Opinion

Examining White Privilege Series: “The Myth of a Post-Racial Society”

Online databases provided by the Cannell Library, are often overlooked resources available for student research. These databases give students access to numerous scholarly and peer-reviewed articles, which offer more credibility and depth to students’ work, than a general Google search.

For students who are new to the dialogue surrounding white privilege and social justice, these databases may be useful resources to learn about the intricacies and intersectional factors that affect both of these issues.

(Courtesy/Bristol University Press)

One particular article available through the databases is a review of “White Privilege: The Myth of a Post-racial Society,” by Bhopal Kalwant. The review, written by Chen Wang Dufil, addresses many of the arguments that Kalwant made.

One of the first arguments that Dufil addresses is the critical race theory, “… asserts that whiteness and white privilege pervade all aspects of traditionally white-dominated species,” Kalwant wrote.

Racism and white privilege are not natural phenomena but instead were created in many places by society, historically ruled by white people and enforced on a systematic level.

The next theory that Dufil discusses is Kimberle Crenshaw’s intersectional approach to discrimination, which recognizes that white privilege often crosses racial lines, into issues including sexism, homophobia and transphobia.

Crenshaw asserts that while a white woman is disadvantaged compared to a white man, she will be advantaged compared to a woman of color. Further, in regard to racism, a white woman will be at an advantage to a man of color. However, in regard to sexism, the same white woman would be disadvantaged to a man of color.

Dufil went on to address the presence of white privilege in labor markets.

“In the labour market, the disadvantages of BME [black and minority ethnic] groups have been manifested both in quantity and quality,” Dufil wrote.

He went on the explain that in regard to quantity, BME groups are less likely to be employed and more likely to be “economically inactive.” Further, in regard to quality, BME groups were given fewer chances for careers, instead of getting stuck in secondary jobs, Dufil wrote.  

The argument could be made that if BME groups were not stuck with secondary jobs, they could better build their resumes and earn qualifications for careers, rather than entry-level jobs, similarly to how a white person can. Some also argue this is the reason things like Affirmative Action exists; to compensate for the lack of chances BME groups are given to be better qualified for college.

Later in the review, Dufil addressed more nuanced and often overlooked forms of racism, such as “white curriculum.” According to Dufil, the white curriculum places traditionally white [European] values at the center of learning, while placing other cultures in an area of “otherness.”

One could argue this approach creates a quasi-conformist culture, where European values and cultures are widely viewed as the only acceptable ideas.

This attitude also affects potential job candidates, as job interviews are often based on character and personal methods. Even if a candidate is qualified, they are less likely to be hired if their personal methods and values do not reflect the practices of the traditionally white values of their employer.

It is important to remember that for many people, this judgment of values is subconscious. If a person only has exposure to traditionally white values and methods, they are unlikely to accept other values.

Typically, a white person will only be exposed to a white set of values and methods, while a person of color will be exposed to a number of values and methods. However, the person of color will often not be sure what is deemed acceptable and what is not.

As part of a multicultural society, we should all accept as many values and methods as we can. We should not discriminate against people due to their cultural backgrounds, even if their backgrounds are very different from ours.

Whether or not western society chooses to accept non-European practices, white people will not have to worry, as their values remain the majority. This, is white privilege.

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