Majority Privileges

privilege.jpgIdentity and Privilege: Understanding White Privilege is a book that has made us think a lot about our own privileges and power as white people. Like the author says, white people don’t often realize how much we take for granted, how easy it is to overlook what it means to be white. We basically assume, for example, that the people we read about in books or magazines are white, unless their race is stated clearly or their picture is right there or they are famous and already known by us. Being white in the USA is like being fish in water, we don’t notice the water because it is just so “normal” and taken for granted.

This book also makes us think about hearing privileges in the Deaf community. There are many parallels in the power relationships between Black/white people and Deaf/hearing people. Just like many job announcements state “qualified minority candidates are encouraged to apply”, so do some announcements state “qualified Deaf candidates are encouraged to apply”. You never see a job announcement stating “qualified white candidates are encouraged to apply”. White people are assumed to be qualified, while minorities and Deaf people seem to be assumed not to be qualified. We see “qualified women candidates” but not “qualified men candidates”. What is this all about??!!!

1 Comment
  1. Jules NelsonHill October 18, 2007

    Hi Candy and Sharon!

    If you had not linked this to the ongoing discussion on racism I would not have seen this! So thank you for adding the link! I ill be sure and get my hands onto a copy of the book you’ve recommended. Smiles. Anyhow…

    White Privilege. Can you believe I was 26 when the knowledge of my responsibility for my White Privilege made a lasting impression on me? Don’t get me wrong. I’ve known of White Privilege since grade school. It’s just that I hadn’t ever really faced my responsibility for it until a co-Marcher on the Great Peace March made a point of conveying to me that she knew it was because of White Privilege that her and I were on the Great Peace March. (There were very very very few person’s of color on the Peace March.)

    We were upset about an incident earlier that day when one of our co-Marchers, a young Black woman, blew up at a young white guy for something he said about her driving skills (she was driving the school bus – an old rattle trap one – for the tired marchers). He had complained because we were getting jounced all around.

    I hadn’t realized there was a problem until she stopped in the middle of the road and got out and started walking. The young man got behind the wheel and inched the bus alongside the young black woman with the door open. He was talking to her as he drove the bus and she was very very angry and gesticulating while stomping along the roadway.

    It took us about another hour to get to camp because of this. Then when we got to Peace City (the name of our nightly campsite) the campers gathered for an emergency Town Hall meeting. As usual I was totally dependent on friends to fill me in on what was being said and done…snippets really, y’know? Well, it was late when we finished because in Town Hall when someone is aggrieved we all sit and listen and we don’t interrupt the person with the “talking stone” or “talking stick.”

    Interestingly enough, if I recall correctly, the young black woman instead was using a personal crystal necklace as her “talking stick.” This resonated with many in the audience and especially with me as we have witnessed the mental and spiritual healing properties of crystals.

    This incident was a powerful lesson for me because I see the black woman in my younger self and how angry I got over little things because I was just so fed up with being discriminated against because I’m deaf. She was angry about being discriminated against because of her skin color. We were both angry…and while this anger is somewhat justified, we still need to take responsibility for how we feel: i.e. According to the Peace Pilgrim, each of us needs to accept responsibility for our own emotions. Our behavior’s are reflected by our emotions. Once we own up to our emotions then our behavior accordingly is less angry. It’s still truthful, just less angry. In short: Own your emotions!

    That day I promised myself I’d work on being responsible for my own White Privilege because that young black woman was right: the young white man had criticized her because he thought b e c a u s e she was black she didn’t know how to take proper care of the old bus and it’s complicated driving process. Her blackness had nothing to do with driving skills and everything to do with the fact she felt lonely about being the only black person on the Peace March (at that time) and no one had really spent the time to show her the complicated steps for the old bus’ driving mechanism before it was her turn to drive.

    Thing is, the road WAS bad that day. Very bad. We could’ve had the best driver that day and we would’ve still been jounced around. The young white guy was only with us a short time. But before he left to return to school the young black woman and he became close friends. Nothing like a good fight to draw out a mutual attraction, eh?

    Still, the lesson learned for me is that I am to be responsible for my White Privilege: learn about it and be aware if it happens and decide what kind of message I want to send with my “White Privilege.” In other words, I own my emotions, and I won’t knowingly practice racism.

    Thank you for the opportunity to share!

    Jules -oo-


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