The Unknown White Privilege: Individuality


I’m sure I’m not alone in being among those who—for a brief moment when they heard about terrorist attacks—quietly mumbled to themselves,  “Gosh, I hope the shooter is not Black” or “Oh Lord, please don’t let the terrorist be Muslim.”

We all performed the “Don’t Let Him Be Black” prayer. It is because we know for a fact that black is a plural word, It is collective. The act of one black person stains an entire continent. Black people’s actions are transferrable and contagious. Blackness is never individual.

The fact that the crimes of one become the crimes of all is not unique to the black community. The deeds of the tiny percentage of muslim extremists are somehow tattooed onto every single person who practices the religion of Islam, anyone from the Middle East, and even people not associated with the region or the religion. People have committed hate crimes against Sikhs because idiots believe that anyone wearing a turban must be trying to institute Shariah law.

Unlike terrorism, drug arrests, traffic stops, gang-related crimes, or other crimes ascribed to people of certain races, ethnicities or religions, no one has made the case that massacres and mass shootings are almost exclusively the territories of white men.

Between 1982 and 2012, 55.9% of the crimes in America were committed by white men, according to a detailed list compiled by Mother Jones. Only 16 percent were committed by blacks. But that fact is never mentioned, for one reason:

Individuality is a white privilege.

Privilege is living largely unaware of the social perks of whiteness, a white person has the luxury of thinking of her/himself as individuals rather than as members of a race. This singularity of whiteness is the main reason Caucasians object to mentions of racism with “Not all white people are” They do not tolerate the collective whiteness that they simultaneously use to excuse mass incarceration, racial profiling, police brutality and the phrase: “But what about black-on-black crime?”

The privilege of white individuality makes them immune to the school-to-poverty pipeline, mass incarceration, transportation security sdministration searches, school underfunding, banks charging higher interest rates, employers eliminating them because of the name on their CVs, or the countless other presuppositions that blacks, hispanics and muslims live with every day.

It must be nice, though.

That is the privilege white men live with. When they don’t wear pink fanny hats and march for women, they aren’t considered part of “hate group.” When a white criminal shoots a cop, it’s not because of White Lives Matter. White criminals are not “thugs.” White criminals are “troubled.”

When white Americans protested Justine Damond’s death by cop, they weren’t castigated for being anti-cop. When they talk about the decline of the US, it is never viewed as “un-American” or “disrespectful.” When they say we need to “make America great again,” no one told them to “go back to Europe.”

That’s because whiteness is the default setting these days. That is why the phrase “white people” is offensive to them. “White” exists only in the singular form. They do not have to navigate a world where the color of their skin predetermines their credit, their employment, their education, their criminality or even their ability to breathe.

Even in the instances when they commit an atrocity that is most commonly perpetrated by white men, even when experts and analysts break their necks searching for a motive, their invisible entitlement excuses them from having to join a collective, impromptu prayer circle. The privilege of white individuality prevents anyone from expressing the most logical, statistically correct reason for their motive:

Because they are white.

Written by Nawal Allal

Painting Featured: Musaka Geoffrey “Six Faces”

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