White privilege demonstrated on the buses

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      The Southern Poverty Law Center defines white privilege, sometimes referred to as white skin privilege, as "a transparent preference for whiteness that saturates our society".

      "White skin privilege serves several functions," the SLPC states. "First, it provides white people with 'perks' that we do not earn and that people of color do not enjoy. Second, it creates real advantages for us. White people are immune to a lot of challenges. Finally, white privilege shapes the world in which we live—the way that we navigate and interact with one another and with the world."

      This week, the New York Times published Yale law professor Ian Ayres's observations on white privilege. He cited how University of Queensland researchers sent 29 young adults of different ethnic groups and genders onto buses with empty fare cards.

      "Bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as black testers (72 percent versus 36 percent of the time)," Ayres noted. "Bus drivers showed some relative favoritism toward testers who shared their own race, but even black drivers still favored white testers over black testers (allowing free rides 83 percent versus 68 percent of the time)."

      These differences continued even when the young adults dressed in business clothing or military attire.

      Whites in army uniforms rode for free 97 percent of the time, whereas blacks in the same clothing only received a free ride 77 percent of the time.

      "What does white privilege mean today?" Ayres asked near the end of his article. "In part, it means to live in the world while being given the benefit of the doubt. Have you ever been able to return a sweater without a receipt? Has an employee ever let you into a store after closing time? Did a car dealership take a little extra off the sticker price when you asked? When’s the last time you received service with a smile?"

      The concept of white privilege still enrages some white-skinned TV commentators, but it's hard to refute the results of the bus experiment in Australia.

      It's worth thinking about as we come to the end of Black History Month.




      Feb 25, 2015 at 9:22am

      I don't think White Privilege exists as much as the problem is that some groups are not privileged. Look around Vancouver, it ain't just white people driving BMWs and living in point grey. Many Asians have the same shake. Filipinos do not, Aboriginals do not. Go to Surrey and who is rolling in the cash? South Asians.

      By calling it simply "white privilege" a lot of racism in other groups goes unchecked. It's time we concentrate on those groups who need a hand up rather than just assuming there's only one group at the top. It isn't true.


      Feb 25, 2015 at 10:07am

      Correlation is not causation. There could be all sorts of subtle facial characteristics or body language idioms that account for this. This is not even science.


      Feb 25, 2015 at 10:25am

      Are we really going to argue that Queensland, Australia has the same racial context as Vancouver? It's literally on the other side of the world. Additionally, the statistical reliability of an effect is TERRIBLE when only 29 people are studied; could be something there, could be nothing. I'm not saying that racial bias doesn't exist, but that study is really bad evidence to use.


      Feb 25, 2015 at 11:02am

      The concept is useful and has a lot of truth in it, but I'm not sure the adjective "privilege" was the best choice.

      The framing of "privilege" makes it seem that something is unfairly given, and so should be taken away. But in 90% of the applications I've seen, "whites" would lose little or nothing by everyone having the same "privileges". It would be a bit easier to get everyone on board, if "whites" can see it as being asked to give equal "privilege”, and recognize the effects of past privileges, rather than to surrender something everyone should have. “Benefit of the doubt” is not a scarce physical resource, it’s something we can easily afford to give to everyone.

      The only exceptions might be competition for certain high-end jobs, which brings us to Hester's comment. Yes we have 1% r's from other places here. But they tend to form a parallel network, and why is that?

      My guess is that's because from the surveys/studies I have seen, while north American society discriminates in favour of Asians for white-collar and some professional-level occupations, it negatively discriminates against them for leadership and executive-level positions; effectively it is easier for them to reach a glass ceiling. So people coming in from a business/executive background tend to not be able to enter at their skill level. You can see this clearly in the tech sector surveys: discrimination *for* Asians over other backgrounds in programmer-level jobs, but then they are oddly rare in leadership positions.


      Feb 25, 2015 at 11:20am

      Point fingers at skin color for a reason of not getting what you want from life is a form of blame to hide personal inabilities or willingness.

      Plenty of non white people are successful, and were able to achieve what they want in life. What is the difference between them and the others?

      Skin colour has nothing to do with it. Its ALL about attitude.


      Feb 25, 2015 at 1:14pm

      many solid points made in these comments except for ugh. skin color has nothing to do with bias? you must be white.

      Location location location

      Feb 25, 2015 at 3:19pm

      Funny how "white privelage" is something in predominantly "white" countries. I have lived in Africa, Europe and Asia as well as North America and everywhere the perceived dominant skin tone is "privelaged" and life goes on. It is wrong, it sucks and it is a fact of life "activists" won't change even by raising awareness. Perhaps my experience being snubbed as a minority will be excused as justified somehow by the drones but skin tone privelage isn't limited to whites when one actually raises ones gaze beyond the navel.

      Food for thought

      Feb 26, 2015 at 7:37am

      I'm white and I've been told countless times by my Asian colleagues that if we want to go to a Chinese restaurant and have better service, take an Asian with us to do the ordering. We will not be afforded the same privilege and an Asian person would be. This is true everywhere. It's a fact of life and nothing is going to change this.

      out at night

      Feb 26, 2015 at 8:23am

      White privilege is real and this study simply demonstrates something many of us have known to be true for years.


      Feb 26, 2015 at 9:35am


      Bias is not related to what you are or are not able to get from life including happiness, wealth or achieving ones goals. For every example of someone complaining they are are victim from bias there is someone with the same or worse bias against them that thrived.

      Bias is an external "influence" (if you allow it) which has nothing to do with one achieving what they want to get out of life. Look around you in Vancouver - is "white" dominant? Do you feel that being Asian is a strike against you here? Give me a brake.

      I came from nothing - literally nothing. I had less then what ever skin colour could give or take away from you, but I made a choice to work hard, and achieve all the goals I want in life without letting anyones opinion or bias against me stand in my way.

      Its a wast of energy to worry about the bias of others, when you can focus that energy on yourself