White "perks" versus white privilege

Kynn has a thought provoking post making the distinction between “perks” and “privilege”:

Let’s talk about how I use the term “white privilege.”

There are certain things which are gifted to every white person, which aren’t fully afforded to people of color. I don’t have to worry about being pulled over for “driving while white.” Other white people tend to trust me more than they would a person of color of the same age and socioeconomic status. I’ll make more money, in the long run, than I would if I were non-white.

These things I think of as white perks — benefits which society chooses to bestow on white people. Society does this because it is white-dominated and white-supremacist.

Then there is this thing which I call white privilege, which is not a set of perks at all — but rather a mindset. It is a subtle, quiet ideology, that is rarely taught directly any more, but which definitely exists and its effects can be seen all over.

I suggest reading the whole thing. I’m still chewing on it and thinking about how making the distinction could impact discussions of privilege.

Share and Enjoy:
  • Print
  • Digg
  • StumbleUpon
  • del.icio.us
  • Facebook
  • Yahoo! Buzz
  • Twitter
  • Google Bookmarks
  • Add to favorites
  • Reddit
  • Tumblr
This entry was posted in Privilege, Racism. Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to White "perks" versus white privilege

  1. Darth Sidhe says:

    Hmm. When speaking of these subjects, to distinguish between the “perks” and the “ideology,” I’ve always used “privileges” and “privilege,” respectively. I can see how my use would get confusing, even though I’ve used the different terms consistently.

  2. Ragtime says:

    In my mind, I think a lot of the debate about “privilege” (or, here, “perks”) has to do with terminology and linguistics.

    To talk about white (or male or whatever) ‘privilege’ makes it seem that the white man is getting extra credit above and beyond what they are rightfully entitled to. At least that’s what I hear, but I don’t think it is what is meant.

    The point, as I understand it at least, is that EVERYONE should be entitled to stuff like not getting pulled over for no reason, implicit trust, making enough money, and being considered equal by society’s ideology.

    Being treated as equal is not really a ‘privilege’ — it should be a right. The fact that certain groups are given that right, while women or people of color or other sorts of ‘others’ are not, does not somehow transform that basic right into a ‘privilege.’ It just makes it a basic right that not everyone is getting.

    I think the initial revulsion to being called ‘privileged’ has a lot to do with the word itself — and its implications that you are getting something ‘extra’ beyond your fair share. But ‘not getting arrested’ is not a limited good where if you stop wrongfully arresting black people you’ll have to start wrongfully arresting white people more, or if you start trusting the 18 year old minority kid in jeans you have to start being suspicious of the 55 year old white man in the business suit.

    I don’t really have a better term in mind that ‘perks’ or ‘privilege’, but I just think that they both have the same problem. “Privilege” or ‘perks’ are things that can be taken away, so saying Whites are Privileged (Perked?) implies “To make the world better, we must take things away from you.” The ideal term should express, “You have all of your rights, and we only have some of ours.” Privilege doesn’t do that.

  3. Ragtime:

    To talk about white (or male or whatever) ‘privilege’ makes it seem that the white man is getting extra credit above and beyond what they are rightfully entitled to. At least that’s what I hear, but I don’t think it is what is meant.

    Actually, sometimes that *is* what is meant. You’re right, and some “privileges” are just rights that all people should be able to enjoy. On the other hand, there are actually privileges that are unfair advantages based on other people’s disadvantages, and those should be eradicated altogether. For example, women are far more likely to end up doing the unpaid “reproductive labor” in a household (such as raising children, but also the repetitive chores such as cleaning). The ability to escape such work is a limited good that cannot be enjoyed by everyone. To equalize this situation, we would have to take something away from men, and “bring them down” closer to women so that both are doing their equal share of work.

    I have seen some writers make a point to distinguish between these two sorts of privilege, and I think it would help clarify the problem you bring up.

  4. Beste says:

    Sigel Phoenix,

    What would we have to take from men in order equalize the situation?

  5. Beste: The privilege of not needing to do as much of the reproductive labor. Or, to think of it in terms of what would actually be taken away form men, perhaps we could say free housekeeping services.

  6. As Sigel Phoenix said, the privilege of not needing to do as much domestic labor. Also the privilege of being thought of as special if they do pick up their share of the housework. The privilege of being thought of as super-dad for putting in a fraction as much time as mom does with the kids. (You notice, mothers can never be good enough for their kids, dads just have to show up and people fall all over them.) The privilege of being able to complain about “nagging” when their partner reminds them that they need to do their share of the work. How about the privilege of having a built in reminder system, they could just get up and do it without having to be prompted constantly. The privilege of being thought of as heroic for working outside the home (man brings home the bacon!), especially in two income households. Women are perpetually demonized for working outside the home and men are lauded. The privilege of being able to claim fatigue after that work, as if women aren’t draining themselves physically to do all this domestic labor. The privilege of being passive-aggressive about tasks, they have to give up “You’re much better at it, you do it” and “You don’t want me helping, I’ll leave you to it.” (Not just picking up after themselves, I’ve seen this happen a lot with planning social events and holidays. He wants his whole family down for a big festive Xmas, she has to do all the gift shopping herself because he claims incompetence.)

    Those are just the privileges they gain from unpaid domestic labor, there are a whole lot of privileges they gain from unpaid emotional labor and unpaid social labor, too. Wifework and The Second Shift are really good resources for viewing these privileges in depth.

  7. Ragtime says:

    Sigel Phoenix,

    Thank you for the response. I seem to have expanded where I should have focussed. The original post discussed “White Privilege”, and it was to that which I was primarily responding. I did analogize to “Male Privilege,” but that seems to have created a tangent, and was also a mistake on my part.

    You are, of course, correct that within traditional family structures men get ‘privileges’ like less housework that, in order to even the odds, would require men to give up that privilege.

    As to “white privilege,” I think I stand by my original post. The goal is not to treat white people differently (make them “give up” their privilege), but to create a world where that “privilege” can be shared by all. As such, I think ‘privilege’ is probably an unfortunate term for what is being discussed.

Comments are closed.