Idle No More: White Privilege Revisited

Recently, an online acquaintance posted a comment about forgetting to park his white privilege at the door.  In his case, his life has been neither easy nor hard when it comes to opportunities and avenues of employment.  He enjoys a life that isn’t perhaps filled with impressive financial compensation, but he is doing what he likes doing, so his professional career hasn’t been without its own perks.

Being White Is Just As Hard As Not Being White

This is where many misunderstand what white privilege really is.  They assume the term to mean that white people can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be born disadvantaged or to struggle to achieve goals or to rise above their humble beginnings.  It’s not that white people can’t have hard lives.  It’s that being white doesn’t make their lives any harder.

It’s A Little Like Being Tall

Being tall is a bonus in society.  Tall people are thought of as leaders.  The English language even extolls that concept by saying that people of exceptional calibre are “head and shoulders above” their peers.

Studies have proven that the taller a person is, the more money that person can expect to earn in business.  In fact, when spread out across a person’s career, the tall employees can earn, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of dollars more than their shorter colleagues, even if their education and work fall below that of their colleagues.

It’s Also A Little Like Being Thin

Being overweight — even if it’s just a few pounds — works against people.  The more a person weighs above what the charts claim is acceptable, the more that person is perceived as being lazy and unhealthy.  If a person is perceived as being lazy and unhealthy, they are also thought to be less intelligent.  Why?  Because a smart, motivated person would be living a healthy lifestyle and keeping those extra pounds at bay.

In fact, studies have proven that overweight women are less likely to be hired or promoted to higher-wage positions, and they earn less money compared to average size women and all men regardless of a man’s weight.  Over the course of a career, the overweight woman earns hundreds of thousands of dollars less than her average size female colleagues, and her male colleagues of any size.

And It’s A Little Like Being Young

In the U.S., employees are supposedly protected by Federal law when it comes to age discrimination if you’re forty years of age or older.  But some employers (or potential employers) have creative ways to make sure they aren’t going to be on the receiving end of a formal complaint.

It’s Sort Of Like Being Able Bodied

There’s a reason the U.S. has the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to protect employees from discrimination based on a disability.  It’s because those with a diagnosed disability are discriminated against, even with the ADA in place.

The Misperception America Was Built On

White Europeans landed in the Americas with set beliefs about those who were not white Europeans.  Blacks were slaves.  Asians were cheap labor.  Indigenous peoples were savages.  And religion told them that God had made them the superior race.

Regardless of what class a white person was born into, that white person was still “head and shoulders above” any Black, Asian, or Indigenous person, not matter how well a Black, Asian, or Indigenous person did for himself or herself .  Yes, being white made that person better than anyone who wasn’t white.  And while many claim that this is no longer the case, unfortunately, if that was the truth, there wouldn’t be any need to include race as a grounds upon which a person cannot be discriminated against.

Final Note

The bottom line is that if a person is born a tall, average size, healthy, white male, they already have the inside track according to society’s biases.  Imagine how disheartening that is for someone who is short, overweight, disabled, and a minority female.

So yes, for those of you who insist that there is no such thing as white privilege, you are mistaken.

You may not have asked to be born white, but if you’re white, that’s what you were born.  You may not see or understand the privilege that your light skin brings you, but rest assured, society as a whole does whether subconsciously or consciously.  That’s just the way life is.

The next time someone asks you to check your white privilege at the door, please do so — not because you’re being asked, but because it’s the right thing to do.

Elyse Bruce

SUGGESTED READING

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE
http://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/disability-discrimination-workplace-overview-of-30123.html

DISABILITY DISCRIMINATION IN THE WORKPLACE
http://www.independentliving.org/docs5/EmployDiscrim.html

JOB DISCRIMINATION AGAINST THE DISABLED: NOT JUST AN ACADEMIC ISSUE
http://knowledge.wharton.upenn.edu/article/job-discrimination-against-the-disabled-not-just-an-academic-issue/

(THE) LONG AND SHORT OF HEIGHT DISCRIMINATION UNDER THE ADA
http://www.businessmanagementdaily.com/35885/the-long-and-short-of-height-discrimination-under-the-ada

OVERWEIGHT WOMEN LOSE IN THE LABOR MARKET
http://news.vanderbilt.edu/2014/10/overweight-women-labor-market/

TOO BIG TO COCKTAIL?
http://nation.time.com/2013/07/26/too-big-to-cocktail-judge-upholds-weight-discrimination-in-the-workplace/

(THE) TROUBLE WITH TALL PEOPLE
http://www.cbsnews.com/news/the-trouble-with-tall-people/

(THE) UGLY TRUTH ABOUT AGE DISCRIMINATION
http://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2014/01/31/the-ugly-truth-about-age-discrimination/#1196b6a11f1e

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: