THINKING ABOUT RACE (June 2008): Tim Wise, anti-racist activist and writer (author of White Like Me), wrote an essay on “Explaining White Privilege” on September 18, 2008, published on the website Afro-Netizen.com. He writes: “Though we are used to thinking of privilege as a mere monetary issue, it is more than that. Yes, there are rich black and brown folks, but even they are subject to racial profiling and stereotyping…, as well as bias in mortgage lending, and unequal treatment in schools….”
A bit later on, he makes this analogy: “Taking things out of the racial context for a minute: imagine persons who are able bodied, as opposed to those with disabilities. If I were to say that able-bodied persons have certain advantages, certain privileges, if you will, which disabled persons do not, who would argue the point? … To be disabled is to face numerous obstacles. And although many persons with disabilities overcome those obstacles, this fact doesn’t take away from the fact that they exist. Likewise, that persons with disabilities can and do overcome obstacles every day, doesn’t deny that those of us who are able-bodied have an edge. We have one less thing to think and worry about as we enter a building, go to a workplace, or just try and navigate the contours of daily life. The fact that there are lots of able-bodied people who are poor, and some disabled folks who are rich, doesn’t alter the general rule: on balance, it pays to be able-bodied.
“That’s all I’m saying about white privilege: on balance, it pays to be a member of the dominant racial group. It doesn’t mean that a white person will get everything they want in life, or win every competition, but it does mean that there are general advantages that we receive. …. The fact is, we are far from an equitable nation. People of color continue to face obstacles based solely on color, and whites continue benefit from the same. None of this makes whites bad people, and none of it means we should feel guilty or beat ourselves up. But it does mean we need to figure out how we’re going to be accountable for our unearned advantages.”
For a copy of the full essay, go to www.afro-netizen.com/2008/09/explaining-whit.html.