There is confusion as to who has white privilege. Whether this is a willful confusion or just simply an unawareness is debatable, but let’s look at the main factor that determines it. White privilege isn’t just a person who falls into a particular category of white (i.e. British, German, Norwegian ancestry). It, like being black has to do with skin. Melanin…or lack thereof. It’s about being able to seamlessly meld into a sea of white and not have anyone the wiser. If you can do that, you are considered white or “white passing” and, therefore, can receive white privilege. So it doesn’t matter if you are Italian, French, Canadian, Australian as long as you appear to be white, you will be treated as white.
I recently got into a discussion about this with someone and they were not happy that I told them they “looked white”. They had white skin and blonde hair mind you, but still didn’t want to accept what I was saying. This is another problem and typical of people who experience white privilege who are also “white passing”; they will claim they are not one of them. Like white people, they claim they are not a part of it. They deny their privilege and the benefits afforded to them through said privilege. What they don’t get, because they fall into the “white passing” category and have the same attitude as white people, is that it’s not only about how you identify, but how people identify you.
White people, or people considered white, rarely have to worry about how they are viewed. They self-identify and, to them, that is the end of it. Minorities don’t have that luxury. We are aware, not only of our self-identity, but more how we are perceived by the people around us, particularly when we are in white spaces. We are constantly looked at in terms of our minority status. We are not given a self, we are a representative of a non-white group. Since we are used to this we don’t fly into a rage whenever this happens (we’d be exhausted because it’s all too common). However, when a white person or someone “white passing” is treated like that, it becomes an issue.
The only way someone who looks white would not be afforded white privilege is if they went out their way to let the white people around them know that they are a minority. This in itself shows a self-identity privilege that is not common for minorities whose skin gives them away. We don’t go out of our way to tell white people we are minority, they already identify us. If we are mixed they’ll wait a comfortable (for them, not us) amount of time before asking us “what we are”.
If you pass for white acknowledge that privilege afforded to you instead of attacking people pointing it out. That does nothing and is the same as when white people are told their behavior or words shows their privilege and/or supremacist attitude. A conversation can’t be had and change can’t be created if the simple act of acknowledging a problem exists isn’t done.