“Whatever you hold in your mind on a consistent basis is exactly what you will experience in your life.” Tony Robbin
So white privilege is the theory that though white people may experience hardship in their life or though they may encounter struggles, these struggles or adversities will not arise due to the colour of their skin.
So, to make a bit clearer. To exemplify in a simplistic way. Say you have two homeless men, one is black and one is white. Believers of white privilege argue that the homeless man who is white, can be in that position for many reasons, however his skin colour would not make the list as to one of the reasons he is in that position. On the other hand, the homeless man who is black is in that position because of his skin colour and a “system” does not favour him.
Now, let us presume this is the case which I am in total disagreement with. To affirm white privilege means that you inadvertently have to affirm disadvantage in relation to “blackness”. The theory suggests that black people are automatically disadvantaged and this disadvantage continues throughout their life due to the racist system. Therefore it is the moral duty of white people to always recognise their privilege and somehow use it to help pave a successful way for a black individual and other people in marginalised groups.
White privilege is very problematic in that it assigns the characteristics of a whole community to a specific individual based on their race and racial qualities which in my opinion, is the very raw definition of racism. Racism in essence, occurs because the one who is the racist does not see, recognise, appreciate and/or give value to the individual. They judge the individual and they view the individual based on assumptions that they have made about the whole race. Similarly, ideas such as white privilege causes people not to see the individual, but to see the race. It does not give value to the individual struggles and/or triumphs of people. If a white person finds success in any field, it is due to their inherited privilege in relation to the skin colour that they were born with. The fact that they encounter problems does not negate this privilege because as we have been told on numerous occasions, white privilege does not mean that white people do not experience hardships, but that such hardships do not arise on account of their skin colour, however if a black person faces hardship, it is in essence because of the colour of his skin and his lack of white privilege.
In very simple terms, or at least the way I translate it is that if a black man struggles in life, it is because he is black, however if a white man struggles, it is because his struggles are an inevitable and natural part of life.
And this is actually the main point. Life is full of suffering, in fact Buddhists acclaim that Life is Suffering itself and must be accepted and dealt with as such. Regardless of one’s beliefs, we can all agree or recognise that suffering is in the very design of human existence and human life. There is no specific blueprint that allows any one person to live happily on this earth or have guaranteed success. The internal and external variables that lead to one person’s success are endless. So for social activists to attempt to create some utopian equal state for all humans in existence is futile. This is not to say that one cannot do their part to make the world a better place, we should always strive to help, contribute and share. However we cannot run away or hide from the realities that life can be hard and in very many situations, unfair.
Now another simple reason why the argument of white privilege is deeply flawed and somewhat nonsensical is the fact that I am unsure if it encompasses all white people. For example, what about some white demographics from some parts of Eastern Europe that do not fare so well socio-economically in Britain? Where is the privilege that is supposedly attached to their whiteness? It just does not make sense. Some can also argue that it is nothing to do with white privilege and it is the majority privilege in a specific country that counts for example if you are part of a majority group in a given country then you are likely to be more comfortable than if you are in the minority group. Even this, I do not fully agree because overall, the individual and specific make-up of a person is what influences their route to success. Why have we attributed race as the highest measure of privilege where other factors are equally as important and in some cases, even more important – factors such as intelligence, family structure/upbringing, family values, personality, age and geography (i.e. the place or country in the world a person is born in, whether it is a first world country or not.)
In relation to the last point of Geography, this is why some white people in specific countries can be said to be in a better position that other white people from other countries, hence it cannot really be about white privilege, can it?
Now, with the theory of white privilege comes the argument that black people have to work twice as hard as a white person. I completely disagree with this because if a person has decided to embark on a journey towards success and yet is not mentally set and prepared to work twice as hard as the person next to him, then his journey will be in vain. In life, a person will always have some sort of privilege over another person in some way, shape or form. If we keep repeating this lie to black people that they will constantly struggle because they were not born with a privileged skin colour, they will lose many opportunities as they will go into situations predetermining that they will not win or do well. They will be convinced that they cannot find success due to their inherent disadvantage.
In life, there is an inescapable, universal law that governs all people. This law does not mind about your skin tone, colour, height, beauty, wealth, alleged systemic privilege or systemic oppression. What you give to life is what you get, what you sow is what you will reap. Now this applies to all things, starting from your most intimate thoughts. If a black person has it ingrained in their subconscious that they always have an uphill battle, that life will treat them more unfairly and that they are less favoured and privileged than a white person, then guess what? Their words, actions and mannerisms will follow and mirror their thoughts and they will behave in certain ways to confirm this bias that they already have.
Our brain is a very active and complex machine. It processes alot of data daily. To automate processes, it stores certain bits of information in the Reticular Activating System (RAS) to save time and energy. The RAS is a small part of the brain located near the bottom of the brain and is responsible for filtering and sifting the vast amount of information that enters the brain, leaving out what it deems unnecessary and only allowing important things through. Now it filters in and determines what is important to us by using what we choose to focus on. So in effect, if a black person goes through life asserting to themselves that they are not as privileged as a white man or that they do not and will never have a fair chance against a white man, then their brain will store this information in their RAS and will also constantly show them things to confirm and prove this view point until something else comes to disrupt this focus.
It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. It is important to note that, because each person’s brain functions differently, the RAS is also different for each individual and this means that two people can experience the same exact thing and yet form completely different filters for it.
For example, there are two black men who have both been told by society or by loved ones that white supremacy gives white people an upper hand in society and a certain privilege that a black person cannot have. Now one of them forms a filter based on this information and believes that he will always struggle behind a white person and that life will automatically be harder and more unjust for him because of his skin colour. So for example, if he goes for a job interview with this psychological filter set in his mind, and is for whatever reason, unsuccessful in securing the job, his default thinking will be that it is because of this white privilege that he’d always heard of, even if he has no idea why he didn’t get the job and if it was a white person that indeed secured the job and perhaps not another black man that received the job instead of him. Nevertheless this situation has become a confirmation of his belief and so he becomes deflated, frustrated and demotivated with himself and with society and the cycle continues. On the other hand, another black person who heard the same things during his childhood may create a different filter seeing instead an opportunity for him to work hard, compete and prove himself in every situation he faces or any situation that faces him. This means that his RAS will show him things to confirm his beliefs and he will find more opportunities instead of obstacles. For example, if he did not get the job, he does not get deflated but instead sees it as an opportunity to reach for something better and more rewarding and most importantly, better himself.
The RAS shows us things that we want to see, which in turn influences our actions.
Many black people need to retrain their RAS. They need to break away from negative thoughts and belief systems that stunt their growth and greatly reduces their chance of finding new opportunities. Now of course, whoever you are, if you having difficulties leading a productive and happy life, you have to reassess what you are saying to your own self, because your brain hears and stores this information and subconsciously leads you to situations that confirm what you are already professing to yourself. This is why it is important to read and speak to people, because many people are suffering because they are stuck in their own heads, they need to change their focus and find people who have already succeeded in what they want to succeed in. Personally, I like to stay focused on all the ways that I am able to reach my objectives and goals instead of thinking about all the ways that I cannot reach them. This way my brain makes new filters and all limiting beliefs are reduced and even erased. This is not just positive thinking or a new age philosophy, this is as old as time itself and is the immense power that our mind has to lead us to greatness..