Correction: A previous version of this column failed to credit the academic paper “White Privilege and Male Privilege” by Peggy McIntosh. This article was inspired by its conceptual ideas and organizational structure.
White privilege is a set of privileges that white people experience, while non-white people of the same social, political or economic status do not. Many things white individuals experience are easily taken for granted, but that is a primary factor in being privileged by a system that favors the white race. A common misconception about white privilege is that it is a direct attack on a specific white person’s success or failure. The inherent privilege of white people is not a blame game, but rather just a term to highlight the system itself. Here are 20 ways that white people — including myself — are privileged at the University of Michigan and other settings.
1. They can be pretty sure there will be someone of the same race as they are in any class they are in.
2. Walking around campus, they do not have to actively search for somebody of the same race.
3. They are not stared at in class when the conversation of race comes up.
4. They get to study people of their race doing groundbreaking and important things in their textbooks.
5. If they wanted to, they could spend time with only people of their race whenever they so choose.
6. They do not have to be nervous about being one of the only, if not the only, person of their race in their dorm’s hall.
7. No one ever assumes that they got into the University because of lower standards set upon them due to their race.
8. They do not question if the reason they got accepted here was because of their race.
9. Their parents did not have to tell them about the systematic racism they will experience in college and in life beyond.
10. No one is surprised if they tell him/her about their high test scores and/or GPA in high school.
11. They can outwardly support affirmative action without their opinion being attributed to their race.
12. They can be reassured that the person in charge of their school is someone of their race, and always has been.
13. If they make a mistake in a group assignment, their race will not be pinpointed as the reason why.
14. They can be late to appointments or meetings without it being blamed on their race.
15. Other white people’s use of the n-word doesn’t affect them.
16. They do not have to worry that the way they dress, or even just their skin color, will make them a more susceptible target to law enforcement.
17. If they are walking alone at night, no one is (consciously or subconsciously) fearful of them.
18. They can go to the CVS or Walgreens on State Street and find Band-Aids that match their skin color.
19. If they are a tall and strong male, others do not automatically assume they are on the basketball or football team.
20. Somebody didn’t dress up as their race or ethnicity for Halloween last weekend.
Rennie Pasquinelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.