Let me start this post off by saying “White and privileged” is a redundant phrase. Every White person enjoys privileges wherever they live, even if there are other people placed above them for other reasons, such as education or finances. The same goes for people who can pass for White.
White privilege is especially prevalent in America, because it is the only First World country that didn’t offshore its hand in slavery to an exotic location. Subsequently, there are people living in America who still remember grand-pappy’s stories of buying and selling human beings at the slave market.
In fact, there are still Americans pledging a whole life of allegiance to a cause that lasted for five years and represents the largest threat of domestic terrorism and treason that America has ever lived through. I mean, of course, the Confederacy.
While there is a lot of talk about White privilege, many people don’t really understand it. Blacks and other minorities see it every day from the outskirts and many Whites believe it doesn’t exist. As one White person commented on my blog recently:
We have all been wronged in the past generations of our people, not just Black people. The Irish for example and the Jews and indigenous people have an axe to grind. I think it’s far better to address racial inequality in real terms … I remember a quote from Morgan Freeman that the way to stop racism is to stop talking about it. I’m not sure that is the answer but there is something in it.
If you want to know my thoughts on people who think the answer to racism is ignoring it, you can read my post:
WHY I GOT RID OF
ALL MY OSTRICH-FRIENDS
For the “woke” Whites who do understand the concept of privilege and the power it gives, many opened up and shared their stories with me after I made the request below:
WHITE TWITTER FOLLOWERS ASSEMBLE: Usually I save my crowdsourced posts for my articles on Jamaican culture, but I think I'll try something different. I want to know:
What is it really like to be a privileged White person?
Tell me anything about this experience that you want to.
— Alexis Chateau 🇯🇲 | FJ Cruiser Bae 🥰🚙 (@alexischateau_) June 6, 2020
This is what they had to say.
I Don’t Fear the Police
My White privilege means;
– I don’t have fear when police pull me over
– I don’t have to fear being pulled out of my car & savaged
– I won’t be targeted for arrest after I protest
– I can run through my neighborhood & not be questioned
– I can walk anywhere without fear
— Judy Lindsay, Radio and Film Producer
I Can Use My Privilege as a Shield
A young Black man had been shot & was chased toward my house. Cops demanded he lie down, but he cried he could not bend over. Every cop drew down on him, shouting for him to lie down, as blood bloomed through his clothes. I brought a chair, & begged they let him sit. They did.
His sister and his gf were already wailing for help, begging to put pressure on the wounds or to drive him to the ER. Cops warned an ambulance would show up only *after* he could lie down. White privilege made all the difference. I was sad but glad cops finally listened. He’s ok.
Tears Can Cure Speeding Tickets
Driving to my estranged grandfather’s wake, in a small town out in the country in the South. It all hit me & I was bawling. Didn’t notice I was doing 70+ in a 45, state trooper pulls me over. “You crying because I pulled u over?” “Noooo” I gush. Off w/ a warning.
— Leigh M SLP, Speech Therapist
I Don’t Get Deported
Working undocumented in Austria, 1994. Health police caught me running a pub my 1st shift alone. Intimidated me but just fined the boss, laughing about the cute “college girl” hanging in a bad part of Vienna. No such grace for undocumented people of color there…
— Leigh M SLP, Speech Therapist
I Get Off Easy
A random trivial thing is how many apartment and hotel pools I snuck into in my twenties. The worst we ever got was asked to leave. Usually, no one took any notice. I got arrested in high school because my friend and [I] skipped school in someone else’s house (it’s a long story) and the cop joked with us on the way to the station. The case was dismissed and expunged and my curfew was midnight for a little while.
Harder on Minorities; Easier on Me
I can’t think of any specific incidents, but as you know I grew up with Blacks and Asians as my neighbours. We did all the stuff together groups of kids did – football, cricket etc. Whenever one of the older people on the street had a complaint about us they were always far harsher on the Black and Asian kids.
Almost seeing them as more responsible for the noise / ball going in their garden / damage to their fence etc. They had no evidence it was us, let alone any one of us.
— Matt Mason, Author of Salmonweird
No One Automatically Distrusts Me in Stores
This one is much longer, so I’ll leave the link here to the full story. While his wife is not Black, the story he shares of her experience is one I’ve heard often related by Blacks in America.
The bullshit in the linked thread would never have happened to me. That's white privilege.https://t.co/RP66fcEZ60
— Arno Nym (@GratuitousGuy) June 6, 2020
I’m Not Considered a Threat
This is another long one where the full thread is worth reading. I love when Whites not only acknowledge privilege but weaponized that power for good.
My Brother’s Violence Is Excused
My brother is mentally ill. He’s literally tried to kill our dad. Every time the cops are called they manage to take him peacefully, and he’s taken to the hospital instead of jail. They gave him the choice.
Partly, he’s a White male. Partly, Montana has one of the best mental health hospitals there is…. there’s a city dedicated to it. It’s a little weird. He was sent there at least once too.
Other people who have mental health issues have not ended up so well, even in Montana. Especially Native Americans.
Cops Let Us Off With Warnings
My mom got pulled over driving me to a Girl Scout volunteer event- speeding a little because we were late. She explained & got a warning. Cop followed us there- instead of being scared we just laughed at how bored he probably was.
Then as an adult, I got pulled over for speeding going to a Phish concert. His first question was whether I was going there to sell drugs. He made my friend and I get out of the car to be questioned separately and at one point I made him extra suspicious.
When he said “so if I had my dog sniff your car he wouldn’t find anything?” and I said that was true (not a lie), but I love dogs so I turned my head a bit to look toward his car, it probably looked to him like I was lying. And I still only got a warning.
I Don’t Have to Fight to Vote
White privilege is not something I asked for. But it is my responsibility to use my privilege to elevate the voices of the unprivileged. As a White woman I got the right to vote earlier than other women. Indigenous women are still fighting for it. Voter suppression sucks.
— Ruth Scribbles, Blogger
Business Owners Give Me a Pass
This lady explains how even while wearing the same general clothing as a Black patron at a business, she was not denied service and he was:
Cops Search for Me Even When I’m Not Missing
When Black women go missing in America, we receive less media coverage and law enforcement often does not use its full resources to find us. The situation changes drastically when a White woman goes missing. If you’d like to know more about this, William & Mary Law School published a study on this just last year.
That makes the story shared by Heather even more jarring:
My White privilege: a few years ago, I set up a date through a dating site. I was in upstate NY along the river. The night of the date, a friend came over to babysit. I went to my date, it was -amazing- and I was late getting home. 2 hours later, and it’s now 1 in the morning and I’m getting something from my car when a local police cruiser pulls in.
My friend had -WHY- called the local PD when I was late, and there had been TWO COUNTIES on alert for a -not missing- White girl. And then they sent a cop to check on me. ?! ?! ?!
It’s having police giving me a sum total of 1 ticket for all the times I’ve been pulled over driving. I’ve had some really shitty experiences with police, but they were specific and nowhere near representative of my experience as a whole.
— Heather Newman, Writer
I Never Face Accusations of Selling Out
Joined the Police at 25, on my first team was a Black British guy and we became friends. At the end of two years he transferred to the Met. Police. So White privilege to me..not having White people say to me I’d sold out for having joined the police. Now most important … Never ever thinking that I will be subjected to racism.
— @_EccentricMan, Gamer
I Feel Safe Even When Othered
I have traveled to Asian countries and experienced a small amount of otherness because of how I look, but I never once felt unsafe or disrespected. I have also never had to shy away from standing out or making a scene with my aesthetic choices or personality.
— Melanie Noell Bernard, Author
Babied Even While Abroad
I was a White kid that spent roughly half her childhood in Papua New Guinea (intermittently, not consecutively). The Native kids I [was] friends with were always treating me like glass, nobody wanted to get in trouble with parents for letting the White girl get hurt.
Recession? What Recession?
My White privilege has meant that I haven’t been impacted financially by the events of this year.
— Mary L. Gordon, Author
I Don’t Fear for Myself, But for My Partner
I grew up in the South with a family that was casually racist that liked to tout the “I’ve got a Black friend that’s a good one” when you called them on using racial slurs. There wasn’t much diversity where I grew up. My town was mostly White. So, I didn’t really get to see privilege in action until I moved to the West Coast.
As my group of friends became more and more diverse outside of my home town, it opened my eyes to a lot of race issues. It was always easy for me to get a job when I wanted one. To move up. To train. To not be questioned on every suggestion I made.
While I’ve never trusted the police, I’ve never been scared of them. Not until I started dating a man that isn’t White. My partner is a different race and because of that I’ve seen how he’s treated by the police. I’m terrified if he goes out with a friend that isn’t White. What if the two of them get pulled over together?
He had to give me numbers for his friends, boss, family in case he’s ever arrested for something he didn’t do. In case he’s ever held.
Hopefully, their stories are eye-opening. By getting a greater insight into each other’s experiences, I think we can begin to take social steps to make amends. At the end of the day, politics and the way specific demographics are policed are all byproducts of social problems.
I do not, for a second, believe that the answer is to claim to be colour blind and ignore the problem. If abolitionists had simply not spoken about racism and waited patiently for it to go away, I would probably still be in shackles today. With all due respect, anyone who believes otherwise needs to get their heads checked.
What are your stories of White privilege? Whether you experienced it, witnessed it, or was harmed by it, share them with me in the comments below!
27 thoughts on “What’s It Really Like to be White and Privileged? People Share Their Stories With Me on Twitter.”
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I absolutely commend you for your stance in writing some home truths! Not just in America, it is as bad here in the UK…you are automatically judged by the colour of your skin, rather than being just another human being. This is truly the shocking reality for many of us…in fact a friend called me this morning and she was so hurt by the way other women on a course she attends, treat her only because she is of mixed black jamaican and white Irish…it is truly appalling as she is a lovely human and she deserves to be treated equally…but unfortunately too many have hate instilled in them, it will be so difficult to start over! It is what it is unfortunately and now is the time to call people out for what they actually do….how can a human be more privileged than another human?
Thanks for reading and commenting, Becky! My friends say I have a knack for bringing up topics nobody wants to talk about but that we absolutely should. 😅
I’m sorry to hear about your friend. I certainly don’t want to have to erase that I’m Black (the colour blind approach) to be accepted and she shouldn’t have to set aside her heritage either. What non-Black people need to work on is realizing that we are human too, with our own preferences and backgrounds.
Privilege will always be an issue in society. Even in a socialist society, someone is always in charge or more wealthy etc. My problem is with what we call “ascribed status” in the social sciences. That’s privilege provided at birth. In contrast, merit status allows you to work for your place in society. I much prefer that approach, because it gives us all a fair chance to make something of ourselves and live a life free of harassment by the authorities.
My pleasure Alexis and indeed you are so right about staying authentic and true to who we are rather than what society deems fit. Thank you for your reply and understanding. You should indeed always say it like it is, more of us think so and often shy away from expressing. More power to you always ❤
Oh, terrible to read about this, because it’s very true in so many parts of the world. I don’t get it why one person’s skin makes them a better or a worse person… I’ve gotten out of not having a train ticket (not on purpose) and missing a few too many classes in high school/college (definitely on purpose). Others were less lucky – and less white.
Hi Samantha! I’m glad you’re able to acknowledge your privilege. A lot of people are living in denial or maybe in shame. There is no shame in being privileged. The shame is when someone uses that privilege as a weapon against others, or when people who are paid to ensure fairness (police officers, businesspeople, etc) fail to do so and treat some people awfully because of the colour of their skin.
There’s still a gender cap to cross, too, but I can’t deny there’s people worse off than me just for the sake of skin colour. I always try my best to treat everyone the way I’d like to be treated. That’s my philosophy. I hope this new pulse of anger regarding racism that’s been shocking the world will actually start to change something for real. Rather sooner than later, I say. We’re all just humans. Why can’t we leave it at that?
That gender gap is most definitely something we need to close. Maybe I need to do an article next on privileges men experience, but you know most of them are completely oblivious. 🙄
Hear, hear! But nothing ever stays the same. I remain hopeful the world will be a more equal place one day
I fear we might find something else to fight over as soon as we get past these current problems. 🤦🏽
Sure. Because that’s what we humans are good at. But let’s focus on one hurdle at a time. Because we’re also good at being excellent every now and then 💪😁
As a white person in New Zealand I’ll admit I grew up pretty ignorant to racism here. In my case, I was never at the receiving end of racial abuse. Can’t really comment on police since I never really had to deal with them (although that itself could be considered ‘white privilege’). It is really easy to be ignorant to racism (or even completely unaware) if you haven’t been a victim to it. Of course, racism rears its ugly head in NZ too. Maori are often portrayed as ‘bludgers’ who commit crimes more, some of my Indian friends from school were verbally abused a lot, and I was shocked when I read some stories about a Maori who wasn’t allowed to use a toilet at a store, but then when a white person came along they just let them use it. Such stories appal me and it seems we have a long way to go to improve as a human species, and not treat people based on their freakin skin colour. Several thousand people protested here in NZ after the George Floyd incident – to me that really says a lot. They’re not protesting ‘just because the Americans are doing it’.
The George Floyd protests were worldwide. America really let things get so bad that other people went to march over it. But at the heart of those protests outside of America were instances you mentioned here. People started to look at their own societies and realised that they had similar problems. The PMs for Britain and Canada openly admitted this. For some countries, it’s not Blacks. As you said, in NZ, it’s the Indians. In France, it’s often the Muslims.
We certainly do have a long way to go, but I think acknowledging that privilege and how it manifests is a good first step. Thanks for reading and taking the time to leave a message. ☺️
You’re welcome, and I look forward to seeing more great content from you in the future 🙂
a very white skinned guy i am. 1. the only time i was given a “warning” by a cop, i was in my navy uniform. all the other times i was given a ticket. 2. the summer i graduated from high school, my parents moved from colorado to virginia. a cop pulled up next to my car while at a stop signal. i called him a “pig” and he got out of his car and pulled me from mine. i was cuffed and taken to the police station. i was booked for disorderly conduct and went to court and paid a $200 fine. 3. in jr. high school, i asked a girl i was interested in to a school dance. even though she agreed, i backed out, caving to peer pressure as my “friends” said her dad was black. yes, her skin was darker then mine, but all i saw was an interesting girl. 4. in high school i dated one of the few black girls in school. we remained friends through out our time in high school. in fact, the couple times i went back to colorado for reunions, we spent time catching up with each other. 5. i still get scared when pulled over by the cops. 6. most of the people i have worked with over the years have been of a race different than mine. 7. i was always the minority (male) in my profession. 8. my longest relationships have been with women not of my race. i have never seen myself as being privileged because of my race or of my sex. but, yes, i can see how overall in this country white people are given a pass and i have witnessed just how one may feel being non-white. my current gf is a chinese-american and there is a big age gap. i am quite aware of the looks we get when out together. i try to treat everyone as a human. i can not help the color of my skin. as usual, a great post!!!!
You yelled pig out a window and paid a $200 fine. There are Black men who comply with all orders and end up in the grave. Philando Castile is the first one that comes to mind, but there are others. I’m sure had you been running through the same neighbourhood as Ahmaud Arbery, you wouldn’t have been gunned down for the colour of your skin. Privilege isn’t a matter of blanket benefits for all White skinned persons. It’s a matter of comparitive treatment. Where you live and the image you have will also affect how you are policed, but it will almost always be better in comparison to most Black people attempting the very same thing in most parts of America. So, even though you don’t feel privileged, I see privilege in these stories you’ve shared.
You are right though that the issue of privilege is more about what happens on a grand scale than on an anecdotal basis, but I’m hoping that people who read these start to think a little more deeply about the privileges they mistake as the experience everyone else might have in the same situation.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment. I always look forward to what you have to say. ☺️
PS:- People who give you and your girlfriend weird looks need to kind their own business!
just sharing things in my life. there is much more to the “pig” story but it is in the past. i am not trying to compare my experiences to those of people with darker skin than mine as it will almost always be worse for them. just putting in my 2 cents worth to share some of my life experiences. those reading can do as they wish with them. i am not perfect. equality will not happen in my life time.
keep up with the great postings.
I know you weren’t making a comparison, but White privilege occurs because of a comparitive difference in treatment and I felt it was important to emphasize that. ☺️
I hope you’re wrong and we begin to see more equitable treatment if not equal treatment. There will always be haves and have nots when it comes to money and power, but being assigned on a more merit-based system would be nice. Wishful thinking on my part, perhaps!
As always, thank you! 🙃
Thanks Ruth! And thanks for contributing! Also, I saw your email. Haven’t had the chance yet to get back on the PC to respond. I’m taking some time off this week though and will get back to you. Thanks again! ☺️
These stories really are eye opening and, the more I read, the more I realise that as a white person I have always taken things for granted. Things that everyone should be able to take for granted but which are denied to non white people. We really should be able to stop classing anyone by colour, race, religion, sexuality, or any other false tag that really should be meaningless. We are all human, we all have the same worth, we should all have the same chances. I really hope that it will change for the better, and very soon!
Thanks for joining the discussion, Peter! I don’t mind being identified by a label. My problem is when that label becomes a bad thing. For instance, I’m proud of being Jamaican/West Indian, but in America, that means I’m an immigrant from a sh!t hole country. It’s not so much the label but the meaning people hold behind it.
I think as we all come to better understand our different experiences though, we can start to better address our own internal biases and create positive, social change.
Yes indeed. What always amazes me about the attitude of many Americans to immigrants is the fact that the only people in the USA who are not immigrants are the Native Americans!
Exactly! What’s also funny is how they celebrate their German and Irish heritage, but don’t find the connection between that and being children of immigrants themselves.