What is White Privilege? (2023)

White privilege is a concept that emphasizes the unfair social advantages that white people enjoy over non-white people. It is something that permeates all of society and exists in all major systems and institutions that operate in society as well as on an interpersonal level.

The term has a long history but has gained some poignancy due to events such as the assassination of George Floyd and its aftermath.Black lives matterProtests.

origin of the term

The term "white privilege" was coined by activist and scholar Peggy McIntosh in her 1988 article "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." She described white privilege as the tacit advantage held by the dominant culturecoloured people.

In other words, power, utility, and other advantages are unequally distributed among different groups in society. In terms of white privilege in particular, the advantage lies with whites.

reactions to the sentence

For people who have never heard the term before, white privilege can provoke defensiveness and even outrage. This concept has been dubbed White Fragility, coined by Robin Diangelo, and responses range from shame, guilt, fear, avoidance, defense, and discomfort to extreme responses such as shame, covert aggression, intolerability, disability, and gun privilege (i.e., calling 911) .

On the other hand, the idea that a person can have special privileges solely because of the color of their skin is a disturbing realization for some and can inspire feelings of shame, guilt and confusion.

If you're a white person and feel like the concept of white privilege doesn't apply to you, then you're probably wrong.

Meaning of white privilege

If you're white and grew up feeling that others had advantages over you, perhaps in terms of your wealth, you may resent the idea that you are somehow privileged because of your race.

White Privilege is a benefit that protects whites from any form of discrimination based on their ethnicity and race.

However, white privilege does not imply that white people do not or cannot experience challenges in life; This means that any challenges that a white person has faced or may face have nothing to do with their skin color.

Examples of white privilege

To understand white privilege in action, it helps to consider examples of what it might look like in everyday life. The following examples are from the work of Peggy McIntosh.


  • Imagine that if you're white, you go shopping and look in the cosmetics department for a brand of foundation that matches your skin tone. Are you afraid that your shadow doesn't exist? Most likely not. That's white privilege.
  • What if you're looking for a pair of shoes or lingerie and you find an item in "nude" color? Are you forced to wonder why a brand's version of 'naked' doesn't apply to you? Probably not.
  • How about you go to a store? Do you think employees look at you because they think you're going to steal something because you can't afford it? Again probably not. Those kinds of concerns don't exist when you have white privilege.


  • If you're white, imagine for a moment you're going to an interview and it's explicitly statedcertain hairstylesare not acceptable in the workplace, such as B. braids or dreadlocks (styles traditionally worn by black people). Do you feel discriminated against by the mention of this hairstyle restriction because of your race? If not, that's an example of white privilege.
  • And have you ever had to worry that your virgin or unprocessed natural hair (the way it grows on your scalp) might be viewed as unprofessional? If not, and you are white, experience white privilege.


  • If you're a white person reading a magazine, watching a TV show, or a movie, do you wonder why none of the characters or people look like you? If not, that's an example of white privilege.
  • And when you watch the news and you're white, do you feel invisible in the stream of positive and uplifting stories misrepresented by the media? That, too, is a white privilege.

freedom and perception

  • What if you're white and you're moving to a new neighborhood, enrolling your child in a new school, walking alone, or shopping at Target? Do you think your race could have a negative impact on how well you are accepted or how other people perceive you? If not, that's white privilege.
  • If you're white and interacting with your peers, have you ever wondered if people think you sound eloquent enough when you speak? If not, that's white privilege.


  • If you're white and have recently been accepted to college, got a new job, or gotten a promotion at work, do you worry that other people might think positive action got you where you are now?
  • When you do well or are an achiever, do you worry that others will be surprised or say you are a good role model for others of your race? If not, that's an example of white privilege.


  • Imagine you are a white parent raising your child to go out into the world. Do you feel the need to teach your child how it can be?discrimination againstBecause of your skin color? If not, that's an example of white privilege.
  • If you're white, do you have to think about whether your child will be bullied or sent home from school because of their hair texture? Most likely not.
  • Do you have a real deep fear that your child will not return home because of police or extrajudicial violence?


  • If you're driving in an affluent, mostly white neighborhood, are you afraid of being pulled over because the color of your skin is considered threatening or out of place? If you're white, that fear doesn't apply to you.
  • If you find yourself in a situation involving the police or need to ask the police for help, do you feel that your race could disadvantage or unfairly treat you? If not, that too is an example of white privilege.

What are microaggressions?

How White Privilege Affects White People

An important issue that arises in discussions of white privilege is that bringing up the issue of white privilege can often provoke defensiveness among whites. They might hang up and stop talking or listening.

This is especially true for whites who grew up in poverty or who find life particularly challenging. They wonder how they can be privileged. The phrase sounds like an easy life, when in reality it only refers to the benefits that the breed brings.

White privilege does not void the fight

Having white privilege doesn't mean white people have never faced challenges andharrowing events. It just means your struggles weren't caused by the color of your skin.

Is one type of fight worse than the other? This would be a matter of opinion as all struggles are valid, but no one would argue that living in poverty or experiencing trauma is not a difficult situation regardless of one's race.

White privilege ignores implicit bias

The truth is, growing up white means you never have to think about race for most of your life. White people don't know this because the world was made for their convenience. They have the power to be "normal" or in the default state.

When white people say they are "color blind" or don't notice differences in skin tone, their BIPOC experiences are actually downplayed and ignoredimplicit biases.

White privilege is not about guilt

White privilege does not mean blaming white people for the advantages they have. How can you be blamed for something you never had to consider?

The phrase is intended to help whites realize that they have a systematic advantage over non-whites and can strive for equality.

Recognition of White Privilege

If you are white and want to help fight for racial equality, the first step is to acknowledge that white privilege exists. The above examples describe the everyday disadvantages that people of color face, but they do not even begin to emphasize the consequences of these disadvantages.

Across all domains, there is a gap between the white privileged and the nonprivileged in terms of generational wealth (and especially property), experience of violence, and other indicators of quality of life.

So if you're white, here's what you can do to acknowledge your privilege:

  • Recognize that white privilege exists.
  • Examine what is going on in your own life, look at what you could do to encourage/maintain it, and make an active effort to deal with it on an individual level.
  • Listen to BIPOC as they point out their prejudices or share their experiences with you.
  • Don't be offended if someone points out your ignorance. Instead, choose to listen to them.
  • If the term "white privilege" offends you, consider why you feel that way.
  • Get involved in helping people fightAnti-racism.
  • Help be a source of support for people of color.
  • Talk about race with other white people and BIPOC, even if you feel uncomfortable.

A rethink

There will only be change if the majority of the population experiences a rethink. Moreover, this mindset shift begins at the individual level, not the group level. One person after another changes their mind.

A word from Verywell

White privilege can be a difficult concept for many to grasp, let alone act on. If you're white, ask yourself, "If I were a person of color, how would my experience be different today, in this moment?" Doing so today will help you better understand what white privilege means and why it's real.

What is white supremacy?

1 Those

Verywell Mind uses only quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to back up the facts in our articles. Read ourseditorial processto learn more about how we fact-check our content and keep it accurate, reliable, and dependable.

Additional reading

What is White Privilege? (1)

VonArlin Cuncic
Arlin Cuncic, MA, ist Autor von „Therapy in Focus: What to Expect from CBT for Social Anxiety Disorder“ und „7 Weeks to Reduce Anxiety“.

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