Does the concept of "white privilege" also apply to (for example) Eastern Europeans, according to the political groups, who it? How is it explained?

I am mostly talking about hard line groups, like black supremacists or Nation of Islam. But I am also interested in the take of more moderate groups on this question.

Do they have a model for how white privilege applies to an Eastern European, living in Eastern Europe?

Or has this question never come up in public debate?

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    What do you think this term means? Including where it is applied. Because from your question I do not think that you understand it the same way it has been explained to me... en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege
    – SJuan76
    Feb 24, 2018 at 20:17
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    @SJuan76 I know what it means. White people (in the US) have historically benefitted from slavery. But how does this apply to Eastern Europeans in Eastern Europe who obviously didn't benefit from slavery? Or are we exempt from "white privilege"? Feb 24, 2018 at 20:24
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    en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_privilege: [...]whites in Western societies enjoy advantages that non-whites do not experience[...]. White privilege denotes both obvious and less obvious passive advantages that white people may not recognize they have, which distinguishes it from overt bias or prejudice. These include cultural affirmations of one's own worth; presumed greater social status [...] also implies the right to assume the universality of one's own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.
    – SJuan76
    Feb 24, 2018 at 21:04
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    White privilege is not a "model", it is the effect of institutional/prevalent racism. As such, there is no need for a link to slavery, and I see no need for a different "explanation" for Eastern European countries (although its effects could be different there). All of the that makes me think that you are talking about something different. See this question. Possible effects could be that, all other things equal, non-white people could be subject to more police stops/arrests, or more severe sentencing, or other disavantages...
    – SJuan76
    Feb 24, 2018 at 22:10
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    @user1721135: Re "White people (in the US) have historically benefitted from slavery.", this is a claim that's often made by people with certain political opinions, but I've yet to see any evidence supporting the idea that white Americans in general (as opposed to e.g. a small fraction who were slaveowners prior to the Civil War) gained any benefit at all.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 25, 2018 at 19:15

9 Answers 9


Note: I live in Romania and my answer will be quite localized

"White privilege" concept is virtually unknown in Romania (never heard of it on local media, from friends, only from Politics.SE). This does not mean there is no discrimination, discrimination against Romani people. being a good example:

Racism is mostly directed against the Romani people, the country's third-largest minority, who are routinely discriminated against by the state, local authorities and private enterprises, in matters of housing, employment and education.

Regarding a comment on OP:

in Eastern Europe who obviously didn't benefit from slavery

Actually there was slavery in Eastern Europe and some argue that ending it was not done properly, thus many problems related to discrimination and their integration:

Slavery (Romanian: robie) existed on the territory of present-day Romania from before the founding of the principalities of Wallachia and Moldavia in 13th–14th century, until it was abolished in stages during the 1840s and 1850s, and also until 1783, in Transylvania and Bukovina (parts of the Habsburg Monarchy). Most of the slaves were of Roma (Gypsy) ethnicity

Following the abolition, there were attempts (both of the state and private initiatives) to sedentize the nomads and to integrate the Roma people into the Romanian society, but they had a rather limited success.

I would say that “white privilege” virtually does not apply to some Eastern Europeans (at least not to Romanians). In fact, this article explains why racism is quite low (except that against Roma people):

(...) it really shouldn’t be interpreted as racism. In fact, you may find that Romanians hold fewer racial stereotypes about blacks and Asians than Americans do, simply because there are almost no people of those races living in Romania and there are no cultural narratives defining what PoC are “supposed” to be like.

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    WRT to Roma, is it racism, or culturalism?
    – jamesqf
    Feb 25, 2018 at 19:16
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    @jamesqf - unfortunately, I think it is mostly racism - Roma people's darker skin is still associated with concepts like "dangerous" or "thief" for many persons. I had to look up "culturalism" concept to be able to provide this answer and found this article. Is this a good source to be able to understand the difference between racism or culturalism?
    – Alexei
    Feb 25, 2018 at 19:30
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    @Alexei: No. what I meant is the stereotype of Roma culture teaching people to be thieves & con artists. So non-Roma might have no objection to people of different skin color &c, but really strong objections to people they percieve - rightly or wrongly - as likely to steal from or defraud them. (Or for a personal example, I might not care about a person's skin color, but have strong objections to having rap, heavy metal, or country music inflicted on me :-)) WRT your link, it seems fairly accurate (to my understanding) but less than clearly expressed.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 26, 2018 at 6:02
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    @Alexei: Yes, that's exactly what I mean by culturalism. On the other hand, a racist would discriminate against the group even if they conformed perfectly to cultural norms.
    – jamesqf
    Feb 26, 2018 at 19:35
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    @Alexei "No problem with a different skin color, but with characteristics they associate with stealing, like darker skin color"
    – David Rice
    Apr 30, 2019 at 20:21

I don't believe it comes up in Eastern Europe, for the simple reason that very few people of African descent have ever lived there. As Alexei notes, those nations have their own form of discrimination. Basic human nature doesn't respect borders and continents.

My German friends tell me that there was some discrimination against former East Germany residents (called 'Ossies') shortly after reunification, but it does seem to be fading.

It is curious that even in countries where the concept of 'white privilege' is used as a cause of economic disparity, it doesn't explain why other non caucasian minorities that have been subject to discrimination in the past (and used as slave labor at one point), such as Asians, have done quite well.

With that in mind, the accuracy of 'white privilege', with its sound byte simplicity, is open to some degree of debate.

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    Someone who is non-white in an Eastern European nation is more likely to be assumed to be a foreigner, or to be discriminated against in housing, or jobs. White privilege still certainly exists there.
    – David Rice
    Apr 30, 2019 at 20:08
  • I didn't think the concept was specifically about economic inequality? Isn't the point about the perception of difference in social treatment between members of in groups and out groups? Though the economic factor is surely related to policies like 'redlining' where communities were devalued by financial institutions because of belonging to groups which were established as undesirables for centuries. Japanese-Americans, or Indian-Americans (Asian), in contrast, may suffer discrimination but it is not systemic to the same degree?
    – user8398
    Jun 27, 2019 at 13:09
  • For example (from article): "in Atlanta in the 1980s, a Pulitzer Prize-winning series of articles by investigative reporter Bill Dedman showed that banks would often lend to lower-income whites but not to middle-income or upper-income blacks." Which is a pretty severe issue that has negative consequences within and between generations in a way prejudice against other groups doesn't appear to manifest as robustly or repeatedly?
    – user8398
    Jun 27, 2019 at 13:11

There are 2 main issues with the term "white privilege".

  1. Language: White privilege is an English term. English isn't a dominant language in any Eastern European country (yet).

  2. Origin: The term white privilege finds its origins in racial tensions between groups of humans with vastly different skin tones. There is no relevant dark skinned minority in any Eastern European country.

Of course, if you ask if it's easier to get a job, higher pay, run for office, ... if one looks like a local, talks like a local, has a local name, and is a local citizen, the answer is "yes" pretty much everywhere in the world. And "local" in this context refers purely to the dominant ethnicity.

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    The main point why "white privilege" has been so relevant for black people is that in African countries, especially during colonization or Apartheid, you still had privileges compared to blacks if you were white. It was not "blacks are discriminated in white countries and whites are discriminated in black countries", but more or less "blacks are discriminated everywhere by whites". That may have lessened in the last 50 years, but the collective experience is still there. Outside of this white/black conflict, the term has negligible meaning.
    – Thern
    Feb 26, 2018 at 12:28
  • "(yet)?" I was not aware they were embracing English in Eastern Europe. In fact, given where I live, I can humbly suggest that you they do not. I realize most of Eastern Europe is in a digital ghetto but that doesn't mean their languages will be replaced by English. If anything, with Brexit, German and French have a better chance at overtaking the local language, should it get replaced to begin with. These countries aren't as small as Iceland. Feb 27, 2018 at 21:17
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    Re "White privilege is an English term." But surely the words could be translated directly into whatever the local language happens to be? E.g. Babelfish gives "Бяла привилегия" in Bulgarian, білий привілеї in Ukrainian...
    – jamesqf
    Mar 1, 2018 at 19:33
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    @jamesqf and lose it's meaning in the process. A fixed term consisting of multiple words can pretty much only be translated word by word if the goal is to be funny.
    – Peter
    Mar 1, 2018 at 20:33
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    @Peter the fact that some word-for-word translations are absurd or nonsensical does not imply that it is impossible to translate "white privilege" into other languages.
    – phoog
    Sep 29, 2018 at 10:39

Your title question is “does it apply to Eastern Europeans,” but then in the rest of your question (and in comments) it seems you’re really curious about whether the groups that routinely use the term think of it as applying also to Eastern Europeans.

It is true that being part of the dominant culture in any country will give you an advantage over someone who is not part of the dominant culture there - so insofar as that is what is meant by “white privilege,” likely white Eastern Europeans do have it, because every country has a dominant culture, and most white Eastern Europeans belong to theirs.

As to whether Eastern Europeans are seen as having white privilege by Black Lives Matter and other groups which routinely use the term? It seems that by and large these people do not think about this question - it seems not to have come up in the mainstream rhetoric. However, when it has been posed as a direct question (on blogs, quora, etc), the consensus seems to be that yes, the idea of “white privilege” would apply to whites living in Eastern Europe as well. But - the key here is that this isn’t really relevant to the activist groups promoting racial equality in countries with large racial minorities - to experience the effects of white privilege, there has to be a significant non-white minority over which to be privileged.

Again, this is all within the framework of assuming that “white privilege” is a real thing. (And not a function of something unrelated to skin color - which frankly is difficult to disambiguate).

  • Thank you for this answer. I am curious, do you have any links about this question being asked and answered by these groups? I guess my real question is, how these groups explain Easter Europeans benefit from black American discrimination. It always seem to me, that this is implied somehow. However it could just be ignorance. I was wondering if there is some grand scheme global white trickle down economics style theory on how unrelated countries benefit from slavery which happened in the US and discrimination etc. Feb 26, 2018 at 19:05
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    @user1721135 on its face, white privilege does not imply that anyone has benefited from discrimination against black people; it could just denote the privilege of being free from that discrimination.
    – phoog
    Sep 29, 2018 at 10:44
  • @phoog isn't that kind of the same thing? Sep 29, 2018 at 21:16

First of all, there is something called intersectionality, which reflects that privilege applies to more things than just race. Ignorance of this fact is often a barrier to people understanding privilege because, for example, they think if one white person is not wealthy, then white privilege does not exist. However privilege can come from race, gender, religion, sexual preference, and other lotteries of birth (including the wealth and influence of your family). This means that a person can be privileged in some areas (like race), disadvantaged in other ways, possibly even underachieve due to their own lack of effort, luck, or intelligence; and then infer that their white privilege does not exist because they haven't achieved some measure of success that they associate with privilege.

What is privilege?

privilege is a concept used to define certain rights or advantages that were held by a particular person or group of people using historical fact; in sociology, privilege is a concept used for certain perceived rights or advantages that are assumed as available only to a particular person or group of people as compared to another individual who derives their own relation whether false or fact. The term is commonly used in the context of social inequality, particularly in regard to age, disability, ethnic or racial category, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion and/or social class.[1] Two common examples involve having access to a higher education and to housing.

In America, some examples of white privilege include uneven law enforcement based on race, racially disparate outcomes in jury verdicts, discriminatory lending practices including redlining and subprime lending that targeted minorities, disparate quality of public schools largely along racial and wealth lines, discriminatory hiring practices, and a persistent racial wealth gap.

Does white privilege exist in every country? It really depends on racially where the institutional power lies, the social progress of the country, and the racial distribution of the country. Obviously in a country of only one race, it is hard to find racial inequality. According to the Racism in Europe entry of wikipedia,

The weakest racial bias was found in Serbia and Slovenia, and the strongest racial bias was found in the Czech Republic, Lithuania, Malta, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Bulgaria, Slovakia and Portugal.

The question and all the answers seem to somewhat misunderstand what white privilege is.

Privilege, in this context, is when any system favours one group or one attribute over which people have no control. In that sense, and given that eastern European societies are in large majority white, the only way white privilege could not exist there is if every system treated non-whites absolutely equally.

Given how we have seen non-whites treated in some eastern European countries, e.g. Wikpedia has extensive articles about it, it seems a stretch to say that there is absolutely no privilege associated with being white in those countries.


Unless someone plays in some highly sophisticated version of intersectionality, then the answer is rather simple - ethnic groups smaller than race are generally not being recognised for any practical purposes. Because of melanin level and swift integration of migrants it makes sense to disregard history and consider as privileged Whites.

Eastern European in spite of lack of colonial past and rather tragic story in XXth century, could not be reclassified, as their historical baggage by pure historical coincidence would look like right-wing argument:

  • Eastern Europeans experienced both Nazism and Communism, when in 1939 Hitler and Stalin went on joint conquest of the region. The problem is, that while in the West the WW2 tends to be portrayed as war between good and evil, in the whole region it looked more like two evil genocidal dictators and smaller nations caught in crossfire while just trying to survive. By stating such historical narrative one risks being considered as right wing hard line anti-communist or even neonazi.

  • In Poland in the interwar period the farthest reaching state sanctioned antisemitism regulations were quotas for Jews on universities, which simply reflected their ethnic share in overall population. So a left-of-center Polish is being explained that such ethnic quotas limiting the most successful ethnic group are blatant discrimination and shameful past...

  • Muslims... In southern part of the EE we had experience of Muslim conquests, subjugations and slaver raids. Local left-of-center reasonably suggest living on without getting obsessed with history and past grievances. So far good, except that US left would suggest actually commemorating the history really well, just different grievances.

  • Soviet occupation... except stories ruining all those old school Marxists dreams, there is an extra issue for identity-left. In one Polish atlas I've seen decolonisation and collapse of the SU marked in the same way, as year in which each country gained its independence.

The thing is NOT that people from EE are right wing by default (we have in our countries public healthcare and generally are somewhat puzzled by the way is handled by richer Americans), but that accidentally by mentioning something from our history may be uncomfortable for US left. If we are classified as privileged Whites, then in highly polarised US politics, it's simply a stuff that a far right would say and can be ignored. Add to it that recently in Poland we actually had a huge nationalistic marches (that made me feel a bit uneasy concerning next election), then everything can be simplified in comfortable way.


My question is: is this concept really something to take in consideration as a real thing when talking at a global level? I'm not talking about the discrimination part, which is horrible whenever it happens, but about setting a specific word that applies only to one ethnic group.

Does "black privilege" apply to blacks in SA simply because they are the majority now in the democratic country? Farm confiscation is a form of black privilege in modern SA?

Ottoman empire had slaves taken from the European countries they dominated (Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Greece etc). They had a tribute in children. Do we talk about the Turkish privilege on the current Turkish area when we take in consideration the minorities that are created by the children of this slaves?

What about the "Indian privilege" when we consider the minorities in India?

I understand the logic of this, if you are only talking about blacks and whites in US and if you are talking about people who actually had to benefit or lose at some point or now (directly). I fail to see how an immigrant from Europe from a country that does not have English as the native language to the US today is white-privileged compared to a latino or black person born and educated in the US.

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    With regard to your last sentence, a white immigrant from a non-English-speaking country can enjoy many privileges over native-born black and Latino people, including perhaps an easier time finding a job and a reduced likelihood of being shadowed by department store security or of discriminatory or violent police stops.
    – phoog
    Sep 29, 2018 at 10:51
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    The super hardline narrative goes something like this: "If you are white and a human, you benefit from African slavery, even to this day, regardless of where you are from." I just want to hear some more in-depth justification for this stance or how they would explain eastern Europeans having benefitted from African slaves. Sep 29, 2018 at 21:22
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    @user1721135 - This sounds like a strawman. Who sustains such "super hardline narrative"? And why should we worry about them? Sep 30, 2018 at 1:51

Although our mentality and behavior is actually more old-school and comparable to Eastern cultures, I'd say the sole fact that we have white skin gives us white privilege. They don't care whether you're from a first world haven or a third world dump, if your skin is white then American society doesn't really care. That being said, Americans generally view Slavic people in a negative light - probably because of our social and ideological differences. We're white but we're not Western, which many people find hard to grasp.

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