White Privilege: Meaning and Definition

Academic approaches like critical race theory employ the idea to examine how racism and racialized societies affect the lives of white or persons of light skin in the study of white privilege and its broader area of whiteness studies, both pioneered in the United States.

For instance, the American academic Peggy McIntosh called the benefits that white people receive in Western countries but that non-white people do not receive "an invisible package of unearned assets." In contrast to overt bias or prejudice, white privilege refers to hidden as well as overt passive benefits that white people may not even be aware they possess.

Meaning Of White Privilege

The words "white" and "privilege" are combined to form the phrase "white privilege." The implicit social benefits that white people have in comparison to others who suffer racism are known as "white privilege." Francis Kendall claims that "white privilege is an institutional (rather than a personal) set of benefits granted to those of us who, by race, resemble the people who dominate the powerful positions in our institutions."

People who are targets of racism feel a lack of suspicion, prejudice, and other unpleasant attitudes. Note that this phrase is not applicable in nations like China or Japan, where white people do not constitute the majority of the population or the ruling political elite.

Some academics claim that the phrase substitutes the idea of "whiteness" for class or other forms of social privilege or serves as a diversion from more fundamental issues of inequality. Others argue that while whiteness is not a replacement for other social privileges, it is intertwined with them and requires a complicated and thorough investigation to determine how whiteness contributes to privilege.

Other commentators offer alternative definitions of whiteness as well as limitations or exceptions to white identity, contending that the idea of white privilege ignores significant distinctions among white subpopulations and individuals and that the idea of whiteness cannot be universally applied to all white people. They draw attention to the issue of failing to recognise the diversity of people of colour and ethnicity within these groupings.

White Privilege Affects White People

White people frequently become defensive when the subject of white privilege is brought up, which is a significant problem that arises in discussions about it. They could become unresponsive and stop speaking or listening.

This may be especially true for white people who experienced poverty as children or who believe that their circumstances have been exceptionally difficult. They are left wondering how they are privileged at all. The expression gives the impression that life is simple, but it really merely refers to benefits related to race.

White Privilege as The Power of Normal

The examples that are most helpful to those who possess white privilege are frequently the ones that cause the least harm to those who do not. But that does not imply that these instances are unimportant or that they have no negative effects at all.

These subdued forms of white privilege are frequently utilised as a cosy, convenient entrance point for folks who would object to the idea. That is why they continue to be so well-liked. These are commonplace, straightforward comforts that white folks don't have to consider.

These often-used examples include −

  • First aid box with Band-Aids that are "flesh-colored" and exclusively suitable for white folks.

  • The hair care products that white people require are located on the aisle marked "hair care" rather than in a more condensed area devoted to "ethnic hair products."

  • The supermarket stocks a range of food selections that are representative of the cultural customs of the majority of white people.

But the source of these issues is frequently disregarded. White people may dismiss these kinds of examples by stating things like, "My hair is curly and requires special product," or "My family is from Poland, and it's hard to find traditional Polish food at the grocery store."

It could be the case. However, even these little white privileges must be acknowledged because they cause harm that goes beyond the annoyance of having to pay for goods and services. These advantages stand for what might be referred to as "the power of normal." If public areas and items appear to be tailored to one race while separating the demands of individuals of other races into separate sectors, something more troubling may be going on underneath the surface.

White people are more likely to go through life expecting that their demands will be met easily. People of colour navigate the world knowing that their demands are unmet. This entails identifying any holes and filling them.


If you are white and have always felt that others had an advantage over you, maybe in terms of wealth, you may resent the idea that you are privileged in some manner because of your ethnicity. White individuals enjoy a benefit known as "white privilege" that shields them from all forms of racial and ethnic prejudice.

However, white privilege does not indicate that white people have not suffered or cannot face difficulties in life; rather, it signifies that any difficulties that a white person has encountered or may encounter are unrelated to the colour of their skin. White privilege is a societal phenomenon linked to racism and racial discrimination. In accordance with the American Anthropological Association, "the "racial" worldview was invented to assign some groups to perpetual low status, while others were permitted access to privilege, power, and wealth."

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1.What is male privilege?

Ans. Male privilege refers to the set of privileges or rights that apply only to males based on their sex. Depending on how closely a guy follows the ideal masculine norm in their community, their access to these privileges may differ.

Q2. What do you mean by reverse discrimination?

Ans. Reverse discrimination, as the name suggests, is when members of a dominating or majority group are discriminated against in favour of minority or historically underrepresented group members. Groups can be classified according to their sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, race, or ethnicity.

Q3. What is social privilege?

Ans. Social privilege is an idea of unique entitlement or advantage that benefits one individual, frequently at the expense of others. Education, socioeconomic status, caste, age, height, weight, nationality, place of residence, disability, ethnic or racial classification, gender, gender identity, neurology, sexual orientation, physical attractiveness, religion, and other distinguishing characteristics can all favour privileged groups.

Updated on: 11-May-2023


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