What Is ‘White Privilege’?

Let’s start out by defining white privilege and what it is and what it is not. Now, first definition. Privilege is a special right, or advantage or immunity granted, or available only to a particular person or group. Now when we say privilege that just means that it’s something that exists, it’s not something that somebody created or grabbed, right? Think about this, the famous story by David Foster Wallace. He said two fish are in the ocean, swimming along. They meet an elderly fish coming the other way and he says, good morning boys how’s the water? They go along a little piece and they go, what’s water? When you’re in it you don’t recognize that you’re in it. You derive your existence from it, you derive your sustenance from it. So it’s a set of practices and privileges based upon skin color, it’s based upon assumptions– Gotcha.
About who people are. So that’s what privilege it. Yeah alright, and we’re talking here that the privilege is, we said it goes to a group or an individual and we’re talking about the group being white here. And so white privilege we’re talking about inherent advantages possessed by a white person on the basis of their race in a society that’s characterized by racial inequality or injustice. So, the fish you’re talking about here are white folks that are swimming in a society and they don’t realize that this enures to their benefit. But, it’s not that they said I’m gonna position myself in a way that I have this advantage, it just exists all around them. That conversation, Dr. Phil, becomes so difficult for so many people because when they think of privilege they think that they should have socio-economic advantage. So, a lot of white people say I don’t have any kind of white privilege, I’m poor. I had to stand in a food line, my family was on welfare. And so they deny the existence of the privilege because they feel like they’re not reaping the financial benefits that are usually associated with the word privilege. Peg, why do you think white people feel so defensive about this? ‘Cause you heard me say at the top, don’t turn the channel ’cause a lot of people said, ah here we go again. Okay, why do you think people feel defensive about this? I think white people were raised to think of ourselves as good people. We are good people. And there is a moral thorn if you hear that you have had some things in your life that you didn’t deserve, you didn’t earn, but they came to you. So, we’re quite fragile on the subject and white’s are often defensive. The reason, and thank you for having me here as a comic. Part of my job’s just to put white people at ease. So, all of you just relax. (audience laughing) It’s okay to be white, you got nothing to worry about. It’s nice you sat me next to the police officer, that’s comfortable. (audience laughing) But you’re next to a lawyer, too, so I got your back. I’m good. One of the things about white privilege, white people don’t realize they have it because it’s inherent. So, they don’t think about it. It’s not, they never had the encounter. For example, I get pulled over by the cops, I’ve had anything from get out the car and do all of that stuff or simply asked how do I afford this car? I happen to drive a nice car. I don’t think any white person has ever had that happen where a cop pulls you over in a BMW and says how do you afford this car? So they don’t realize it because they’ve never had that encounter and they’re like well that doesn’t really happen. And it does. Well, I’m glad you brought that up ’cause I wanna talk about a few examples so you guys understand what we’re talking about. This is what we mean when I say it doesn’t mean that you’re racist, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong, it just exists. These are some examples of what I mean by white privilege. You have white privilege if you can say I am accurately represented in almost every movie. Okay, that doesn’t mean that you did anything, it just means the fact of the matter is in America, white people are almost always accurately represented in any movie that you watch. Another example, I can go shopping with the comfort of knowing that I will not be followed or harassed. People are not surprised that I am articulate or well-spoken. I can use checks or credit cards and count on my skin color not to work against my credibility. That’s white privilege, that’s what I mean about, that doesn’t mean you’re racist, you didn’t do anything to cause that to happen individually, it’s just part of the fabric of the society.

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