Guilt is useful if it can change behavior. Its not useful if there is no behavior to change.
I cannot change my being white. I'm not aware of anything that I am doing that oppresses people, rather the reverse in fact, I'm involved in some programs at work that are targeted at providing opportunities to people who otherwise would have fewer opportunities.
I can't change the fact that I get certain advantages from being white. My whiteness does not give me some special power over society. I can only change how I behave to reduce the oppression of others.
Exactly. We cannot change the fact that we are white, nor the history of this country. We can only change how we believe and how we behave.
White privilege is not really about guilt though. I personally am not guilty of biased behavior. Neither are you, neither are MOST people. But the fact remains having been born white, we received some privileges black people didnt. While we are not personally responsible for that, refusing to acknowledge it is damned insulting!
Imagine I was trying to get paternity leave rights for men in a place where they already existed for women. Wouldn't it be far better to say that men should have the same rights as women with respect to leave, rather than "women need to accept that they get *special treatment* for leave". The goal is to give everyone reasonable treatment, not take it away from those that have it.
I see the point you're making here. But using family leave doesn't actually fit the context of white privileged because needing family leave is temporary, which being white or being black lasts a lifetime.
And anyone who says women got a special privilege for family leave can kiss my ass!
These conversations get confusing because the opposition to "privilege" is composed of at least 3 groups:
One group does not believe that there is any remaining bias in society. The will reject privilege or oppression arguments out of hand.
Another group believes that there is bias and generally would like to fix it. They are much more likely to respond positively to request to help stop oppression than accusations of "privilege".
A 3rd group is "white", and so has been labeled as "privileged", but in fact is not. They are suffering from a variety of oppression not based on race, but on some other issue. They may be very sympathetic to the oppression of others, but are not going to react well to being called "privileged".
Words matter. Saying person A is privileged, is different from saying person B is oppressed, even though both imply that A is in a better situation than B. The difference is which situation is implied to be wrong.
This is not about white privilege being a wrong behavior or white privilege happening because individually we are biased.
It is the collective experience of being the dominant race with an unjustified representation in leadership roles and as a result there remains a privilege of being white that black people do not experience.
I was in my late 30's the first time I saw a baby doll that was black, a Barbie that was black, make up for black skin tones, hair care products for the black womans hair. Characters in children's books that were racially ambiguous or black. Black women my age didn't have black baby dolls, they were white; the dolls didn't look like the child playing with it. Every single book you read growing up has zero black people represented or there is the token. Every single TV show ...same.
The OB for my first baby was a black man. My parents nearly sh!t a brick and I never heard them say anything racist. They just couldn't believe they had black doctors taking care of white women. Unheard of! This was mid 1980's.