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The Persistence of White Privilege

Stephanie M. Wildman

Santa Clara University - School of Law

Santa Clara Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-07
Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 18, 2005

Most discussions of white privilege emphasize the individual benefit to the holder of privilege. Yet dynamics beyond the individual combine to reinforce and reinvent white privilege. Socio-cultural factors operate in conjunction with material forces, enabling whites to self-perpetuate as a dominant racialized identity. Material forces such as the distribution of societal goods and resources, the division of labor, and immigration policies, create a world that privileges whiteness. Socio-cultural factors, including discursive practices, patterns of behavior, and the thinking patterns that language creates, further strengthen white privilege, contributing to its endurance.

This article focuses on four socio-cultural factors that reinforce white privilege: (1) the contemporary cultural push to colorblindness; (2) the sleight of mind that typifies the relation between an individual and groups in American culture; (3) a comfort zone in whiteness, which includes whiteness as the fabric of daily life for whites and white participation in the construction of race from a white-privileged viewpoint; and (4) the tendency for holders of white privilege to take back the center in discourse, turning attention away from potentially uncomfortable conversations about race toward an emphasis on white concerns and issues. The article concludes by considering the relevance of privilege to law, demonstrating how an analysis of privilege would illuminate legal facts patterns and further social justice.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 22

Keywords: race, gender, privilege, discrimination, social justice

JEL Classification: J70, K40

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Date posted: November 29, 2005  

Suggested Citation

Wildman, Stephanie M., The Persistence of White Privilege. Santa Clara Univ. Legal Studies Research Paper No. 06-07; Washington University Journal of Law and Policy, Vol. 18, 2005. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=858585

Contact Information

Stephanie M. Wildman (Contact Author)
Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )
500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States
408-554-5350 (Phone)
408-554-5440 (Fax)
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