Gossip TV isn’t my thing. That’s not true – I don’t watch gossip TV. I like interviews with intelligent people on important topics, but the interviews on gossip TV tend to focus on issues that are scandalous, salacious, or otherwise extravagant vis-a-vis the lives that most normal people live.

Still, I saw a clip from a gossip TV interview and it struck me so deeply that I couldn’t let it go. I didn’t want to watch the show, but I wanted to get the context correct. My problem was solved when I found an article with the interview transcript

The clip involved Olivia Jade Giannulli. If you don’t know that name, I didn’t either, but you likely know the story. She is the daughter of 90’s TV actress Lori Loughlin. Olivia’s parents were engaged in a plan to pay a bribe – of $500,000!!! – to the University of Southern California to admit their daughters under the pretense that they were on the crew team.

Now, they weren’t on the crew team in high school, they hadn’t been involved in crew, and they weren’t going to be involved in crew after being admitted to USC. This was nothing more than her parents paying money to ensure she got into USC.

At one point in the interview, Ms. Gianulli stated that she “…is the poster child of white privilege.”

That’s what got me. That’s the statement I couldn’t let go of. Because, while white people benefit from white privilege, not all white people are equally privileged.

While Ms. Gianulli certainly benefitted from white privilege, she also had a very privileged life. Given that her parents made a bribe of a half-million dollars, we can assume that money was not an issue for her family.

It’s one thing to grow up not worrying about money, but it’s another thing to not worry about money while living in a multi-million dollar home, going to an expensive private school, and taking vacations to other countries.

That is more than just privilege, that is a privileged life, that is luxury.

This distinction between white privilege and a privileged life is more than semantics. If Ms. Gianulli is the poster child for white privilege then 98% of the white population – those who do not live a life of luxury – get a pass on their need to consider white privilege. And that isn’t true.

White privilege isn’t about money or wealth. White privilege is the difference between how a white person and a person of color are treated in similar situations.

When the situation is basically the same, and the only difference is skin color white people are more likely to get the benefit of the doubt, the assumption of intelligence, or the assumption of good intentions.

Maybe white people don’t get the benefit 10 out of 10 times, and maybe Black people also get the benefit occasionally. But, on the whole, it seems that white people get the benefit much more frequently than Black people.

White privilege doesn’t mean that everything white people deal with is easy and it doesn’t mean that your life hasn’t been hard. What it does mean is that skin color isn’t one of the things that made your life hard. And moreover, if you had gone through whatever it was that made your life difficult in Black or brown skin, that same thing probably would have been more difficult.

Think about a few situations from your own life.

Did you ever make a smart aleck comment to a teacher? How did your teacher respond? How did they respond to Black students making similar comments? We’re there even Black students in your class?

When you got your first job. How were you treated by the person who interviewed you? How would your appearance, your answers, your presence have been perceived differently if you were black? Do you think a Black person would have been offered the same position?

Have you ever had your car break down on the side of the road? Did you ever have to walk home? Call a tow truck? Borrow a phone? Borrow a friend’s AAA membership? How would all of those situations have gone differently if you were Black?

Ever have a disagreement with your boss? Did your boss listen to you, disagree with you, feel threatened by you? We’re you ever late to work because of traffic? Did you worry whether your excuse would be believed?

How often does someone come up to you and call you by the wrong name? And when you correct them they say something like “Oh wow. You look just like my friend _____”. Most people have had something like this happen to them, but ask your Black friends and I bet they have had it occur substantially more often than your white friends.

And it doesn’t go away with money. Recently, a Black man was stopped in Beverly Hills while carrying a Versace bag. The reason for the stop? Jaywalking. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that jaywalking is a pretty common occurrence in that part of town, and I bet most people aren’t stopped. But this man was.

He had his identification checked and he was searched for weapons. But here’s the deal, the Black man who was stopped? Do you know who he was? He was Versace’s VP of sneakers and men’s footwear.

I’m going to go out on a limb here again and guess this guy is fairly well off financially. I’m guessing that a VP at Versace is generally considered a high-earner. But he was still stopped. He was still searched for weapons. And you have to ask if a white person would have jaywalked, would that same thing have happened?

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