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White Privilege In American Society

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"Privilege is the greatest enemy of equality." This quote from a noted Austrian novelist, Marie Von Ebner-Eschenbach, perhaps describes the harm of "white privilege" on American society. By its very definition privilege is a grace bestowed on one over another (Webster, 2006). In that sense, privilege is in and of itself an opposition to equality. In racial terms, if one group has been historically privileged over another, there will never be equality between the groups until a catastrophic new beginning can occur removing all trace of the bestowed privilege.

White American privilege is the result of a country developing around a racially charged society featuring whites on top. Since the inception of colonial America, Whites heeded themselves as the superior race. This is seen evident through the submission and elimination of the Native Americans as well as most directly in the institution of slavery. As the "nation of riches" began to develop, and the American Dream came into fruition, nonwhites were left out of any chance to profit. Skip ahead to present day and we see a nation that has made drastic leaps toward social equality between races, but still struggles with remnants of the past.

Simply put, white privilege is the social advantage given to whites through wealth and power that nonwhites never had the opportunity to earn. Despite all of society's strides toward racial equality, how do you equalize the advantages one group has had over another? The most obvious advantage today is that of wealth. White Americans have had greater opportunity for previous generations to accumulate and pass on wealth to today's members, whereas nonwhite Americans were historically denied the opportunity to do so. Specific cases include the subjugation of a race with Native Americans, the enslavement of race as seen with Black Americans, and the fleecing of a race as seen with Japanese Americans. However, perhaps most prevalent, but certainly not obvious is the power that White Privilege bestows to White Americans. In a society being controlled by white Americans, it is natural for that society to show a bias toward whites. This bias manifests itself through legislation, opportunities and within the very fabric of society itself.

However prevalent its effects might be, White Privilege seems nonexistent to those who benefit from it (McIntosh, 1989). In modern American society, as a nation that has existed with White Privilege, it is commonplace and goes by unnoticed to white Americans. Among its subtle manifestations, but arguably the most relevant, is the fact that actions committed by a white individual are attributed to that individual and very seldom to their race, whereas, actions committed by nonwhites are usually viewed as stereotypical of their race, even if those actions are in fact atypical. It is in these subtleties that the often made argument that disenfranchised white Americans do not benefit from the effects of White Privilege is proved inaccurate. The factor of wealth only gives a reason as to why white privilege exists. The fact that all but a very small percentage of wealthy Americans are white correlates to that fact that all but a very small percentage of Americans in power are white. The bias and controlling interest exerted by this white power majority is apparent through all aspects of American government. As described in The Coming White Majority a black man recalls coming to America, he quotes, "We came here as Africans, but no one called us Africans. They called us



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