White privilege doesn’t mean that white people haven’t had it bad or that blacks believe that all white people live charmed lives. If you’re white and that’s how you see it, you’re completely missing the point.

History clearly establishes white privilege for what it truly is—societal privilege that benefits white people over non-white people, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. An example of this is slavery. White people controlled the laws which governed slavery and profited from it at that time and even today.

The history of slavery in the United States began 400 years ago when white people kidnapped Africans and shipped them to the New World. The stage of the slave trade from Africa to the New World is called the Middle Passage.

The Middle Passage is of significant historical note, due to the treatment of slaves and the inhuman conditions of their journey from Africa to the New World. They were enclosed in severely cramped spaces, forced to tirelessly row oars, beaten if they failed to do so, forced to wallow in their own filth, and exposed to disease.

If any of the slaves became sick during transport, they were thrown overboard the ship to drown or be eaten alive by sharks. Some of the women and young girls were taken and raped by the white crew of the ship.

Once the stolen African arrived, those who survived the voyage, were sold to white people as slaves, treated as sub-humans and forced to perform manual labor.

Whites enjoyed the privilege, no matter their socio-economic status, of NOT being enslaved by the US Government. They had the privilege of being human and living as such, with rights and freedoms which were denied enslaved Africans.

For the next 250 years, enslaved Africans were forced to do the bidding of their white owners, and suffer unspeakable transgressions such as having their families torn apart, being beaten or killed for disobeying their owners, their women and young girls raped and tortured.

White men created the laws which governed the New World, and kept Africans enslaved and without any human rights or privileges, which whites were given. Generations of white families thrived in their socioeconomic endeavors, due largely in part to slave labor.

Here is a list of industries which utilized slave labor in the past but are even today reaping the rewards of slavery:

    New York Life – New York Life found that its predecessor (Nautilus Insurance Company) sold slaveholder policies during the mid-1800s.

    Tiffany and Co – Tiffany and Co. was originally financed with profits from a Connecticut cotton mill. The mill operated from cotton picked by slaves.

    Aetna – Aetna insured the lives of slaves during the 1850’s and reimbursed slave owners when their slaves died.

    Brooks Brothers – Brooks Brothers, the suit retailer, started their company in the 1800s by selling clothes for slaves to slave traders.

    Bank of America     – Bank of America found that two of its predecessor banks (Boatman Savings Institution and Southern Bank of St. Louis) had ties to slavery and another predecessor (Bank of Metropolis) accepted slaves as collateral on loans.

    U.S.A. Today – U.S.A. Today reported that its parent company (E.W. Scripps and Gannett) was linked to the slave trade.

    AIG (American International Group) – AIG purchased American General Financial which owns U.S. Life Insurance Company.  AIG found documentation that U.S. Life insured the lives of slaves.

    JPMorgan Chase – JPMorgan Chase reported that between 1831 and 1865, two of its predecessor banks (Citizens Bank and Canal Bank in Louisiana) accepted approximately 13,000 slaves as loan collateral and seized approximately 1,250 slaves when plantation owners defaulted on their loans

Black owned businesses haven’t directly benefited from slavery due to their participation in the institution of slavery and championing for laws which protected slavery, as white owned companies have.

In 1863, after a long fought Civil War, with the country divided by the North and the South, the US Government decided to “free” black people from slavery with the enacting of the Emancipation Proclamation, as issued by President Abraham Lincoln.

However, it wasn’t for another two years on June 20, 1865, before every black person received the news of their freedom. Slaves in Texas were kept in bondage long after they had been freed, because their white owners didn’t want them to know. The slaves having knowledge of their freedom meant the owners would lose profits and be forced to work the land for themselves and/or face financial ruin.

Although no longer enslaved, blacks in the US were still not treated as actual citizens and denied basic rights and privileges for another 100 years.

Whites in government created laws which prevented blacks from obtaining an education, exercising the right to vote, owning land and enjoying the same basic human rights and privileges as whites.

Monuments glorifying those who fought in the Civil War to keep blacks enslaved were erected and prominently displayed in public areas, as white families who had attained wealth and status continued to enjoy those privileges with each passing generation.

Today, many whites take for granted that even as recent as the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, white people didn’t have to live in fear that white men, dressed in white hoods would terrorize their families in the middle of the night by burning crosses in their front yards. Whites didn’t have to live in fear of being beaten in the streets, hosed down with water, having the police use dogs to attack them because they assembled to protest and march for basic human rights.

Whites weren’t told they had to sit at the back of the bus and give up their seats to white people merely because of their race or be forced to use separate drinking fountains and restroom facilities. Whites also didn’t have to be fearful of family members being raped, murdered, and lynched for the crime of simply being who they were. These are undisputable facts, and this is what white privilege is, in case you still refuse to understand.

A mere 60 years ago, after many horrific incidents of lynching, rape and wrongful imprisonment, after marches, speeches and boycotts, the US Government gave blacks the legal right to vote, and made discrimination illegal.

However, yet again angry whites fought to keep schools segregated, neighborhoods exclusive to whites only and made it harder for blacks to get bank loans, quality educations, adequate health care, or to legally marry outside of their race. All the while, generations of white families continued to grow and prosper, passing their wealth and privilege down to their descendants, which they had attained at the plight and peril of the enslaved ancestors of blacks.

Today, we live in an age where we possess the technology to record and publicize the mistreatment, indignities and murder blacks still suffer at the hands of whites in this country for no other crime than being black. Videos which show the hatred and brutality firsthand, are turning the tide in our continued fight for equality.


White privilege is when white mothers and fathers don’t have to warn their children about the racist police officers, who do exist, and would gladly take their lives on a whim. Whites don’t have to tell their children they must remain calm, deathly still, and subservient in the presence of police and possibly endure demeaning and cruel treatment, in the hopes that they aren’t arrested, beaten, or killed.

White privilege is not fearing that sending your child to the store will result in his or her death at the hands of a white person who thinks they don’t belong. It’s not having your 12-year-old child shot to death by the police for having a toy gun in their possession. It’s not sleeping in your bed and having the police shoot up your house and killing you, or your family, in your sleep.

White privilege is not having your right to exist or function in normal, everyday activities come into question. It’s not having to explain to someone why you’re in your own home, your own neighborhood or place of business to a stranger who only questions you because of your race.

White privilege is not being profiled and labeled as suspicious because of your race. It’s not having someone attempt to weaponize the police against you by playing on your racial background merely because they take issue with something you said or that your mere presence makes them uncomfortable.

White privilege is when you’re NOT denied basic consideration for the pursuit of employment, affordable healthcare, affordable housing, bank loans, business loans, business ventures and opportunities, simply because of your race.

White privilege doesn’t matter what the socioeconomic background of a white person is, they are still not subjugated and scrutinized by the government, law enforcement and other white citizens the way blacks are, and they also have aesthetic and systematic advantages over blacks within a biased society.

And after 400 years and generations of whites, given preferential access to wealth and privilege, we are beginning to have a modicum of sincerity in our dialogue about what it means to be black in the US. The brutal murders of blacks like; Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Dreasjon Reed, and George Floyd—to name a few, at the hands of the police and racist whites, which spurred protests and civil disobedience, was what it took for some whites to finally start to listen to what has been told to them for decades.

In closing, white privilege doesn’t mean you haven’t suffered or fought or worked hard for what you’ve achieved in life. It doesn’t mean that whites aren’t poor and disadvantaged, or that whites shouldn’t be proud of who they are. We know that white people of today aren’t responsible for the sins of their ancestors.

However, fighting for equality and the dismantling of white privilege requires that whites acknowledge the existence of the system their ancestors designed and created, and that it was built exclusively for them. It also requires whites to acknowledge their privilege, even today, and work to help blacks and other minorities to dismantle the OLD system and erect a NEW one in its place, which truly demonstrates equality for all. If you still don’t understand what white privilege is now, it’s simply because you don’t want to.


© Cognitive Consonance Cafe 2020


Published by John F. Allen Author

John F. Allen is an American writer born in Indianapolis, IN. He is a founding member of The Speculative Fiction Guild and the Indiana Writers Center. John began writing stories as early as the second grade and has pursued most forms of writing at some point, throughout his career. John studied Liberal Arts at IUPUI with a focus in Creative Writing, received an honorable discharge from the United States Air Force and is a current member of the American Legion. John's debut novel, The God Killers, Book I of the Ivory Blaque series was published in the Summer of 2013 by Seventh Star Press, as well as the Codename: Knight Ranger series, Books I & II. He also has published short stories in several anthologies including: Thunder on the Battlefield, Vol I, also by Seventh Star Press and In The Bloodstream, by Mocha Memoirs Press, The Adventures of Star Blazer, by Hydra Publications and the forthcoming, Bronzeville Blues, by Pro Se Productions. John currently resides in Indianapolis, Indiana.

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