I’m white — what do I need to know about white privilege?
White privilege is something that positively affects white people and negatively impacts racialized people. If you’re white, it’s important to recognize the privilege you have and find ways to be an ally against racism.
What is white privilege, and what does it look like?
White privilege describes the unearned advantages white people experience in their daily lives. It speaks to the individual and systemic racism racialized people experience historically and on an ongoing basis. This is because of a common and untrue belief that white people are superior, which has led to a society in which white folks continue to come out on top.
White privilege exists in all areas of life, including school, health care, the legal system, the workforce and more. It’s called privilege because white people enjoy a life where they don’t have to face certain things just because of their race (or perceived race) (e.g. police brutality, financial hardship, discrimination, prejudice, harassment, etc.).
Being white doesn’t mean you’ve never had challenges in life, it just means that your race hasn’t hindered your ability to live the life you want. If you’re white, it can be difficult to notice examples of white privilege, because it’s such a big part of how our society is set up. Examples of white privilege include:
- not being stopped/assaulted by the police (or even having to worry about this) because of your race
- having increased financial and employment opportunities because of your race
- not having to change your name to fit in at school because of your race
- having an easier time accessing equitable services and care because of your race
Why is it important to reflect on white privilege?
If you’ve benefited from white privilege, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad person, racist or intentionally hurting racialized people. It means that you, like all white people, have power and benefits in life that are only offered to white folks, based on race alone.
It’s important to be aware of the advantages you experience because of your race. As you start to understand your privilege, it’s easier to recognize the negative experiences of people who don’t have the same privilege. You’re also more likely to question unfairness in society and become an ally against racism if you know what’s going on.
What can I do to take action against white privilege?
Here are some things you can try to help undo white privilege:
- be mindful of the language you use in everyday life (e.g. avoiding words or sayings with racist origins by reading up on terminology, etc.)
- show support for people who don’t experience the same privilege (e.g. by actively participating in anti-racism activities such as protests, following accounts on social media that promote advocacy, getting involved with a local allyship organization, etc.)
- talk about white privilege with people around you (e.g. by contacting your local government representative, having a conversation at the dinner table, etc.)
- educate yourself on the historical and ongoing effects of white privilege and racism (don’t forget to share the resources you find with your network!)
Where can I find more information and resources?
Educating yourself and using information from a variety of sources can help you understand white privilege, stay informed about its harmful effects and take action. You can find some helpful resources about undoing white privilege and promoting anti-racism across Canada — and some additional resources from Kids Help Phone — below:
- Guide To Allyship (Amélie Lamont)
- White privilege, systemic racism explained (CBC Kids News)
- Anti-Racism Films (National Film Board of Canada)
- Canadian Centre for Diversity and Inclusion
- Federation of Black Canadians
If you’re white, understanding the privilege you enjoy can help you broaden your perspective. If you’d like to talk to someone about white privilege, what you can do to be an ally and/or your mental and emotional health, you can reach out to someone you trust for support.
Published September 2020