One of the ironies of white racial identity is that white Americans tend to see themselves in non-racial terms, as the norm against which all other groups are compared. This perception of whiteness as “normal” distances all other groups and reinforces the power relationships that have been imbedded in U.S. society since colonial days. Whites regard themselves as “just people” and see only “others” as having race.
For example, in causal discussions and everyday conversations, whites often mention the race of non-whites, even when racial identities are not relevant to the story. For example, a white American might say, “This black guy asked me for directions to city hall,” identifying race even though it plays no particular role in the anecdote. When people are not identified by their race (“This guy asked me for directions to city hall.”), the assumption is that they are white: normal people who need not further description.
This view places whites in a highly privileged status. “Other people are raced, we are just people”…. There is no more powerful position than that of being ‘just’ human. The claim to power is the claim to speak for the commonality of humanity. Raced people can’t do that—they only speak for their own race.
Just as whites tend to be unaware of their racial identity, they also tend to be unaware of the privileges that attend “whiteness.” Sociologist Peggy McIntosh notes that whites (like men) are reluctant to acknowledge their privilege vis-à-vis non-whites (women). This denial is a way of protecting the privilege—if it doesn’t exist, it doesn’t have to be explained, examined, or defended."