The Truth Behind “White Privilege” And “Institutionalized Racism” – A White Man Talking About Race

Jon Britton in black and white

The New York Times just released an Op-Doc called ‘A Conversation With White People on Race’ and before I get into this conversation, watch what people had to say in that conversation.

Now, where should I begin? “White privilege” and “Institutionalized racism” are relatively new terms for what is as old as humanity itself, human nature. The old adage, “birds of a feather flock together” is not just a clever turn of phrase, but an accurate description of the human condition. We all struggle to express our individuality, but conformity is where we find comfort.

Just think back to high school, remember the kids who just didn’t quite fit in? I do, I was one of them. Those kids who were not part of the social norm developed their own identities, Goth, Punk, Saggy Pants, whatever the case may be. They established their difference from the norm and in so doing found others who would be “different” the same way they did, they conformed to a new “normal” and found comfort in conforming to their “different normal.”

The same is true in society at large, the majority defines “normal” in a society and if the society is majority white, then the majority of people are going to be most comfortable with those “birds of a feather” that look like them. Just as people are generally more comfortable around family members and in the past families became clans and tribes and bloodlines became important not solely out of a sense of pride or power, but because bloodlines produced familiar and similar faces and characteristics that were “comfortable,” but also bred a distrust of those who were different.

It’s not overt racism, it’s not even subconscious racism, it is literally human nature. “White privilege” implies that there is some inherent gift, advantage or bias that benefits whites over other races and although it is not by design or generally acted upon consciously, in fact there is some benefit to being the majority race. Just as there is an inherent benefit to being a part of any majority, be it a religion, political party, etc. People are naturally drawn to those that they have something in common with, simply because it is easy and comfortable.

The same is true for “institutionalized racism,” not that it is instituted with the express desire to oppress, but merely as a function of majority, conformity and comfort. Is it fair to minorities? No, not at all, but I challenge anyone to name anything in this life that is fair. Fair or not, there is a way to bypass the inherent privilege of the majority and it’s happening every day all around us either without notice or if noticed it is ridiculed.

What is this societal majority hack? Brace yourself, because it goes against everything that is preached today about individuality, self-identity, self-image and even your own pride.

The key to overcoming “white privilege” and “institutionalized racism” is…

Conformity.

That does not mean giving up your individual identity, but we all have a public persona and a private persona. Minority status does not hurt all minorities equally. Those that try the hardest to “fit in” do so better than those who try to make society conform to them. It is not as if the black race is uniformly disadvantaged in America. If that was the case, we would not have President Obama, Justice Clarence Thomas, Senator Tom Scott, Condolezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey and the list goes on and on. The one thing they all have in common is that they became successful by playing by the rules of society, offsetting their different skin color by conforming to society standards in other ways such as how they speak or how they dress, at least in public, and they became successful, accepted and in many cases adored by millions of “white people.”

To tell a minority that their future is in their hands and all they have to do is “act right” is deemed racist. To tell someone else that they must conform, act like you, dress like you or speak like you in order to get ahead is uncomfortable and sounds presumptuous. It is presumptuous, but it is not racist, it is reality. It is not a racial black/white/red/brown/yellow/green/purple issue, it is a majority/minority issue and yes the majority does have an easier time overall conforming or fitting in and yes the minorities do have to work a little harder, but that is just a fact of life being a minority.

I am quite white, I do not have a “racial identity,” I don’t think of myself as a white man, I’m just a man. Now, if I lived in South Africa or Jamaica or Haiti, that might be different. Then I would have to work a little harder to fit in, learn the language, then learn to speak it well. I would have to pay attention to the cultural norms of the majority, the acceptable dress codes of the majority and other aspects of the majority society. To the best of my knowledge I am French-Dutch-Irish-English-German-American, or of European descent, but I don’t identify as European-American or the much longer lineage designation, why? Because I’m just an American.

All of my ancestry is part of the American culture, as is African, Mexican, Asian, Indian, etc. All are a part of the melting pot that is American culture. Not only do I get to experience the culture of my ancestors, but everyone else’s ancestors as well, so I have no need or desire to keep my individual culture alive, it is alive and well in all of the countries that my ancestors came from as well as mixed into the culture I embrace as an American. Is it any wonder that the “hyphenated Americans” are the ones that have the most trouble assimilating into American society? Yes, they find comfort in their sub-cultures just the same way that the Goths and Punks and Nerds did in high school, but they are still outsiders, minorities within the majority of society at large.

We are uncomfortable talking about race, because we don’t want to be divided by race. We want to accept all people, but we are faced with the conflict of comfort and the discomfort of forcing conformity on others. We don’t want to tell people that the way they act or talk or dress makes us uncomfortable, but that is the heart of the issue. Society is a construct of common standards and practices. It is invariably driven by the majority, consciously or unconsciously, based solely on the comfort level of the majority. Being a minority is a disadvantage, but not an insurmountable one. The majority has come along way in our society in regards to racism and outright hatred based on differences in skin color, but the majority can only go so far before reverting back to their comfort zone. Right or wrong, fair or unfair, minorities of all types must make the effort to conform, at least publicly, if we are to ever achieve any further progress.

Is that an honest enough conversation for you New York Times?

Joining the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, Jon had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the world and different cultures. His post military career path, both white collar and blue collar, allowed him to work alongside both CEOs and average Joes. “Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion.” A passion that has taken him in many directions from explorations of the zombie subculture and writing zombie stories to politics and News. He is an avid “people watcher,” political junkie and has a ravenous appetite for history and current events alike.

About the Author

Jon Britton
Joining the U.S. Air Force right out of high school, Jon had the opportunity to experience many different parts of the world and different cultures. His post military career path, both white collar and blue collar, allowed him to work alongside both CEOs and average Joes. "Writing was never a goal or even vaguely contemplated as a career choice, it just happened, an accidental discovery of a talent and a passion." A passion that has taken him in many directions from explorations of the zombie subculture and writing zombie stories to politics and News. He is an avid "people watcher," political junkie and has a ravenous appetite for history and current events alike.

13 Comments on "The Truth Behind “White Privilege” And “Institutionalized Racism” – A White Man Talking About Race"

  1. I am having a hard time conforming to society these days. I speak the truth, as I see it..it seems for people having identity issues the truth is unpalatable..when battling internally, it’s hard to see a broader external picture.(From my point of view.)

  2. I don’t give a damn about race. I let people into my life because they show me they are decent and honest. I am as white as you can get and I agree with MLKs statement. I judge by character not color. Racism can’t exist without being fed. Sadly far too many in this country ensure it’s survival by feeding it and the hate it brings.

  3. what give you the right to say only black lives matter all life matter and the sooner you learn that and treat all people with same repest that you want the better off we will be, and by the all races were slaves at one time or other and it is going on today still ,your own peoples sold your forthfather and mother into slavey not the white man ,more blacks own more slaves than whites did and they treat you worse than whites ever through about . so grow up and be human beings instead of dumb ass aminals that don’t know any better.

  4. PLease be aware that this article does nothing to disprove white privilege, it actually serves as a glaring example….also to marvin, i believe the slogan was black lives matter…no only, more of an implied also.

    • Jon Britton | July 8, 2015 at 8:22 pm |

      Nicole, I never set out to disprove white privilege, although “white privilege” is a falsehood. It is not “white” privilege, it is majority privilege. In the case of the United States, the majority happens to be white, but the privilege does not come from the color of their skin, it comes from the fact they are the majority. As I stated in the article,being white earns me no privileges in a country like Jamaica or Haiti or even anywhere in Latin America, why? Because I would be the minority and I have been to such places and experienced the lack of privilege my skin color earns firsthand.

  5. Nicole, I think you missed the entire point of the article. What makes you think that this is a glaring example of white privlege? Is it because we do not allow black people to become writers, are they restricted from the internets? And you are correct the slogan was “black lives matter” only the implications some drew were only, not also.

  6. WhiteLivesMatter | July 8, 2015 at 1:37 pm |

    The universally implied “only” in the pro black privilege (and therefore racist) stems from the fact that if a group of whites want to carry signs and public announce “White Lives Matter” they are scorned in the media with the ubiquitous “r” word, which somehow ONLY applies to whites,looked upon by a vast segmesegment of the populatioparian as pariah, and in many cases will most probably be attacked by mobs and beaten in the streets sans legal protection.
    With this type of institutionalized discrimination, how on earth could anyone avoid the perception that not only in this country but throughout the world, that “[Only] Black Lives Matter”
    Case in point, during the Travon Martin irresponsible media scandal, which was all-headline-news-all-the-time, two white people were brutally attacked by blacks and beaten to death by blacks in what can only be described as hate crimes. Can you even tell me the names of the victims?
    Is that because black hate crime committed against whites so far outstrips any nature of white on black violent crime that it is not even newsworthy? Or perhaps the msm harbors some nefarious agenda that prohibits them from reporting atrocities committed against whites by blacks? Or is it because ONLY black lives matter?
    How about the white teenager who was shot and killed by a black cop during the nationally televised media extravaganza known as “Ferguson” can you even tell me the victim’s name? Were you even aware of the case? Only black lives matter?

  7. Nicole wrote: “this article does nothing to disprove white privilege, it actually serves as a glaring example”

    Agreed.
    There is so much wrong with this article I( don’t know where to start.
    I guess this authors perspective is like that between a fish and water, that being I guess we become unaware of that in which we are immersed.

  8. Well let’s see…where to start. I’m going to assume that the r word is racist. Racism is a system of group privilege by those who have a disproportionate share of society’s power, prestige, property, and privilege. So based on that definition, yes only white people can be racist. Regarding the “hate crimes” committed against these white people, I ask what happened to the suspects? Were they arrested, tried, etc? If the answer is yes then great if they are in fact guilty. how long did it take for George Zimmerman to be brought in for questioning or any other of the non black murderers of black children? Maybe I missed it, but when have u ever seen white protestors being freely beaten in the street? A quick google search can provide images of black protesters being beaten in the street by police officers. I think everyone is forgetting that we are about 50ish years removed from the civil rights movement. A movement where black people fought and died for basic human rights.

    • Jon Britton | July 8, 2015 at 9:23 pm |

      Nicole, your definition of racism is a little skewed. What you described had nothing to do with race, “group privilege by those who have a disproportionate share of society’s power, prestige, property, and privilege” that is majority privilege completely absent of any racial component. Racism is quite simply the belief that all members of each race possess characteristics or abilities specific to that race, especially so as to distinguish it as inferior or superior to another race or races. Racism has nothing to do with privilege UNLESS people are viewed as inferior and therefore denied those privileges. That WAS once the case in America, but that view has been disparaged and all but removed from public view in society. There may still be those who hold those views personally, but not on any institutionalized or societal level. As for white protests vs black protests and the police reactions to each, how many “white protests” turn into rock and bottle throwing riots as compared to “black protests”? How many “white protests” result in destruction of private property as compared to “black protests”? Again, comparing the skin color of the participants is misleading at best and outright misinformation and propaganda at worst. CONDUCT is the key difference, not color. Again, as I made the case in the article, it is conformity to community standards that breeds acceptance and respect. Yes, I realize in a majority (72%) white nation, it is typically the white majority that sets those standards and the 16% Hispanic, 13% Black, 5% Asian, etc… have a choice to be a part of that society or be ostracized by it. Societal standards of behavior, appearance, language and many other factors play into that acceptance and inclusion. That’s not a racial thing either, even white people who do not conform to community standards are ostracized, whether it is for behavioral issues, tattoos and piercings, criminal activity, etc. Focusing all of your attention on race ignores all of the other factors that play into the issue.

  9. Saw a link to this article on FB and am glad I chose to read. I agree with the previous poster. What I took away from This article says “be less (insert race) and the white people will embrace you with open arms”.. THAT line of thinking is white Priv. Being able to minimalize the very real existence of racism to manner of dress or speak is an example of white priv. When I wake up in the morning I know that there are people in this world who will see me as lesser than whether I am in a three piece suit or baggy jeans. It wouldn’t matter what I wore because nothing can completely cover my black skin. And for so many people that is all they need to know about me to make this assessment. the statement that institutionalize do racism doesn’t exist to oppress is utterly FALSE. being able to deny that thy is exactly what IR is designed todo is white priv. A white kid going thru a “grunge/piercing/hip hop “phase” is simply lost, misguided. Black kid is a criminal. White kids who destroy public property because the team they love or hate has won or lost are spirited kids. Black kids who are Enraged by the injustices that cast shadows of their lives are thugs and hooligans. Claiming that racism has been disparaged and all but removed from society is white priv. Also your use of the word “public” is telling. No you don’t see black people hanging from trees but I do see black people discriminated against daily, yes daily because of the color of their skin. You say “this is a majority priv” then go on to say that white people are the majority…racism is very much part of the fabric of this country. This country was literally built on the backs of my ancestors. My ancestors were not included in this country’s idea of life liberty Nd the pursuit of happiness. We were considered lesser than then and remain so today. You simply are unaware as your white priv is in the way.

    • Lol a lot of people commenting on this article do not know the definition of privilege.
      privilege Translate Button
      [priv-uh-lij, priv-lij]
      noun
      1.
      a right, immunity, or benefit enjoyed only by a person beyond the advantages of most.
      By definition privilege excludes the majority. So white “privilege” is a misnomer at best.

  10. OldNorthState | July 15, 2015 at 7:05 am |

    Nicole and others of her ilk suffer from the now-common malady of having too many “observations/solutions in search of a problem”. These are the left’s typical “straw man”-like manipulations to further a skewed, and often sordid, agenda.

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