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Black people number about 46.8 million or 14% of the U.S. population. Throughout U.S. history, regardless of social class, Black people have had to remain cognizant of their race. The COVID-19 pandemic and police shootings of unarmed Black people have revealed that American racism toward Blacks is as virulent today as it has always been. Because of purposeful structural inequality, Black people in America suffer disproportionately in every sector of human activity. They are still facing social issues such as racism, substance abuse, mass incarceration, poverty, police brutality and police murder, infant mortality that is twice as high as among whites, residential segregation, racial profiling, and discrimination. And yet the strengths of the Black community have allowed it to thrive amid these arduous circumstances.

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Ovita F. Williams and Cheryl L. Franks

Sitting in a place of having an unearned benefit because of a particular social identity or social group membership is defined by the term privilege. Privilege is described as advantages across multiple dimensions of identity, race, class, gender, sexual orientation, sexual identity, age, ability status and more. For example, white privilege is the types of access white people have in society because of the color of their skin. This includes access to better schools, higher pay, good housing, and more. Privilege offers protection, advantage, access to resources, and limited surveillance. Privilege implies the freedom to be allowed to navigate easily through daily activities and life milestones, and to benefit from long-term advantages and gains. Social groups that have privilege reap specific benefits, which ultimately means another social group doesn’t have the same advantages and are thus disadvantaged, often severely. The social work profession demands social justice is sought, and in this effort, it is important to recognize that, where privileges are granted to people because of an observed social identity, this is harmful and creates systems and structures of oppression. Understanding how privilege operates to oppress and subjugate people increases the ability to see these injustices and inspires people to seek equity and liberation.