My parents and grandparents used to wield an old maxim when I was a kid: you can’t have your cake and eat it, too. I vaguely understood its meaning as: you can’t everything you want. If I had a cake—a slice, a cupcake, or an entire cake—of course I’d eat it, and that would be the end of that. What needed to be discussed? Ah, the sweetness of youth.
The problem isn’t so much that some white people don’t understand “white privilege.” The problem is potentially two-fold. First, they may not understand it by that specific name. I’d never heard of the term “white privilege” until a few years ago; but growing up in the south, I knew it when I saw it exercised … even with my eyes closed. Everyone in these United States recognizes the concept of white privilege when they see it. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this 1-minute video from educator, Jane Elliott.
Let’s say you arrive at your favorite restaurant for a meal as soon as the doors open. You speak with the seating hostess and ask how long is the wait? She tells you there’s no wait and asks how many in your party. You respond one. (Roll with me on this, I hate eating alone in a restaurant, too.) She tells you to have a seat, you’re next.
priv • i • lege (noun) a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people: education is a right, not a privilege | he has been accustomed all his life to wealth and privilege.*
This principle is easily understood and universally holds true. A privilege always requires that at least one criterion be met. Here’s three of my favorites, but I’m sure you can come up with your own.