There’s been a lot of talk recently about racism in the United States—and it has only increased with the Oscars coming up. A lot of the talk is about how there’s institutional racism in our country, and how the Oscars are just another example of it. Why are all the nominees, or at least a very large percentage of them, white? It seems as if Hollywood is whitewashing the movie industry.
Let's pretend that, to fight the white privilege that exists in the Oscars, we give a black actor the award for “Best Actor” solely because he is black and not because his performance was better than the white actor's performance. That white actor doesn’t deserve it because he’s white. He already has privilege.
How does that fight racism? How does that make any sense?
Now, before I go on, let me state two things, very clearly. One, before you discredit my article and opinion because of I'm white, don’t. Hear me out. And two, I do think racism still exists in this country. This is not an attempt to sweep it under the rug.
By statement one, I want to address a poisonous mentality that will actually kill any dialogue between us regarding diversity and equality. By statement two, I want to convey that I am on your side, whoever you are. I want to fight for equality just as much as you do.
Now, I want to address the term that this piece centers on: "white privilege." If you are unfamiliar with it, the term suggests people who are white have certain privileges in this country that they don’t even think about, privileges that people of any other race don’t have. For example, because I’m white, I don’t have to worry about a cop profiling me as a criminal—something that cops have been accused of doing to minorities. Another example is that as a white person, I am automatically more likely to get a job than a person of color. Everything I want falls right into my lap simply because I have light skin.
When you accuse me of having white privilege, let me explain what you are actually doing. You are ceasing meaningful conversation. You are discrediting my opinion because of my race, which is one of the purest forms of racism out there. By being white, I'm apparently incapable of understanding the discussion, which ultimately makes my opinions and perspectives irrelevant. Does this sound like discussion and dialogue about equality of races? That is not equality, that is inequality.
Think of it this way. In any court case hearing, the judge is supposed to hear both sides of the issue, determine who is in the right, propose the correct legal response, so on and so forth. They are meant to find a solution by letting both sides weigh in as equals. But what happens if the plaintiff tapes the defendant’s mouth shut and won’t let them speak? How can a reasonable, accurate or correct conclusion be met? This is what the idea of white privilege is doing to the fight against racism. When you label someone with white privilege, you are forcing them to shut up and have no say in the claims that you lay against them. Mainly, in this case, claims regarding institutional racism.
Like I said before, I want to fight alongside all kinds of people, "privileged" or not, who strive for equality for everyone. I want to get rid of the racism that exists in our country. But I cannot help if you label me with white privilege and discount anything I have to say.
Some have told me that I need to acknowledge my white privilege. This is a way to show that I care, to show that I see myself as equal. But I don’t know if I can do this. My biggest question is, am I supposed to apologize for being white? Do I need to devalue myself because I was born into a white family from a rural part of California, where pretty much everyone else is white? I don’t think I can admit to my white privilege because I am a human being, just like everyone else. This is not me saying “I don’t see color,” because that is just ridiculous. I acknowledge that I am white, but admitting that I'm privileged just starts the vicious cycle over again.
If we fight together against racism in this country, we fight together against the idea white privilege, not against white people. Is it my fault if the manager or director of a position I’m applying for picks me over an equally qualified (or even more qualified) black person for the position? No. Of course it's racist and wrong. But, is it my fault? No, it's not, just like it isn't a minority's fault if he or she is chosen over me to meet a diversity quota for the same position.
That very mindset, that someone's skin color somehow qualifies them over another, is what is at fault. That’s entirely opposite of what how we need to think in this country. Moreover, perpetuating the idea of white privilege only serves to turn back the clock on all the progress we have made in the fight for equality in America.
Fighting privilege is not the same as fighting racism.