Michael D. Green

Blogger, Consultant, Technologist and Very Opinionated.

A Conversation About Majority Privilege

15 Feb 2015 » socialjustice

A couple of months ago I had lunch with an old college buddy, former boss and good friend about majority privilege. For the interest of this blog and so my friend can remain anonymous, I am going to refer to him as Bob. Bob is a white male and of course, if you have seen my picture on the About Me page, you know that I am black.


I first met Bob in college back in 2000 when we were members of a student organization at the University of Texas at Arlington. From the beginning, we had several conversations about everything from race to whether Texas or Florida had the best football players. When I graduated in May of 2001, Bob got me my first job out of college when I was very close to going to the Navy because the economy was so bad. Also, in 2008, when the Great Recession hit and I got laid off, I eventually went to work for him at a local municipality in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. Over the years, we have posted on the same Dallas Cowboys forums, eaten lunch every few months and texted each other. Bob is a very good man who would give you the shirt off of his back if he had it to give.

Lunch Conversation

During lunch, Bob was telling me about a debate he was having with his Aunt on Facebook. As a huge Dallas Cowboys fan, he posted a derogatory picture of Redskins fans on Facebook. Like many subjects on the Internet, some people took exception to the picture, chief among them, his Aunt, who he describes as very liberal. The picture featured a group of young African-Americans posing in Redskins gear against the backdrop of a poor neighborhood. Long story short, Bob’s debate with his Aunt degenerated into him telling his Aunt that she was seeing racism when none was there and his Aunt telling him that he wouldn’t understand because he was a white male, who benefited from privilege in America.

Bob eventually asked me a very funny question. With a smirk on his face, he asked me, “How have I cashed in on being a white male? Do I get a check in the mail every week because I am a white male”?

Majority Privilege

After Bob presented me with this question, my first response was to state that people need to stop using the term “White Privilege”. The term that people should be using is “Majority Privilege”. Bob quickly jumped on the term and stated that in many areas of the United States, whites were no longer the majority. As I explained to Bob, my definition of majority privilege is a group of people that control the overwhelming majority of resources in a given city, state or country. Resources includes but not limited to money, land, corporate influence and political power. The majority could also be the group that has the largest population but the most important factor is that this group controls most of the resources.

I told Bob that if I was born a black in South Africa, I would have majority privilege. If I was born a Tutsi in Rwanda at one point in time, I would have majority privilege. If I was born a male in Japan, I would have majority privilege and if I was born in India as male and in the proper caste, I would have majority privilege. I stated this because I wanted him to understand that majority privilege isn’t limited to white males in America, it is a human concept. In the United States, even though white people are no longer the overwhelming majority with regards to population, they do however still control most of the resources in the United States.

How Majority Privilege Works

After declaring the term “majority privilege” to Bob, I proceeded to explain how it works. First, I told Bob in a very sarcastic manner that of course he doesn’t receive a check in the mail for being a white male. I told him he benefited indirectly from being a member of the majority. I told him, when you go for a small business loan, the loan officer that he speaks with or at least the person that is going to make the final decision on whether or not he gets the loan is probably going to be a member of the majority. I told him, when he is going before his boss to make his case for a promotion, his boss or someone above him who actually makes the decision is most likely going to be a member of the majority.

I also posed this scenario to him. I said, if he was working for a company that was about to go public and was interviewing finance consultants to earn the right to take the company public, would anyone in the room be surprised if the finance consultants were all white? Bob admitted that nobody at his company would be surprised. I stated to him that not only would the leadership of his company expect these people who they are bringing in for such an important task to be of the majority, they would also assume that they are all competent. I told him that is how majority privilege works, as a member of the majority, when very important events happen in your life, the majority of the time, the person with the resources to help you navigate these events is going to look like you.

As a member of the majority, when you appear before your boss to get a promotion or when you appear before a loan officer for a loan, your intellect and inherent qualifications will not be questioned until you open your mouth and prove otherwise. If a member of the majority were to question these qualities they would be questioning themselves and that wouldn’t make much sense and it is contrary to human nature.

How Majority Privilege Doesn’t Work

As I continued to share my thoughts with Bob, I wanted to give my opinion on how majority privilege doesn’t work. When members of the majority are confronted with the concept that they have inherent privileges because they are of the majority, it makes them extremely defensive because the perception is this, “You are saying that since I have privileges for being a member of the majority, then you are saying I am not a hard worker, my life is easy and that I didn’t earn what I have today”. Unfortunately, there are those that are in the minority that do believe that if you are born in the group that constitutes the majority that this means your life will be easy and you do not have to work hard. As I stated to Bob, nothing could be further from the truth. Just because you are born into the majority doesn’t mean that you don’t have to work hard or that you are always going to get every promotion you ask for or the loan officer is automatically going to give you the small business loan you applied for or the judge is going to give you a lighter sentence, majority privilege doesn’t work this way.

As a member of the majority, you are still going to have to prove that you are qualified to be promoted or to receive that small business loan you applied for. The difference is that by virtue of being a member of the majority, by just walking into the room, you already identify with those who have the power to give you that promotion or that small business loan. When you show up for the meeting, there will be no negative perceptions about your abilities and mental fitness and you will have to prove that you are incompetent or unqualified.

American Privilege

As I told Bob, majority privilege is not limited to a country, in many cases, privilege can extend to every corner of the globe. If you are born an American, regardless of your ethnicity or what socioeconomic class, you have certain privileges over many people in the entire world by virtue of being an American. Many Americans don’t want to believe this because as I stated to Bob about the majority within America, it gives the impression that because you are born an American, life is easy and you didn’t work hard for what you have. Again, nothing can be further from the truth. As an American, you are still going to have to work hard and life isn’t going to be easy because you were born an American. However, America is one of the richest countries in world history and thousands of people, whether legally or illegally try to come to this country every single day. Regardless of your socioeconomic background in America, you still have a better life than many people around the globe. The language of international business is English and the global financial system is heavily influenced by America.

Minority-Majority Privilege

As our conversation continued, Bob asked me an interesting question. He stated, “When you talk about majority privilege, the minority can also exhibit this type of behavior as well correct?” I told him that he was absolutely correct with his assertion. In some areas of society, the minority will actually be the majority. As I told Bob, the NBA is overwhelmingly made up of minorities and I told him that majority privilege (in this case minority-majority privilege) was the reason why players will tend to question the ability of a white player, or in Jeremy Lin’s case, an Asian. Because they are in the minority, they will be viewed with some suspicion and the majority is going to force them to prove that they are good enough to play in the NBA more than they would someone who is of the majority. I told Bob to remember that majority privilege is not a race or ethnic concept, it is a human concept and every group is capable of engaging in this type of behavior. The NBA example is no different than what goes on in Corporate America on a daily basis, it is just a different group benefiting from majority privilege.


In summary, I concluded this conversation by telling Bob that he shouldn’t feel guilty about being born into the majority. Being born into the majority in many ways, is no different than being born into other positive situations such as being born into a family with connections, having a handsome face, a high IQ, athletic gifts or any other inherent qualities that society deems as a positive characteristic. As I explained to Bob, the main issue with majority privilege is that the attributes that typically allow you entry into the majority often times have nothing to do with a person’s intellect, trustworthiness and talents. Superficial attributes such as skin color, religion or caste that have absolutely nothing to do with how capable a person might be or their moral character is used to lock people into the minority and viewed as somehow different in the eyes of those in the majority. Every race and ethnicity has engaged in some form of majority privilege in their history but this doesn’t make it right and it is my hope that at some point humans will cease the need to segregate themselves into groups based upon their differences.