Let’s Talk About White Privilege

4 years ago

White privilege. It's a touchy subject. The term is often bantered about among racial equity discussions, but among the people who could be described as having it? Not so much. Recently, there have been quite a few posts from bloggers—white bloggers, to be specific—about this topic. BuzzFeed even published a quiz How Privileged Are You? in which people can test just how they measure up.

Out of curiosity, I took the quiz, wondering what my particular combination of being a college-educated, married, heterosexual, Asian female would score on the privilege scale. To my surprise, and contrary to people who call Asians “honorary whites”, I scored a 47 on a scale of 100. BuzzFeed describes me as "Not Privileged":

"You’re not privileged at all. You grew up with an intersectional, complicated identity, and life never let you forget it. You’ve had your fair share of struggles, and you’ve worked hard to overcome them. We do not live in an ideal world and you had to learn that the hard way. It is not your responsibility to educate those with more advantages than you,"

Race was not the only factor in this particular scale of privilege. Parts of the BuzzFeed quiz that surprised me were how much weight was given to being heterosexual and how much of a toll the quiz assigned to things most women have experienced, such as being catcalled or being shamed because of body type. Poverty and religion also factored in. I took the quiz a couple different ways and found out that a score of 50 seems to be the tipping point between “privileged” and “not privileged.”

Pauline Gaines of The Perils of Divorced Pauline also took the quiz and was surprised at her score of 66. She writes about this at The Good Men Project:

"But when I took the quiz, I bumped up against the privilege I didn’t know I had. And that, I think, is the point of the quiz: to get people thinking about the hidden nuances of privilege, and the ways we take our privilege for granted. It had never occurred to me, for instance, that paying an accountant to prepare my tax returns is a privilege. Or that being comfortable making out in public with a male partner is a privilege. Or that being raised in a mainstream religion makes me privileged. Or that not being anxious in an airport security line makes me privileged."

Other bloggers are talking about privilege in ways deeper than a BuzzFeed quiz. Mary Boyer at Everyday Baby Steps recently talked to her kids about it:

"I asked them if they thought they were privileged. Their response? Blank stares. They had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. So I gave them a quick definition of privilege as having an unearned advantage in some way and listed some general examples. They gave it a bit of thought and concluded that they really didn't think they were privileged. Imagine my son's surprise when I pointed out that he is probably the most privileged person in the car, above both me and his sister."

At She Laughs at the Days, Carrien Leith Blue, a white American woman currently living in Thailand, writes about her particular position:

"Because even if you took away all this stuff, the clothes, the car, the money, I'd still be richer than most people here. You'd have to take away what I know, and my ability to analyze and learn, before I was as poor as them. Because it's not just material things that make me wealthy, its the more intangible things, like education and knowledge."

Want to learn more about the concept of white privilege? Peggy McIntosh of the Wellesley Centers for Women coined the term “invisible knapsack” to describe this privilege. You can click here to read her seminal article, Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.

Did you take the BuzzFeed quiz? What do you think about the concept of privilege? Tell us, in the comments.

News and Politics Editor Grace Hwang Lynch blogs about raising an Asian mixed-race family at HapaMama.

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