American Society and White Privilege

Published: 2021-09-11 07:15:12
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Category: Racism

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Privilege is defined as “benefits people receive just from being part of a dominant group” (Wilczewski lecture). American’s tend to use their “white privilege” to do things that another group wouldn’t be able to do because of their race, gender or socioeconomic tiers. These “tiers” are part of a term known as Social stratification, which is “societies categorization of its people into rankings based on factors like wealth, income, race, education and power” (Nathan, Keirns et al. 2016 p. 185). The term, “white privilege” has a very bad sound to it, in my opinion. It almosts sounds like reverse racism and it immediately sets the stage for being offended and people turning around and walking away from you. Nobody ever asked for privilege, it’s just ingrained within society. If you ask anyone, they will tell you that they wouldn’t deny privilege to another human if it was within their power to do so. Privilege can be an absolute burden sometimes though. According to the Cambridge University dictionary, a burden is “something difficult or unpleasant that you have to deal with or worry about” (burden Meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary, 2015). When sociologists talk about how privileges and burdens are “hidden,” they are talking about the privileges that we have and use on a daily basis, but we don’t realize that we have them. An example to better understand hidden privilege is in school. You have the privilege of learning about white America and spend very little time learning about black history. As a white American, I was automatically loaded with privileges from the day I was born. Two of these include, having a better relationship with police officers because of my race. I also have the privilege of having a good career path with a better paying job just because I am a male. These privileges in turn, come with burdens and one of the burdens that every American has to live with is the burden of slavery. We have to live with this choice and it will always be talked about.
Structural functionalism looks at society as multiple complex parts that helps to form a stable and functional whole. It also looks at social inequality as having some function for society. So my privileges that I listed was having a better relationship with the police. This in turn is a gender issue which many people argue that there is still inequality with the black community when it comes to policing and that blacks are being oppressed by white police officers. A functionalist perspective can allow for more macro-analyses where there is more contentious power imbalances, such as race-related issues. Where a functionalist has a hard time is understanding individual discrimination because they don’t look at the inequalities that cause tension and conflict. My next privilege that I listed was my ability to earn more money because I am a man. Functionalists view this type of gender inequality as a tradition among human societies. Men tend to take part to more objectively rewarded tasks such as pay earning while women are more subjectively awarded, this includes taking care of their child. Functionalists look at gender roles and their inequalities and see how they change within a country that has become industrialized.Conflict theorists, on the other hand, would deny the necessity of the division of labor between men and women in industrialized countries. The continuation of the traditional gender division of labor and the social inequality will only contribute to unnecessary social conflict and in conclusion is dysfunctional. Capitalism also intensifies male domination and conflict theorists say that this type of inequality only helps the elite. Capitalism helps to create more wealth, which confers greater power on men as owner of property and as primary wage earners. With prejudice against other races, conflict theorists would be more inclined to say that privileged groups, such as whites are invested in seeing that no competition for resources arise from other minority groups. The “elite” are more ready to resort to extreme acts of violence against others to protect their interests. We see this in the United States today. Minority groups are institutionally discriminated against just because they are a different skin color. As a result of this, unprivileged groups are more likely to retaliate with violence in an attempt to send a message. We also see this with the black lives matter movement. Blacks across the country are frustrated with law enforcement and as a result, they have initiated violent protests.
Social inequality in my opinion can be best explained by structural functionalism. I say this because functionalist theorists see society as made up of interrelated parts that must work together for the larger system to perform. Functionalists look at social inequality and how it is functional for society. For example, income and status, must help to keep society in order because society must have people working in a variety of professions. In terms of income privileges, it all comes down to the personal ability of the recipient. If you have intensive training and an advanced degree, you are almost guaranteed to get paid more than someone who doesn’t have a degree or proper training. The myth of meritocracy “is a social system in which people’s success in life depends primarily on their talents, abilities, and effort” (Crossman, A. 2014,). My pay privilege I don’t think is really influenced by the myth because being a male isn’t really a talent. You could argue it though because I do have talents that can definitely increase my pay. Also, having a positive relationship with the police, in my opinion could definitely be influenced, because if I have a well paying job, where I wear a suit, the police will treat me better than someone wearing baggy clothing.
We all have been given a privilege or even denied a privilege whether that privilege is based off of gender, status or appearance. If you choose to focus on race or your ethnic background, you are granted special privileges. If you are a male or female, you have special privileges that the opposite sex doesnt have. You also have great burdens that come with these privileges, and you can’t get rid of them, no matter what you try to do, they are ingrained within all of us. There is also the notion of invisible privileges and that we are also promoting the idea that certain groups have an upper hand at something just because they white, black or any other race, religion or ethnic group. If we as society wish to stop the idea of privileges among certain groups, we need to understand race should not be the deciding factor in anything that we do so we can get to the point where everyone is treated the same.

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