Guest Post: Identifying White Privilege

white privilege picJosianne was born and raised in NYC. Her first encounter with overt racism was when she was 16 and encounters have only gotten harsher in the more than a decade that has passed since then. After discovering Sociology in college she committed herself to educating people about the realities of racism and subtle prejudices that exist in 21st century.

Can you say “yes” to ANY of the following?:

Have you ever said:

  • “I don’t see race?”
  • “I don’t pay attention to politics.”
  • “I don’t like to deal with/post about/etc controversial topics”
  • “Affirmative Action is reverse discrimination.”
  • “I know what you feel because on my mission/when I was in another country/the time I went to the ghetto/etc …”
  • “Racial profiling does not exist”
  • “Why don’t people pull themselves up by their bootstraps?/!”
  • “… illegal alien …”
  • “That’s not about race, it’s about …”
  • “Why do you/they always have to make everything about race?”

Have you ever:

  • Used a racial slur with your friends that you would never use in the presence of someone from that racial group?
  • Changed your outfit because you felt/knew wearing a certain thing would jeopardize your safety? (If you said “no” to this question it counts as a “yes” for the final count)
  • Thought someone was beneath you/suspicious/dangerous/stupid/classless/ghetto because they had more melanin than you?
  • Stayed quiet when something you knew to be untrue was being taught?
  • Heard about/seen someone be followed around a store and thought “they probably stole something”?
  • Heard about/seen someone get followed around a store and think/know that would never happen to you?
  • Been told an apartment/job position/promotion position/etc was filled just minutes after you inquired about it on the phone and was told it was available but seconds after the decision maker met you face-to-face? (If you said “no” to this question it counts as a “yes” for the final count)

Are you white?

If you said “yes” to more than half of these things, you are in great need of racial education. Should you decide that is something you want, leave a comment below reaching out to the author of the piece and she will respond. If you decide there is nothing wrong with having so many “yes” answers, know you are officially part of the problem.

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10 Responses

  1. Libby says:

    Thank you, Josianne. This is important.

  2. Rachel says:

    I am a white woman living in Bedford-Stuyvesant, and welcome your suggestions for being better informed, racially.

  3. TopHat says:

    I think white privilege is important to be aware of. Last summer I had a chance to watch Mirrors of Privilege and found it very important for bringing up topics for discussion.

  4. Caroline says:

    These are great questions to ask ourselves. As I’ve studied feminism more and more, it’s been fascinating (and disappointing) to see the ways many white feminists of the past pushed feminists of color aside and didn’t take seriously the intersection of racial, class, and gender oppression. I am grateful for women of color who called white feminists out on this and have worked to move the movement forward in a far more inclusive way.

  5. April says:

    Identifying privilege is so important. I am curious to know more about the racial education you offer. In my line of work, I am frequently called upon to organize cultural competence and diversity awareness training–and yet, I question the effectiveness of the kinds of trainings I have been involved in. It seems that people who are naturally more inclined to self-awareness of their own privilege and more inclined to sensitivity are more likely to attend and enjoy the training, while those who are more likely to contribute to the problem only attend if the training is mandatory, and tend to get defensive during the training.

  6. annegb says:

    I always notice….I’m a noticer. I notice if you look pregnant or have an accent or are black or anything else about you. I’m the kind of person who blurts out stuff about fat people in fat peoples’ presence because I’m trying so hard not to say anything. Totally suck that way.

  7. Melody says:


    I can’t recall saying any of these phrases. But I can answer yes to a couple of the questions (in my past.) Which is sad, but awareness is the first step, right? I’m light brown/pink (I won’t use black and white any more if I can help it, thanks to brother Marvin Perkins and Genesis.) I was raised in a community of very pleasant, well-behaved, upper-middle-class racists. So, there’s also that.

    I’m becoming less a part of the problem. Mostly because of Jesus. My children are pretty much free of racist crap and I’m grateful for that. Thanks for taking time to compose this post and share it here. I love the graphic you chose.

  8. spunky says:

    This post confuses me. I grew up in a racially diverse area, and went to an inner city school. My childhood best friend (and still a dear friend) is of African heritage. My nieces and nephews reflect racially diverse parentage (my own children are adopted). So whilst I love and am open to new ideas about inclusion, this list of questions seems more aimed at vilifying, rather than enlightening the reader. I think your intent is to be “in your face” about the widespread evil that is racism, but the post seems just as quick to place labels as the disease itself.

    Words aside, I am interested. But I hope the conversation that results is more productive than just labeling individuals as needing “racial education” or being a “part of the problem.”

  9. C. Rider says:

    I think it does vilify the reader based on their race, categorizing people as “part of the problem” based on a personal paradigm.
    I’ve never understood the no-win scenario of representing people who say ” they don’t see race” as having a problem attitude while also saying we should strive to never judge based on race!
    Also terminology based on race like “white privilege” is in and of itself racially divisive.

  10. michele brown says:

    Hey. Where can I get a copy of that afro image? i love it!!!!

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