Ollie Endicott The United States has created a system of advantage for its white citizens that makes

life easier for them than others. White privilege has pushed its way into all aspects of living in America but is still subtle and nearly invisible. This is because the majority (whites) have not wanted to change the system that benefits them over other races. However, what many white Americans don’t realize is the extent to which these benefits actually hinder their own development and bring down the quality of their lives. This system has been able to continue because the people with power have chosen to see the minorities (specifically blacks) through the lens of what W.E.B. Du Bois called the “unasked question” (__) This is the question about how it feels to be a problem and does not recognize that these are people with problems and should be looked at as such. The existence of white privilege has been systematically robbing the American people of valuable opportunities for understanding and growth and the notion that blacks constitute a problem people has allowed the robbery to continue. White privilege is a systematic form of advantage that has permeated every pore of American society. Because it gives an advantage to some (whites), others (minorities) are left at a clear disadvantage and thus are not given equal opportunity to realize their full potential. One example of this system occurs through prejudice in the process of hiring workers. The desire to be around one’s own race plays significant part in these choices and since the majority of business managers are white, hiring a white employee usually results. This in turn allows the system to continue since the black candidate is forced to another (lower paying) job and his or her children will be passed over in the

future since they have less opportunity for quality education than the children of the white employee that was hired. Besides repeating itself indefinitely, the system of white privilege is also very well hidden which makes stopping it much more difficult. At first glance this does not make sense since it is so widespread in US society but people’s ability to use logic to get the results they want allows for good camouflage. A boss can simply say that the candidate did not fit the profile the company was looking for, or that the he or she was too qualified for the position and would not be happy working in this place. Similarly, when applications for jobs or schools are examined without knowledge of the applicant’s race, the application with more varied experiences and better test scores or grades is invariably chosen. Often, this will be a white person’s application because they have been given more opportunities for interesting experiences and better education. However, the person choosing the applications can claim to have chosen the better candidate. Although it may seem that this systematic of advantage for whites would be detrimental to only the minorities of our country, whites also suffer. They are discouraged from forming new relationships that would offer a better understanding of the world around them from people with vastly different life experiences than their own. These relationships would help foster a sense of inclusiveness that our society of today lacks. More concretely, the number of minorities in prisons is disproportionate to their numbers in society because many are sent there from suspicions propagated by white privilege. The cost to run these prisons is extremely high and if white privilege could be

negated by not assuming minorities are guilty or by not putting them in environments that foster crime, this cost to the government could be greatly reduced. Most importantly however, the culture white privilege has created has discouraged and disabled people of color from contributing to the improvement of American society as much as they might otherwise could have. No one knows how our lives could be different if black inventors, politicians, or businessmen had been encouraged and supported instead of degraded and dismissed. Though these disadvantages make dismantling white privilege beneficial to all races, they are abstract and difficult to measure and so are not easily proven. The question that inspired W.E.B. Du Bois to write The Souls of Black Folk was one that, though never explicitly asked, could be traced to the very foundation of white privilege and the unequal treatment of different races. This was the question of how it felt to be a problem. Du Bois dealt with this issue by not acknowledging the question because he realized that it was one that did not deserve an answer. The question merely signaled that the white majority saw the blacks as a “problem people” instead of a “people with problems” (as Cornel West puts it). This meant that they were blamed for the way their race had ended up instead of being seen as unwilling victims who desperately needed aid to escape the cycle of poverty and subjugation that was a clear result of the 250 years of slavery in America. By being depicted as a problem that had to be solved, blacks were again shown that they were far below the accepted American citizen and since this depiction was so widespread in our culture that it is no surprise that blacks began believing it themselves. Cornel West points out that Americans are distinguished for their problem-solving ability

and that the most American thing one can do is to solve a problem facing the country. So when blacks are called a problem it becomes painfully clear that they are not true Americans and can never be and this problem people must be solved by the white majority. Because this notion of the problem of black people in the country was so widespread, it is no surprise that some began to believe it and all were exposed to the phenomenon Du Bois called double consciousness. This is where a person’s view of themselves comes into conflict with the way the outside world sees them. This causes a perversion of self-identity in people of color as they try to combine these two conflicting views. This double consciousness along with the blaming of black Americans for their plight helps to continue the culture and systematic advantage of white privilege. America claims to be the land of opportunity, however this picture of the country does not hold when its social constructions are closely examined. The advantages gained by white Americans simply because of their race mean that other races are put at a distinct disadvantage and their opportunities to lead fulfilling lives are limited. White privilege’s harm extends even to white Americans who believe they are benefitting from it by taking away the opportunity to increase their understanding of the world around them and the potential for all of society to benefit from the endeavors of those that were not allowed to realize their full potential. This system continues today despite these deleterious aspects because blacks have historically been looked at as the root of their own problems when it is clear they have suffered greatly and are still suffering from the legacy of slavery. Through a combination of misconceptions and a hidden system of advantage for a select group in society, the people of the United States don’t realize

they are systematically depriving themselves of opportunities to make more inclusive, more equal, and more loving society.

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