often incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to confront individuals when one suspects it is happening. The more complicated truth is that white privilege is unconsciously enjoyed while consciously perpetuated. It is simultaneously embedded into American life while also overtly on the surface.

There are no straightforward answers for how American society can overcome white privilege.. However, one can start by acknowledging it within oneself and one’s own actions. White individuals can begin by analyzing their own actions and motivations when providing favoritism or privileges to those who are a part of their world. This one small step can then lead to larger social changes over time.

White privilege represents a complicated societal truth. Some view it as direct advantages provided to Caucasians at the expense of other ethnicities. White privilege while not necessarily intentional, nevertheless encompasses a very real issue within the United States. It is interwoven into our society, and as a result, its machinations are invisible to many. As a result, one can assert that acknowledgment represents the first step in overcoming this issue. This one small step can then lead to a giant leap for mankind.

  1. https://www.tolerance.org/
  2. https://legacy.drphil.com/videos/suggested-solutions-for-overcoming-the-white-privilege-problem/