"Everybody has a combination of unearned advantages and unearned disadvantages in life."
For a few years now, its become popular for some to claim "white privilege" is a problem for white people and that they need to "check" it. This is a standard response used to assert racism or white supremacy in society even among those who are quite comfortable with other ethic groups and support multiculturalism
A term for societal privileges that benefit white people in Western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. According to [sociologists], whites in a society considered culturally a part of the Western World 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; and freedom to move, buy, work, play, and speak freely. The effects can be seen in professional, educational, and personal contexts. The concept of white privilege also implies the right to assume the universality of one's own experiences, marking others as different or exceptional while perceiving oneself as normal.
Essentially, the argument is that being white in a majority-white, western culture makes you advantaged in ways that non-whites are not. Culturally, you are more at home and ordinary in these settings, and hence deemed "privileged" over those who do not feel as much so.
The concept comes from a paper written in 1988 by Peggy McIntosh called "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" which was an attempt to demonstrate that white people enjoy comfort and ease in western cultures which others do not. She later expanded on it with a book "White Privilege." Within a few decades, the idea had captured all academia and is presumed in colleges and universities.
At the Washington Post, an opinion piece
tried to break down "white privilege" in common, simple terms with a few examples:
- Taking it for granted that when you’re shopping alone, you probably won’t be followed or harassed.
- Knowing that if you ask to speak to “the person in charge,” you’ll almost certainly be facing someone of your own race.
- Being able to think about different social, political or professional options without asking whether someone of your race would be accepted or allowed to do what you want to do.
- Assuming that if you buy a house in a nice neighborhood, your neighbors will be pleasant or neutral toward you.
- Feeling welcomed and “normal” in the usual walks of public life, institutional and social.
The article lists some statistics as well, as evidence that whites enjoy privilege and superiority in American culture:
So the charge seems to hold some weight, based on these statements. Is there such a thing as "white privilege" and are these statements evidence of it?
Well, as many others, including academics and sociologists have pointed out, this kind of information is misleading and is lumping together unrelated groups. Statistics are bare numbers, but when you dig into them, you can begin to gain real information.
The problem with the charges listed above is that they disregard class and wealth differences. A wealthy, professional black moving into a neighborhood will be more welcome and comfortable than a white trash trailer park white person, for example.
Another problem is that the charges are dated. In 1976, you could expect that you'll be led to a white guy when you ask for a person in charge, but today there's no telling what you'll get, and almost nobody cares. They just want someone in charge, not "a white guy in charge."
The statistics listed about blacks seem incredibly dire but aren't telling the whole story. Like the "whites only make up 11% of prisoners" claim (actually inaccurate
, and the number of whites is increasing
while blacks is decreasing, but for the purposes of the discussion we'll let that lie).
Take the first one: 50% of out-of-school suspensions. Where are these suspensions taking place, with what group of people? The story unfolds that these are primarily taking place in inner city and reservation schools where disruptive, troublesome children are far too common, and many of the people living there are black. You can get a feel for the story by reading to this point: "boys make up the large majority of students who are suspended (about eight in 10), about 12 percent of black girls are suspended." Is this anti-boy discrimination, proof of "girl privilege?"
Of course not, girls don't tend to act up and cause trouble nearly as much as boys. Their misbehavior is the kind that doesn't get you suspended. Boys are disruptive and even destructive when they misbehave, and removal from class is a way of dealing with that.
Or take the second one, which sounds terribly discriminatory. If your name is Josh Beckett, you're more likely to get a call back than D'Wayne Johnson. Is that because the employers are trying to hire only whites? No, because if your name is Arata Hitochi or Singh Raji, you're going to be called back probably even more than the white names.
Its a bit unfair, but names give a glimpse into cultural backgrounds. Japanese are typically (not exclusively) hard working, studious, and avoid trouble. Indians the same way. But a name that evokes ghetto or inner city does not connote the same virtues. Employers are trying to find the best candidate they can, and Shawanda reminds them of the last 10 inner city girls they hired who quit after 2 days and broke the cash register.
The employer doesn't care if you're white, he cares if you have cultural values that make you a harder worker. They don't want to hire Bubba-Jim-Bob Kinney either because the last hillbilly was selling meth out the back. Its not the color they're worried about, its the cultural patterns and tendencies. Jim Brown isn't a white man's name, its the name of a man who's a part of steady and regular society. There aren't "white" names, there are ordinary, common names, and names that stand apart.
Or take that last stat. Imprisonment rate, for the same crime?? That's incredibly unjust, how can you defend something like that?? Well, lets dig a bit deeper. Nowhere in the study do they examine the history and past criminal record of these defendants. If you have white guy who just stole a car and black guy who just stole a car, the guy with the longer rapsheet is going to get a worse sentence, because he's demonstrated he's not just a dumb kid who made a mistake or a first-time offender who shouldn't be nailed as hard. White or black doesn't matter.
This brings up a sort of uncomfortable point that most don't want to discuss, but whites and blacks both break the law at around the same rate. What is different is the kind
of laws broken. A white guy might get busted for selling a pound of pot, but a black guy for aggravated assault. Whites tend to break blue collar crimes like fraud and speeding, blacks tend to break more violent crimes like murder and assault.
That's not a 100% breakdown; there are white murderers and black tax cheats. But in general, blacks are more likely to break laws for which there's hard time, and whites for which there are fines and other penalties. This isn't some cruel injustice of the legal system, shoplifting isn't nearly as bad for culture as rape. Stabbing your ex to death with a letter opener is crime deserving greater penalties than failing to pay for your parking.
So crime and prison stats reflect this cultural difference; both broke the law, but some crimes get jail and some do not. Are there judges who are more likely to nail blacks with stiffer penalties than whites? Sure, just like there are judges who'll penalize men more than women, and the reverse of both. For some, social justice or personal bigotry matters more than the law and the facts of the case. But the quoted stat presumes bigotry where it is unwarranted and unsupported by the facts.
Bigotry and racism exist, even in oblique forms like presuming someone is less able and requires more assistance from government because of their ethnic background and appearance. But "white privilege does not simply assume racism. It assumes that ordinary life for white people is benefited more than for non whites.
Eddie Murphy's old SNL bit "White Like Me" where he disguises himself as a white guy and gets goodies and special treatment all day long is funny, but while it might be something blacks suspect, its just that: a joke. I'd link it here but I couldn't find it on YouTube.
WHERE IT IS ACCURATE
There are aspects of the theory which I agree are valid. For example, I live in a nation where most people are white (for now). I live in a town where most people are white. Hence, when I look at the news watch television, or go somewhere, white people are the ones I interact with most. This gives a sense of place and familiarity which someone who is not white does not share.
Or for another example, when I study the heritage and history of my nation and its civilization, its white people who made it so, to a large degree. There were famous and influential non-whites, such as Booker T. Washington, but for the most part they are the exception. The founding fathers were all white guys. We've had 45 presidents, and 1 was not white.
But why is this true, why is it comforting or at least something I'm at ease with? Is it because they're all honkys like me? The truth is, the familiarity and comfort is not because of their skin color, but because of their cultural and national heritage. I'm not soothed by white faces, I'm soothed by them being on the same team as me. Its not their lack of melanin that makes them part of the team, but their cultural and national identity.
But the concept of "white privilege" presumes that whites gain benefits simply by being white and that's at best debatable, and from personal experience, utterly spurious. Many white people do not benefit from the comforts of their ethnic background because they are culturally disadvantaged in western culture. They may be of a group shunned by others, they may be criminally active, they may be bizarre or abnormal, but they lack this comfort and ease moving through society.
Why? Because what is being described as "privilege" is simply being part of the majority culture. And that majority culture is called "white" by some (particularly black activists who condemn any black person for being "too white") when it actually is just American culture. Asians, for example, excel in American culture despite being non-white, having nothing to do with the ethnicity of the founding fathers or majority, and often having cultural differences at home. Why? Because they mesh well with American culture.
Another thing to consider is that the concept of "white privilege" breaks down even worse with the consideration of preferences by culture and government for non-whites. As Francis Ryan notes, the Obama daughters get preferred affirmative action treatment which the average, majority white children cannot hope to equal. Meanwhile, Asians are given negative preference in college applications because they are "overrepresented."
The truth is, what is called "white privilege" is just normal ordinary life. That's American culture, there is no special comfort about it, there is discomfort for being outside
that culture. All people should aspire to be at the level of "privilege" whites are accused of enjoying, not condemned for having it. Indeed, it is expected that white should give up what is considered "privilege" which is the opposite of what should be striven for. All people should aspire to that level of comfort in society, and work toward it, not try to tear down those who have it.
And this normality and an attempt to downgrade or attack it isn't just with race. Gender, sexuality, religion, and all other aspects of typical American culture are under assault as if they are unfair and unjust. By all standard and rational definitions of the term, heterosexuality is "normal" in the sense that the vast majority of humanity for all history has been characterized by this sexuality, and only a small group not. That's normal as it gets. But to use that term is considered hateful and is condemned.
Where did this all come from? Ultimately its an effort by activists to change perceptions and retain power. The original "white privilege" thesis was just an offshot of Peggy McIntosh's work as a feminist talking about "male privilege." By the time she'd written it, the feminist's days were about done, because they had accomplished their goals: women were normalized in society, in the workplace, and sexism was universally condemned and squashed.
They'd achieved their goals. And as I've written about many times in the past; when faced with triumph as an activist you either fold up shop, or find a reason to stay in business, no matter how grasping or absurd.
Seeing blacks in all aspects of society, even a man perceived as black being president, and racism against minorities (other than Asians) utterly gone from government, activists are presented with this choice. Clearly in a nation where a black man was elected president twice we're not living in the racist hell hole they claimed. There is no institutional racism in government (against blacks at least); the days of that are long, long gone.
So they have to cling to some kind of oppression to retain power and keep getting money and feel significant. How? Claim white people are still somehow in power and oppressing blacks by being "privileged." Being an ordinary American isn't normal its "privilege" so the rest of the country seems somehow diminished by comparison.
See, if you cannot prove someone is being held down, you have to convince people that others are being lifted up unfairly. This maintains the leftist base worldview of the oppressed vs the oppressor. When there's no oppressor, it all falls apart, so you define normal as oppressive.
So now "normal" becomes "exceptional" and "privileged" which makes everyone else normal. Its not fair you enjoy comfort and familiarity in culture, that's holding others down, oppressor. Instead of teaching and encouraging people to be part of normal Amrican culture, you declare it oppressive and bad, so people can stay the way they are and feel virtuous in the process
This works in all sorts of ways. Heterosexuals aren't normal, they are "cisgendered" and privileged, oppressing others. Transexuals are normal under this new system, its the ordinary person who is privileged and unfair, the oppressor.
This is also about dividing to conquer, breaking people up into little groups to control easier without banding up -- fear is the primary tool of the tyrant -- but ultimately the modern left is less about that than about normalizing the strange.
Any system or device that makes people feel uncomfortable, has to be ended. The people who are discomfited are never considered wrong or weird by the left (unless a designated unperson like a Christian conservative white male), just oppressed. No matter your perversion, oddness, or madness, you must be not accepted for who you are, but celebrated and embraced, encouraged, promoted. Those who will not take part in this must be shunned, even destroyed.
I feel discomfort and unfamiliarity regularly in modern society. Not only is American culture being ripped apart and thrown on its head in a fit of madness
, but just places I'm unused to and do not fit in are problematic. I feel like I'm in a foreign country in big cities. I am a Christian and that's pretty much target number one for modern popular culture. I am an introvert in a culture which celebrates extroverts and increasingly considers social awkwardness or reticence as mental instability.
All of us have times and places we are out of place and feel abnormal, uncomfortable, and unfamiliar. The adult way to handle that is to keep going, have confidence, and do what you need to do, maybe even learning familiarity and courage, comfort and ease in the process.
If American culture makes you unhappy and uncomfortable, maybe the thing to do is find a way to be a part of the culture rather than condemn it all and demand you be made the new normal.