Updated: Aug 4, 2021
White privilege at the workplace is based on the notion that a White person gets opportunities, treatment, and representation that others in the same position with the same qualifications are not getting. It emphasizes that racism is a structural and systemic issue rather than direct behavior or aggression.
Besides having more or easier access to career opportunities, White privilege at the workplace also means the lack of racialized microaggressions and discrimination.
For example, not needing to talk for, or represent, your race, ethnicity, or nationality, having people who look like you as leaders and managers, and having your professional capabilities recognized and prioritized, rather than one’s race, ethnicity, or nationality.
The research on White privilege also speaks for itself; White names get 50 percent more callbacks than Black names – when having otherwise similar resumes and qualifications (Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2004). The chance for callbacks double when engaging in ‘whitening,’ meaning changing your name or the name of your school to represent a white one (Kang et al., 2016). White people also make 74 percent of management roles, while only making 6 percent of the total workforce.
White privilege is based on conscious and unconscious biases that are attached to stereotypes of people of color. This is visible in the numbers above – one’s name hardly has a lot to do with one’s qualifications, yet the recruiters choose White-sounding names over Black sounding ones.
If you want to be sure to eliminate this kind of bias from your processes, try anonymous recruiting! It means that our unconscious perceptions affect our judgment process and how we treat a person. This also applies to claims of ‘color blindness’ – it removes any variance inexperience and the fact that people of color are underprivileged in society. By acknowledging racial inequalities and being mindful of our own biases, we can promote a more inclusive and anti-racist workplace.
White privilege is not just discrimination in different kinds of situations, including decisions. It can also be the feeling of inclusion if White culture and way of doing work are seen as the only workplace. This is why it is important to critically reflect on the cultural rules and norms at the office – whose culture is represented? Are different ways of working, or even dressing for work, supported or encouraged over others?
The topic can feel uncomfortable, but it is an extremely important discussion to have regularly and publicly. Make room for different feelings and perspectives; many people are unaware of the gravity and extent to which White privilege affects the working life of people of color – and, on the other hand, of White people.
White privilege as a subject, of course, extends way beyond the working life since it is rooted in the very structures of society. If you want to learn more about White privilege through real-life examples, I recommend checking out resources like ‘The Invisible Knapsack’ by Peggy McIntosh.
Yvener Duroseau is the author of Alike Regardless, which challenges humankind’s internalized division. It issues a call to arms to readers to recognize humanity’s beauty and uniqueness and take off the blinders of bigotry and hate. It will be published Aug. 26.