Check Your Privilege

Updated: Sep 16

by Diana Gilday


In light of the George Floyd incident, and the systemic racism embedded in this country, it is now pivotal for white people to check their privilege.


For around two years, thirty-two year old black man Marc Peeples was the subject to dozens of police calls, courtesy of three white women. Peeples turned an overgrown park into a small farm in a practically deserted urban city in Detroit. The three women lived across the street from the park and made countless false allegations about him vandalizing the neighborhood and even said he threatened to burn down houses.

Image of Marc Peeples (Image via The New York Times)


The women figured, since they were white the police would be on their side, and kick him out of the park. The women got to constantly harass the police officers with nonsense calls and create blatant lies about a man who just wanted to give something back to his community. This is white privilege.


Cory Collins, a writer for tolerance.org, defines white privilege as,“a built-in advantage, separate from one’s level of income or effort.”


Peggy McIntosh, founder of the National SEED Project and Senior Research Scientist of the Wellesley Centers for Women, devised a list of many privileges that certain people have, specifically white people.


Among those on her list are, ‘I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed,’ and ‘If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven't been singled out because of my race.’


White privilege is shown through many aspects of society, such as “nude” colored items being closer to a white person's complexion, rather than that of a person of color. However, it affects more than the color of a bra or a band-aid; it also affects the law.


According to a study published by Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences of the United States of America, approximately one in every 1,000 black men will be killed by a police officer. The study compared this number to the 39 out of 100,000 white men that will be subjected to death by an officer.

(Image via The Guardian)


White privilege needs to be recognized because when it's not, it feeds into white racism. Thomas F. DeFrantz’s, a professor of African American Studies at Duke University, says, “Racists see difference as a means to ranking, and privilege encourages racist behavior.”


Just by being born with less melanin, you are already ranked higher in American society, which makes you able to contribute to a system of oppression. Acknowledging one's innate privilege is extremely critical in breaking down a system that allows racism to prevail.


DeFrantz says that white people should use their voice to resit the society they were born into and promote those who society inherently ignores.


“Show up, witness, listen, and participate according to what might be asked of you,” says DeFrantz. “Understanding how systems of oppression operate needs to lead to resistance against their continuation.”

(Image via ABC News)


It is important to use your louder voice properly, to not overdo it and to not speak over minorities who have something to say. There is a delicate balance between using privilege to help those who are oppressed, and oppressing their voices further. People need to use their privilege to the advantages of others, in order to break the system of putting those with lighter skin on a pedestal.


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