Talkshow and media mogul, Oprah Winfrey has come under fire for comments she made on white privilege. She was hosting her show Oprah’s Conversations.
When asked about white privilege and her status as a billionaire, Winfrey insisted that white people “still have their whiteness”.
The comments came in light of Black Lives Matter protests worldwide. The protests were triggered by the murder of George Floyd by a white police officer in May this year.
Republican Senator, Ted Cruz took to Twitter and condemned Winfrey’s comments as being “BS”.
Newscorp columnist and Sky News Australia host, Andrew Bolt claimed that Winfrey’s comments were “less about principle and more about power”.
Exactly what is white privilege?
So, what is ‘white privilege’? White privilege was a term popularised by Peggy McIntosh. In her 1988 essay, White Privilege; Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack, McIntosh bemoaned men for not realising privileges they have over women.
Then, she listed fifty ways in which white people had an advantage over people of colour in Western societies. These advantages, she pointed out, are often ignored by white people themselves.
Advantages McIntosh listed included:
- Being able to spend time with people of her race comfortably
- Being represented in history
- Being sure that neighbours in a new residents will be pleasant
- The assurance that white people will avoid being racially profiled in society
- Being able to be an individual and not be pressured to speak for entire race (to be honest, I kind of agree with this one).
- Being able to find representation in pop culture
- Have freedoms in regards to activities and advantages at work without race being an issue.
More recently, a number of people of colour have claimed to have been victims of disadvantage because of the colour of their skin.
Earlier this year, Indigenous actor, Meyne Wyatt did a monologue on ABC’s Q & A about issues Aboriginal people face.
Criticisms and problems with white privilege theory
The theory of ‘white privilege’ has come under a lot of criticism. Canadian clinical psychologist, Jordan Peterson has slammed the concept of white privilege as “absolutely reprehensible” and that there’s “nothing more racist” than collective guilt.
Even supporters of Black Lives Matter are critical of it. In The Guardian, Kennan Malik argues that the focus on white privilege and ‘white guilt’ distracts people from the institutional causes of racial inequality.
My opinion on ‘white privilege’
Personally, I think emphasis on ‘white guilt’ only alienates people and makes them apathetic. It gives people the excuse not to combat racism.
The articles on white guilt have only left me frustrated. Very few, if any, of those article have offered any solutions that people like me can implement. Saying that all white people benefit from society or whatever, to me, doesn’t do anything to benefit people of colour.
I think ‘white guilt’ only paralyses people. What are you supposed to when you are the beneficiaries of a system because of the colour of your skin? You can’t change who your ancestors are.
The problem with white privilege also doesn’t offer solid solutions. Going on and on about it without providing solutions doesn’t help anybody.
What do you think about white privilege? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.