I think the issue that seems to confuse a lot of white people about the idea of “white privilege” revolves around whether or not it is noticeable. This largely comes from the struggles most white people face in their lifetime and how they try to connect between the plight for success and favoritism. Perhaps, I may be stretching it a bit, but hear me out. White people who don’t understand the concept of white privilege, or better put, who completely misunderstand the philosophy behind it, are always going to fall short in actually getting it. They don’t see why they are favorited, because they struggle for the same things People of Color do. However, they completely miss the forest for the trees, because white privilege isn’t about the struggle or plight for success, but rather the inherent idea of a human being’s needs for certain conditions to exist that would otherwise be irrelevant if People of Color and white persons were on equal footing. These conditions are in a variety of ways intrinsic to not only human survival, but also to specific contexts that allow the person to excel and achieve whatever they may be humanly capable of, freely, just as any other person could without prejudice or being underprivileged from being able to do so because of their skin color.
Going further, we must ask the question, can People of Color become the best they are able to despite the hardships they face because of their skin color? Or, do People of Color have equal footing in the society just as a white person would? In psychology, there is a diagram that outlines specific needs for human beings to be able to achieve whatever they intend to become at their best. Abraham Maslow, an American psychologist, detailed in his Hierarchy of Needs, that in order for human beings be able to culminate themselves in the highest degree of personal, self-actualization, they would need to have all of these specific needs met, at least consistently. Of course, at very least, human beings need water, food, rest and warmth to actually stay alive, but what about feeling safe? I’m talking about existential security. In other words, can a Person of Color “experience” the same level of existential security as a white person by having equal means to the same resources, employment, property, family, and healthcare?
Since we’re talking about existentialism, let’s be clear in how it’s related to this. If a Person of Color makes a decision to go to college, buy a house, live in a decent neighborhood, have access to good healthcare, and can raise a family without all the struggles related to racism, bigotry and deep-rooted white privileges, then that person creates their essence, or existence, at the best of their ability. A white person will in fact struggle, will endure hardships, by their own mistakes or the mistakes and indifferences of others, but they will hardly ever, if at all, experience these struggles alongside the inherent white privileges consistently undermining and stifling People of Color’s plight for equal opportunity and footing in American society. White privilege is a thorn so deep and overarchingly infectious, it has become imbedded into the worldviews of society in both private and public sectors, hinged onto the perspective of how white people judge People of Color, based on the pigmentation of their skin.
Worldviews tend to come together from a variety of different ways, from philosophical to existential, and likewise from our ethics and values, et. al. Without getting too deep into psychological rhetoric, our worldviews are developed over time by what we see and experience, and for the most part, it’s cognitive and conscious. It is what we actually and presently believe in real time and likewise interacts with our relationship to the world as we see it, eventually framing our perception of it, regardless of our upbringing. And, without digressing into a genetic fallacy, I’m not saying that people’s upbringing or geographical context may or may not dictate who they eventually become and what their worldview is, but it’s obvious that this type of emigration out of a prejudicial perspective of sorts is far less often than we would like to see happen. Unfortunately, those stigmas tend to linger on throughout people’s lives no matter how much one tries to eliminate it from their behavior and perspective. Even if a person makes their way out of a racist household and/or community without becoming racist themselves, their lens of the world can be marred indefinitely, becoming a struggle in and of itself in tearing down those walls for good. The fact is, if a white person believes that a Person of Color is somehow less, inferior, unable to be better, etc., than them because of their skin color, their worldview is unequivocally racist and prone to prejudice and will likely act on their privilege of being white.
So, how does a white person’s prejudicial worldview directly affect a Person of Color’s needs to reach their highest potential? Their worldview alone stifles their freedom in accessing the basic needs of safety and security (sometimes the most important like food and water, rest and warmth), which a white person’s privileges then directly affects a Person of Color’s ability to achieve their best at self-actualization. Affecting these needs solely based on the color of one’s skin, is far more existentially homicidal than the murmured hardships of those who benefit from being white.