Essay about Unearned Privileges

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Updated: Mar 28, 2022
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I have never had to face what it is like to struggle in life. I was born into a white, middle-class family, where I could have time to do extracurriculars, go on vacations, and get what I’ve wanted. I have grown up in a very safe small town, with a nice house, hardworking and respected parents, and a supportive family. Throughout my life, I have never had to worry about my next meal, when I am going to get paid to support my family, or where I have to sleep for the next night.

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My family is college educated, with my mom being an immigrant from Russia, and my dad being born into privilege as well. My parents have always provided for me; have the ability to excel in sports, they can assist me with school work, and they can cook me dinner. On top of that, I plan to go to college and getting a well paying job so I can be just as successful as the rest of my family. My privilege in my life is something that I take for granted every day, and that many people in the world do not have.

Privilege can also be described in many other ways than only being born rich. Being born a certain color or certain gender is also something that can change how you experience privilege. As a white female, I consider myself extremely privileged compared to someone who was even just born African-American. These slight differences can change the outcome of someone’s life, even if it is simply race. I have never had to worry about somebody treating me differently because of my skin color, and this on its own is an entitlement that I have.

Racial differences and slight forms of racism still exist in the United States today. Since the beginning of time, race has always been something that sets people apart. Ever since the foundation of the United States, races such as Native American and African American have been seen as a burden through a white man’s eyes. This perspective has obviously changed, as most civil people do not go around making racist comments or treat others differently. However, people of color have had to go through emmese burdens to achieve some racial equality, that a person of my color has never had to experience.

Conflict theory, as explained by Karl Marx, is the perspective that life is one large competition that focuses on the distribution of power and inequality. Race ties in majorly with conflict theory, in that the struggles of race have resulted in social change. These changes were sparked during the American Civil War, and the civil rights movement in the 60s. Essentially, conflict theory sets out to explain how conflict and uneven power in America has lead to social change. However, these movements do not personally affect me. I am not of a certain color that makes these social changes any different to me, and I do not have any family that these movements affected. This brings into question the effectiveness of racial and social change and the privilege of a person like me. Will something like prejudice always be apparent in my brain and society? Does conflict in society really result in changed prejudice in people’s minds?

Prejudice is a very important theory in discussing race in America, essentially placing stereotypical image in people’s brains about a culture or race. For example, when you are walking down the street and you see an African American man wearing a black hoodie you will automatically assume that they are dangerous. Even if you or another individual see a Muslim man wearing a black turban on his head, you will think that they are a threat to you in some way. Most of these thoughts are not intentional though. Most people, including me, try not to place these poor thoughts on someone else that they are more dangerous because of their skin color. These thoughts inadvertently happen, due to stereotypes that we see on television or because we live in such a white area. Being seen on as even slightly “dangerous” or “harmful” is something that I have never experienced due to the color of my skin. My privilege of being white changes many things about what people think about me, and how I am perceived by society. Even if I was driving a car, I would not have to worry about getting pulled over and accused of something because of my skin color. More and more, we are seeing people of other skin colors being persecuted for doing nothing wrong. The truth of the poor treatment of people from other skin colors and ethnicities is the low lying racism that is still prevalent in American society today.

American prejudice also has to do with another racial concept called ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism, as defined by Robert Axelrod and Ross A. Hammond, is “a nearly universal syndrome of attitudes and behaviors [that] include seeing one’s own group (the in-group) as virtuous and superior and an out-group as contemptible and inferior.” Prejudice and ethnocentrism are both very important in describing the roots of racial discrimination and how people of certain color or race are more privileged than others. In America, this is persistent as the in-group is caucasian people and out-group is anyone of any other color.

It is a very harsh concept, yet it still exists even as you walk the street and see people ignoring people of color. Being white, I have no understanding of what people of color face living day to day. If I was born someone of color, my life would most likely be drastically different. I have grown up in a safe area, and been blessed with something that others have not had the luxury of. Being raised in an area like Traverse City versus somewhere like the Southside of Chicago is massive difference that can change your life chances. By living in a safe, middle-class area, I have never had to worry about encountering violence or being assaulted on the street. However, If my color of skin were different, this would be a different situation. People who have been born African-American or any other race have most likely experience redlining.

Redlining is a controversial, yet truthful example of how prejudice and ethnocentrism have been played into real life. Redlining was found in the bank system when banks would not give out loans to certain people because the area they were living in was “financially unstable.” This majorly affected people who lived in low income and impoverished areas; making it very difficult for them to leave those areas. Most of the people living in redlined areas were of black or latino ethnicities, due to white people fleeing the inner cities to live in the suburbs. Overall, people of color were forced to stay in their inner city areas even if they could pay for a loan to get their way out. Redlining was a major controversy in the 70s and 80s, and even after it was exposed to the American people, “Stud[ies] showed that white neighborhoods still had 24 percent more mortgage loans than black neighborhoods” (Drier, 7). The fact that banks were still discriminating against people of a different race showed that prejudice and ethnocentrism still exist in subtle ways today.

Being born white gave me a major privilege that goes unnoticed every day. I take for granted how lucky I am to be born white; not only because I get many small privileges but that I will never have to worry about being treated differently because of my skin color. I believe that skin color should not benefit nor burden you toward anything in people’s lives. Although I am white, I still want to help make society reach a racial equilibrium so that nobody should have to worry about being silently judged or taken away from certain opportunities just because of their race. To solve these problems the media needs to work on creating less bias programming and creating a certain image of a “criminal” or who is good or bad. The racism today is mainly rooted in the messages that we see and how they can change our perception about someone. When you think terrorist, you automatically think of a muslim man; and this is due to the media creating an image in people’s brains about certain stereotype. Another solution to fixing the racism that still exists today is to have parents teach their children not to judge other colors. Many of the issues today come from parents being a negative influence on their children as well.

Although my racial privileges are evident, I do experience slight burden when it comes to my gender. As a female, I do have to worry about my safety on the street or if I am getting paid as equal as my peers. Women have also gone through immense struggle to achieve equality, which I am grateful for, as I have grown up in a time where women are seen as equal. Being a woman also comes along with many stereotypes such as liking pink or being frail, which I have experienced. Even in the classroom, teachers will expect girls to have better grades or us to behave perfectly. Being a woman or man can greatly impact your life chances, as you can get paid less or not be treated as equally. Although I do not perceive my gender as a burden, it could be seen as one due to things such as the gender pay gap and being stereotyped.

The functionalist perspective greatly describes how gender is played into society. “This theory suggests that gender inequalities exist as an efficient way to create a division of labor, or as a social system in which a particular segment of the population is clearly responsible for certain acts of labor and another segment is clearly responsible for other labor acts” (Lumen learning). Functionalist perspective essentially argues that the gender inequality that exists keeps society functioning. This can be seen as the men going to work and providing for the family, while women are in the kitchen and taking care of the house; it keeps society balanced, as argued by this perspective. While functionalist perspective on gender roles is degrading for women, feminist theory argues that “men and women should be equal politically, economically and socially” (Feminist Theory). Although many theories and sociological perspectives can be applied to the study of gender, most reveal that women still have a disadvantage in society. One major gender issue that is still very relevant in American society today is the issue of women in the workforce, and the gender pay gap.

Although women may feel that they are being treated equally as their male counterparts, they haven’t. Data in 2013 found that “women have been paid less than their male peers, earning about 81 cents to every $1 of a man’s wage” (Conley, 313). The gender pay gap is a very difficult issue that women have experience in their lifetime. You may be wondering, why don’t employers pay women the same as men? The issue with the pay gap began when women started entering the workforce in massive amounts in the 1970s. At one point, women actually dominated the workforce when the recession in 2009 happened. However, women were entering feminized “pink-collar” jobs, such as secretarial jobs or low paying janitorial jobs. “In Job Queues, Gender Queues (1990), sociologists Barbara Reskin and Patricia Roos argue that women end up in lower paid jobs because these occupations lose (or have lost) their attractiveness for white men” (Conley, 313). These occupations include real estate, pharmacy, and even sociology. When men leave these jobs, women are next in line to take the duty of those workers. “Womens work” tends to be paid much less than men and have fewer benefits, leading to a pay discrepancy between men and women.

Let’s not forget when women do enter better paying and more prestigious jobs. Known as the glass ceiling, it is an “invisible limit on [a] women’s climb up the occupational latter” (Conley, 314). There are many factors that can add to the glass ceiling. These can vary from gender stereotyping in the workplace to sexual assault. In a study done buy sociologist Rosabeth Moss Kanter, she found that women experience major stereotyping when achieving a higher job status. She discovered that women become a token, which leaves them to struggle with heightened visibility and performance pressure. “When a token female manager botches the job, it just goes to show that women can’t handle the corporate world and should be kept out of it” (Conley, 315). When women reach higher work or corporate status’, they also have to deal with issues such as sexual assault and stereotyping. In a study done Jennifer L. Pierce, she studied how women were treated in law firms, and found “that sexual stereotypes, as much as organization structure, are underlying causes of job segregation” (Conley, 315). In law, aggression, intimidation, and seriousness are needed to excel in the job. Women tend to struggle in these characteristics due to the stereotypes that all women are caring and motherly, so when women do exhibit these traits, they are called hateful and sharp. As concluded by Pierce, “the trade-off between being a good woman and being a successful lawyer adds yet another obstacle for women to make it to the top in male-dominated jobs” (Conley, 316).

Just like race, to achieve gender equality we must tackle biases and stereotypes. Many of the gender issues that arise today root from biases that women are “weak” or that they “can’t handle” a man’s job. However, men and women are different. There will always be some physical and mental differences between men and women that set us apart. The main issue is that people take that to a greater extent. Gender equality is a difficult topic that still is very relevant today in that men and women might not always be equal, but that they should be treated the same. Equity over equality is the best policy for gender, in that differences can help us reach an even society. My gender could be seen as both a privilege and a burden. In my case, I am very privileged to have been born into a time where women are seen as equals. I can go to medical school and become a doctor while as 100 years ago, this was unheard of. I consider myself very privileged because of my gender, in that I feel I can achieve anything I want to, and my gender does not hold me back.

Overall, if life were the lottery and I was playing it, I would have won the million dollar prize. I have never experienced any true burdens, such as poverty, racism, and any real gender biases. I don’t have to worry about my next meal, or if I will be a victim of racism. I will never have to worry about somebody not giving me a bank loan because of the area I live in or my skin color, or if I won’t get the job because of my gender. These privileges outweigh any other small burden in my life.

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Essay About Unearned Privileges. (2021, Jul 05). Retrieved from