Response to: “Don’t White people experience reverse-racism too? Isn’t the term White privilege racist and unfair?”

White people cannot experience racism, but they can experience racial prejudice.

‘Reverse racism’ is a myth. While it’s very true that White people can be victims of racial prejudice, they cannot be victims of racism. Racial prejudice refers to a set of discriminatory or derogatory attitudes based on assumptions deriving from perceptions about race and/or skin color. White people cannot experience racism because of the ‘systemic relationship of power’ (I) over people of color that they have created; this is what we call racism, as defined by activist Erica Sherover-Marcuse. While prejudicial comments can be hurtful to White people and should not be condoned, expressions of racial prejudice do not have the ability or power to affect a White persons ‘social/economic/political location and privilege’ (I). Even a heinous act committed by a Black person against a White person on the basis of color can not fit into the sociologically accepted definition of racism, because there is not a larger, oppressive power dynamic at play. This is why White people cannot experience racism. For reverse racism to be real, racism must at least occur on a level playing field between the races. This, however, is not the case, because White people currently hold the power they have systematically created for themselves and protected for centuries.

White people have never been oppressed because of skin color.

White people currently and historically have always held social and practical power regarding racial divides. While some might identify the Holocaust as evidence of White oppression, that is incorrect. In that instance, White people were oppressed not because of skin color, but because of religion, which is a crucial distinction. Religious persecution is the systematic mistreatment of an individual or group as a response to their religious beliefs, not their race. Jewish people were oppressed for reasons other than the color of their skin.

 

Additionally, some may also point out the mistreatment of the Irish as another example of White oppression. However, anti-Irish sentiment was about nationality, not race. Irish people were not mistreated by other White people because of their skin color, but because of their nationality and religious beliefs, as opposed to Black people in America who are oppressed because of their skin color. The systemic discrimination against Irish people has ceased to exist in America, but system racism against Black people has not. While the struggles of Irish and Jewish people should be recognized and validated, these issues are not the same thing as racial oppression due to skin color. 

 

Throughout history, there have been times where White people did face oppression, such as the Holocaust and discrimination against Irish people and Italians. These events were horrible and their lasting impacts should not be minimized, however, this oppression was never on the basis of color. It always had to do with religion, ethnicity, or some other factor. These instances were also carried out by the same White supremacist ideologies that hurt Black people today.

Having White privilege does not mean their life was easy.

White privilege is officially defined by Oxford Languages as: “inherent advantages possessed by a White person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality and injustice.” Let’s get into what that means. 

When some White people hear the term ‘White privilege’, an instinctive response is to bring up their own hardships and struggles. Having White privilege does not mean that one has not faced struggles, it just means that their problems do not stem from their race. Essentially, White privilege means that White people profit from an institutional set of benefits. For example, White people in the U.S are 2 - 10x more likely to get a housing loan than those of color.

Also, intersectionality is important! It is the belief that the different facets of a person’s identity intersect and affect the amount of privilege someone has. For example, the children of two wealthy Black parents from a stable household are probably better off than the children of a White, poor, single mother. This does not mean that the first family’s Blackness doesn’t disadvantage them, but it means that they hold alternative forms of advantage that the second family does not.

White privilege can be very hard to see for those who were born with it (3). Essentially, White privilege means that as a White person you profit from an institutional set of benefits, regardless of whether you intend to. This means you have greater access to resources than people of color do. For example, White people in the U.S are 2-10x more likely to get a housing loan than those of color. White privilege does not mean you have not struggled with problems in life regarding your gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, age, physical ability, weight, or anything else. It just means that your skin color doesn’t make your life harder. 

 

Because White people have these certain privileges, BIPOC need their help during protests, efforts to reform the government and the police system, and experiences with racism in everyday life. If you are White, please keep educating yourself, speaking up, and listening to BIPOC around you. 

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WRITTEN BY:

Marcella Rodio

GUIDE WRITING TEAM

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This resource aims to amplify the voices of the Black community, educate people of all ages and races about the Black Lives Matter movement, and guide the country towards a place of equity. 

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