The blog post titled How I discovered I am white by Janelle Hanchett describes one woman’s experience growing up and discovering the privilege she has been given, without being consciously aware of said privilege, until her university professor taught her otherwise. It highlights the ignorance ingrained in everything we are taught from our first elementary school history class. Hanchett sets the scene with her 14 year old self wondering why her school doesn’t have a white club. She remembers being upset that there was a Chinese club and a Latino club that honored their cultures and heritages, but none that celebrated her own and she asked her grandmother why that was. She thought it was unfair but what a youthful Hanchett failed to realize was that the America she thought she knew was an illusion, carefully ingrained into every school curriculum and history class. “ I knew this to be true because: America was awful to black people but that was fixed during the Civil Rights movement, and therefore, we are all on equal footing now and if you don’t succeed it’s because you aren’t trying. I learned it in school. It was fact. School teaches the truth.” When you grow up living a secure and sheltered life, you don’t realize the struggles that people of colour still go through, 40 years after the fight for civil rights ended. Hanchett remembers thinking that people who made arguments into race issues were wrong in their response. As a white teenager she clearly knew what arguments were about and she knew that race was not an issue and people were simply “pulling the race card.” It wasn’t until she was in graduate school that her professor opened her eyes to how sheltered and mislead, she had been throughout her childhood. Hanchett claims that his way of seeing the world is not limited to just her. “Not all white people are white supremacists, but all white people benefit from white supremacy” was her professor’s mantra, repeated to Hanchett throughout the course of the semester. In this Professor Lee explained that white is the standard and the basis from what all other differences are measured. A white person never feels that their actions represent their entire race, and they never had to experience the weight of prejudice from past crimes that others of their race have committed. Every white person benefits from racism. The neighborhood you live in today, the schools you attended and your cultural knowledge were all made possible because of the racism that exists when we take the false sense of equality away. Hanchett explains that despite the fact that she grew up poor, as a white person she had more opportunities available to her. Her grandparents access to education and a higher socioeconomic status affected her for the better through her father. Her parents took out loans, backed financially by her grandparents, that subsequently benefited her in her life. She argues that while you may not see racism in your life, it is there. Research as of 2010 (Gordon, “Racial Inequality”) shows that despite the fabricated equality that we are taught in school, there are racial disparities in our economic system (Gordon, “Racial Inequality), with nonwhite families making only 65% of what the average white family makes. In 2013 the average nonwhite family made $52,440 less than the standard income of white families (Gordon, “Racial Inequality). Our education system also comes up in favor of white children over people of colour (“Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Education: Psychology’s Contributions to Understanding and Reducing Disparities”) because white families have access to better education and a higher level of education from kindergarten on, simply based on the neighborhoods that they live in and the teachers that instruct them (“Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Education: Psychology’s Contributions to Understanding and Reducing Disparities”). Other areas that are inequitable to anyone who is not white are the justice system, where unarmed black teenagers are shot without their killers being imprisoned ( “Justice for All? Challenging Racial Disparities in the Criminal Justice System”) and the healthcare system which undoubtedly favor english-speaking white americans (Casale, “Disparities in Healthcare Quality Among Racial and Ethnic Minority Groups”) . Hanchett finishes by saying that the world cannot continue to function in this way. The time has come to change the way we, as white people, live our lives and the way we treat people of colour.
I think that this post speaks the truth of white privilege and white ignorance perfectly. I would argue that it could be taken beyond the discrimination that Hanchett describes as her ideas and morals about white ignorance can be applied to other areas where awareness must be brought to. White feminism is feminism that ignores intersectionality and excludes the experiences of anyone that isn’t white, cis and/or straight (“Why We Need to Talk about White Feminism”). The way that women of colour experience misogyny is different from the way that white females experience misogyny. This is another example of how white privilege obscures the way that white people experience the world. Although not all feminist who are white are white feminist, most white feminists are caucasian, because, as Hanchett makes clear in her blog post, caucasian people do not have to think about race on a daily basis (“Why We Need to Talk about White Feminism”). White feminism, which contributes to the general white privilege and ignorance, ignores the role that whiteness plays in feminist issues such as beauty standards, police brutality and wage gaps. For every dollar a man makes, white females make only 78 cents (“Pay Equality and Discrimination.”). African American women only make 64 cents and Latina women make even less, with 56 cents to a man’s dollar (“Pay Equality and Discrimination.”). While I don’t think every white person in the United States is purposely trying to oppress other races, our ignorant, everyday actions reinforce the white supremacy that already exists in the United States. And because we, as citizens of White America will never have to experience the things that people of colour struggle with every single day, we could ignore the discrimination and keep living our privileged lives while it was convenient. Until now. Over the past year my eyes have been opened to my privilege in a big way. And it was only through education and communication that I was able to realize how much I benefit from the suffering of other cultures. It’s a dangerous line to walk but it is clear through recent protests caused by police shootings that people of colour are fed up with the way the United States as a whole treats them. As Hanchett perfectly states in her conclusion “We’re at a crossroads. This cannot go on. We’re crushed under the weight of hatred, history, silence, violence, bullshit media and the insidious defense of systematic unequal distribution of resources, and at some point, none of us will be able to breathe.” And it is time for privileged white people to see the world for what it truly is and help change it. Because if we don’t wake up and act, we are writing our own demise.