White Privilege as a Factor of What Causes Racism

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We live in a society where race is seen as a vital part of our personalities, the lack of racial identity is very often an important factor which prevent people from not having their own identity. Racism is extremely ingrained in our society and it seems ordinary, however, many people denounce the expression of any racist belief as immoral, highlighting the complicated nature of racism.

According to the text, Walk a Mile racism is “an ideology that either directly or indirectly asserts that one group is superior to others, with the power to put this ideology into practice in a way that gives advantages, privilege, and power to certain groups of people, and conversely, can disadvantage or limit the opportunities of racialized individuals or racialized groups .” (Walk a Mile, 2015).

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Many of us initially think of the word “color” to be a key component of racism which is not the only type of discrimination when it comes to racism, the word is not even mentioned from the definition above. Racism involves the power to assign a prejudicial value to any characteristic of another human being – and then deploy the instruments of science, law, religion, institutional structures, and government for one’s own benefit and at the expense of its victims – this is central to the way racism functions in the contemporary world as a force of discrimination. The physical features or other characteristics of people – their gender, sexual orientation, or age – are but a few of the attributes we use to discriminate against other people for our perceived benefit. 

More elusive, though, is the persistence of racist values. Racist views of African Americans have been codified in our laws, supported by data, rationalized by religious leaders and institutions as the will of God, and used to form economic and political policy. It continues to exist despite overwhelming evidence that African Americans are not inferior to other ethnic groups, particularly white people. It persists as an ideology, a kind of blood knowledge. Like DNA in our blood, racism is transmitted by the culture at large, affecting African Americans as well as everyone else. Ultimately racial hatred is a form of self-hatred, blinding us to our own humanity and the humanity of those we hate.

White privilege is a term used in the textbook that refers to “the invisible system of privilege that has conferred dominance on those perceived as white” (Walk a Mile, 2010). Racism is a white problem and white people need to work with each other to confront it. The effort must begin with an understanding of the privilege that comes with being white. White people essentially have unearned set of advantages that they have been taught to believe is their birthright just because of the color of their skin - that white is normative, average, ideal, and therefore preferred. White privilege reflects the attitudes and fears absorbed by white people growing up in racially prejudiced society. We may be taught to think that all people are equal, but we are socialized to feel that white people are better, cleaner, harder working, more trust worthy, the list goes on. We absorb these attitudes, images, and messages emotionally even wile we eschew them mentally. Our families, schools, churches, books, and television have given us the messages that white people belong to the superior group, thus creating the illusion that is a white peoples world. 

Recovery from white privilege and racism is not unlike other recovery processes. It begins with knowing ourselves well and being honest enough to admit our problem. We must talk to each other about the reality of our privilege, be aware of the power and access afforded us by our white skin, help each other understand the sick behaviors our racism causes, and assist each other in the faltering steps of recovery.

Some ways we can dismantle white privilege is first to choose to be aware and choose to experience life from the perspective of people of color. We can also break the silence by refusing to tolerate racial slurs jokes and racist attitudes and speak to your white friends about their experience of whiteness, white privilege and other issues of race. Last is to make a lifestyle change which immerses you either permanently or at least for significant amounts of time in a parallel culture so that your aware of issues and white privilege is clarified.

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