What Is White Privilege?

Dr. David Anderson   -  

What is white privilege? Dr. Anderson was asked to speak on this topic at an organization called Exponential. He breaks it down so we can all understand it. Beware! This 9 minute talk comes with a serious black history month challenge…should you choose to accept it! #idontseecolor

Correction: there were 4 black CEOs of fortune 500 companies until this year. It decreased to 3 just around the giving of this talk. Also, there are a few other minority CEOs other than whites as well, like a handful of Asians and Latinos.


Hello, white people. What’s up, black people? My Asians, my Hispanic friends, all of you matter to me, but you might be saying, “Doc, I don’t see color.” Maybe you’ve heard other people say, “I don’t see color.”

Well, we’re going to do an experiment. I’m going to ask you for the next 30 days to only shop at places that are black-owned, only do business at restaurants that are black-owned, only do commodity exchanges with organizations that are black-owned, including online. You think you could do that for 30 days?

So whenever you get gas, make sure it’s a black-owned gas station. Whenever you go to the bank, make sure it’s a black-owned bank. Whenever you shop for your food, make sure that that big box store is a black-owned big box store. Commit to not buying anything or purchasing anything unless it’s black-owned. What do you think that experiment would be like for you? What do you think that that experience would be like for you?

Now, what I’m not saying is you can’t get your food from a black waitress, or when you go to the drive-thru an African-American or a brown Hispanic male. I’m not saying that. I’m saying black-owned. How far would you have to drive? And by the way, when you get the food from a black-owned restaurant, make sure that the food was produced from a black-owned farm, okay?

Now you’re committed, right? You’re not going to eat anything unless it’s black-owned. You’re not going to shop anywhere unless it’s black-owned. You’re not going to get any clothes, you’re not going to go to the bank to get any money. You’re only going to do it if it’s black-owned. How far would you have to drive, an hour? Two hours? You’re saying, “But Doc, that would be really difficult.” That’s what white privilege is.

White privilege is when you get to do whatever you want without having to go through black people. You see as a black man, I have to go through white people to get my education. I have to go through white people to get a house. Blacks have to go through whites in order to get a bank loan. In fact, everything you do, you have to go through whites to get it.

But for white people, you don’t actually have to know me. You don’t have to know black people to survive and succeed in America. But for black people, brown people, you have to know, patronize, assimilate into white culture just to survive and succeed. What am I saying? I’m saying for black people, it is a required course to assimilate. It is a required course if you want to succeed, to know and to integrate your life into white culture.

But for white people, it’s an elective. You can choose to do it, but you don’t have to do it. That really is what white privilege is. It’s what I don’t have to do. I don’t have to look for a black-owned place. But if you did, that would show you the extra effort it takes to get the food, the extra effort it takes to get the clothes, the extra effort it takes to get the bank loan. It doesn’t mean that because you’re white, you didn’t work hard, right? It doesn’t mean that.

Listen, if you worked hard to get a college degree, you worked hard to get a college degree. So no one’s taking away the work you’ve done. We’re just saying out of all the degrees, out of all the classes you took in elementary school, middle school, high school, college, how many of the principals were black? How many of the teachers were black? How many of the professors were black, and how many people on the board of that university were black?

You see, understanding race in America is absolutely critical if we’re going to integrate our faith into what it means to love our neighbor as ourself, because America was not built for me or people who look like me. It was built for you and people who look like you, for those of you who are white.

Now, it doesn’t make you bad. It doesn’t make you evil. Again, what I’m saying is what it makes you is a beneficiary of the structures that have been set up for you. So what about me? It was built by me and people who look like me, but not for me and people who look like me.

Can you imagine working in a corporation when they put it all together, they put it together and designed it in a way that was never with you in mind? I mean, have you ever been a place that designed something that didn’t have you in mind? Again, it doesn’t make those people evil. It’s just that they didn’t think about you. They didn’t consider you. They didn’t design in a way that would be for your benefit. It would be for theirs and then put structures in place so that it would actually keep you out.

So what am I saying? Do this experiment. Try for the next 30 days. You say, “But, Doc, I don’t see color.” I’ve heard that before. You’ve heard it before. I stated it earlier, and I’m going to agree with you. You don’t see color. I don’t, either. I don’t see color in the Fortune 500 companies and out of all 500 CEOs, only three are black, 497 are white. I don’t see no color on that board. I don’t see any color on that organizational board of advisers. I don’t see any color on that university board. I don’t see any color in those CEO C-suites of the different corporation, so you’re right. I don’t see color.

That’s the issue. It doesn’t mean you didn’t work hard. Look, if you have illegal drugs and you’re caught with them, possessing them, maybe even with the intent to sell, you get six months, you did your six months, you worked for it. That’s right. You did the crime. You paid the time, six months.

I’m not taking that away from you. I’m just saying that people who look like me get six years. So it’s not that you didn’t work hard. It’s just that you didn’t work as hard and you paid a deeper price because of people in my color skin. But that’s okay when you understand Jesus.

Can we talk about Jesus? Jesus understood that He had a lot of privilege Himself. In fact, Philippians 2 tells us that He actually gave up His divine prerogatives and privileges, not even grasping onto the equality He had with God, the father. It goes on to say in Philippians 2:7 that He emptied Himself in Verse 8, he humbled Himself. It goes on to say He made Himself nothing. He made Himself a man.

In fact, it says in the first three verses of that chapter, Philippians 2, and you can look it up, if this comfort is in you, if this encouragement is in you, if you have this same love, then have the same mind as Christ and in Verse 3, it actually says this, let me read it to you. “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility, consider others better than yourselves.” It goes on in Verse 4 to say, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but the interests of others.” Shouldn’t we all want to be like Christ?

Well, if you want to be like Christ, look what He did with His privileges. He gave up His divine prerogatives and privileges so that He could humble Himself, empty Himself and help lift other people up so that when God exalted Him, God would also exalt us together. As a result of that, we could all be involved and included into the wonderful honor of what it means to be a follower of the Lord, Jesus Christ.

So the next time you see a black-owned business, I want you to say, “I see color. I see color. And it’s beautiful.” The next time you purchase something from a store, you go to a restaurant, you buy some clothes and you don’t see color, say, “You know what? We still have work to do. And because I’m looking to the interest of others and not just myself, I’m going to do all I can to lift other people up so they can be exalted like I am.” If you do that, you will be just like Christ.

So don’t worry about privilege. Be grateful and not hateful and like Christ, be humble and lift other people up. If you do that, you’ll enjoy the privilege of what it means to be a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ.