The theme of white privilege when teaching

White Privilege

Social injustice encompasses all evils, which may include discrimination, gender bias, racial profiling, and many others. Social injustice, which comes in many forms, is a global problem (Stewart et al., 2012). Based on discrimination; this involves the favoritism of a given group over another. Racial profiling is self-explanatory, and it involves separating people owing to their skin color. This is prevalent in the developed countries, and this helps in developing the theme of this paper. Social injustice, is an entity of the ancient, but unfortunately, some of the actions in the 21st century, still have strains of the past (Gains, 1986).

It is in racial profiling where one can find a group of people having substantial privileges when compared to a minority group (Branscombe, Schmitt, & Schiffhauer, 2007). Racial profiling has resulted to cases of unequal privileges among the whites and blacks. In all cases, the whites receive more privileges when compared to the blacks. This qualifies as a social injustice because there is unequal access to resources (Todd, McConnell & Suffrin, 2014). Giving the whites more privilege does not enhance transformation of the society; it rather has resulted to the disparity among the involved (Solomon et al., 2005).

There have been considerable efforts in trying to raise awareness about racial profiling to reduce racial profiling. One of the strategies employed is the use of diversity courses in school or learning institutions (Case, 2007). Another strategy was the prejudice reduction technique, which strives to enhance awareness on illegitimate advantages (Stewart et al., 2012). A typical example of the illegitimate privilege was the law concerning citizenship. The law forbids people to apply for citizenship, unless the person was white (Halley, Eshleman & Vijaya, 2011). In addition, white privilege involved the accruing of advantages by respect of the nose shapes, culture, and language, which are some of the characteristics of the whites.

These strategies worked well to raise awareness among the white students; however, they did less to change the attitude they had concerned race and ethnicity (Stewart et al., 2012). One of the reasons the strategies failed is due to the lack of comprehensiveness. This means that it lacks to identify the type of attitudes, which represent components of racism, and it failed to portray a healthy white racial outlook (Ponterotto, 2009). Therefore, white privilege as a social injustice has raised considerable attention. This has resulted to substantial studies about it, especially in psychology, education and social science literature (Leonardo, 2004). The main concern is that white privilege is enhancing evil in the society, and in the entire world.

In a study conducted by Leonardo (2004), some white students felt that the white people have the ultimate power in the United States. Apparently, racial discrimination, in the form of white privilege, is common in the most developed countries. In addition, the attitudes of the whites enhance this injustice, which has made its way to other parts of the world. Therefore, racial profiling in this form is a significant problem, putting in mind that it will always result to discrimination based on the skin color. Nonetheless, it is wrong to provide a majority group of people with illegitimate privileges (Stewart et al., 2012), and failing to give minority groups the right to the same privileges.

Problem Statement

White individuals may perpetuate racist behaviors, and it is likely that some of them will not be aware of the acts. Scholars, who attempted to understand racism, critically examined the relations between race, social, economic and political power, from the whites perspective. In such a way, the scholars were able to acquire information on the way the whites expose advantages to their fellow white in an effort to make success easier for them, and subsequently disadvantage other people based on color (Halley, Eshleman, & Vijaya, 2011). This raises concern because the era of colonialism, and prejudice, including slave trade was over, but the strain is now rooted in another form (Ponterotto, 2009).

Although this is not enough, institutions, especially learning institutions, are in the process of constructing white racial identities, which has socialized the whites to imagine their world in manners that favor their positions in the same (Solomon et al., 2005). Therefore, this is a significant problem because it means that whites will continue favoring their own, and make it easy for their fellow whites, at the expense of other people based on color. It also means that in most developed countries, the chances of success for people of other color will never exist. It makes it evident that without special privilege, people such as African-Americans will stay unemployed, and white privilege will be natural (Solomon et al., 2005).

Significance of the Study

Prior studies on white privilege make it apparent that the issue exists. Alternatively, the many investigators, from various fields such as education, psychology and social science, shows that white privilege is a complicated phenomenon (Leonardo, 2004). This also shows that white privilege is a substantial social problem, which needs elimination. This is why some of the prior scholars, through investigation, attempted to provide frameworks to solve the problem (Stewart et al., 2012; Case, 2007; and Branscombe, Schmitt, & Schiffhauer, 2007). However, the issue of white privilege still exists because the strategies failed to achieve the objectives. This has also contributed to further studies on the same.

What makes this issue essential is the irony expressed by the “co-founders” of the constitution. The whites, popularly referred to as “founding fathers” drafted the constitution, in which, they advocated for equality among human beings (Leonardo, 2004). This is because they believed that God created people equal; however, slavery, patriarchal acts, and now white privilege, is far much in contrast with the prior concept of “equal human beings (Leonardo, 2004).” Therefore, this raises concern, and the society must be aware of the actions that are in contrast with the transformation of society. This makes the subject of “white privilege” essential as subsequent studies can result to the realization of a solution on the same.


There are substantial scholars who have contributed to the development of theories that try to address the issue of white privilege. They managed to do so through conducting empirical studies. Other scholars have conducted studies, which have amounted to substantial information on the same. This only means there is a large volume of literature online and offline that can help in understanding the issue of white privilege. Empirical studies have helped other experts, such as psychologists to develop models, which aim to understand why the whites tend to favor their fellow whites at the expense of other people.

Therefore, this paper relies on prior literature in an aim to provide information on white privilege. The studies, which this paper borrows, are empirical. In addition, this methodology is appropriate because it will review existing literature, and evidence in an attempt to provide succinct information. Therefore, the study will be reliable, in the sense that it will increase awareness concerning white privilege, racism, and support for a pro-active action. Alternatively, this methodology will examine all strategies, which prior studies suggest as effective in reducing white privilege, to learn their value, and offer recommendations on white privilege.

Literature Review

Historically, being white was almost the best thing a person could have, after surety of eternal life. This is in reference to some historical narratives as described by Leonardo (2004). In addition, being white was equal to having money in one’s pocket without their awareness. With such descriptions, it is conclusive that white privilege was dominant. This description also helps one imagine the presentation of unearned privileges that whites, by virtue of their color and race, had over the other people. This also translates to the roles played by the whites in taking wealth or resources to people who do not share in their color, globally (Leonardo, 2004). Although this is the case, since time immemorial, the whites, on the other hand, do not readily accept that benefits they enjoy doing do not come from privilege (Branscombe, Schmitt, & Schiffhauer, 2007). This shows that whites will always deny their involvement with favoring, or taking away resources from other people, who lack the capacity to defend themselves.

Whites perceive themselves as better when compared to other minorities based on wealth and social status. Therefore, it is hard for them to accept that white privilege exists. The above is a way of justifying their acts. In atrial to determine the perceptions of whites in regards to white privilege, Leonardo (2004) found out that whites felt they had privileges. The whites had more privileges when compared to other races. In respect to the same trial, whites revealed that they never had white disadvantage thoughts (Leonardo, 2004). The advocacy of liberalism is another way that whites have contributed to alienation of minority groups (Solomon et al., 2005). In such a case, whites have continuously failed to name color, and suggested “they see people.” This notion contributes to further disparity, and although the whites engage, and reinforce such deeds, they always make claims to justify their innocence (Solomon et al., 2005).

Teachers continuously construct the theme of white privilege when teaching. They teach learners concerning ancestors using domination tools, and oppression to portray the positioning of the whites at a privileged state, when compared to other ethnic groups. However, some of the whites recognize the privileges they have, when compared to minorities. This does not make them happy, and instead, they feel for the non-whites. Therefore, it is likely that there are whites who are aware of the injustice, but they lack control over it. Nonetheless, in the study by Ancis and Szymaski (2001), white privilege can influence some whites negatively. Although some of the whites recognized the advantages they have they did not accept the obligation for their position, but some of them hope they do not enhance the vice (Ancis & Szymaski, 2001). This proposes that it is not probable to enact change, but Stewart et al. (2012) feels that people who acknowledge that there are white privileges; they can start change, although they may encounter challenges.

It is apparent that white privilege exists, and whites perceive themselves as greater when compared to other minorities. However, at some point of time, they experience a paradigm shift, recognize the likely effects associate with white privilege, and contribute to social justice. This is why some white scholars have devoted their times to develop models, which aim at addressing the issue of white privilege (Ponterotto, 2009). Helm’s White racial model is the widely cited approach, which provides the acknowledgement of institutional racism, white privilege, and later abandons racism as an element of an individual’s personality (Ponterotto, 2009). The model in a way can result to abstinence of racist activities. For instance, a white can recognize that one is privileged, and subsequently experiences conflicting attitude between confronting racist acts while fearing confrontation from the white majority. This model was effective because it helped in the counseling process, whereby, the model provides types of counseling links (Ponterotto, 2009).

Case (2007) suggests that the strategy to apply in increasing awareness of white privilege is developing a diversity course. This course should increase the understanding of inequality and subsequently decrease stereotyping cultures, and prejudiced attitudes. In the study, (Case, 2007), it was apparent that the course had the capacity to increase awareness about white privilege, racism, and support favorable action. Therefore, insertion of white privilege in diversity courses can work well to influence students to act accordingly. Case (2007) is a typical example of a changed white, initially the author had recommended that African-Americans return to Africa, but in her final journal, there was change owing to diversity courses. This supports the model developed in Ponterotto (2009), whereby the whites acknowledge that white privilege exists, but opt to change, and contribute to social justice. Racial profiling is against the concept of American meritocracy, but it is ironical how the whites advocate for the same.


This study confirms that white privilege exists. Some people are aware that it exists, and have expressed guilt on white privilege. Alternatively, whites perceive themselves as better when compared to other minorities. Therefore, they are likely to justify their actions in regards to the privileges they receive. Nonetheless, some discourses have suggested that being white was the best thing that a person would have. On one, hand, whites can perpetuate racist behaviors, and on another hand, others acknowledge the same. White privilege is a substantial problem, which has resulted to much attention seen in the wide variety of studies. The studies are in the field of psychology, education and social science. Due to this, it has become conceivable to develop strategies, and models developed in an attempt to address the issue. Introduction of diversity courses and using the prejudice reduction technique are some of the strategies. A working model is represented by Ponterotto (2009), which suggests that whites can acknowledge white privilege, and subsequently work towards positive contribution to social justice.


White privilege is a social injustice, which involves the earning of illegitimate merits at the expense of other minorities. It is a social injustice because it involves unequal access to resources. Therefore, efforts to transform the society will always be futile because an injustice exists. Naturally, whites have continuously felt that they are greater when compared to other ethnic minorities. Empirical studies suggest that white privileges may be reluctant to face facts concerning this issue in an aim to protect their deeds. In addition, whites will tend to justify their deeds by denying the existence of discrimination. However, recognition of existence of racial bias is central to subsequent change.

Although it seems impossible, when one acknowledges that white privilege exists, and can subsequently harm other people, then, they can advocate for change. The change will not be easy, but with persistence, one can positively influence the society into eliminating racist activities. White privilege has raised attention globally, and scholars have attempted to address the issue through models. Prior literature suggests that some of the models lacked efficacy because they were not comprehensive. In addition, they lacked empirical studies to support them. All the same, there are scholars who contributed to social justice through their models. In Ponterotto (2009), the Helm’s White racial model, contributed to the counseling process by putting forward four relationships essential in counseling.

In addition, Case (2007), is a typical example of the aspects postulated by Helm’s model. Initially, Case (2007) recommended the return of African-Americans to Africa. However, as postulated in the model, one can recognize the racist intents in the white privileges, and subsequently change to contribute to social justice. Case (2007) after realizing this, the author contributed to social justice. On the other hand, the incorporation of diversity courses in learning institutions has the capacity to change the white’s perspective about white privileges. Case (2007), after exposure to the diversity courses was able to transform and become an advocate of social justice.


Ancis, R.J., & Szymanski, M.D. (2001). Awareness of White Privilege among White

Counseling Trainees. The counseling psychologist, 29(4), 548-569.

Branscombe, R.N., Schmitt, T.M., & Schiffhaeur, K. (2007). Racial attitudes in response to thoughts of white privilege. European journal of social psychology, 37, 203-215.

Case, A.K. (2007). Raising White Privilege Awareness and Reducing Racial Prejudice:

Assessing Diversity Course Effectiveness. Teaching of psychology, 34(4), 231-235.

Gaines, J. (1986). White privilege and looking relations: Race and gender in feminist film theory. Cultural critique, (4), 59-79.

Halley, O.J., Eshleman, A., & Vijaya, M.R. (2011).Seeing White: An Introduction to White

Privilege and Race. Plymouth: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers.

Leonardo, Z. (2004). The color of supremacy: Beyond the discourse of “white privilege.”

Educational philosophy and theory, 36(2), 137-152.

Ponterotto, G.J. (2009). Handbook of Multicultural Counseling.Thousands Oak: Sage.

Solomon, P.R. et al. (2005).The discourse of denial: how white teacher candidates construct race, racism and ‘white privilege.’ Race ethnicity and education, 8(2), 147-169.

Stewart, L.T. et al. (2012). White Privilege Awareness and Efficacy to Reduce Racial Inequality

Improve White Americans’ Attitudes toward African-Americans. Journal of social issues, 68(1), 11-27.

Todd, R.N., McConnell, A.E., & Suffrin, L.R. (2014). The Role of Attitudes Toward White

Privilege and Religious Beliefs in Predicting Social Justice Interest and Commitment. American journal of community and psychology, 53(1-2), 109-121.

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