Op Ed: How Can White Privilege Be Real If I Have To Wear Sunscreen?

Springtime is right around the corner, and that means longer days, warmer temperatures, and more sunshine. This kind of weather also brings up a pressing question: how can white privilege be real if I have to wear sunscreen?

For all the talk about white privilege, white people like me have to live with the threat of sunburn all summer long, an experience darker-skinned people just can’t understand.

Of course, white people in the United States have largely been able to avoid the centuries of discrimination, segregation, and concentrated poverty suffered by other groups, but we must also keep in mind that sunscreen costs like $6 a bottle and even that only lasts a few trips to the well-funded suburban park district pool.

While it is certainly true that, white, Christian, heterosexual males like myself can live without the fear of prejudice and hate experienced by many marginalized groups, we do have to live with the fear of ultraviolet rays from the sun beating down on us constantly from May to September.

And granted, white people benefit from numerous structural advantages in our society that many of us aren’t even aware of, but many of us also aren’t aware of the sunburn we’re slowly getting at 3:00 in the afternoon on Labor Day weekend. And that sunburn hurts! Not even the best artisan aloe vera stocked away in our lake house medicine cabinets can truly compensate for the pain we feel.

In the end, I do indeed have a hard time believing white privilege is real when I have to wear sunscreen. So whenever you see a white person cruising down the street in a freshly-cleaned convertible heading to the golf course, remember the burden of sensitive skin that person carries and think about what kind of privilege that could possibly entail.

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