I have a problem with the term ‘white privilege’, but not for the reasons you imagine a middle-aged white man may have.
It implies that white people are receiving special bonuses that are above and beyond what should the norm. In fact, it is people of colour who are being treating in manner worse than should be the norm. Everybody deserves to be treated with respect, judged on who they are, not how they look, and to be given the same opportunities. This is a fundamental human right, not a privilege, but it is one that is largely being accorded to white people.
My concern is that there is a sizeable chunk of white people, frankly the majority, who bristle at the term currently being used. This is because a lot of white people don’t feel privileged. One of the most common arguments brought up is that there are plenty of white people who are struggling to get by. They don’t understand the basic advantage they are being given, because they have never experienced discrimination based on their appearance and are so hemmed in by their own problems.
When we talk about ending white privilege, these people automatically feel like something is going to be taken away from them, when that isn’t the case. The real goal, surely, is to raise other groups up, and I just don’t think that’s clear at the moment.
So, is there a better word or term that could be used? One that wouldn’t automatically make this segment of white people — the very group that needs to be engaged to bring about meaningful change — go immediately on the defensive and close their ears? Or am I just getting too hung up on semantics?
I guess I’m thinking about this because I’m increasingly seeing a lot of entrenched positions on both sides. Something has to change for progress to be made. Maybe changing the words we use won’t make all the difference. But it might be a start.