What white people don’t get about white privilege

People often equate “White privilege” with financial advantage. Here’s why that view is too limited.

Sometimes, white people have a tough time wrapping their heads around the concept of “White privilege”, often equating privilege to financial advantage.

But while financial privilege is definitely a thing—usually called class privilege—it’s not the only type of privilege.

For example, if you’re White and living in a white dominated society, like Canada or the United States, the first time someone sees you, they won’t assume you’ll have an accent. They won’t assume you can’t speak English. They won’t assume you were born somewhere else, or that your parents were born somewhere else.

They won’t assume that because you’re White, you’re a violent threat. They won’t assume you have a criminal past. They won’t assume you are addicted to drugs or alcohol. They won’t assume you’re homeless. They won’t assume you’re about to ask them for change.

They won’t assume that because you’re White, you’ll damage their home if they rent to you. They won’t assume that you won’t be able to make your monthly rent payments. They won’t assume you’re unemployed. They won’t assume you’re about to steal something from their store.

And this is the case if they haven’t met you in person but have seen your name, such as in a job application or a rental application. If your name sounds White, like Susan Jones or Pat Smith, they won’t assume you have a different background. And they will make all the same assumptions as above: that you can speak English, won’t have an accent, were born here, have no criminal past, and so on.

All this can be the case even if you grew up in a trailer park and your single parent worked three jobs to keep you fed and you had to wear hand-me-downs from your older siblings.

While all these assumptions may not end up being direct financial advantages, like say having grown up in an upper class family would, they could still end up being advantages.

You’re more likely to get that job. You’re more likely to get that rental. You’re less likely to have the cops called on you. All of which can end up being financial benefits in the long run.

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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