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Me and White Supremacy
How to Recognise Your Privilege, Combat Racism and Change the World
- Read in 13 minutes
- Audio & text available
- Contains 8 key ideas
Me and White Supremacy (2020) is a guidebook to the white supremacist world we live in. It’s intended to help white people improve their understanding of racism and work to become allies to people of color.
Key idea 1 of 8
White and white-passing people enjoy huge privileges, even if they don’t realize it.
“White supremacy” isn’t just about right-wing extremism. According to the author, Layla Saad, it’s a far broader ideology that applies to all white people – regardless of their political views. It’s more than just a set of opinions: white supremacy is the foundation on which white-centered culture is based.
Let’s put it more directly. If you’re a white person or someone who can “pass” as white, then white supremacy means that you benefit from white privilege. Without needing to do anything at all, you have received countless privileges that Black people, indigenous people, and people of color (BIPOC) do not receive.
You’ll go on receiving these privileges your entire life. You’re stuck with them – just like BIPOC are stuck with the experience of racism.
What sort of privileges are we talking about? A lot of them you probably take for granted. The scholar and activist Peggy McIntosh called white privilege “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions,” and made a list of 50 examples.
Let’s look at some of them: You’re experiencing white privilege if, when you learn about history, it tends to be the history of your own race. Or, when you go shopping, you find products that fit with your own cultural identity. You’re experiencing white privilege if you don’t have to worry that your race will damage your chances of getting legal or medical assistance. Or if you can bring up your kids without having to warn them about racism.
That is to say, white supremacy isn’t just in the minds of Neo-Nazis. It’s so widespread, in fact, that white superiority is a belief that even seems to affect children. In a famous 1940s experiment by psychologists Drs. Kenneth and Mamie Clark, African-American children were asked to choose between Black and white dolls, and most expressed a clear preference for the white ones. CNN commissioned an updated version of the challenge in 2010 – this time with white children, too – and discovered that the same preference still existed, most of all among the white children.
It’s therefore worth thinking not just about your “invisible knapsack” of privileges, but also about the ways in which, at some level, you believe yourself to be better than BIPOC.
You might feel indignant or insulted to be asked to do that. That’s a normal response – but it’s also one you’re going to have to work through.