Underneath the surface of our society lies many blemishes that Americans tend to be steered away from. One of these blemishes is white privilege. White privilege is a problem you may not see every day, a problem that helps some, and inhibits others. White privilege is the inherency of our society to treat whites as normal, as the way to be. The problem is that when we see a book, a television, here a radio, look at billboards, and even pray to our gods, all we see is white. Everything Americans know as important in our society is portrayed as white. Yet Americans fail to see this obvious bias, this tint of lies that is forced down the throats of millions every day. America is said to be the land of the free, the land of equal opportunity, and a giant melting pot of various cultures and lifestyles. Well the truth is that America is a white society with colors thrown in to erase suspicion of domination. This is white privilege, " an invisible package of unread assets that I can cash in on each day, but about which I was meant to remain oblivious" (McIntosh p.71). White privilege is a source reference of living for many Americans and especially whites. It is what society abides by and follows, yet remains unseen to the naked eye. Equality is nothing but talk, white privilege on the other hand is action.
White privilege can be influenced by many factors. The tradition Western Culture has been probably the most important and recent of these influences. As mentioned before pop culture has done nothing but reinforce the idea of white privilege. Pop culture and media show most if not all programming from a white perspective. A white perspective means to narrow your point of view to see something through white eyes only. A good example of this is MTV. Yes, MTV the hip-hoppin’ kings of cable, show their programs from a white perspective. Have you ever caught what 50% or more of the audience on TRL usually is, it’s white kids. Low class minority homes may not have cable, but all upper class white families will. Hip-hop was brought out to give something to shadow the actual aim of MTV, to bring white viewers out to watch.
Pop culture is not the only large group supporting white privilege. A more direct influence is the government. The mostly white upper-class males like to enforce there power and opinions upon others using what they have a lot of; money. There opinions shape what society does like how we learn and what we learn. It is doubtful a white senator will approve a text book full of history how history really happened. It is more likely a textbook giving history from a white point of view will be utilized.
It may seem like white privilege is something that should be easy to see, but the tradition our society has made it the norm. This privilege is what society in America is used to, so it is how things are done. If someone were walking down the street and saw two kids, one with a purple spiked Mohawk, and another with blue jeans and a t-shirt. Which kid would be the one everyone would look at as odd, which kid would people shy away from. Of course everyone would probably shy away from the kid with the purple spiked Mohawk, he is different. The point is that white privilege, society, is a kid with blue jeans and a t-shirt; it goes totally unnoticed, it is normal. Being normal takes you out of the spotlight and puts you where no one will disturb you or attempt to change you. White privilege has been the norm for so long that it has become hidden. For the politicians who know of this hidden power , it is hidden well, and purposely with reforms to steer the public away from finding it. For others it becomes hidden indirectly; Teachers, administrators, and even parents follow the subtle rules of the privilege. Common school texts, teaching, and learning all normally follow a certain routine and rubric which has been calibrated to keep white privilege strong and under the table. Recently efforts have been made to change the way we teach, and make it so everyone has an equal chance. Unfortunately those plans may be stopped due to new governmental reforms by certain white male politicians.
White privilege is something that we all experience in varying levels of intensity in our schooling. When I was little I of course never noticed how predominant white privilege was in my classroom. I grew up in a quite multicultural school system with many people with different beliefs and lifestyles than what I grew up with. The text books we read were standard, with stories of heroic white men and insignificant black slaves. The only time we celebrated great blacks was of course during black history month. During black history month we always held a black history bee, and I loved to compete in these types of events, now that I think about it all the white kids liked these competitions. Every year it was a white student who won the black history bee. Now I see that this is because of the fact that even though we were studying about celebrated black figures in America, they were still taught about from a white perspective. All of our textbooks were written by white males, and were very opinionated. Essentially I grew up learning a lot about the opinions of a select few white males, what an education!! Now I think back and wonder, was my teacher aware of what she was teaching us, and where it came from?
To understand what it is to be white is not a valid question to ask a teacher. We are all trained to be white, we would not understand what it is to be white, because we do not see it as different. A good question to ask would be; what does it mean to be not white? –Or- What is it like to be different? Then the teacher could probably see what white actually is, and what it is like not to be normal, not to be white.
An awareness of white privilege could do wonders for any classroom teacher. First off it would help for the teacher to know and understand the families of each of their children. This would give the teacher an opportunity to explore the interest and the culture of the child to try and engage him or her during a classroom discussion. It will also help teacher’s fine tune their questions and materials to avoid favoring or discriminating any culture or race. "Educators can help minority students by pointing out what society expects from them while affirming their own culture"(Viadero p.30). It is always important to follow this model, and let the students know what there place can be in society while maintaining their core cultural values. By being aware of white privilege teachers will also eliminate this unconscious being from many of their white students. Unfortunately this will probably be erased by their next year’s teacher or by the media. But overall the conscious awareness of this problem will ultimately assist in melding your classroom into a bevy of cultural variance.
The affect of white privilege has presently catapulted our multicultural society into an atmosphere of confusion and want of being. To reverse this process the source of white privilege has to be identified. The structure of power in government and the tradition of our societies are both to blame for this tragedy of white privilege. The destruction of this method of living may not be possible unless we begin to see things from an overall perspective instead of one that is closed to one culture and one color. Our society must be restructured from the bottom up to retell history as it was, and not as it is seen now. Americans have to look at things through everyone’s eyes, not just their own.
Viadero, Debra. Culture Clash. Ill. Short, Kevin. Teacher Magazine, v7 num9 august 1996 p.14-17
McIntosh, Peggy. White Privilege and Male Privilege. Cr 1988 p.71-81.