When President Obama stood up to honor the Dallas police officers killed last week, he didn’t hold back on the racial tensions dividing Americans right now. As he said in his speech, “We also know that centuries of racial discrimination, of slavery, of subjugation, and Jim Crow, they didn’t’ simply vanish with the end of lawful segregation.”
There’s no pretending racial inequality doesn’t exist, even in 2016, and yet people still have trouble understanding and acknowledging the presence of white privilege — the idea that white people have an advantage in a number of areas compared to people of color.
It may not feel comfortable to admit, but white privilege is real, and if we’re going to try and dismantle the system of institutionalized racism in this country, we need to recognize the signs of white privilege.
The following are just a few examples of white privilege. Check to see how many apply to you:
1. You went to an elite, well-funded college.
A 2013 report from Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce showed that despite Black and Latino students’ growing participation rate in higher education, white students are over-represented in the 468 top, most selective, and well-funded colleges. When it comes to two and four-year colleges, Black and Latino students attend at higher rates than white ones.
2. You got a college scholarship.
White students get 40 percent more private scholarship money than students of color, according to a 2011 Student Aid Policy Analysis. Additionally, white students receive 76 percent of all merit-based scholarships, even though they represent less than 62 percent of the student population.
3. Your name has never prevented you from getting a job.
Studies have shown that job-seekers with “white” names on their resumes are 50 percent more likely to get a callback than those with traditionally black-sounding names like Jamal or Lakisha.
4. You get paid more than or as much as your peers (even if you’re a woman).
We’re all well aware of the often trotted out fact that women make 77 cents on the dollar compared to men. But, were you aware that black women make 64 cents on that same dollar, and Latina women only make 53 cents.
5. You’ve never had trouble finding housing.
A study from the Department of Housing and Urban Development showed that people of color faced more subtle challenges when it came to finding housing, like being refused appointments to see homes and being shown fewer available units than white applicants with similar qualifications.
6. You can apply for a credit card without worrying whether you’ll get it or not.
Despite the denial from banks, a study from the Reserve Bank of Boston has shown that people who live in white neighborhoods are more likely to be approved for credit cards than those living in black neighborhoods.
7. If you went missing, you’re reasonably sure it would make the news.
Mainstream media covers the murders and abductions of affluent or middle-class white girls far more than those of boys, poor kids and kids of color despite the fact that around 42 percent of missing children are Black.
8. Your child has never been suspended from school.
A recent study has shown that black students are more than three times as likely to get suspended than their white counterparts. It went even further to suggest that the darker the skin tone, the more likely it is that the student will get suspended.
9. You have never struggled to find a toy that “looks like” you or your child.
Head to any toy aisle and you’ll have no problem finding white Barbies or Cabbage Patch Kid dolls to take home, but if you want to buy one that looks like a little black girl or boy, you might be hard pressed to find one. Dolls of color are rare finds, depending on where in the country you live. We may not think of this as a big deal, but imagine the little girl who has to grow up wondering why there aren’t representations of herself in the toy aisle, or the TV or the movies.
It can be hard for many people — especially those from lower socio-economic classes — to see how just being white allows them any advantage. But white privilege is a reality, and it’s one we must acknowledge and face if we want to have any hope of dismantling the institutional racism that continues to exist in this country.
Originally published July 2015. Updated July 2016.