White Privilege is a systematic advance of white individuals in society, with work and social as well as cultural situations. White Privilege is an issue that isn’t talked about because it isn’t felt by the minority in society who happen to be the most powerful and richest population in society. White privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, the white privilege should be viewed as a built-in advantage, separate from one's level of income or effort (Collins, 2018). I will be looking at white privilege but as well as in the context of school life and how I myself see the social injustice of White Privilege.
Define the Topic
What is White Privilege? White Privilege is an advantage or a head start of opportunities and situations which people of colour do not have. Francis E. Kendall, author of Diversity in the Classroom and Understanding White Privilege: Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Race, makes a solid definition for this term White Privilege, 'having greater access to power and resources that people of colour [in the same situation] do.' (Kendall, 2012) White privilege is considered a social injustice it promotes unfairness amongst society as it discriminates against non-whites and gives a power of sorts to white individuals in society. In the words of Cory Collins, White privilege is most notably a concept that has fallen victim to its own connotations. The two-word term packs a double whammy that inspires pushback. The word white creates discomfort among those who are not used to being defined or described by their race. And the word privilege, especially for poor and rural white people, sounds like a word that doesn’t belong to them—like a word that suggests they have never struggled. (Collins, 2018)
How are people affected?
White Privilege affects people in their school environments as well as social environments. In schools it affects people because it is hidden, white privilege in schools is almost unspoken of and people choose to dismiss the issue even though it elevates one group in the school above others. In many cases where both white and non-white individuals do the same amount of hard work or use the same set of skills, we see the creation of more opportunities for white individuals giving them access to more connections and evidently being given a head start making the playing fields uneven.
We see the effects of white privilege with the discrimination of hair amongst schools. We see the school code of conduct being bias and not diverse, a clear example of this would be Pretoria High School for Girls where black girls “protested a clause in the school's code of conduct that banned wide cornrows, braids and dreadlocks.” (Greenblatt, 2016). The minister of arts and culture, Nathi Mthethwa said that 'Schools should not be used as a platform to discourage students from embracing their African identity,' if the roles are reversed, we see that white students do not experience the same tedious process of having to fight for the discrimination of their hair.
We also see the effects of white privilege in social settings, with educational and job opportunities being largely more open to white children than non-white children, nearly 25 years after democracy.
We see white privilege with the justice system where we see mostly black people being imprisoned in larger numbers by the justice system and we see only a handful of white individuals being done the same as their black counterparts and that is because of the privilege they carry with the colour of their skin. In 2017 a study showed that 8.76% of black American citizens who were unarmed were killed by police and only 5.69% were white (Beer, 2018)
Another example of white privilege and its effect socially is in the social media and media industry, where we see mostly white models and actresses on our television screens, magazines, billboards and runways and we fewer people of colour. Statistics show that in 2016, white actors made up 77.5% and black actors only made up 14.9%. (Bureau, 2016).
What is being done to solve the problem?
There is currently very little being done about white privilege in society and that is because many people are oblivious to the issue. There are no organisations that have openly spoken about the issue of white privilege, however, there are individuals such as Ryan Coogler who is the director of the famous all-black cast of Black Panther which was released after many years of white representation and nominees in Hollywood. Black Panther celebrates the indigenous African roots which some people neglect or are not highlighted in mainstream Hollywood films. (Lee, 2018)
A campaign was started in 2016 in Hollywood with the hashtag, “#OscarsSoWhite” which was a way to promote racial diversity within Hollywood and to have more African American representation. The research was conducted showing that African Americans represented 13.6% of characters in major film projects whereas 70.8% were white characters. (The University of Southern California, 2018)
What could you possibly do to help the situation?
As a student I sometimes feel I do not have the same power as celebrities or public figures or even people who are older than me to make my voice heard about situations that concern me, however, that is incorrect because just like celebrities I have my own influence. Indeed, exploring the notion of white privilege, supported by insights from a compelling white privilege essay example and various sources, has significantly molded my perspective. I would take the following actions:
- I would make people aware of White privilege because I feel not enough people understand the concept of this social injustice, thus meaning people who feel the effects of white privilege to speak up and highlight the issues they are experiencing.
- I would make white and non-white individuals recognise privilege because some people choose to turn a blind eye on this situation and others do not even recognise that it exists either because they are the privileged ones, or they have made it normality in their lives.
- I would encourage white individuals to educate themselves on the battles which their non-white counterparts experience on a daily basis, to take a step back and understand why the natural hair of a black woman is important to her and what it represents for her, to try to understand that White privilege will never stop if those who are privileged do not recognise that there is something unfair about the system.
My thoughts on the topic of White privilege are that I experience it almost daily in my life and I believe it is an issue that needs to be discussed and needs to be brought to light. I feel as if not many people are educated enough about white privilege and even if they are society has turned a blind eye to it. I chose this social injustice because:
- I relate to it and I understand it more because I have experienced it,
- I feel as if it isn’t spoken about enough in our society by both black and white and I feel as if I must educate people from my view of white privilege.
- I have been personally affected by white privilege with the discrimination of my hair - I have always been told that my hair is untidy, needs to be tamed or that my hair is too brown, and I should dye it black even though my natural hair colour is brown.
- Even though I am told to tame my naturally brown hair my white counterparts are let off the hook with their brunette hair and blonde highlights or their long hair in their faces.
I am affected by white privilege because being a black girl I must work ten times harder than my white counterparts for the same job or position at a school, in society I must work ten times harder to prove that I as a black girl can do the same as my white counterparts. I may be a privileged black girl at a private school but there will always be a white girl from the same private school who is automatically more privileged than me all because of the pigmentation of her skin.
In conclusion, it is evident that White Privilege is an unspoken social injustice which despite it being unspoken still gives advantages and a head starts to white individuals which aren't given to non-white individuals in the same society and environments. However white privilege can be abolished if it is spoken about if it is recognised in the world and non-white individuals educate their fellow white peers about their culture and make them see that white privilege does exist and it will exist for a long time if it isn't tamed. If people are not aware of their effect on others, the pain and humiliation they cause, the deep scars of our past and their unconscious biases, they are likely to continue to act in the same ways.
Schools, organisations and institutions will suffer irreparable reputation harm because of actions caused by White Privilege, the following examples come to mind:
- Pretoria Girls’ High School students were discouraged from having hairstyles such as Afros, dreadlocks and braids. They also claim they are banned from speaking their mother tongue among other things as the code of conduct does not allow it. (Pather, 2016)
- Northcliff High used concession cards or permission slips to allow Muslim students to wear a religious headscarf with their school uniform. (The Daily Vox, 2017)
- Durban Girls’ High School was taken to court for refusing a Hindu student from having a small gold stud in her nose, which is regarded as part of a Hindu coming-of-age tradition. (TMG Editor, 2014)
- Sans Souci Girls' High came under fire for alleged discriminatory policies regarding, amongst others, hairstyles and the use of indigenous languages at the English single-medium public school. (Petersen, 2019)
In these and many other instances, the teachers, governing body and many students in these schools did not see anything wrong, but the pupils who suffered under these conditions raised the alarm. They could not see any of these injustices because of the White Privilege lens through which they view things. I hope that the discussion of this topic will open societies eyes to its future, where all will feel that their culture, language, traditions, religion and identity is not only protected and recognized but truly celebrated.
- Beer, T., 2018. The Society Pages. [Online] Available at: https://thesocietypages.org/toolbox/police-killing-of-blacks/ [Accessed 13 February 2019].
- Bureau, C., 2016. Data USA. [Online] Available at: https://datausa.io/profile/soc/272011/ [Accessed 13 February 2019].
- Collins, C., 2018. Teaching Tolerance. [Online] Available at: And white privilege is not the assumption that everything a white person has accomplished is unearned; most white people who have reached a high level of success worked extremely hard to get there. Instead, white privilege should be viewed as a built-in a [Accessed 14 February 2019].
- Greenblatt, A., 2016. NPR. [Online] Available at: protested a clause in the school's code of conduct that banned wide cornrows, braids and dreadlocks. [Accessed 12 February 2019].
- Kendall, F. E., 2012. Diversity in the Classroom and Understanding White Privilege. In: Routledge, ed. Creating Pathways to Authentic Relationships Across Race. s.l.:s.n.
- Lee, N. T., 2018. Bookings. [Online] Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/02/26/black-panther-lessons-in-hollywood-diversity-and-black-pride/ [Accessed 14 February 2019].
- Pather, R., 2016. Mail & Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2016-08-29-pretoria-girls-high-school-pupil-i-was-instructed-to-fix-myself-as-if-i-was-broken [Accessed 13 Febraury 2019].
- Petersen, T., 2019. News24. [Online] Available at: https://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/sans-souci-saga-school-dept-picking-teachers-side-slapped-pupils-lawyers-charge-20190222 [Accessed 23 February 2019].
- The Daily Vox, 2017. Mail & Guardian. [Online] Available at: https://mg.co.za/article/2017-06-05-northcliff-high-concession-cards-likened-to-apartheid-dompas [Accessed 15 February 2019].
- The University of Southern California, 2018. Bookings. [Online] Available at: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/up-front/2018/02/26/black-panther-lessons-in-hollywood-diversity-and-black-pride/ [Accessed 14 February 2019].
- TMG Editor, 2014. Herald LIVE. [Online] Available at: https://www.heraldlive.co.za/news/2014-08-15-durban-girl-won-nose-stud-battle/ [Accessed 15 February 2019].