Whiteness: The Power of Privilege

Over the recent years there have been debates regarding the influence of white privilege in societies, especially in the United States of America. It is usually difficult to discuss this subject because many people do not consider themselves powerful or having privileges. In addition, some people consider themselves as more privileged in some societies, and so they take advantage of it by intimidating and abusing the rights of those with fewer privileges. White privilege is an institutional rather than personal benefit enjoyed by those who virtue of their race, assume or dominate powerful positions in societies or institutions. One of the primary privileges is access to resources and power. This paper aims to discuss the concept of white privilege to people and the society at large. The also paper analyses the causes of white privilege as it relates to the idea of invisibility of privilege.

White Privilege

White privilege is the actual benefit of gaining access to social rewards and resources, as well as the power to define the norms and values whites receive based on their skin color in a racial society. In societies that practice white supremacy, white people usually have the privilege, a radical claim which is still controversial in many sectors of the United States society (Jensen, 2011). White privilege is complex just like any social phenomenon. In white supremacist societies, all white people are believed to have the privilege in some aspects. However, regardless of the group of people, it allows them to be accepted, included and respected in the world, as well as having the opportunity to operate within a relatively wider comfort zone (Johnson, 2011).

When looking at privilege, several elements need to be put into consideration. The first element to be analysed is that the societal norms and values are defined by the characteristics of the privileged group, which usually benefits those people that belong to it. The second element is that members of privileged groups usually depend on their privilege in order to avoid objecting to oppression (Wildman & Davies, 2011). However, it is worth noting that white privilege is an institutional set of benefits, rather than personal, which are granted to those people who dominate the strategic positions in societies based on their race (McIntosh, 2011).

There are general patterns of privileges, but they all play out differently based on context and other aspects of people’s identity. When talking about sex, race, as well as sexual orientation, there is a need to describe the concept as a power system which grants privilege to some people while making some other people disadvantaged (Wildman & Davies, 2011). In other words, the main practices that create privileges are race, sex and sexual orientations (McIntosh, 2011). However, the race power system of white supremacy creates white privileges; heterosexual and male privileges are the result of gender hierarchy, and class hierarchy is derived from wealth-based economic hierarchy (Wildman & Davies, 2011).

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More so, the attributes and characteristics of those who belong to privileged groups are described as social norms; that is, privilege is normalized in the society, especially in the American one. The normalization of privilege means that members of the society are judged to either fail or succeed based on the characteristics employed by the privileged (Wildman & Davies, 2011). Therefore, the privileged characteristics are the norms while those who stand outside are referred to as the aberrant (Wildman & Davies, 2011).

Invisibility of Privilege

Even though it is part of the consciousness of popular culture, the concept of privilege has not been recognised in legal doctrine and language (Wildman & Davies, 2011). The failure to recognise privilege and incorporate it into legal doctrines creates a series of gaps in legal reasoning, making it impossible to address the issues of systemic failures (Wildman & Davies, 2011). However, the invisibility of privilege strengthens and maintains the power it creates. The invisibility of privilege is inevitable, and so, privilege is allowed to exist, regenerate, as well as re-create itself (Wildman & Davies, 2011). Therefore, privilege is invisible until it is being searched for, but its silence supports its position.

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Invisibility is sustained in some modern societies whereby language contributes to the regeneration and invisibility of privilege. Increasingly, many people use terms like sexism and racism to describe the perpetuation of power and unequal treatments. Therefore, the vocabulary of ism is a descriptive shorthand that is used for disadvantages and undesirable treatment, which creates some serious problems. However, it is difficult to recognise and discuss how oppression operates even when the vocabulary itself makes privilege invisible (Wildman & Davies, 2011).

Addressing White Privilege

Since addressing and fighting against white privilege within social organizations and movements is necessary, everyone is supposed to shoulder the burden. It should be done not only by whites since they are not the only people with privileges and there is no clear biological distinction between the whites and the blacks. Addressing privilege and fighting against it should not be monopolized because it is a positive personal growth experience. Everyone should benefit from understanding how privilege operates and try to assume significant roles in addressing it (Podur, 2011).

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Moreover, a society that keeps non-whites off-balance is a racist society, which makes the whites have control. This issue has to be discussed for people to understand the roles they need to play to make a change (Wise, 2011). The government should also take a strategic position in addressing white privilege. However, it is worth knowing that the economic system of capitalism encourages American citizens to take advantage of these privileges because it provides them with the desired opportunity to become wealthier than the non-whites. It helps them to take up strategic positions in the society by owning economic resources and industries.

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