A Breakdown Of White Privilege

A Breakdown Of White Privilege

In response to 'Why White Privilege Is As Racist As It Sounds' by Anika Sundheimer.

I don’t even know where to start. I guess I should start off by saying that I hope the author of this article reads this and finds this as an opportunity to learn versus perceiving this as a personal attack—or even an attack on White people as a whole.

There are so many things fundamentally incorrect, starting with the title, "Why White Privilege Is As Racist As It Sounds," but I’ll get into this later. Not only does the author not understand what the term "white privilege" means, but the author clearly demonstrates a lack of understanding in regards to critical race theory and even basic United States history.

In this response, I will give a breakdown as to why this entire article is invalid. Throughout this article, you will find links to credible sources, so everyone can see that this information is legitimate and accurate. And to those who do not see it as legitimate, know that you’ve chosen to not see it as that.

In the first paragraph, the author claims that "the term 'white privilege' was coined: out of nothing." Contrary to what the author might believe, the term “white privilege” did not come from “nothing.” The origins of the concept of White privilege go all the way back to 1935. During the 1930s in the United States, there continued to be a large presence of racism, discrimination and segregation despite the abolition of slavery in 1865.

For example, this cover for the New Yorker from March 19, 1938, overexaggerates the features of the African American male who appears to be drunk while being scolded by a White officer, obviously in a position of power. By Beverly Daniel Tatum’s definition, this image is considered cultural racism, which is the idea that “the cultural images and messages that affirm the assumed superiority of Whites and the assumed inferiority of people of color.”

In W.E.B. Du Bois’ "Black Reconstruction In America," written in 1935, Du Bois (an American sociologist and social reformer) wrote about a “psychological wage” White laborers were compensated for, but not the Black laborers simply because they were Black.

“It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools. The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule.”

After Du Bois wrote of the “psychological wage” that benefits White people in the United States, in 1965, during the Civil Rights Movement, Theodore W. Allen began his analysis of “White skin privilege.” But the concept of "White privilege" became popular in the 1980s by Peggy McIntosh in "White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See Correspondences Through Work in Women’s Studies." In this paper, McIntosh names 46 examples of White privilege. For example,

“2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
15. I did not have to educate our children to be aware of systemic racism for their own daily physical protection.”

So, in fact, the term "white privilege" wasn't simply “coined out of nothing.” It's a result of the racist structure that the United States was founded on. For nearly 400 years, since Christopher Columbus arrived in Cuba in 1492 until the abolition of slavery and even after, the United States benefitted from basically free or extremely cheap labor on the backs and bones of people of color. I should also mention that these centuries of oppression have resulted in institutionalized racism and structural oppression that hinder people of color.

In the third paragraph, the author says, “Well here's a not-so-shocking revelation: Hardships and struggles do not care what color we are.” What's being misunderstood here is that when someone says “White privilege,” people tend to hear, “white people can’t or don’t struggle because they are White.” However, when someone uses the term “White privilege,” they are referring to the ways in which institutionalized racism and structural oppression protect White supremacy, and therefore White people.

Throughout the author’s whole article, there is a clear absence of how social constructs like sexism, ableism, heteronormativity, and in this particular case, how racism has affected and become apart of our social, political and economic institutions. To be able to see this, it's important to look at racial and ethnic disparities in education, poverty and political representation.

The United States Census Bureau reported on the poverty rates by race and Hispanic or Latino origin from 2007 to 2011.

The percentage of White people below the poverty line was 11.3 percent in comparison to the percentage of Native Americans (27.0 percent), African Americans (25.8 percent), Latinxs/Hispanics (23.3 percent), and Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (17.6 percent). Aside from Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders, people of color are twice or more likely to be under the poverty line.

In May 2015, the National Center for Education Statistics updated the percentage of students enrolled in public elementary and secondary schools, by race/ethnicity in Fall 2002, fall 2012, and a projected fall 2024.

Despite the expected decrease in the percentage of White students, there are still nearly twice as many White students in public elementary and secondary schools. And for those students of color that are in the educational system, they are disproportionately reprimanded in comparison to White students. Check out Policing Chicago Public Schools and their data on how the Chicago Public School system supports the school-to-prison pipeline.

In January 2015, The Washington Post wrote an article on the 114th Congress and its lack of diversity.

This graph demonstrates clearly how large the disparity is between race and ethnicities in political representation. And this disparity persists even amongst news and media representation. Just this past year, the Oscars were criticized for their lack of diversity with the hashtag #OscarsSoWhite. It's also important to be aware of how people of color are being represented when it comes to news and the media. What message are people receiving from these images? What are they trying to say about people of color? These questions are important to keep in mind when talking about White privilege in regards to representation.

Because racism is institutionalized, the graphs I’ve presented show how people of color are disproportionately affected by poverty, lack of education and representation. Granted, there are other social constructs like sexism and classism that also factor in. To put it frankly, White people got a 400-year head start on economic, political and educational development, but this isn't to say that White people can never be below the poverty line ever, or that White people can never be uneducated. But, again, because of the social structures in our institutions, people of color are not presented the same opportunities as White people. That is a fact.

In the fourth paragraph, the author attempts to use the definition of racism in order to explain that White privilege is a form of racism, because all White people have been given an “attribute” and, had an entire “minority” been assigned an “attribute,” it would be “racist.” The definition that the author used of racism was:

(Noun) - the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races.

Firstly, the “attribute” that the author is referring to is privilege. Privilege cannot be given; it is a state of being. I have already explained the hierarchies that benefit all White people regardless of socioeconomic status, like institutionalized racism, etc. But the author has missed out on the key part of this definition: "inferior or superior to another race or races." There is an obvious power structure that goes along with racism. For example, all throughout history, White people, but specifically White men, have had an assumed superiority over people of color. The power structure of racism, also known as White supremacy, is what allows White privilege to exist.

In the authors’ fifth, sixth, and seventh paragraphs, they attempt to suggest that reverse racism is real by stating,

“But what about not having to be afraid of police officers? Maybe I just didn't break the law or, on the other hand, I get pulled over by a police officer whose racism is geared toward white people. Yes, they do exist.”

Reverse racism is impossible because of the power structure that I previously mentioned. Again, it’s shown all throughout our history and even in the present-day how this power structure persists. I recommend watching this two-minute video on why "Reverse Racism" Is A Giant Lie.

One part that particularly stuck out to me was when the author stated.

“At the same time, however, there are some "privileges" that are said to be exclusively for whites that aren't true. Just because I can get into school or I can get a job, doesn't mean that I'm having it all handed to me or that it's even a guarantee. I'm also not stopping anyone else from working hard and getting to the exact place I can get to.”

This is a common argument that people have when discussing White privilege. What people need to realize is that when you tell a person of color that they need to “work harder” and that they get everything “handed to them,” what you're really saying is that people of color are "lazy” and “moochers,” all while completely disregarding the institutionalized racism and structural oppression that has and continues to benefit and protect White people the second they are out of the womb. Like I said before, White people got a 400-year head start on fundamental opportunities for development.

Basically, the author lacked an immense amount of information that plays a critical role in what White privilege is, and I hope they can read this and self-reflect, and maybe one day, agree. People, at a certain point, have a responsibility to educate themselves. There are so many mediums that give us the opportunity to learn about things that we previously had never been taught through formal education. Push yourself and take these opportunities.

One thing I can commend the author for? They tried.

Recommended: Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person

MTV Documentary White People

Cover Image Credit: MTV

Popular Right Now

Your Wait time At Theme Parks Is Not Unfair, You're Just Impatient

Your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself.


Toy Story Land at Disney's Hollywood Studios "unboxed" on June 30, 2018. My friend and I decided to brave the crowds on opening day. We got to the park around 7 AM only to find out that the park opened around 6 AM. Upon some more scrolling through multiple Disney Annual Passholder Facebook groups, we discovered that people were waiting outside the park as early as 1 AM.

We knew we'd be waiting in line for the bulk of the Toy Story Land unboxing day. There were four main lines in the new land: the line to enter the land; the line for Slinky Dog Dash, the new roller coaster; the line for Alien Spinning Saucers, the easier of the new rides in the land; Toy Story Mania, the (now old news) arcade-type ride; and the new quick-service restaurant, Woody's Lunchbox (complete with grilled cheese and "grown-up drinks").

Because we were so early, we did not have to wait in line to get into the land. We decided to ride Alien Spinning Saucers first. The posted wait time was 150 minutes, but my friend timed the line and we only waited for 50 minutes. Next, we tried to find the line for Slinky Dog Dash. After receiving conflicting answers, the runaround, and even an, "I don't know, good luck," from multiple Cast Members, we exited the land to find the beginning of the Slinky line. We were then told that there was only one line to enter the park that eventually broke off into the Slinky line. We were not about to wait to get back into the area we just left, so we got a Fastpass for Toy Story Mania that we didn't plan on using in order to be let into the land sooner. We still had to wait for our time, so we decided to get the exclusive Little Green Man alien popcorn bin—this took an entire hour. We then used our Fastpass to enter the land, found the Slinky line, and proceeded to wait for two and a half hours only for the ride to shut down due to rain. But we've come this far and rain was not about to stop us. We waited an hour, still in line and under a covered area, for the rain to stop. Then, we waited another hour and a half to get on the ride from there once it reopened (mainly because they prioritized people who missed their Fastpass time due to the rain). After that, we used the mobile order feature on the My Disney Experience app to skip part of the line at Woody's Lunchbox.

Did you know that there is actually a psychological science to waiting? In the hospitality industry, this science is the difference between "perceived wait" and "actual wait." A perceived wait is how long you feel like you are waiting, while the actual wait is, of course, the real and factual time you wait. There are eight things that affect the perceived wait time: unoccupied time feels longer than occupied time, pre-process waits feel longer than in-process waits, anxiety makes waits feel longer, uncertain waits are longer than certain waits, unexplained waits are longer than explained waits, unfair waits are longer than equitable waits, people will wait longer for more valuable service and solo waiting feels longer than group waiting.

Our perceived wait time for Alien Spinning Saucers was short because we expected it to be longer. Our wait for the popcorn seemed longer because it was unoccupied and unexplained. Our wait for the rain to stop so the ride could reopen seemed shorter because it was explained. Our wait between the ride reopening and getting on the coaster seemed longer because it felt unfair for Disney to let so many Fastpass holders through while more people waited through the rain. Our entire wait for Slinky Dog Dash seemed longer because we were not told the wait time in the beginning. Our wait for our food after placing a mobile order seemed shorter because it was an in-process wait. We also didn't mind wait long wait times for any of these experiences because they were new and we placed more value on them than other rides or restaurants at Disney. The people who arrived at 1 AM just added five hours to their perceived wait

Some non-theme park examples of this science of waiting in the hospitality industry would be waiting at a restaurant, movie theater, hotel, performance or even grocery store. When I went to see "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom," the power went out in the theater right as we arrived. Not only did we have to wait for it to come back and for them to reset the projectors, I had to wait in a bit of anxiety because the power outage spooked me. It was only a 30-minute wait but felt so much longer. At the quick-service restaurant where I work, we track the time from when the guest places their order to the time they receive their food. Guests in the drive-thru will complain about 10 or more minute waits, when our screens tell us they have only been waiting four or five minutes. Their actual wait was the four or five minutes that we track because this is when they first request our service, but their perceived wait begins the moment they pull into the parking lot and join the line because this is when they begin interacting with our business. While in line, they are experiencing pre-process wait times; after placing the order, they experience in-process wait times.

Establishments in the hospitality industry do what they can to cut down on guests' wait times. For example, theme parks offer services like Disney's Fastpass or Universal's Express pass in order to cut down the time waiting in lines so guests have more time to buy food and merchandise. Stores like Target or Wal-Mart offer self-checkout to give guests that in-process wait time. Movie theaters allow you to check in and get tickets on a mobile app and some quick-service restaurants let you place mobile or online orders. So why do people still get so bent out of shape about being forced to wait?

On Toy Story Land unboxing day, I witnessed a woman make a small scene about being forced to wait to exit the new land. Cast Members were regulating the flow of traffic in and out of the land due to the large crowd and the line that was in place to enter the land. Those exiting the land needed to wait while those entering moved forward from the line. Looking from the outside of the situation as I was, this all makes sense. However, the woman I saw may have felt that her wait was unfair or unexplained. She switched between her hands on her hips and her arms crossed, communicated with her body language that she was not happy. Her face was in a nasty scowl at those entering the land and the Cast Members in the area. She kept shaking her head at those in her group and when allowed to proceed out of the land, I could tell she was making snide comments about the wait.

At work, we sometimes run a double drive-thru in which team members with iPads will take orders outside and a sequencer will direct cars so that they stay in the correct order moving toward the window. In my experience as the sequencer, I will inform the drivers which car to follow, they will acknowledge me and then still proceed to dart in front of other cars just so they make it to the window maybe a whole minute sooner. Not only is this rude, but it puts this car and the cars around them at risk of receiving the wrong food because they are now out of order. We catch these instances more often than not, but it still adds stress and makes the other guests upset. Perhaps these guests feel like their wait is also unfair or unexplained, but if they look at the situation from the outside or from the restaurant's perspective, they would understand why they need to follow the blue Toyota.

The truth of the matter is that your perceived wait time is always going to be longer than your actual wait time if you can't take a minute to focus on something other than yourself. We all want instant gratification, I get it. But in reality, we have to wait for some things. It takes time to prepare a meal. It takes time to experience a ride at a theme park that everyone else wants to go on. It takes time to ring up groceries. It takes patience to live in this world.

So next time you find yourself waiting, take a minute to remember the difference between perceived and actual wait times. Think about the eight aspects of waiting that affect your perceived wait. Do what you can to realize why you are waiting or keep yourself occupied in this wait. Don't be impatient. That's no way to live your life.

Cover Image Credit:

Aranxa Esteve

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

How The Democratic Party basically Handed Donald Trump The Presidency

The rise of Donald Trump was propelled in part by the far left's efforts to undermine him.


Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 Presidential Election was a shock to many across the country, myself included. It seemed impossible that someone so unapologetically crass, rude, and idiotic could even hope to achieve the position of the most powerful person in the world (have I mentioned that he literally admitted to sexually assaulting women?). I mean sure, it certainly didn't help that Hillary Clinton was probably the worst candidate that the Democratic Party could have run against him... actually she was definitely the worst, but she still should have won. As she tries to explain in her new book, what happened?

In order for a bigoted, fear-mongering, and an arguably uneducated man like Donald Trump to become president, there needs to be a perfect storm. We've already established that Hillary was a bad candidate on the Democratic side, but none of the other Republican candidates were very good either. Their best guy other than Trump was Ted Cruz, a man who can be described as unsettling on his best days. There was also a large number of people that resonated with Trump. Granted, they were mostly uneducated, blue-collar, religious, second amendment nuts, but Trump's "forgotten man" schtick stuck with them, as these were people who felt like they were being left behind. I would argue that they were and should have been, but that's beside the point.

However, the one thing that I think influenced Donald Trump's meteoric rise to the presidency the most were the ridiculous ways that some of his opponents would try to undermine his legitimacy as a candidate. As someone who identifies as a Democrat myself (not as my gender, but as my political affiliation), I certainly was not a fan of Donald Trump. I think that his election has brought us one step closer to the dystopian future laid out in the cinematic masterpiece that is Idiocracy, but it's not like my party didn't have opportunities to bring him down a peg. It's also not like we didn't completely fail in doing so.

Every time Donald Trump would say something that could be construed as racist, xenophobic, or sexist, Democrats would pounce on it and use it as proof that he was all of these things. This is a good method, but many Democrats got too overzealous in using it, calling him these things even when what he said was probably not racist, or even not racist at all. The baseless attacks vastly outnumbered the legitimate ones, and Trump supporters used it as a way to rally around their guy and to validate the ideas of "fake news" and their "us against the world" mentality.

The day the Donald Trump won the election, in my opinion at least, was the day that Hillary Clinton called Trump supporters a "basket of deplorables." Are you kidding me?! You're going to take tens of millions of American voters, essentially call them racist, sexist idiots, and flat-out dismiss them? All she did was verify to the Trump supporter all the things that he already believed: that he was being disrespected, left behind, and forgotten about by the democratic party. Regardless, how do you think people are going to vote if you just insult their intelligence and character for months on end? That's not the way to build bridges; it only creates the divisiveness that Trump thrives in.

This is why people think of Democrats as elitist: because Democrats act really elitist. If you always act like you know better than everyone else and sit in your ivory tower expecting everyone to realize how stupid they are, you're not going to win elections. In fact, you'll do so bad in elections that you'll lose to an unqualified, idiotic, racist Cheeto that wears a toupee that looks like it was made from hairs scooped out of the bathroom sink. Anyway, that's why Trump won the election: because Hillary and the Democrats had their heads so far up their asses that they couldn't smell his spray tan coming.

Cover Image Credit:


Related Content

Facebook Comments