memberlogin

Understanding ‘White Privilege’

pexels photo 768x506by Russell Pollitt SJ

Some issues are difficult to address; 'white privilege' is one of them. Some of the immediate responses you get when you use this phrase are: "I worked hard for all I have!" or "I never agreed with apartheid and never voted for the National Party" or "I am not a racist and believe in equality." These may all be true. However, this does not mean that you have not benefited from white privilege. Before getting defensive or heated about the term we need to step back and attempt to understand what this means and the subtle dynamic it reveals.

White privilege is, as Fr Bryan Massingale suggests in his book Racial Justice and the Catholic Church, the "flipside and inescapable corollary of racial injustice. Racial injustice comes about to preserve and protect white privilege". These advantages range from greater ease of moving into whatever neighbourhood you like, easier access to positions of social influence and economic power as well as greater access to quality education. White privilege is the result of social policies, institutions and procedures that have deliberately created a system to advance the well-being of white people and impeded the opportunities for people of colour.

The term 'white privilege' shifts the narrative from focusing on how people have been harmed by racism to how white people have derived certain advantages from racism – whether you wanted them or not. White privilege refers to the reality that, in South Africa today, there are opportunities still afforded to whites that people of colour just do not share.

Let's be clear: you may not choose to be racially advantaged, it may even distress some whites, but you simply are, because you are white. You may have no prejudice in you, but the advantages for you are real. That's the evil in the system – guilty not by choice but by historic reality. Fr Massingale writes: "Regardless of an individual's desires, an 'invisible package of unearned assets' is enjoyed by white people because of racial consciousness that is subtly pervasive in our social customs and institutions." He goes on to explain that social habits and policies function to reinforce the individual white person's beliefs about a sense of entitlement while at the same time instilling in black people a sense of inferiority.

Racism inflicts economic disadvantage. One of the manifestations of white privilege is the economic advantage white people have. This has been enabled and empowered by public policy, law and political power over a long period of time. Therefore, white privilege is a direct spin-off of racism. It is not about how hard someone has worked. It is about the fact that some people have access to resources while others do not. The access is not necessarily based on merit but on racial profiling.

Facing the reality of racial injustice, and its generational effects, means that we must name its causes, attack it at its root, and boldly accept the burden that the system has laid upon us all. It is not easy to talk about this but unless we seek to openly and earnestly understand the anatomy of the disease, we and future generations will continue to be infected, or maybe even destroyed.

 

Source: The Jesuit Institute South Africa - http://www.jesuitinstitute.org.za

News and Events

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

August 18, 2017

Pope Francis decries attack on Nigerian churchgoers, violence in CAR

Pope Francis decries attack on Nigerian churchgoers, violence in CAR

(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis appealed on Wednesday for an end to "every form of hatred and violence", especially those "... Read more

August 18, 2017

PRESS STATEMENT: Dissolving Parliament and Early Elections

August 11, 2017 DISSOLVING PARLIAMENT AND EARLY ELECTIONS The Jesuit Institute South Africa urges opposition parties t... Read more

August 18, 2017

Truth to Power. Sorry Mr Zuma

Truth to Power. Sorry Mr Zuma

By Russell Pollitt SJ President Jacob Zuma has begun to sound more and more like the old apartheid-style leaders BJ Vor... Read more

August 18, 2017

Zambian commitment to Child Protection

Zambian commitment to Child Protection

The Irish Jesuit Missions office has been generous in providing assistance, encouragement and resources to the Zambia-Ma... Read more

August 18, 2017

Catholic students' movement launches Sustainable lifestyles campaign

Catholic students' movement launches Sustainable lifestyles campaign

The National Movement of Catholic Students (NMCS) Zimbabwe a member of the International Movement of Catholic Students l... Read more

August 18, 2017

Chad: Education is the only way to change the world

Chad: Education is the only way to change the world

                                  &... Read more

August 18, 2017

Pope prays for victims, rescue workers of Sierra Leone mudslide

Pope prays for victims, rescue workers of Sierra Leone mudslide

                     Pope Francis prays with journalists on the p... Read more

August 14, 2017

Celebrating the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola with Zambuko House

Celebrating the Feast of St Ignatius of Loyola with Zambuko House

The Zimbabwe-Mozambique Province joyfully celebrated the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola with over 400 congregants, on th... Read more

August 14, 2017

Père E. Foro, SJ:« Heureux d'avoir servi, heureux de servir»

Père E. Foro, SJ:« Heureux d'avoir servi, heureux de servir»

Honoré Onana Olah, SJ Le père Emmanuel Foro, SJ vient de passer six années à Hekima College, une institution jésuite ba... Read more

Featured Articles

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3

January 21, 2016

Vatican City: Pope Francis speaks out for World Day of Migrants and Refugees

Vatican City, 12 January 2016 – This update originally appeared on the JRS International website. Yesterday, Pope Franc... Read more

January 20, 2016

South Sudan: from Lost Boys to leaders

JRS Eastern Africa Juba, 8 January 2016 In the late 1980's and early 1990's, more than 20,000 boys and girls who fled S... Read more

April 17, 2015

Ongwen’s Surrender and its Implications for Reconciliation in Northern Uganda

By Magara Ibrahim Sakawa- Extract from the Peace Dialogue HIPSIR Since 1989,Northern Uganda has suffered from armed con... Read more

April 13, 2015

Web launching of edujesuit.org

Web launching of edujesuit.org The Society of Jesus and the right to education for everyone: Madrid (Spain), April... Read more

March 11, 2015

JRS: Ethiopia: Photos from Mai Aini refugee camp

Mai Aini refugee camp in northern Ethiopia is home to more than 18,000 refugees from neighboring Eritrea. (Images from C... Read more

March 11, 2015

Jesuits Martyrs in Africa

Jesuits have a tradition of working in some of the most dangerous places and in Africa they can be very often be found i... Read more

March 11, 2015

Aids in Africa: An overview by AJAN

On 5 June 2011, the world marked an unhappy anniversary: 30 years since the first diagnosed case of what would later bec... Read more

Copyright © 2017 JESAM - Jesuit Superiors Of Africa and Madagascar. You may not produce , reproduce, publish, broadcast, rewrite in full or part or communicate any of the content on this website, images, including files downloadable from this website, without the permission of the copyright owner Jesuits Africa and Madagascar. All Rights Reserved. Powered By Heartbit