Can You See White Privilege?

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Chicago Theological Seminary has started an initiative called, "White Privilege Glasses," to "put a new lens on white privilege and racism." Because if we look honestly at the vast problems in our society, we will see that many of the systemic and plaguing issues of the day are a symptom of racism. Whether it is police brutality, discrimination by banks and businesses, poverty, educational or income inequality, the deeper issue is, too often, racism. Consequently, on the other side of privilege is disadvantage.

Though this is as clear as it can possibly be for many people, others do not see white privilege. Whether it is fragility or guilt or disagreement, the facts make clear what opinions often refute.

It is time that we realize that white people are entitled to privileges over persons of color. Say it out loud: "White people are entitled to privileges over persons of color."

Teaching Tolerance identifies some privileges that may seem subtle, but they are "perks as a function of their skin privilege."

For example:
• "When I cut my finger and go to my school or office's first aid kit, the flesh-colored band-aid generally matches my skin tone."
• "When I stay in a hotel, the complimentary shampoo generally works with the texture of my hair."
• "When I buy hair care products in a grocery store or drug store, my shampoos and conditioners are in the aisle and section labeled 'hair care' and not in a separate section for 'ethnic products.'"
• "I can purchase travel size bottles of my hair care products at most grocery or drug stores."

Then there are less subtle privileges:
• "My skin color does not work against me in terms of how people perceive my financial responsibility, style of dress, public speaking skills, or job performance."
• "People do not assume that I got where I am professionally because of my race (or because of affirmative action programs)."
• "Store security personnel or law enforcement officers do not harass me, pull me over or follow me because of my race."

Additionally, here are some statistics that might help put some numbers to White Privilege:

  • Research shows that white people are not profiled or even stopped as disproportionately or often as persons of color.

  • People of color only make up 30% of the total population but they represent 60% of the U.S. prison population. (African Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.)
  • According to research, people with "black-sounding names" have to send out 50% more job applications than whites just to get a call back.
  • Don't believe the statistics? Fine. Test yourself.

    Next time you see a black male walking towards you with his hand in his pocket or approaching your vehicle, notice your heart rate. Keep track of what you are feeling. Then, imagine that person were white. You may find that we, as people who call ourselves "white," are never going to escape our racism. We will always be recovering racists (to borrow a phrase from Jim Wallis). Therefore, we need to always be mindful and combative of our inner tendencies to embrace our privilege which exacerbates others' disadvantages.

    Racism is real. White privilege is real. Can you see it? If not, then you are probably not looking.

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    As a response to this phenomena, the seminary has created a short video that can help give sight to those that are blind or impaired to this reality.

    Now, here is how you can help!

    2. Join the conversation.
    There are discussion packets available online that will help start and guide the conversation!

    3. Share the hashtag: #whiteprivilegeglasses
    Social media is an effective tool for promoting new ideas and seeking partners in the work of justice and equality!