White Privelege

In today’s “Water Is Wet News,” according to Yale Law School Professor Ian Ayers, research has determined that white people are treated more favorably by authority figures. The research in question consisted of a study done in Brisbane, Australia using bus drivers and those without money.  White bus riders without money received more free rides than Australian minorities in the same predicament.

From The NY Times:

As they describe in two working papers, Redzo Mujcic and Paul Frijters, economists at the University of Queensland, trained and assigned 29 young adult testers (from both genders and different ethnic groups) to board public buses in Brisbane and insert an empty fare card into the bus scanner. After the scanner made a loud sound informing the driver that the card did not have enough value, the testers said, “I do not have any money, but I need to get to” a station about 1.2 miles away. (The station varied according to where the testers boarded.)

With more than 1,500 observations, the study uncovered substantial, statistically significant race discrimination. Bus drivers were twice as willing to let white testers ride free as black testers (72 percent versus 36 percent of the time). 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).

The study also found that racial disparities persisted when the testers wore business attire or dressed in army uniforms. For example, testers wearing army uniforms were allowed to ride free 97 percent of the time if they were white, but only 77 percent of the time if they were black.

Ironically, you don’t have to go travel all the way to Australia to see this in action. Recently a white British friend noticed that every day during his long distance Amtrak commute on conductor in particular wouldn’t ask for white customer’s tickets. But as soon as he approached a black or hispanic customer, he quickly asked for his train ticket.  Instead of sitting back and not saying anything, my friend decided to ask the conductor about his ticket collecting. The conductor was shocked and told him to mind his business.

“Discriminatory gifts are more likely than discriminatory denials,” Ayers concluded.

“My kids, who are white, have never been turned down when I asked if they could use a bathroom designated for ‘employees only,’” Ayers bravely confessed. “After reading the Australian bus study, I wonder whether the same is true for minority families.”

Ayers also noted that white privilege exists in everything from car buying, speeding tickets (duh) and probably just about everything else in the world. Once again. Water is wet.

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  • Michelle

    When it comes to explaining the process of white privilege to white people, it is aggravating. But it is torture when I have to explain the process to people of color.

  • Love.tweet.joi

    “testers wearing army uniforms were allowed to ride free 97 percent of the time if they were white, but only 77 percent of the time if they were black.”
    This was a slam dunk to me. I just KNEW that ALL passengers in uniform would get preferential treatment. This blew me away.