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White Privilege: Barrier to Productive Dialogue

White privilege is a complicated topic - primarily because it is mostly invisible to the people that have it, yet so undeniably obvious for those without it.

That is why discussing the topic of privilege with White people is often met with defensiveness and denial, also called White fragility. The lack of perspective on one’s privilege is a barrier to a productive dialogue around race - a dialogue that would take us to a completely new level of inclusion.

White privilege isn’t about denying the hardships or struggles you have had or have now. It is not about dismissing your bad luck, your trauma, or disasters. Rather, it is the notion that race had very little to do with these.

White privilege is defined as having unearned assets due to one’s race or ethnicities, such as better access to healthcare, easier time finding a job, or lack of systemic racist bias in processes like getting a loan, finding an insurance or renting an apartment.

White privilege has driven White people to think of their lives, culture, and habits as neutral or normal, creating an unequal comparison as a premise to racial relations. It drives people to consider anything else as the Other, as different, and thereby less valuable.

White privilege is visible also in the most mundane ways: a White person can see people looking like them in magazines, advertisements, and leadership positions in their organizations. They can buy band-aids that match the color of their skin and learn about their history in schools.

Be open to conversations

White fragility means that when confronted with their (covert) racist behavior, White individuals get defensive or uncomfortable. It is those “How dare you to call me a racist,” “I can’t be racist, I have Black friends,” and “you are overreacting” reactions and comments.

Besides this, White fragility shows as the unwillingness to discuss White privilege or racial relations and systemic racism in general or change the topic when these are brought up. No matter the reaction, we can not address the systemic and structural forms of racism, nor the subtle everyday racism of biases and microaggressions before White fragility is overcome.

To get comfortable with the idea of White privilege, a White person should understand that it is not a personal attack, but an invitation to explore racial inequalities - you didn’t choose to be the oppressor any more than people of color chose to be oppressed. Yet systemic racism forces each of us to play a part in it. To explore your privilege, you can start with questions like:

  • How does White privilege affect my daily habits, such as my commute, relations at the workplace, how your opinions are taken, etc.?

  • How has White privilege affected my opportunities to overcome challenges and barriers?

  • How have these experiences reduced my capability to understand covert racism and the experiences of people of color?

Yvener Duroseau is author of the new book, Alike Regardless. He is a diversity and inclusion motivational speaker and consultant, digital marketing entrepreneur and creative writer. Yvener now contributes a monthly article to Not Fake News, which we are please to present.

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