August 17, 2017

Brené Brown defines “White Privilege” for us—& it’s the Best Explanation I’ve Heard.


White privilege is a phrase that has been added to my vernacular seemingly overnight.

But I am the first to admit that I have been on the fringe of what has been going on in our country. Not to mention the overt and ongoing racism that so many of my fellow Americans—my fellow human beings—face on a daily basis.

I live in a small town that is sorely lacking in diversity. We chose to live here simply because it reminded me of the small towns in New England where I grew up.

It has a main street with lights strung over it, a single post office, library, and town hall—and two of our police officers even ride horses. The park in the middle of town has a gazebo, a basketball court, a baseball field, and a town pool—complete with water park-type slides.

Outside our brand new library is an amphitheater where outdoor concerts are held in the summer, a splash park for small children, and an ice trail where we can ice skate and have hot chocolate in the winter.

The small-town charm is the main reason we chose to live here. Because I have an aversion to suburbs that seem to go on and on and on, with no defined borders and especially no main street.

If you’re picturing a Norman Rockwell painting or Mayberry, that’s pretty much it.

My town also happens to be in one of the most affluent counties in the entire country. And outside of my son’s charter school, there is little to no diversity to be found.

On a daily basis, there is not a lot of reason for me to think about my white privilege. Until recent events in our country have brought it front and center for me. And I could no longer look away.

People might recoil at the term white privilege because they think it makes it sound like everything they have was handed to them on a silver platter, and that they didn’t have to work hard for it. And to be honest, I might have thought the same thing—if I gave it any thought at all.


But I am waking up. And I want to do better.

I am on a mission to educate myself about what the hell is going on in America right now.

So when a video showed up in my newsfeed yesterday with Brené Brown talking about the subject of Charlottesville and white privilege, I was hooked.

I am going to admit it right up front…I am biased. I love Brené Brown. When she speaks, I listen. Not only is she a brilliant and well-renowned researcher at the University of Houston Graduate School of Social Work, she talks about her research in an accessible—and funny!—way that makes it easy to understand.

After watching this video, I was even more impressed than I usually am, because she explains racism—and more specifically, white privilege—in a way I have not heard it described before.

And I think that a lot of us—myself included—might benefit from watching this:

“Privilege, when it comes to race, is about unearned rights.

I can walk into any store and find a doll that matches my daughter’s skin.

I can drive in any area near my home and not get pulled over.

I can go to the movies and hold hands with my partner [when I’m straight] and not fear getting hit in the head with a baseball bat.

I can wear a symbol of my religion like a cross necklace and not fear being called a murderer or terrorist.”

This video helped me better understand all of the subtle ways in which I am privileged and never realized it before.

Not only just feeling safe in my community, and having dolls and bandages match the color of my skin, but much bigger things—like not having to worry about an 11-minute cavity search if I get pulled over for running a red light:

My improved understanding of white privilege is also what makes me stop and think about why some people are less outspoken about what is happening in our country right now.

Is it because of our white privilege?

Some of us are lucky enough to be able to turn off the news, not watch the video, or not read the article, and have it be over for us. At least for now.

But what does that mean? Are we just taking care of our emotional health? Or are we burying our heads in the sand?

Regardless of the reason, our brothers and sisters living this discrimination and abuse every day don’t have that luxury. This might be why it’s hard for some of my more outspoken friends to understand why some people are more quiet about this issue than others.

But the most we can all do is share information like this and know that people will take it in if they are ready.

I, for one, choose to believe that every single one of us is doing the best we can in each moment.

And that’s all we can really expect from each other.




Author: Christy Williams
Image: Flickr/Backbone Campaign
Editor: Travis May
Copy Editor: Nicole Cameron
Social Editor: Yoli Ramazzina


You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

Monika Evans Sep 13, 2018 8:13pm

Well said. I began to understand white privilege when my husband (who was African American) insisted that I take my photo I.D. when jogging. It had never occurred to be that I should until he told me that HE needed to be prepared at all times to be stopped and asked for I.D. It had happened to him many times. Never happened to me. I do not feel guilty because I have not asked for the privilege, however, I clearly benefit from it. However, I feel I owe my fellow citizens who are not privileged in the same way awareness, understanding and support.

Michele Kelly Dec 13, 2017 3:55am

Melinda Jane Love may be the only thing that can save us.

Matt Kobell Sep 6, 2017 5:38pm

There is no such thing as white privilege, if you think you have it your a Fucking Retarded Asshole ,its O.K to be White and Proud ,we are the Superior Race !

Sarah Green Neighbors Aug 25, 2017 5:45am

Gayle Fleming But to be indifferent to someone's life is far worse than privilege or non-privilege. What happened to her is a crime against humanity.

Gayle Fleming Aug 24, 2017 5:06pm

Christy Williams, Writer Well now I will look for your other articles to read.

Christy Williams, Writer Aug 24, 2017 4:48pm

Gayle, I love this so much. Thank you for taking the time to not only read, but also reply in such a thoughtful manner. I love your pushback on the last three sentences, and it's a good reminder to me that just because people are reading this article, it doesn't mean they've read the other two I wrote about Charlottesville last week. I feel like I was more forceful in tone in those, and was perhaps looking to use a kinder, gentler, less shaming tone than I did in those other articles. Thanks again for your mindful response, and I look forward to reading your articles!

Read Elephant’s Best Articles of the Week here.
Readers voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares:
Click here to see which Writers & Issues Won.

Christy Williams

Christy Williams is an expert in her own midlife crisis, and not-at-all an expert in spiritual awakenings, both of which are currently ongoing for her. She is proud to call herself: Hot Mess. Fierce Mom. Slacker Wife. Sassy Writer. Career and Life Coach. Work-Life Evangelist. Spiritual Seeker. Highly-Sensitive Soul. Empathic Intuitive. Aspiring Herbivore. And she also wants you to know that you are not the boss of her. She would love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and her website.