When I read about Dayanna Volitich, a Florida school teacher who ran a white nationalist podcast, I was once again confronted by the fact that an overwhelming number of people in the United States do not believe in white privilege (which is in itself a signal of privilege, but we’ll get to that).
It inspired me to refute this notion by creating this test. If you find yourself denying the fact that white privilege is real, complete this test with an open and reflective mind. Each one of these can be completed from discretely with a search engine. To be fair, a more impactful version of this test would involve moving through the world and reflecting on the impact your body has in certain spaces, but this is a solid place to start for those who deny the existence of their own privilege. I centered the tests around money, knowledge, and power.
Before you suggest that Google and other search engines are not representative of anything consequential, consider this explanation provided by Google about their own algorithm. A Google image search, while not empirical, serves a quick pulse check on the implicit biases of humanity.
If you find yourself asking, “why is this important?” My answer for each is this: the impact of these occurrences is internalized racial superiority for whites and internalized racism for people of color. In short, these are forms of daily positive reminders to white people and alienations/exclusions/erasure for POC.
History Book Test
History has generally written by white people, meaning that unfavorable moments in white history are often glossed over and minimized. Accomplishments by people of color have often been completely attributed to white people who were tangentially involved, or just simply took credit.
To take the history book test, pull up your favorite search engine and search for “best history books,” or a similar query. When we did this, we found an official SAT/ACT Prep Guide for the best AP history books (written in 2015).
The “most popular” US history book? The American Pageant by David M Kennedy. What do you think he looks like?
Maybe it was just a fluke. Let’s check out the author of the official SAT/recommendation for Best Bet for Self-Studying: Making America.
I tried several more times and found the same result. In fact, I was only able to find a history book written by a black author when I specifically searched for it.
Most college campuses today do not feature black and brown authors on their syllabi unless the course is specific African-American literature or thought, which is a form of othering.
Start by searching for a syllabus for your favorite subject area. Select a university from the list and examine the contents of the reading list. Are professors urging students to read texts written by a diverse cast of authors? When are people of color being featured on college syllabi?
When I completed this test, I selected Stanford’s syllabi listings because I figured that it was a prestigious and fairly progressive university.
The first class I examined was a fiction writing course. The instructor, Chris Drangle (a white man) selected a primary text written by a white man.
I then examined a course called “Literature and Protest,” wondering if a class needed to be centered around power, privilege, and oppression would incorporate black voices. The reading list features three white and two black authors.
American academia remains an overwhelmingly white space, despite conservative outcry about safe spaces, protests, and other liberal fixtures on campuses.
Dream Job Test
What was your dream job growing up? Let’s do a quick search and see the most popular images tagged to that job. See several examples.
What messages does the world send to children as they form impressions of themselves?
Search for your bank’s board of directors or c-suite employees. What do the people running major financial institutions look like? Does this have any real world impact in terms of predatory loans or discriminatory lending?
What do these images say about the structure of money, knowledge, and power in the US? Who are the gatekeepers? How do we internalize these messages and what effect will they have on our thoughts, words, and actions?