Fayette County


The MythUnderstanding of ‘White Privilege’

Sherri Jefferson is an advocate, author, and an attorney. Transforming the lives of children is her passion. Transferring knowledge is her profession.
Sherri Jefferson is an advocate, author, and an attorney. Transforming the lives of children is her passion. Transferring knowledge is her profession.

Over the last few months, the use of the term “white privilege” has taken front stage. Some of the antics used to divide America beyond restoration include the belief that all white people benefit from being “white.”
As an advocate for juvenile justice and social reform, I witness African American youth suffering from the challenges of deprivation and delinquency and who face a duality of socialization in our society, which is also characterized by institutionalized and systemic racism and untenable obstacles. However, I am also witnessing violations and abuses toward white children who are victims of an unjust system that has created pipelines in prison, drug addiction, suicide, and mental health illnesses.
When viewed through any lens, there exists a “mythunderstanding” of white privilege in America. Minorities are taught to think as victims, and whites are taught to be victorious. These lessons further the portrayal that minorities in America will never get ahead because racism is their sole offender. Through advocacy, I have witnessed white, affluent children trapped in the pipelines of racism, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry.
To this end, the very system that advances so-called white privilege also damages white youth. These children suffer when the school system, law enforcement, prosecutors, and the judiciary work to avoid the appearance of these “ism” and create the reverse effect. This slippery slope has created unintended consequences that have adversely impacted the educational and employment opportunities for many white youth.
Imagine being punished because you are white, affluent, and expected to excel. Imagine being labeled as privileged and used to set an example that disproves the existence of racism and sexism. Imagine suffering from Constitutional violations because you are white.
Envision school principals in affluent districts having authority to confiscate hundreds of student cell phones and force the students to reveal their password or access code or face immediate expulsion. Then, the principal, assistant principal, and school resource officer go through the phone and screenshot text and email messages. Picture school sporting events where administrators and police stand behind students and parents to threaten or intimidate.
Did you know that police charge affluent white children with felony offenses for “theft by taking” because of joy riding in golf carts? Think about affluent parents who are afraid to defend their children because of challenges to the status quo. Realize the loss of business, friendships, and acquaintances because of the stigmas attached to the criminalization of white youth.
Surely, Black children suffer horrific constitutional violations. This article is not intended to remove Black children from the conversation of the impact of racism. Rather, it is to highlight the “mythunderstanding” of white privilege.
Suppose the police park in front of your home every day. Conceive the fear of parents as their children leave for school every day to be subject to constitutional violations. Many people are suffering in America from a system that can be arbitrary, discriminatory, and capricious. Yes, Blacks are victims. There is no escaping the history of Blacks in America. However, please do not think that the system has created a privilege based solely upon race.
If we are truly going to teach racial understanding in America, we must start by teaching truthfulness. Within every race there exists privilege. Within the Black community there exists privilege based upon social and economic status. Some Blacks of lighter skin tones are privileged over darker skinned blacks. Some Afro-Latinas are discriminated against by other Latinas who identify as white.
In Georgia, there are college students who will not face rape charges because of their affluent status. There are children of affluent Black families who will never be arrested or subject to the same disciplinary actions as their counterparts who live in urban settings. There are affluent Blacks who do not rely upon public defenders and have access to private lawyers and experts. For that reason, their outcomes and case dispositions are different.
Together, if we openly discuss our differences and seek to learn from our differences, then we can create change. The truth of the matter is that there is a “mythunderstanding” to white privilege in America, which adversely impacts the lives of white youth, too.