I’m not a racist! I just benefit from racism

Don’t judge a book by it’s cover

Robert McKeon Aloe
5 min readJun 15, 2020

A lot of white people seem to be offended by the suggestion that our system of society is racist and sexist because that means they have benefitted from the misery of others. It’s hard to see racism when most of your friends and coworkers are white, when you don’t get pulled over, and when you don’t see how differentially black people are treated compared to white people. Racism can almost seem invisible to a white person who has grown up to believe this is the land of opportunity, and you will only be judged by what you do in life.

You may have heard that white people have white privilege, and similarly, it seems like an invisible force. Where is my privilege? Where are my benefits? White privilege is so baked into society, like racism, that you don’t even notice it. The difficulty of trying to end racism is that means implicitly ending privilege that white people have always had in their life without even knowing it. There is no other reason to keep a racist system functioning.

White privilege is undeserved, which means you have this privilege, but you did nothing to earn it. It was not given by merit but only by the color of your skin. You were born into it as much as black people were born into being discriminated against.

But it’s hard to see. Life is not on a plantation with masters and slaves. It isn’t so black and white in many cases, and even when it is, we have confirmation bias as white people because we want to start off to say we are not racist.

“I’ve never said or done anything racist!”

Let’s talk about that. I want to walk through what boxes you should check off first before you whine about Black Lives Matter. So here is a list of things you should check off before making a judgement.

“There is a principle which is a bar against all information,

which is proof against all arguments, and

which cannot fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance —

that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”

-Attributed to Herbert Spencer

Where is racism?

As a white person, it can feel like you have to have faith that racism exists. If you turn off the tv and the internet, where is the racism? Where are the black people?

  1. Do you live in a community of mostly white people?
  2. Do you have any black friends?
  3. Have you ever talked to your black friend(s) about the racism they have faced?
  4. Have you ever watched Cops?
  5. Have you ever read the stories of people who got pulled over while black?
  6. Have you ever contrasted those stories with stories of people pulled over while white?
  7. How many black people do you work with?
  8. How many tv shows, movies, or books do you consume based on black people or with more than one black character?
  9. Do you think braids, cornrows, or dreadlocks are not appropriate because they’re not professional hair styles?
  10. Do you say racist words jokingly around your close friends?
  11. Do you often describe people by their skin color and gender when telling stories?
  12. Do you feel uncomfortable around black people?

What privilege?

Privilege is difficult to see when it is such a normal part of the culture. Consider the following:

  1. Have you lived in the suburbs?
  2. How many black people were in school with you? How many of them came from wealthy families?
  3. Do you often feel lucky?
  4. Have you landed jobs and school opportunities that didn’t seem earned but people were giving you a chance.
  5. When you have been pulled over by the police, do you get off with a warning?
  6. Growing up, were you told you could be or do anything you set your mind to?
  7. In school or work, were you given the benefit of the doubt?
  8. When you call the police, do you feel confident the situation will be resolved fairly?
  9. Do you think the justice system is fair?
  10. Do feel like your vote counts?
  11. Do your government representatives have the same skin and culture as you?
  12. Do you ever turn off the news because you would rather not think about the protests?

But I’ve never done anything racist!

Racism works by one group gaining an advantage over another group at the expense of the advantaged group. So, white people in general have an advantage over black people in society, school, government, work, health care, and the justice system because black people are disadvantaged in all of these areas.

One way to be a racist is to actively discriminate against black people by denying them jobs, entry to school, medical services, or act violently towards them.

The more common way to be racist is to benefit from racism but deny racism exists. For example, before the Civil War, people in the North said slavery was bad, but the rich still benefitted from the slave labor because the economy running well for the South was good for them.

The system of slavery and Jim Crow gave white people a benefit before the Civil Rights Act, but even if the Civil Rights Act had actually eliminated racism, white people have still started the race of generational wealth far ahead of black people. This gap still present today gives the benefit to white people of slavery from years ago. The stain of slavery still affects us today.

Privilege persists across generations making it harder to see and accept.

Another example, do you pick your own strawberries? The people that do are paid terribly and live in poverty, but we benefit because we can open our refrigerator and eat some beautiful, fresh strawberries. That’s called privilege. We take advantage of one group to benefit another.

Do you see more black people proportionally in lower income jobs than white people? That’s called privilege. Black people make up 13% of the population, so roughly 1 in 10 people you see should be black if society was equitable. If you see a higher concentration of black people or a lower concentration of black people, it is a symptom of systematic, generational racism.

Maybe you didn’t go to the best schools or you had your share of suffering, and it’s hard for you to see how you have benefited. Often, the benefits of white privilege disproportionately go towards the rich males not all white people. That doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

Before you jump to a conclusion, talk to a black person. Look up videos of white and black people interacting with the police. Ask yourself the same question you will be faced with when you meet Jesus (I’m assuming most people having trouble with white privilege are Christian):

How have you treated the least of my brothers? (Appendix A)

Other Writings on this topic:

Do Black Lives Matter? A Statistical Analysis of Police Violence

Appendix A

“Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, so you do unto me” (Matthew 25: 31–46)



Robert McKeon Aloe

I’m in love with my Wife, my Kids, Espresso, Data Science, tomatoes, cooking, engineering, talking, family, Paris, and Italy, not necessarily in that order.