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Defining Racial Justice Terms: White Privilege

YWCA Central Carolinas has proudly done Racial Justice & Advocacy work in the Charlotte community for 118 years and counting! With our programs, events and advocacy there’s a lot of terminology thrown around and we want to make sure that all YWCA supporters know what they mean!

Today’s term is white privilege. This refers to the unearned privileges associated with identifying as or appearing as white in a racist society/world that operates on the cultural default of whiteness.

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As the word ‘privilege’ is often associated with the upper classes; people who went to private schools, those who got a car for their sweet 16th, those who have hired ‘help’ or people whose parents paid their rent throughout university, many white people who come from low socioeconomic backgrounds negate the concept of white privilege.

White privilege doesn’t mean that you are born into money, that’s class privilege.

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White privilege means that you are born into the racial ‘norm’, another kind of privilege. A privilege where you can;

  • Turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of your race widely represented.
  • If you wish, you can arrange to be in the company of people of your race most of the time.
  • If you buy “flesh” coloured items like band-aids or stockings, they will more or less match your skin tone.
  • If you were able to use the original suite of emoji’s, the ‘thumbs up’ or ‘peace sign’ hand gestures represented your race.
  • You can easily can find picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and magazines featuring people of your race.

Being born white means that you were born into a system that validates and reaffirms that you are socially included – and being socially included, is a very valuable privilege. But white allies can use your privilege as a tool to challenge racist oppression in the spaces and places they have access to.

Credit: YWCA Central Massachusetts Instagram

To learn more about white privilege and see example of it in this NITV article. You can also read White Fragility by Robin Diangelo and Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad.