Date of Award

Spring 4-11-2012

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

David Sehat

Second Advisor

Charles Steffen

Third Advisor

Michelle Brattain


This thesis’ goal is to examine the way the term and concept of white privilege has been created in contemporary American society. The argument of the thesis will be that before and directly after discrimination was made illegal in the United States by the Civil Rights Act of 1964, scholars and activists implemented the term white privilege to describe structural and governmentally perpetuated privilege in the United States that had been consciously given to whites. This privilege allowed whites to obtain legal advantages over minorities across the nation. Years after the legislation was passed, however, discrimination was still an issue in the country. White privilege’s definition shifted in order to explain the reason for that reality; White privilege was not perpetuated by conscious and explicit efforts, but by white citizen’s subconscious. This thesis will show how that shift occurred, using scholarly and non-academic writer’s usage of the term white privilege.