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A White Washed Society: Argumentative Essay on White Privilege

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You’re on your way to work, going over your notes in your head. You’ve been planning this presentation for weeks, and you feel the utmost prepared. You wore your lucky socks just for the added luck, but you really don’t need it. You got this. But in reality, you don’t. You will not get the job. You definitely won’t get the raise. You will never be fully respected by your boss. You will never be the face of the company. You will never amount to your colleagues and competitors. Simply because you will never be White. White privilege is something that can no longer be avoided in our American society. It is real and quite prevalent. White privilege is a feeling, an ideology, a social status, and for some, a gift. It is used to segregate Whites from other races, but not in the way African Americans were segregated from Whites. White privilege allows oneself to “move up” financially, politically, academically, and socially. It is a form of power that has developed into the oppression described as classism, and it is dividing our nation not only in the workforce but in classrooms as well. We teach children to strive to do their best and we discourage them from working at McDonald’s, collecting welfare, having a baby with a good for nothing baby daddy. We engrave this classist mindset and groom them to think they need to be the best just based off their social status. If we have white privilege, why don’t we refer to “ black privilege” or “asian privilege”? If “White trash” is the best we can come up with, why do other races have much more offensive derogatory terms? Contrary to popular belief, white privilege is very real in today’s society and allows white Americans to have a leg up financially, politically, and academically, as well as how there is a divide amongst the privileged white community and the so-called white trash, and how we’re grooming the future generations to become severely classist.

Regardless if you’re white and homeless, or white and on the cover of Forbes Magazine, you’ve experienced white privilege. Think of when you walk into a store and all the products have pictures of white models and are targeted to white males and females, when you go to ask for a bandaid and it clearly doesn’t match your skin color even though the box says “flesh toned”, or how when you turn on your tv you don’t say to yourself, wow look, there’s a white man on tv! This privilege is like an invisible cloak that shields white people from seeing the very obvious, but hardly recognized, day to day life advantages that White male and females experience.

There is something to be clarified. Pointing out white privilege, is not racist. However, white privilege exists due to a long history of racial bias. Matthew Clair and Jeffrey S. Denis help define racism and white privilege. “They believe racial bias is a belief, and racism is what happens when that belief is turned to action”(Collins, Teaching Tolerance). For example, a person who crosses the street simply because they won’t want to walk next to a group of black men, someone calling 911 reporting a black person when they are clearly causing no harm, or a federal agency investigating black and Latino activists rather than our very own KKK. On the other hand, white privilege is a tricky two word situation. The word privilege is suggesting one has never struggled, which is why many poor white Americans argue they haven’t experienced such a thing. It needs to be viewed as a “built in” advantage, not based on one’s level of income and effort (Collins). It has been argued that white privilege is a complicated truth. It’s unconsciously being enjoyed, and also criticized. It is important to recognize and acknowledge that even if you’re white and trying to bring attention to the subject matter to prove the minds of the ignorant wrong, you’re still experiencing white privilege.

The ability to become rich has been a privilege that white folks have experienced since the beginning of history. “In 2014, the Pew Research Center released a report that revealed the median net worth of a white household was $141,900; for black and Hispanic households, that dropped to $11,000 and $13,700, respectively. The gap is huge, and the great “equalizers” don’t narrow it”(Collins). This gap however, relies on inheritance- wealth passed down to their future generations. “When white families are able to accumulate wealth because of their earning power or home value, they are more likely to support their children into early adulthood, helping with expenses such as a college education, first cars and first homes. The cycle continues”(Collins). This is a privilege denied to many families of color. After World War II, when the G.I. Bill provided white veterans with a “straight shot” to the middle class, racist zoning laws segregated towns and cities with sizeable populations of people of color—from Baltimore to Birmingham, from New York to St. Louis, from Louisville to Oklahoma City, to Chicago, to Austin, and in cities beyond and in between.(Collins).

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Not only are we seeing that white privilege gives White Americans a leg up financially, and academically, but we most definitely see it in our political system. For instance, you would think if a man got caught raping a woman regardless of his skin color and ethnicity, he would get the proper and rightful punishment. Sadly, that was not the case with Brock Turner, the Stanford racist. Brock Turner was released from prison on Sept. 2, 2016, three months into his six-month sentence for three counts of sexual assault (Sojo). In 2015, Turner was at a frat party when he was caught by two graduate students sexually assaulting an unconscious woman behind a dumpster. His case caught major headlines due to the incredible amount of leniency given to him. His father at one point said that any jail time “was a steep price to pay for twenty minutes of action”(Sojo). Hearing that is actually unbelievable and quite repulsive. Turner faced up to fourteen years, the DA wanted six years, he was only sentenced to six months, but ended up walking out in three. In media, they kept referring to Turner as an athlete due to his competitive swimming record. In 2016, Asian American college freshman Kyle Vo, had a similar situation and was given six years in prison, Cory Batey, a black college freshman, faced three counts of sexual assault and recieved the “mandatory” mininum sentence to fifteen to twenty five years(Sojo). In fact, the same judge in Turner’s case who decided a six month sentence was enough in order to not ruin his future and athletic career, issued a three year sentence to Raul Ramirez, a Latino immigrant with an almost identical case. Brock Turner’s case has white privilege written all over it. Another court case that blatantly pulled the “white card” dealt with Felicity Huffman, former Desperate Housewives star. Huffman was involved in the college admissions scandal, and paid $15,000 to increase her daughter’s SAT score. She received the whooping sentence of fourteen days in prison, a $30,000 fine, and 250 hours of community service(CNN). Huffman committed a serious crime and got a “slap on the wrist”. What does that say about our judicial system? That it is racially corrupt and biased.

Some may ask how white privilege can be prominent in classrooms. In an interview with Terry Jess, an anti-racist, white educator, who is wanting to spread social justice and racial justice within the classrooms says, “it’s not about who is more or less racist. It’s understanding we are all impacted by a racialized society. We have been conditioned to believe and behave in certain ways. It’s not your fault you grew up in the system, but it is your responsibility to challenge that system and overcome that implicit bias yourself”(Jess). He explains that this work needs to be done and that we’re in the next wave of the civil rights movement. We have a chance to rectify centuries of systemic oppression in education. Most importantly, anyone who believes in this work needs to put in the effort. However, some ask should we be educating students about white privilege? Sometimes teachers feel reluctant to discuss the topic of race, especially if they are teaching in an all or mainly white community. Teachers may fear pushback from administrators and parents who feel they shouldn’t talk about it at all. The term “white privilege” can make students feel uncomfortable and anxious due to the lack of understanding. However, if students are going to engage in conversations about race, privilege needs to be a key point. The goal of addressing white privilege is not to make students feel guilty for who they are or defensive about what they’re not, but the goal should be to help students understand and analyze issues of power and privilege as they relate to racism (ADL). One way to start the conversation is to talk with students about the ways bias exists in everyday life. Explain that bias can impact people in two ways: by discriminating against some or advantaging others, depending on race or other aspects of identity(ADL).

A popular reaction to white privilege arguments includes claims such as , if you don’t talk about racism it’ll go away, I’ve never experienced it so it must not be true, and the classic response, aren’t there more important things to worry about? Talking about race can make one feel uncomfortable, especially if they themselves are white but yet they’ve never had slaves or used the ‘N’ word. Not talking about it or acknowledging it can make one feel more content. We all have different lives and choose different paths to take so how can your oppression be true if I’ve never experienced it? Just because you don’t believe in white privilege doesn’t mean your a bad person. You could donate to charities, volunteer, and be a law abiding citizen. It doesn’t matter if you don’t believe in the inequity among our country because you’re doing other things that matter, you’re not considered a bad person. We’ve dealt with race since the beginning of civilization and the U.S. has done several things to make sure everyone is considered equal such as abolishing slavery, allowing anyone regardless of race and color to vote, and implied the civil rights act. It’s time to move on to bigger issues that haven’t been solved yet, we’ve already taken care of the race issue in America(Johnson). While one may bring up these claims, and relate to them, they don’t make sense. For example, if you find out your partner has been having scandalous affairs, do you not confront them and hope they just stop being unfaithful? Let me know how that works out for you in the long run. I’ll never understand why people like to cliff dive. I don’t understand the thrill and would never do it myself, but that doesn’t mean if someone told me their experience with cliff diving, that I would say, “ I don’t understand how you would like such a thing, so you’re lying”. This is a common retaliation towards the topic of race.

You may be asking yourself, how can someone use their white privilege to benefit all races? First of all, don’t feel guilt or take on this feeling of needing to defend yourself. It’s counterproductive. When other races use their voices to speak up about their oppressions, we as white people, as hard as it may be, need to zip it and listen. Use your privilege to help get their voices heard. Share their work and give credit to fellow races on social media. If you hear someone being racist, regardless of the race, speak up, and if the opportunity arises to educate a white male or female about race, then do so. Most importantly, you need to be educating yourself. We have more access than ever before that allows oneself to get a reality check and to self educate. It is time to stop being ignorant and ignoring the fact that white privilege does exist, whether you believe it is a good ideology or not. We need to do a better job at teaching the younger generation that yes, terrible, racist things were done in the past, but how can we create a more equal tomorrow? How can we treat everyone fairly and with the same opportunities regardless of race and skin color? We need to acknowledge that there is a form of privilege that oppresses other races financially, academically, politically, and throughout everyday life. When we can walk into a store and see a variety of products targeted to all types of people, see ads with more inclusivity, see more diversity on TV, feel like you did get the job not based on your skin color or race, is when we can stop talking about the oppression other races face. Until then, we have a lot of work to do.

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A White Washed Society: Argumentative Essay on White Privilege. (2022, August 12). Edubirdie. Retrieved February 8, 2023, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-white-washed-society-argumentative-essay-on-white-privilege/
“A White Washed Society: Argumentative Essay on White Privilege.” Edubirdie, 12 Aug. 2022, edubirdie.com/examples/a-white-washed-society-argumentative-essay-on-white-privilege/
A White Washed Society: Argumentative Essay on White Privilege. [online]. Available at: <https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-white-washed-society-argumentative-essay-on-white-privilege/> [Accessed 8 Feb. 2023].
A White Washed Society: Argumentative Essay on White Privilege [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Aug 12 [cited 2023 Feb 8]. Available from: https://edubirdie.com/examples/a-white-washed-society-argumentative-essay-on-white-privilege/
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