I just ran across this bit from the Washington Post:
An insightful story by our Post colleague Robert Samuels this morning showed that whites in Ferguson were often surprised by the racial fault lines exposed by the shooting and the sometimes angry protests that followed. They said they had no idea of the simmering tensions between African Americans and police. They did not know that many black residents felt unfairly targeted by the police and unrepresented by city government. And they bristled when protesters portrayed their town as racist.
It turns out that whites' limited awareness about racial problems in Ferguson goes well beyond the St. Louis suburb. A series of surveys in recent years about Americans’ perceptions of the very existence of racism and racial disparities in our society shows that white people believe the problem of racial bias against blacks has effectively faded as a national issue.
Work by Harvard University professor Michael I. Norton, who examined data from a series of polls through the years, found in 2011 that although both blacks and whites believe anti-black racism has diminished through the decades, whites tend to think it has been all but eliminated.
In many cases, he found, white perceptions of racial disparities diverge far from reality.
It seems to have become fashionable on the Right to bandy about "Check your privilege" as a belittling joke, in the same way political correctness was turned into an insult in the mid-1990s.
The entire point of the notion of checking one's privilege is that it is a luxury afforded to a very specific slice of our society to walk through life ignorant of the fact that your own experience of the world does not match up with the experience of large groups of your fellow citizens.
When you don't have to worry on a daily basis about the cops pulling you over, hassling you, and potentially beating you up or killing you, it is astonishingly easy to slip into thinking nobody else has to worry about that, or that the people who do talk about that sort of thing have some ulterior motive.
If a bunch of white people can cruise along blissful unaware of the frothing pot of racial discrimination that seems to have been boiling in Ferguson, or thinking that because Obama was elected that racism is over, it is hard to imagine a more classic example of unchecked privilege.