The Problem with Whiteness as Privilege

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Few things prove as exasperating as the term “white privilege.” The term marks a neo-liberalist attempt to gentrify the “woke” movement. The word proves a facile attempt to encapsulate and expose the inequities of whiteness. Asserting whiteness as a privilege, however, “privileges” the term.

Whiteness is not a privilege, it is an act of terrorism.

Now, my use of the word whiteness here references social and systemic status.

Just last week, a story broke about a white woman who accused and accosted a black teen she thought stole an iPhone. Yes, this anti-black world “privileged” her accusation, but only due to the terrorism her whiteness enabled. Similarly, the white woman who called the police on the central park bird watcher does not epitomize privilege but the cognitive distortion symptomatic of white terrorism.

Additionally, not even quite forty-eight hours after the attacks on the capital, the public witnesses public proclamations of involvement from the African-adjacent. Thus, not only did physical acts of terror inundate Washington, DC on Wednesday, the terror bleeds into the days that follow where blacks witness the domestic terrorist confess acts of sedition with no care or pending consequence. This behavior engenders the African-descended to recall how vehemently many within our collective detach from claims and groups that appear “radical” in their affiliation with blackness. This anti-black ambiance requires that the African-descended view their blackness as an inconvenience, as the source for constant apology, and as what one must engage inclusively with caution, if at all.

This terrorism is perhaps most pronounced in the way that Donald Trump has become the scapegoat for white supremacy. Now, this statement is not to detach Trump’s involvement and role in white nationalism, but it is to state that the climate that enabled Wednesday’s storming of the capitol predates Trump’s appointment as “president” and his arrival on earth. Treating Trump as an aberration and as the scapegoat personifies a systemic evasion that exposes an unwillingness to attack the problem at the root. It is not a privilege that gaslights the public into believing that inherently white space is “Trump’s America”— it is a distortion of power that follows terrorism. Moreover, this evasiveness elucidates that it is unlikely that things will change unless we rise.

White terrorism started his country and ornaments the years and centuries since its sinful conception. Moreover, the events on Wednesday were not that of treason, but an echo of terror tantamount to the nation at large.

It was truly an act of terror to watch the white supremacist uprising this week as a black person, because the events delineated what we, as black people, have always known to be true. White terror permeates that every day of the African-descended, from our last names to English as a first language, and while this social and systemic violence yields privilege to our adversaries, the term “white privilege” discounts the totality of our truth. This terror relegates the totality of generational testimony to a few hours on the first Wednesday in 2021.

One Comment Add yours

  1. Great piece and a very important piece, illustrating the importance of words and how words can frame the way people think.

    It’s not “White Privilege,” it’s “White POWER,” it’s “White Terrorism,” it’s “White Supremacy.”

    Racists encourage us to use water downed, convoluted and abstract words that do not accurately describe what is actually happening to black people, which has a horrific effect on keeping black people confused on what Racism is and how it works. It’s not “disadvantaged,” “discrimination,” “micro aggressions” (I know this was coined by a black person, but It was endorsed by White academia and its heavily encouraged) its mistreatment and abuse and its nothing “micro” or small about the Terrorism and abuse that black people continue to endure.

    Thank you for pointing this out. Using the term “privilege” makes Whiteness sound harmless and accidental and we know nothing can be further from the truth. The so-called “White privileged” is possible because of all the brutality and violence that black people suffered.

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