Sociologist Allan Johnson describes privilege in the United States as varying strands that create a complex knot which is hard to unravel.
Compared to white people, people of colour are more likely to have lower paying jobs, have less wealth, experience higher rates of infant mortality, have lower life expectancies, have lower education and literacy levels, and live closer to pollution of all kinds. Segregation by color is almost complete in the United States. (Johnson argues that residential segregation is the single most important lynchpin in white privilege.)
Johnson repeatedly emphasized that privilege is something that is not a characteristic of individuals; it is characteristic of groups. If you are identified as a member of a privileged group, then you can benefit from that association. If you’re not, you don’t have access to the privileges enjoyed by that group.
“It is as if a person born into privilege receives a key at birth that opens a door, and allows access to what is behind the door. “I am not the door, I am not the key, but I have access to that door,” explained Johnson. Where did privilege in the United States come from? Privilege has its roots in economics. “Cotton, which relied on slave labor, was New England and was part of the engine that drove the miracle that was the Industrial Revolution in the U.S.,” said Johnson.
Johnson’s forebearers were dairy farmers and stove makers who benefited by that prosperity. They were able to pass wealth onto their children. His parents bought a house, and he bought a house with his mother’s help. “So, even though my family never owned slaves,”said Johnson, “some portion of my house, my prosperity as a white person, comes from the fact that this country kidnapped and enslaved millions of Africans in the 19th century.”
People of privilege are largely unaware of that privilege. Johnson quoted columnist Molly Ivins on George W. Bush, his upper-class background, and his lack of awareness about it: “It’s like life is a baseball game and George W. Bush was born on 3rd base—but he grew up thinking he hit a triple.”
Understanding white privilege requires an understanding of individuals, the social system, and the dynamic relationship between the two. Using the game of Monopoly as an example, Johnson explained that playing the game successfully requires people to act greedy. The path of least resistance in Monopoly is to acquire property, houses, and hotels—and then bankrupt everyone else in the game. This does not mean that the person playing the game is inherently greedy, but that the rules of the game encourage that tendency in the players.
The social system organized around white privilege has four characteristics:
(1) it is white dominated;
(2) it is obsessed by control;
(3) it is white identified; and
(4) it is white centered. And it encourages white people to assume that their experience is the norm.
“Whenever there is an unequal distribution of power, if you look upwards in the hierarchy, you tend to see white people; if you look down, you tend to see people of color,” Johnson said. This does not mean that most white people have power, because most don’t. It does mean that the most powerful people are likely to be white.
Control becomes essential. Without it, the dominant group risks overthrow. The ability to control—one’s emotions, sexuality, and actions—is the norm. Non-whites are measured against that standard.
“White identification allows whites to assume that people of color see white people in the same way that white people see themselves, not as white people, but simply as individual human beings without a race,” Johnson said. When this assumption is upset, as in the movies The Color Purple and Do The Right Thing, where white people are the “other,” whites become uncomfortable at the negative images of themselves.
A society based on white privilege is white centered. White people dominate the front pages of the newspapers and the characters in movies and TV shows. Johnson emphasised that he is describing an environment, not people. In general, he said that in the mainstream media, “If anything significant happens in the world that is important and noteworthy, white people are the ones who experience it or who do it, or have it done to them, which means people of color are just not there.”
The point of a society based on white privilege is to maintain and perpetuate white supremacy. Johnson concluded his presentation by saying, “Although we may not be individually guilty because this thing exists, we are responsible for perpetuating it.” He believes that people can change the system. His part is to stimulate critical thinking and an understanding of white privilege.
source:(picture) assessed 24/09/16-http://www.juliannemalveaux.com/single-post/2015/07/13/TEAR-DOWN-THE-WALLS-OF-ECONOMIC-RACISM- https://www.csuchico.edu/pub/inside/archive/02_02_28/allen_johnson.html/accessed 24/09/16