I obviously have been aware of my own feelings about white privilege and unfortunately, you won’t get to know my ideas and opinions just yet, at least not in this post. This is because I decided to interview and analyze the answers from three people who are close to me. The first person I interviewed was a friend I literally just met last week. The second person I interviewed was a high school classmate and teammate of mine. Finally, the last person I interviewed was literally a random person. The main thing is, they are all African American…I can only assume that the random person is. He confirmed he was and appeared to be African American as well.
The first question I asked to all of them was “Have you heard of white privilege?”
The friend I met last week said he has heard of it and even experienced being a victim of it. This was a similar answer across the board as everyone of the participants said they were aware that white privilege exists. The only person who did not explicitly state (without me asking) that they were victims of white privilege, was the random person I interviewed. Everyone tried to explain what they believed it to be which is what I will share soon. But it was kind of clear that they all deemed white privilege to be something that opresses them at the benefit of someone else.
My high school classmate had a very interesting answer to the second part of my first question. When I asked, “What do you think white privilege is”, he answered, “It’s racism, it’s the reason why we just had our first black president.” While these things may be true, it seems like he and the other two that I interviewed were mainly focusing on how white privilege has affected their lives as an explanation to what white privilege is. In fact, the friend I met last week made similar comments but moved more toward defining what white privilege is as a structure. “It’s the art of getting an advantage because you have white skin in a country that is run by white people.”. As you may have imagined, the random person had a similar but different spin on white privilege. he seemed to focus on the opression of blacks rather than the advantage of whites. “White privilege means not having to go to crappy schools and having a fifty percent chance of going to prison for the same actions that people from richer areas don’t get caught for. So the random black guy seems to be the only one to mention white privilege from an economic perspective.
The next question I asked was whether or not they believed white privilege to be real and why or why not.
This is where they all seemed to come to a consensus that it is real and I kind of saw this answer coming from every single one of them since most of them already gave examples of how this structure has affected them. But then the question became, since it does exist, what can we do to get rid of it? The friend I met last week said the only way is a revolution because that is how social injustices have been solved throughout history. This seems to be similar to the answers of the other two participants because it shows that these three people believe that the only way to stop white privilige is to change the people in power and to make the privileged race a different one. However my high school classmate also hinted that there is a way to make everyone equal and no one priviliged but also remarked, “That will never happen in this country” with a chuckle.
The thing i got from all three interviews was that people felt bound in their place by their skin color and automatically knew or assumed everything would be harder for them because of their black skin. Some of this is true but some of it also seems to involve people internalizing white priviliege and letting their thoughts about the “lesser value of their skin color” affect what things they pursue. (jobs, schools etc). Some of the people I interviewed seemed to feel they were forced to be put into a specific category at birth. This clearly affects someone’s individual identity when they are always treated like people who look like them, not who the person actually is.
Every one of the participants also named alot of institutional structures that they feel treat them differently because of their darker skin. They all believe schools promote white privilege as well as the police. (I could write a whole new post about the conversations I had concerning the police with the participants) Some also mentioned institutions without really recognizing it. Some people mentioned how welfare and government assistance actually keeps poor people poor and gives the impression to the privileged that everything is ok in poor neighborhoods and everyone has the same access to the same resources. My findings show that some black people feel white privilege is too much of a barrier to overcome the way it is structured now. perhaps some people internalize this belief and actually do not strive for the American Dream because they “realize that it is impossible because of the color of their skin.