A List of Ways to Tell If a White Person Has Personally Benefitted From America's History of Racism

Illustration for article titled A List of Ways to Tell If a White Person Has Personally Benefitted From America's History of Racism
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I witnessed some very nice white peoples on the internet this week who were adamant that they haven’t personally benefitted from America’s history of racism and also felt that the distinctions between those who have and those who haven’t should be acknowledged.


So, full disclosure: I’ve been on a high-fiber kick recently, which has 1) made me quite regular and 2) left me feeling quite magnanimous. I am as free and as light as a motherfucking hummingbird. And because of this unusual magnanimity, I have decided to oblige them. Here is a list of the surefire ways for us to know if a white American has been helped, in any way, by America’s legacy of intentional anti-blackness.

1. They were born at any time between maybe 1650 and literally the second that just passed.

2. They’re breathing.

3. They’re perhaps not breathing right now, but they lived long enough to draw at least one breath in America.

4. They have, at one point in their lives, said things like “Hi” and “Excuse me” and “Excuse me?” and “Does this come in a medium?”

5. They were born after a person who has sperm was generous enough to donate that sperm to a person who has eggs and shit, and the person who has eggs and shit was like “Oh ... sperm. Thank you. I just ran out of this.” And then that sperm and those eggs and shit got together and made some quiche.


6. They’ve already seen Succession.

7. They haven’t yet seen Succession, but they cleared some space next Tuesday evening to binge.


8. They’re not really that interested in seeing Succession, but they just want to be a part of the conversations about it.

9. They don’t plan on seeing Succession.

10. They’ve never heard of Succession. In fact, if you bring up Succession to them, their response will be “Success deez nuts.”


Anyway, if you are a white person who has not experienced any of this, then perhaps you have not personally benefitted from America’s history of racism. I hope that this helps.

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB, a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, and the author of What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Blacker (Ecco/HarperCollins)



When I was younger, I genuinely believed that I had never enjoyed any of the benefits of white privilege. I was poor, with no prospects, no hope of any far-off future inheritance, working demeaning jobs, living in crappy apartments, and so on. I would get fairly indignant at any suggestion that I was somehow the recipient of some undeserved head start in life.

Then one day I imagined what my life would be like if everything were exactly as it is now, except with just one detail changed: I’m black. Oh, my God. There’s another whole world of problems that I’ve never had to deal with, even once— and lots of people out there are poor and hope-deprived and beaten down just like me AND get this whole extra pile of shit to deal with every day.

Those snooty bitches who looked down their noses at me walking through their neighborhood? Hah. At least they didn’t call the cops. And my not-entirely-intact apartment? Well, if I were black, it would only be expected of me, rather than a temporary bad situation, right?

I know, it’s really simplistic and not entirely helpful. But it’s what I needed to realize at that point in time, and I’m glad it got me thinking about some things that I’d honestly never had to consider. Life in America is just plain harder for black people than it is for white people. It’s indisputable.