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Learn & Unlearn: Anti-racism Resource Guide

Lesson 7: Privilege & White Privilege

Original post on @saic.maffairs posted 9/13/2020.

Foundation: Privilege

What is Privilege?

Privilege can be hard to notice, if we were born with it. But everyone has identities that are privileged and not privileged. What is privilege?
Privilege is any unearned benefit, advantage, favor, or right that a person receives by nature of their identity.1

White Privilege is preferential institutional treatment that grants power and resources to European- and European-American people, while simultaneously withholding from Indigenous American, Africa, Asian, and Arab people.White Privilege is having the power to define, or be the definition of the status quo. 

White Privilege does not assume that you’ve never struggled, or experienced hardships. White Privilege does not assume that everything you’ve accomplished didn’t take strain, or effort. White Privilege does not assume that all white people benefit equally. Because White Privilege is bestowed, doesn’t mean there’s nothing we can do.  


As a white person, I see many examples of positive, celebrated, white role models in fashion, tv, movies, media, leadership, government
As a white person, I can select/purchase hair, makeup, cosmetic products that match my hair texture, color, and style from a wide array of products and product lines
As a white person, I have food options that most closely reflect my traditions and preferences
As a white person, I am less likely to be labeled as ‘suspicious,’ and followed, interrogated, searched
As a white person, I am less likely to be denied a job, loan, mortgage, credit due to my race or ethnic background


“Guilt is a profoundly conservative emotion and as such is not particularly useful for bringing about change. From a position of insecurity and guilt, people do not change or inspire others to change,” - Michael Kaufman3

To Read

Flaxman Library Materials - May take up to 3 days from request to pickup. Instructions are available here.
I-Share Books - May take up to 10 days from request to pickup. Instructions are available here.

To Research

To Listen

To Watch

To Follow


To Reflect

Read and complete the checklist of 50 “Daily Effects of White Privilege” from Peggy McIntosh.4
Which conditions do you take for granted? Which conditions do you take for granted? If you’re feeling guilty, why? How can you address and move past that feeling of guilt?
Now that you’re aware, notice something you haven’t thought about before.

To Act

Talk to someone about Privilege using these tools:

  1. Start by understanding the ways in which they don’t have privilege, and listen to those frustrations
  2. Recognize that privilege is relative to one’s own environment/community, and not all privileges are equal in weight
  3. Emphasize that a system that privileges some and oppresses others - hurts everyone
  4. Emphasize that having privilege does not mean they should feel guilty for what they’ve benefitted from, Guilt shouldn’t be the motivation for a better system, and Guilt centers on the privileged over those without privilege
  5. Propose the mindset that having privilege means having power
  6. Offer ways they can ‘check’ their privilege - breaking patterns of thought, language, behavior
  7. Encourage actions that interrogate privileges. Some examples are here. 

From Jamie Utt, 20121


Works cited:

  1. Jamie Utt, "How To Talk About Privilege To Someone Who Doesn’t Know What That Is," Everyday Feminism, December 2012. 
  2. Sharon Martinas, What is White Privilege, n.d.
  3. "White Privilege, Identification, and Safety," Collective Feminism, March 27 2018
  4. Peggy McIntosh, White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, 1990.

Other sources: