White privilege is a term used to describe the unintentional benefits given to people of Caucasian descent. Experts are divided over the presence and prevalence of white privilege in modern society; some believe it is a serious problem with little hope of solutions, while others consider it a dwindling concept in the modern world.
Privilege may be defined as a benefit given to a group simply because they are members of that group. White privilege is often referred to as being "invisible" because the recipients may be unaware that they are in a race-based system of decisions. The concept of white privilege is not simply determined by whether you believe in the superiority of one race or not. It is a generational problem, in the United States tracing back to the earliest days of the colonies, with European interaction with Native American, Central American and African populations. Centuries of laws which were clearly preferential toward white people have allowed family fortunes in white families to be more easily maintained and passed down. Some families in America still maintain power and money from those days, giving them a natural advantage particularly in terms of wealth.
Some studies done in the 21st century have shown that white-preferred hiring and housing practices are still unofficially in effect, even for candidates with identical backgrounds. Despite a clear shift toward equality in racial politics since the late 20th century, some studies show that white people are still far more likely to get better positions and more job offers than non-whites, particularly African Americans. Some experts suggest that this may be due to the racial and age makeup of company leadership; an older, often less equal-rights minded generation is still in charge of most businesses.
Many experts who argue that white privilege is a widespread problem point to public education as a major factor in the system continuing. Children in classrooms are often divided by ability, and as white children are generally better prepared for school due to early learning opportunities, they are often segregated from minority children and placed above them in skill level. While dividing by skill level can’t be accurately considered racist, it often can break down classrooms incidentally by race. Some also believe that it is unfair to teach standard English as the correct form of language learning, as it doesn’t take dialects or cultural differences in learning styles into account.
A vocal minority argues that many make too big of a deal about white privilege. They are quick to point out the hundreds of scholarships and programs available to minority children and college age students that are determined by race, and not available to white students. Many also point out that free speech is limited by fear of appearing racist; in polite society, certain words are considered unbelievably racist when said by a white person, although the standard does not apply equally to all races. There are certainly examples of white people adversely affected by race relations, yet some people believe that racism against whites or anti-white privilege should not be spoken of, or counts as racism.
The goal of most progressive race relations is to get beyond terms such as white privilege, not by ignoring statistics about race related issues, but by solving them. Studies indicate that white privilege is still a clear problem in many areas, most particularly throughout the American justice and economics systems. Yet with the first generation born after the Civil Rights movement reaching their 40s and coming to power, it does look hopeful that the effects of racism and privilege will continue to diminish as time moves forward. Race relations are not an unmovable line of inequality, and the changes that have already been made, as African-American Senator Barack Obama said in 2008, “gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.”