Hey, I get it. You don’t feel privileged. You’ve worked hard to accomplish something in your life. You’ve faced some hard knocks, but you’ve persevered and you have achieved. You might hear “white privilege” and dismiss it as offensive and racist; somebody’s trying to take away something from you that you earned.

I hear you, but I want to clarify something.

White privilege is a group phenomenon, a larger social issue rather than an individual one. In fact, I’ll equate it to climate change. Human driven climate change isn’t weather change, as certain U.S. Senators would like to imagine. Climate change works on a global level and is manifested as an increasing global average temperature. Yes, there are local fluctuations, but OVERALL the planet temperature is rising. White Privilege is a social phenomenon whose effects are felt in aggregate as asymmetric incarceration rates, greater income inequality etc. Yes, there are fluctuations. There are some suffering white folks just as there are some affluent black folks, but overall, there is a general social and economic advantage in America to being white.

I will concede that perhaps “white privilege” is a term that is probably unnecessarily antagonistic and when launched as a rebuke certainly isn’t building bridges. Still, I would exhort people who would classify themselves as white to attempt to understand where it comes from and own the concepts behind it. Try to see the collective position of power not as privilege for oneself, but as a duty to correct the sins of the past.