Culture. It is a funny word because it encompasses so many things. Vincent Parrillo defines culture as “elements that are shared by members of a society and transmitted to the next generation” (31). Essentially, culture boils down to how the environment interacts with nature. The interactions of my environment imprint upon my life and make the ideas of my culture. I think about my culture and it becomes difficult to think about myself as having a culture as a White (Caucasian) Christian Male. I feel that with this identity, I do not have a culture to discuss since—history will tell you—people in the privilege group do not have to think about their culture. The three groups that have been written out are considered to be the “big three” since being in these dominant groups, one will receive the most unearned advantages in the American society. I have the most privilege and to think about writing a paper about a culture that I do not have is difficult to do. In the context of the writing, I must write about the privilege that I have as it comprises my own cultural assessment.
What does it mean to be “Caucasian?” Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary defines the word “Caucasian” by: of, constituting, or characteristic of a race of humankind native to Europe, North Africa, and southwest Asia and classified according to physical features —used especially in referring to persons of European descent having usually light skin pigmentation. With the latter half of the definition, one can now understand the remaining context in which this essay is written as well as understand how the term will be used. According to feminist scholar, Peggy McIntosh, when one is Caucasian, they are considered to have white privilege meaning their “Whiteness protected [Caucasian people] from many kinds of hostility, distress, and violence, which [they] were being subtly trained to visit, in turn, upon people of color” (para. 12). She went on to note many advantages that Caucasians take for granted. Some of these advantages include Caucasians “being able to arrange the company of their own people for most of the time, usually go shopping alone without being followed or harassed, and can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having coworkers suspect that they got the job because of their [skin color]” (Jackson 471). Caucasian men and women may allow these advantages to explode into something deeper than just privilege; Caucasians have allowed their privileges to evolve into supremacy.
White supremacy is not just a term given to the 1950s, 60s, and 70s—it’s been around for all of history. White supremacy continues to this day! Unfortunately, white supremacy has been linked to white males which, in turns, connects to me. The name given to men who declare themselves white supremacists have now become known as white terrorists. “The purpose of White male terrorism is to demoralize the non-White American population and use its discontent as leverage on government at the national, state, and local levels” (Wilson para. 2). The connection between being white and male makes me feel unsettled since it is connected to white supremacy, white privilege, and hatred. Thus, it is my hope to dive deeper in understanding my own history to change tomorrow’s ideology.
In searching for what white privilege means to my cultural assessment, it means that I have so many privileges that I do not see. One such privilege that I have would be to go to any bar across the United States, ask for a drink and no second thought would be given and an issue would not arise between the bartender and me. Black columnist, A. Bruce Crawley at the Philadelphia Tribune, he recounts a situation in which his skin color became an issue when he went in for a drink at a bar in Landsdale, Pennsylvania.
[I] walked in, the music from the sound system was blaring and there was a notably loud din from the conversations being shared by the 75 or so white males in the room. As they turned and saw [me] enter, just like in an old ‘B’ cowboy movie, every conversation seemed to stop and all eyes focused intently on us. We approached the bar and I asked for a beer. In an arrogant and condescending tone, the bartender said, rhetorically, ‘You won’t be needing a glass, will you?’ I drank half of that one beer – from the bottle -paid, and the five of us backed out of the bar. [I] could hear the conversations resuming immediately after the doors closed behind [me]. What [I] experienced that day was what happens to…Black men when they incorrectly assume that they are automatically entitled to enjoy the same social privileges, in this country, that men of European descent, commonly and unthinkingly, enjoy every day (Crawley para 9).
In thinking of the three theoretical perspectives in sociology, the conflict perspective is key in understanding the interactions in the white/black debate across the nations. One aspect in the conflict perspective shows that “disequilibrium and change are the norm because of societal inequalities” (Parrillo 15). With that in mind, I must be reminded that for right now, the societal norms is that there are inequalities toward people who are not white. What this means for me and my culture is that I have privileges that others may not have—such as the example above. Yet, in regards to the interactionist theory, I can become aware of the intercultural connections which would then improve the set patterns to allow a slow change for white privilege to become privilege to all, regardless of skin color.
With Crawley’s story and McIntosh’s list of privilege that is given to men and women who are of Caucasian ethnic heritage, I now understand how being white and male is part of the “big three.” It upsets me because I do not understand how a society can have a functionalist theory in it. My white cultural is said to be in power because being white has so many unearned privileges (McIntosh). In the Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology, white privilege has such a negative stigma when it states, “From the humanistic, social justice, and multicultural competency perspectives, White privilege does harm to people of color. White privilege has negative psychological consequences for Caucasian people by virtue of their collusion, intentional and conscious or not, in subordinating diverse others (472).” While these perspectives are empirically correct, I feel that they could be biased in certain ways. I am unsure of how they could be biased, but every person have biases that are unchecked and is rather difficult to keep them balanced when doing article publications, which thus can cause controversy and conflict between groups of people in society—primarily, blacks and whites. The conflict created from a person’s biases can be called discrimination as Parrillo describes how biases/prejudice becomes actions toward a group of people belonging to group and is discrimination (Parrillo 206). I agree with Jackson in the Encyclopedia when he states, “Caucasian people need to raise their daily consciousness of White privilege and work to reconstruct their interpersonal and systemic power imbalances with people of color” (472). I agree with Jackson in how I am supposed to grow from the comments made by Peggy McIntosh, Jackson, Crawley, and how Wilson describes a solution when it comes to white male privilege,
We must teach…that White supremacy and White male terrorism are injurious, unfair, and unjust across societies, as well as across time. Over the long-term, America must emphasize this lesson to elementary and middle school students, perhaps fewer White boys will grow up thinking anachronistic White supremacist ideas are applicable in an increasingly Yellow, Brown, and Black contemporary context. … Non-White America must NEVER FORGET the full scope of America’s past. If history is an accurate predictor, we can expect an increase in the frequency and intensity of White male terrorist activity (para. 19).
I have many unearned privileges that I have found out in the research of this paper. While I felt that being a white Christian male meant that I had no culture before the writing of this paper, I have now seen that many news articles, encyclopedias, and scholarly works have biased statements that go against what I was once ignorant to have believed. Yes, I have a culture. While it may make me feel upset with my European heritage, I cannot get upset with what is going on right now and ignore everything else. I must act and therefore, from the knowledge gained in the realization that I have culture, I cannot get upset at myself for what has happened. It is a responsibility of mine to correct the biases toward white Christian males to where we as a society do not continue to disagree or disrespect one another just because “the big three” are triumphing.
“Caucasian.” Merriam-Webster. Merriam-Webster, n.d. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.
Crawley, A. B. “‘White Privilege’ Trumps ‘Post-Racialism’.” Philadelphia Tribune: 1. Dec 30 2012. ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2013
Jackson, Margo A. “White Privilege.” Encyclopedia of Multicultural Psychology. Ed. Yo Jackson. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Reference, 2006. 471-72.
McIntosh, Peggy. “White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack.” Independent School 49.2 (1990): 31. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Sept. 2013.
Parrillo, Vincent N. Understanding Race and Ethnic Relations. Boston: Allyn & Bacon, 2012. Print.
Wilson, Delgreco K. “White Male Terrorism Isn’t New in America: Country’s Founding Fathers were Self-Proclaimed Supremacists.” Philadelphia Tribune: 0. Aug 24 1999. ProQuest. Web. 1 Oct. 2013.