Why Do White Americans Ignore Their 'White Privilege'

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on DiversityInc.com. Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.


Question:

Why do you think white Americans ignore their “white privilege” that is a direct result of the history of slavery in this country For example, I often hear whites comment, “I didn’t own any slaves … so why do I owe an apology/money/etc” I just want to scream, “Yeah, but you ALL directly benefit from it.”

Answer:

Most people do not think of “history” beyond their own experience. I would also say that my enlightenment has also led me to understand that the history I was taught was “whitewashed.”

Although you’re absolutely right about all white people benefiting from white privilege, most white people have never given it a thought.

Although there are bigots out there, the underpinnings of comments like “I didn’t own any slaves” are almost always ignorance, not bigotry.

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