Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on the day's biggest business stories

Subscribe to Axios Closer for insights into the day’s business news and trends and why they matter

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios Pro Rata

Dive into the world of dealmakers across VC, PE and M&A with Axios Pro Rata. Delivered daily to your inbox by Dan Primack and Kia Kokalitcheva.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Nashville news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Nashville newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Columbus news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Columbus newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Dallas news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Dallas newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Austin news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Austin newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Atlanta news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Atlanta newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Philadelphia news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Philadelphia newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Chicago news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with the Axios Chicago newsletter.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sign up for Axios NW Arkansas

Stay up-to-date on the most important and interesting stories affecting NW Arkansas, authored by local reporters

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

"White privilege" has become a common phrase in Americans' conversations about race — and that's unsettling many white Americans because they think it undervalues their struggles or questions the legitimacy of their successes.

Why it matters: The term is a new weapon — and fault line — in American culture and politics. It’s one of a growing list of phrases different sides view very differently. 

The big picture: The dynamics of "white privilege" were first popularized by Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh in a 1988 paper, but interest in the term has recently exploded. Google searches for white privilege have been steadily rising for about a decade — and they’re surging right now.

  • The term refers to a slew of subtle or overt advantages afforded to white people due to race.
  • It's everything from walking around a grocery store without someone assuming you're going to steal something to being able to criticize the government without being told to "go back" to where you came from to getting pulled over by the police without fearing for your life.
  • "When I first wrote about it, nobody was weaponizing the phrase 'white privilege' because it was too new. Then it began to be mixed up with class privilege in a way that complicated the picture. ... But even if you grew up poor, to the police you look white and you will get white privilege," McIntosh told Axios.

But to white Americans who have been struggling with other disadvantages, or who worked hard for the successes they've had, the term can sound unfair because it seemingly minimizes their own hardships.

  • “I firmly believe that nothing was handed to me,” says Joe Fitzgerald, a 72-year-old former trucker from Jacksonville, Florida. “I can see how you might see disadvantages if you’re coming from west Baltimore or the south side of Chicago or Detroit. But I gotta believe there are people in West Virginia and eastern Kentucky and west Texas who feel the same way, and they’re white.”
  • "A huge portion of that population are underclass and poor and resent being labeled as having more. ... You need to get out of DC and NY to see what is going on," one Axios reader from Illinois, an epicenter of disappearing jobs, wrote to us.

Between the lines: What gets lost in this view is that millions of people of color are facing the same hardships as struggling, lower-income white Americans on top of a system that is rigged against them.

  • "There’s always a sense that blackness and brownness constitutes the bottom of the scale," says Eddie Glaude Jr., a professor of African American studies at Princeton University. "The effect is I have to raise my baby in a society that believes all of this stuff about him — that wouldn’t blink when locking up millions that look just like him."

There's no doubt that rural, lower-income, majority-white parts of the country are suffering. People are plagued by opioid addictions, unemployment and high infant mortality rates.

  • But there's a disconnect between white Americans' perception of their advantages and how they're seen by people of color.
  • 46% of white Americans say they believe they benefit because of their race, compared to 92% of black Americans and 65% of Hispanic Americans who believe that white people benefit, according to a 2017 study by Pew Research Center.
  • By contrast, black Americans make up 13% of the U.S. population, but 32% of people killed by police in 2012 were black, per the FBI.
  • And research shows that while black children make up a third of missing cases, they get less than a fifth of the media coverage.

The state of play: This cultural split was brewing in the years before President Trump took office, but it has also been made worse by his toxic rhetoric — and the way he encourages white Americans to feel like they're under attack.

  • "People are mad because they think this means that their struggle is less valued," says Michael Wagner, a professor at the University of Wisconsin's journalism school who studies media coverage of politics. “That is how it's characterized by the media on the right ... as just another attack on whiteness."
  • But "[white people] can’t take it personally," McIntosh says. "You have to look at it systemically. You’re born into a system of white privilege; you’re not born shameful, blameful or evil."

This article draws on reader responses to Axios' request for feedback on media coverage of race. Keep your thoughts coming by emailing erica@axios.com.

Go deeper

2 mins ago - World

Brazil senators vote to recommend criminal charges for Bolsonaro

Brazilian senators vote on probe into President Bolsonaro's handling of pandemic. Photo: Gustavo Minas/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A Brazilian Senate committee Tuesday voted to approve a report recommending President Jair Bolsonaro be charged with a raft of criminal indictments including crimes against humanity over his response to the COVID-19 pandemic, per AP.

Why it matters: Bolsonaro has become the face of a right-wing approach to the pandemic that includes repudiating vaccines and masks and resisting lockdowns and other mitigation measures. The Senate report holds him personally responsible for half of the country's 600,000 deaths.

Former Georgetown tennis coach pleads guilty to accepting admissions bribes

Gordon Ernst (left) former head tennis coach at Georgetown, is pictured outside the John Joseph Moakley United State Courthouse in Boston on March 25, 2019. Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

A former Georgetown University head tennis coach has pleaded guilty Tuesday to bribery charges related to facilitating the admission of prospective applicants.

Why it matters: Gordon Ernst solicited and accepted bribes from William Singer, ringleader of the cheating scheme uncovered by Operation Varsity Blues, and families in exchange for helping prospective applicants get into Georgetown as student athletes, according to the Justice Department.

4 hours ago - Health

CDC says some immunocompromised people can get fourth COVID shot

Photo: Noriko Hayashi/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in updated guidelines Tuesday that some immunocompromised people who have received either Pfizer or Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines will be able to get a fourth shot.

Details: People over 18 who are "moderately to severely immunocompromised" and have received three doses of an mRNA vaccine may get a fourth shot (of either the Pfizer, Moderna, or Johnson & Johnson vaccines) at least six months after getting their third Pfizer or Moderna dose, per the CDC.