What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege

The phrase “white privilege” is one that rubs a lot of white people the wrong way. It can trigger something in them that shuts down conversation or at least makes them very defensive. (Especially those who grew up relatively less privileged than other folks around them). And I’ve seen more than once where this happens and the next move in the conversation is for the person who brought up white privilege to say, “The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.”

I’m sure that’s true sometimes. And I’m sure there are a lot of people, white and otherwise, who can attest to a kind of a-ha moment or paradigm shift where they “got” what privilege means and they did realize they had been getting defensive because they were uncomfortable at having their privilege exposed. But I would guess that more often than not, the frustration and the shutting down is about something else. It comes from the fact that nobody wants to be a racist. And the move “you only think that because you’re looking at this from the perspective of privilege” or the more terse and confrontational “check your privilege!” kind of sound like an accusation that someone is a racist (if they don’t already understand privilege). And the phrase “white privilege” kind of sounds like, “You are a racist and there’s nothing you can do about it because you were born that way.”

And if this were what “white privilege” meant—which it is not—defensiveness and frustration would be the appropriate response. But privilege talk is not intended to make a moral assessment or a moral claim about the privileged at all. It is about systemic imbalance. It is about injustices that have arisen because of the history of racism that birthed the way things are now. It’s not saying, “You’re a bad person because you’re white.” It’s saying, “The system is skewed in ways that you maybe haven’t realized or had to think about precisely because it’s skewed in YOUR favor.”

I am white. So I have not experienced racial privilege from the “under” side firsthand. But my children (and a lot of other people I love) are not white. And so I care about privilege and what it means for racial justice in our country. And one experience I have had firsthand, which has helped me to understand privilege and listen to privilege talk without feeling defensive, is riding my bike.

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Now, I know, it sounds a little goofy at first. But stick with me. Because I think that this analogy might help some white people understand privilege talk without feeling like they’re having their character attacked.

About five years ago I decide to start riding my bike as my primary mode of transportation. As in, on the street, in traffic. Which is enjoyable for a number of reasons (exercise, wind in yer face, the cool feeling of going fast, etc.) But the thing is, I don’t live in Portland or Minneapolis. I live in the capital city of the epicenter of the auto industry: Lansing, MI. This is not, by any stretch, a bike-friendly town. And often, it is down-right dangerous to be a bike commuter here.

Now sometimes its dangerous for me because people in cars are just blatantly a**holes to me. If I am in the road—where I legally belong—people will yell at me to get on the sidewalk. If I am on the sidewalk—which is sometimes the safest place to be—people will yell at me to get on the road. People in cars think its funny to roll down their window and yell something right when they get beside me. Or to splash me on purpose. People I have never met are angry at me for just being on a bike in “their” road and they let me know with colorful language and other acts of aggression.

I can imagine that for people of color life in a white-majority context feels a bit like being on a bicycle in midst of traffic. They have the right to be on the road, and laws on the books to make it equitable, but that doesn’t change the fact that they are on a bike in a world made for cars. Experiencing this when I’m on my bike in traffic has helped me to understand what privilege talk is really about.

Now most people in cars are not intentionally aggressive toward me. But even if all the jerks had their licenses revoked tomorrow, the road would still be a dangerous place for me. Because the whole transportation infrastructure privileges the automobile. It is born out of a history rooted in the auto industry that took for granted that everyone should use a car as their mode of transportation. It was not built to be convenient or economical or safe for me.

And so people in cars—nice, non-aggressive people—put me in danger all the time because they see the road from the privileged perspective of a car. E.g., I ride on the right side of the right lane. Some people fail to change lanes to pass me (as they would for another car) or even give me a wide berth. Some people fly by just inches from me not realizing how scary/dangerous that is for me (like if I were to swerve to miss some roadkill just as they pass). These folks aren’t aggressive or hostile toward me, but they don’t realize that a pothole or a build up of gravel or a broken bottle, which they haven’t given me enough room to avoid–because in a car they don’t need to be aware of these things–could send me flying from my bike or cost me a bent rim or a flat tire.

So the semi driver who rushes past throwing gravel in my face in his hot wake isn’t necessarily a bad guy. He could be sitting in his cab listening to Christian radio and thinking about nice things he can do for his wife. But the fact that “the system” allows him to do those things instead of being mindful of me is a privilege he has that I don’t. (I have to be hyper-aware of him).

This is what privilege is about.  Like drivers, nice, non-aggressive white people can move in the world without thinking about the  “potholes” or the “gravel” that people of color have to navigate, or how things that they do—not intending to hurt or endanger anyone—might actually be making life more difficult or more dangerous for a person of color.

Nice, non-aggressive drivers that don’t do anything at all to endanger me are still privileged to pull out of their driveway each morning and know that there are roads that go all the way to their destination. They don’t have to wonder if there are bike lanes and what route they will take to stay safe. In the winter, they can be certain that the snow will be plowed out of their lane into my lane and not the other way around.

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And it’s not just the fact that the whole transportation infrastructure is built around the car. It’s the law, which is poorly enforced when cyclists are hit by cars, the fact that gas is subsidized by the government and bike tires aren’t, and just the general mindset of a culture that is in love with cars after a hundred years of propaganda and still thinks that bikes are toys for kids and triathletes.

So when I say the semi driver is privileged, it isn’t a way of calling him a bad person or a man-slaughterer or saying he didn’t really earn his truck, but just way of acknowledging all that–infrastructure, laws, gov’t, culture–and the fact that if he and I get in a collision, I will probably die and he will just have to clean the blood off of his bumper. In the same way, talking about racial privilege isn’t a way of telling white people they are bad people or racists or that they didn’t really earn what they have.

It’s a way of trying to make visible the fact that system is not neutral, it is not a level-playing field, it’s not the same experience for everyone. There are biases and imbalances and injustices built into the warp and woof of our culture. (The recent events in Ferguson, MO should be evidence enough of this–more thoughts on that here). Not because you personally are a racist, but because the system has a history and was built around this category “race” and that’s not going to go away overnight (or even in 100 years). To go back to my analogy: Bike lanes are relatively new, and still just kind of an appendage on a system that is inherently car-centric.

So–white readers–the next time someone drops the p-word, try to remember they aren’t calling you a racist or saying you didn’t really earn your college degree, they just want you to try empathize with how scary it is to be on a bike sometimes (metaphorically speaking).

One last thing: Now, I know what it is like to be a white person engaged in racial reconciliation or justice work and to feel like privilege language is being used to silence you or to feel frustrated that you are genuinely trying to be a part of the solution not the problem but every time you open your mouth someone says, “Check you privilege.” (I.e., even though privilege language doesn’t mean “You are one of the bad guys,” some people do use it that way). So if you’ll permit me to get a few more miles out of this bike analogy (ya see what I did there?), I think it can help encourage white folks  who have felt that frustration to stay engaged and stay humble.

I have a lot of “conversations” with drivers. Now, rationally, I know that most drivers are not jerks. But I have a long and consistent history of bad experiences with drivers and so, when I’ve already been honked at or yelled at that day, or when I’ve read a blog post about a fellow cyclist who’s been mowed down by a careless driver, it’s hard for me to stay civil.

But when I’m not so civil with a “privileged” driver, it’s not because I hate him/her, or think s/he is evil. It’s because it’s the third time that day I got some gravel in the face. So try to remember that even if you don’t feel like a “semi driver,” a person of color might be experiencing you the way a person on a bike experiences being passed by a semi. Even if you’re listening to Christian radio.

Part 2 of this post here.

1,076 thoughts on “What My Bike Has Taught Me About White Privilege”

  1. Reblogged this on Simran the Wanderess and commented:
    A considered and well put analogy about White Privilege. I am not white, and personally have not felt as though I’ve had less privilege growing up than others. I know however, this very much depends on where you grew up. My community was predominantly coloured with a handful of less privileged white folk (hence why they lived in a non-white community!) In my adult life I notice more the undertone to an unbalanced privilege society, which also occurs considering class as well as race. But race trumps class as we know the latter can be changed, the former cannot. And nor should it – surely we are all part of the Human Race anyway!? Either way I am proud of my heritage, and of my colour. But none of it defines the kind of person I am. And I hope at the end of my life that I am recognised as a compassionate and kind human who lived a life of integrity and honour no matter my circumstances or privilege.

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    1. Hey so I really liked this. It goes out a ways a little on the analogy, but I think it’s well done and justified. Just one extra it of writing I might add to this to make it really go full-force as a great piece – mention the loop that will keep you always learning about personal privilege and where this parts ways on race – that as a bike rider, tomorrow if you decided to go back to the car you could do it. I think you’ve all but said that, and if I missed it for skimming, apologies. But adding that would bring it really full-circle, I feel. Thanks for a great piece!

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    1. Or a colder community, such as Anchorage, Alaska or Minneapolis, Minnesota. But really, should one have to move to escape something as unjust as what is described? This is America, and people need to feel safe. Safe to walk down the street without fear of getting attacked. Safe to ride down the street without fear of getting killed. We have the means to make this happen, and it starts with each and every one of us recognizing and respecting the challenges which others have to face.

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      1. 1. Male infant genital mutilation is legal in the USA.
        2. To vote, men must register for Selective Service (The War Draft).
        3. The cycle of violence begins when a mother gives her son up to be tortured in the blood sacrifice of genital cutting.
        4. Women in the USA have the privilege of protection from both 1 and 2.

        I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself.
        A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
        -D.G. Lawrence

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        1. I’m not sure if you’re trying to be ironic with that quote, but it sounds like you are feeling sorry for yourself for being a man, which is absolutely ludicrous.
          If you wanna go down that road and blame your mother for giving birth to you at a hospital that will automatically circumcise baby boys because that is how our culture has been since Christianity labeled masturbation as a sin and that was the best solution they could come up with to prevent it (gasp) so be it. Oh and maybe if you had looked a little farther than the tip of your penis, you would know that female genital mutilation is also widely practiced around the world. That’s right. We get to have our clitorises chemically burned off. I agree, it is unnecessary and cruel, but don’t you dare blame mothers for circumcision.
          And guess what! The reason why you have to register for the draft is because it was mandated by our patriarchal society. Let’s not forget that women couldn’t even vote on ANYTHING (including that, which apparently takes priority in your mind) until 1920; not even a hundred years worth of political power. Just think about that before you decide to put down women for society’s problems. And next time, when you decide to post ignorance and then end with a quote from Lawrence because you think that makes you sound intelligent, think again.

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          1. Excuse me Sarah but someone can blame whoever decides that they should get their genitals mutilated against their will for it happening, don’t try to put the blame on people in the past because the past doesn’t make decisions for the now, People do.

            Furthermore your attempt to make it sound like female genital mutilation is on par with circumcision is idiotic. FGM is illegal MGM is not, It is not illegal for mens genitals to be mutilated while you have the priviledge of genital integrity protection by law so you can shut the hell up about how you’re oppressed because some backwards people still practice it in backwards cultures. MGM is insanely more common that FGM will ever be ever again.

            Your claim that we lived in a patriarchy society where women couldn’t vote is also an outright lie. Women who owned land could vote, Just like men who owned land could vote, It wasn’t the patriarchical society it was a classism society which only gave the vote to all men on the condition that they agree to die. So we had a classism and uniformism society not a patriarchical one and here’s a little history for you. It wasn’t until 1918 that both genders got the vote regardless of their class or occupation.

            The only one ignorant here is you.

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          2. I don’t think he’s trying to blame his mom. I think he’s saying that women have the privilege in this country of having the autonomy of their genitals protected by law. It’s one way the system is set up in their favor.

            The draft is another example.

            He’s responding to someone who said “Try being female for 24 hours. Gravel in the face all day every day.”

            I think the point of his comment is that men have to deal with a lot of their own gravel that women don’t have to worry about too.

            Men have many privileges. I’m not denying that.

            The reason you’re getting defensive is because you’re feeling the discomfort of having your privilege exposed.

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        2. So…. what are you doing about it? Are you trying to amend the laws around circumcision (which I absolutely support — it is barbaric and outdated)? Are you trying to end the Selective Service process, or expand it to include women?

          Or are you just trying to threadjack a very cogent metaphor about what privilege is? Privilege that every white person has whether they choose to admit it or not? Privilege that every man has whether he choses to admit it or not?

          And remember, those laws you complain about? Put in place mostly by men. The Selective Service Act was first passed overwhelmingly by a Congress with a single woman (Jeanette Rankin R-MT https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/65-1/h14).

          Incidentally, this draft act was a great deal more fair than previous drafts, because it specifically prohibited rich people from buying their way out of the draft.

          Circumcision? It is permitted because of its holdover significance to patriarchal religion. The comparison to FGM is inapt because male circumcision (again, I believe it is barbaric and outdated, and I was circumcised BTW) with its origins in religion was used originally as an identification and ritualized indoctrination, welcoming men into the community, FGM is a conscious and deliberate effort to control women’s sexuality.

          Sexual side effects surrounding circumcision are so rare as to be negligible, whereas sexual effects around FGM aren’t side effects. They are the intended effects.

          Your attempt at deflection does nothing to change the fact that we have entire systems in place that favor white men over everyone else. I am painfully aware of my privilege and work mightily to negate its effects in my interactions. Your comment show that you still carry around tremendous privilege and you don’t even know it (like, for example, the privilege of changing the subject to spout your ill informed opinions).

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      2. Jon Jon that is unfair for you say… I was born in Michigan and I’m white. I didn’t ask for that.. .same as an unwed poor black single mothers didn’t ask to be born in Africa or Brazil. I can’t change the fact that I’m white and I was born in Michigan and I shouldn’t have to defend it or have to fight it. My ancestors brought me here.

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        1. but you are still missing the point….it is true that no one asks to be born but some people are born with more choices and more importantly can choose whatever they want to do…others from different places who are in the minority have less or no rights to give up but must fight for everything including where they live , work (if they can get it) and who they can associate with….and yes we are all victims of circumstance and it is not anyones fault why what happens happens….

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    1. Agreed. This explanation goes a long way in explaining male and also what it feels like to be a woman in a patriarchal world.

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  2. I was searching for infomation on biking and what it says about a person. I am from Montreal, and it is a very bike friendly city. Even in Montreal, and esp. in your town, biking is actually a sign of privilege person. Most people who bike in urban centre are somewhat educated, somewhat aware…(of course, there are exceptions.)

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  3. Reblogged this on gcrifasi and commented:
    Many times, “white privilege” is negatively associated with white people being racist or a trigger phrase for white people to shut down and become defensive when confronted about this privilege. However, this article puts white privilege in an analogy that everyone can understand and relate to without causing anyone to become uncomfortable, regardless of race.

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    1. Not true I’m offended by it because I don’t believe that white privilege exists. I’m white where is my privilege. I still have to struggle and work hard to pay my bills same as everyone else. in fact I’m struggling really hard right now and I see no advantages of being white at this moment. this analogy as interesting as it is not real.

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      1. Did you go to a predominantly white school Stacy? Or, live in a predominantly white neighborhood? Did you attend an all white church? And, can all of your daily needs be met without involving yourself with people that treat you as inferior?

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  4. Please give examples how society is imbalanced and specifically treating Blacks differently than White? Is this imbalence created by a Government Organization or Private Company? Great thing about America is EVERYONE has an opportunity to be successful. With hard work comes success. No matter how fast you pedal a bike you’ll never be as fast as a car. Your analogy is simplistic and idiotic. You assume there is some force out there holding non-white down.

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    1. Have a look at the Australian Aborigine people…they are on any social scale the lowest of the low because they are discriminated against on every corner, work, accommodation , jobs etc….the law provides them with legal rights but try proving dicrimination in court…having opportunity to be successful is all very well but reality kicks in if youre poor and black!

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  5. Hello JDOWSETT. I really like this article. The analogy is pretty accurate. May I translate it and post it in my blog? I may add some changes and own perspective focused on LGBT and gypsies (the most kicked bikers in my country).

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  6. So let me get this right, you feel bike riding, which like driving cars, is a choice, is a good analagy for “white privilege” because even though you pay no licensing or tab fees on your bike, which goes towards building and maintaining the roads you use, and you can’t keep up with the flow of traffic or maintain the speed limit, which endangers drivers and yourself, that you should have the “right” to still ride your bike on the road and that everyone else should make adjustments while driving their cars on the only place that cars can be driven to accommodate your chosen mode of transportation? Your analogy is both wrong and right. Wrong because unlike riding a bike, race is not a choice. Right in that “white privilage” isn’t about privlages, but about trying to guilt people who have made something of their lives and circumstances, who happen to be white, feel guilty and ashamed for their accomplishes and make exceptions for people who are not white who blame their failures, hardships, and inconveniences on race so they can feel better about themselves. When schools and services and jobs have a white quota to fill requiring better qualified minorities to be passed up in favor of white people, then you can claim white privlage is a thing. Until then, save your white privilage for heirs of southern cotton plantations and slave owners who still benefit from the profits their legacies afford them. If there are any.

    You probably feel guilt about wearing 100% cotton Dockers and TShirts don’t ya?

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  7. Reblogged this on Journey to Amor and commented:
    When I use the word “privilege”, I don’t mean that people, in general, shouldn’t have a smooth ride.

    When I use the word “privilege” I acknowledge that not everyone experiences it.

    It’s not about guilt; it’s about joining in to challenge systems that favor some while oppressing others.

    Read below a fantastic metaphor for what privilege means for those oppressed, using a bike and a city not made for riding.

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  8. As a person of mixed race (non white) and as a cyclist, I simply cannot relate. Maybe it’s because I live in Toronto Canada where we have decent cycling infrastructure. Maybe it’s because as a city we have the idea of being more open to other cultures. Maybe because I’ve never let the fact that I’m a cyclist on the road or the fact that I’m not white ever ever hold me back from pursuing my goals.

    From my experiences, the blanket idea of “white privilege” does a disservice to those “non whites” who are reaching and have achieved their goals. It’s also a disservice to those who are “white” who are struggling to get by. It may be an economic and class thing, but not so simple as a colour thing. But then again my experiences are different.

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  9. White privilege is a myth. Besides why is it politically correct to lump all Caucasians together as “White” when the correct term for those with darker skin is “African Americans”? I am white and I grew up in Washington DC. I know what it is like to be with my Dad and be the only two white people you see all day. The problem with places like Washington DC and Baltimore is all the hard working people almost all of them of them Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and Whites left after the riots in 1968 because they didn’t feel safe anymore. It has literally taken 30 – 40 years to reverse the trend and start rebuilding the inner city areas and see people moving back. And now we are seeing unrest. My family is from West Virginia, but when my Dad was working on his hands and knees digging coal for 10 cents for each coal cart that he had to dig and push out of the mine, his Great Uncle who had gone to DC after WW II told him there were much better jobs there, so he moved our family. Many poor White West Virginian families still live up the Holler because for whatever reason they won’t move to get a job. Many poor African American people won’t leave their inner city neighborhoods for whatever reason to get a job. If you don’t have a work ethic it doesn’t matter where you come from.

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  10. The mantra of Black Liberation theology is “Evil white male”. However, evil exists in all races and to exclude evil from other races is only creating more division. Again here, to exclude privilege, as we are all equal but different, just creates more division.

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  11. The FIRST rule of safely riding in the street is NOT to ride on the right side of the right lane. Ride in the middle or middle-left of the right line. That way the cars do not have the option of passing without changing lanes first.

    Make yourself visible. OWN your lane. It is legally yours.

    You will find that you feel much more comfortable riding in traffic this way — just learn to ignore the honks.

    I used to bike in Atlanta. Same story as yours, but owning my lane helped. Don’t be some squirrelly little cyclist on the far right of the road . . . That’s how you get killed.

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  12. I am a white male so I guess I fall into the analogy of driving the semi down the road, except when I see someone on a bike I give them the same respect I give other cars. I follow the rules of the road. I stop at stop lights and stay in my lane. I give bikers room but the majority of the bikers do not follow the same rules. They will pass everyone at stop
    Lights and pull up to the front of the line of traffic. Often cross the road when it is clear, not with the light. Take short cuts through parking lots and sidewalks. I have had bikers ride between my car and cars to my left. If the rules of the road apply to me and I follow them, shouldn’t they apply to everyone?

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  13. Reblogged this on A Druid Companion and commented:
    “Now most people in cars are not intentionally aggressive toward me. But even if all the jerks had their licenses revoked tomorrow, the road would still be a dangerous place for me. Because the whole transportation infrastructure privileges the automobile. It is born out of a history rooted in the auto industry that took for granted that everyone should use a car as their mode of transportation. It was not built to be convenient or economical or safe for me.

    “And so people in cars—nice, non-aggressive people—put me in danger all the time because they see the road from the privileged perspective of a car.

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  14. Great post my friend. I am a cyclist in a suburban sprawl town with a background in the study of race relations ( and in a mixed race relationship myself with a lawyer from India whose education means beans in the “land of opportunity ) and i TOTALLY get your analogy. Your level of compassion and depth will not be understood by many and to that i say..shine on just as you are 💙 and thank you!

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  15. Sorry, this is well intentioned-but doesn’t fly. A car or truck is dangerous to a bike- it can kill or maim a bike rider at any minute. There is no inherent danger for blacks from whites nowadays.

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    1. the analogy is about choice bro.ie, structural discrimination based on skin colour and social status in a white dominated countries like the USA or UK…who runs the banks, oil companies, corporations, wall st?…go figure

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  16. So “white people” are like motor cars, and “black people” are like bicycles? So, should we create bicycle lanes to segregate traffic? You’ve just argued again for apartheid. Or do “white people” just need to learn that “bikes” are slower and more vulnerable? You’re arguing white people being superior.

    In this analogy, perhaps in society there was so force that stopped “black people” from being licensed to drive. That would make sense to describe many societies of the past. We now live in a world where we actively ensure everyone has equal access to the system. If there was a racist driving licence examiner today, they’d lose their job. I’m concerned that this post not only a poor analogy, it tells people to not fight for their right to equal treatment.

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  17. Blacks have privilege too, it’s called Affirmative Action.

    P.S. You’re article is just a bunch of unreadable drivel.

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  18. Great analogy and it’s always nice to see a perspective that acknowledges multiple sides of the same issue. I am glad that you were able to share your experiences both as someone who does not benefit from one system and someone who does benefit from another. I feel like this is so true for many people these days.

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  19. White Guilt is a social-cancer and privilege comes with responsibility. Anytime you hear someone say “White Privilege” what they really mean is: NO BLACK RESPONSIBILITY. Quit treating blacks with kid gloves. Hold them to the same standards, quite making excuses for bad behavior, and for goodness sakes quit paying people to sit around and produce more children they cant even care for. This is the legacy of white guilt.

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  20. The concept about white privilege isn’t about how how we work or don’t work for things. It’s about all of the benefits we get from being white that are simply invisible to us. Do I think the term is abused? Yes. Do I think it is a myth? Not at all.

    As someone who is white, I see White people on a T.V. depicting roles which are Black (movies like Aloha demonstrate this with Hawaiians instead of Blacks), and it seems normal to me. I see depictions of Jesus as White, and it just seems like the way it should be. I apply to a job, and while equally qualified as other candidates, don’t receive even the potential subconscious profiling that someone who is non-white might receive. As someone who is white, I expect to be treated fairly by the local law enforcement. That’s not to say the majority of cops are racist. Not by a long shot. But my point is, I don’t worry about it. Whether the cop is white or black, I’m not afraid that they will treat me differently because I’m White.

    And I would argue that the correct term for someone with dark skin and African descent, African American is NOT the correct blanket term. That term is used to refer to someone who is living in America, but originally hails from Africa. Anyone with dark skin and African ancestry who was born and raised here… do you know what they are called? American. That goes for all races.

    There is something that’s a myth and that’s the whole concept of Race. It’s meaningless and nonsensical. It only exists to group people based on common physical characteristics. You can’t take a blood test or genetic test and determine reliably what race someone is. If you want further proof, then tell me precisely how dark someone’s skin needs to be before they qualify as Black. I’m guessing the ratio is much lower than to qualify as White. I guarantee you that someone who is 51% White and 49% Black (whatever that actually means) will still be considered Black.

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  21. Good article and I really appreciated the explanation. However, it occurred to me that what I thought white privilege meant may be what most people of all races think it means.

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  22. This was an Interesting article but it could be summarized to simply say that people are steriotyped by their race. In our society white people get the benefit of these steriotypes, while black people get quite the opposite.

    1) Life is not fair and never will be.
    2) It is human nature to classify everything to try and understand the world around us. In the absence of confirmation, we naturally fill in the blanks based on our experiences .
    3) There is truth to steriotypes: thus why they exist in the first place.

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    1. yes spot on…life deals us all different hands some good some bad and we need to work around these and get on with life as hard as it may be

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  23. This is old. I don’t expect anyone to see this comment. But i loved this article, both for the great analogy of the problems of systemic racial injustice and for the way that it perfectly explains the problems with the “privilege” language.

    Read it again and notice how it is essentially all about injustice, not privilege. Privilege is bonus, special advantage granted to a person or group. Nothing that the cars have things that the author would consider special or bonus. The center of the narrative is the *disadvantage* of the bike rider, not the exceptionality of the auto. The author does not want autos brought down to the bike’s level. He wants bikes raised to the level of autos.

    Do you see it now? The reason the language of “privilege” provokes defensiveness is because, regardless of its noble intent, the narrative is linguistically constructed in a way that implies the guilt and necessary humbling of the privileged.

    There is nothing under the aegis of “white privilege” that should generally be treated as a systematic privilege to be removed for the sake of equality. But that is what the language used implies, whether you want it to imply that or not.

    Systematic racial injustice is a real problem. It needs long-term, persistent awareness and activism on our parts to remediate the situation. And frankly, the language of “white privilege” with all the defensiveness and guilt it inevitably provokes is a major hindrance to that cause.

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  24. Ha – you might want to re-think your position on that, as white people are projected to become a racial minority in this country in the near future…

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