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okay the controversy

So I was reading an LJ today and the subject of "White Privilege" Came up. This is the notion that by the mere dent of being white, a persons life will have an inherent benefit or easing of problems or standards. This was used as an argument for why someone was being clueless talking about a subject related to race. The idea is if you are white your opinion on race is suspect because you benefit of the so called White Privilege.

Now I believe that 50 years ago there was a strong argument for White Privilege. It was clearly present Culturally and in the laws of the time sadly. I believe in the last 20 years though you are hard pressed to come up with real evidence for it. You can find evidence of some things which are sad. The statistics of minority students who get higher education or doctorates are distressing. However the evidence these days could easily be read on the aspect of financial status more than race. With a very few exceptions the evidence just is not conclusive.

I personally don't believe in it. It just isn't there any more. That is not to say there are not some individual racists out there. There are of course plenty of them out there. I am saying there is no inherent cultural, religious, or legal benefits to being born white. I certainly have never benefited from it. There is no one in my long and winding experience that I can point to and say they benefited from it more than being born in to an upper middle class home. The arguments so far presented fail to show privilege in an indisputable way. What is more I feel using that as a justification to discount someone is lazy and disingenuous. Rather than explain why you think someone is wrong on something you point to them and say well they are white. Not only does it not address why they are wrong, but it really is kind of racist. it renders any argument might offer there after weaker as a result.

This discussion went on someones lj and they very politely indulged the discussion till they were done and then asked it be moved elsewhere. So I am posting my thoughts here to any who felt compelled to continue the discussion.

keep it civil.


May. 19th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
Ah but does that equate to a white privilege? Or is it a wealth privilege? Is it not more accurate to say that the real prilege goes to those with money or a history of family money? A real test would be to look at the traditionally poor residents in the deep Appalachians. How many of them go to college, get doctorates, get high paying jobs, become lawyers and so on. I suspect they will be in step with the minority rates in those areas.
May. 20th, 2009 12:22 am (UTC)
Even today, there is a high correlation between wealth and having white skin. The concept of white privilege, the way informed and careful thinkers address it, refers to this unfortunate statistical truth. White privilege exists because for hundreds of years, being white meant having an advantage in our socio-economic system.

This does not mean that white poverty doesn't exist. This doesn't mean a white person's opinion on race is invalid.

What it does mean is that our opinion is informed by our circumstances, and those circumstances are in some portion determined by a larger-than-individual, cultural, socio-economic experience. Respecting and acknowledging the benefits that a society's preferences bestows on you is important.

Privilege also exists in many ways aside from race. Gladwell's Outliers does a really interesting job of charting how birthdays, for example, give advantages to certain groups of children in Canadian hockey. It's an interesting look at the concept of personal success and, I thought, a cogent argument in favor of careful cultural readings of situations. I didn't agree with all of his opinions, but, then, when do I ever agree with someone totally?

So in other words, I disagree with you when you say that white privilege no longer exists, but I agree that other forms of privilege, like SES, have tremendous social impact as well.
May. 20th, 2009 12:39 am (UTC)
I agree there is something to say there is correlation. But Correlation does not equal causation. It is hard not to use my own life as an example. I have been homeless, unemployed, denied credit, and many of the things that white privilege is supposed to at least alleviate versus a person of a minority. I have gotten pulled over for looking suspicious. I have been judged on my appearance. Where is the privilege lifting that? How can I a acknowledge the social economic experiences i am supposed to have had but haven't?

The fact is there are several correlations to success in this world. But the correlations do not equal a bias or privilege. There is no inherent benefit in being born white. There is inhere benefit in being born white and middle class or white and wealthy or asian and wealthy or black and wealthy.
May. 20th, 2009 01:13 am (UTC)
You're right -- there is no inherent benefit in being born white.

There is a helluva lot of benefit in being born white in 20th century America.

Whether or not you, as McCoy, have been the recipient of privilege doesn't change the fact that we can chart clear advantages bestowed on white people by our society -- that white privilege exists as a cultural facet of 20th century America.

If the only privilege granted by race were economic, then why do we not see parity in the racial makeup and treatment of movie stars? Why do we not see parity in the racial makeup or treatment of CEOs? Novelists? Musicians?

Understanding the concept of white privilege means recognizing that -- all else being equal between two people -- being white in general conveys an advantage in American society today. Those advantages might seem minor, like getting one or two more calls in for an interview, but they end up having very large effects when translated into the general population.
May. 20th, 2009 01:38 am (UTC)
Ah but your examples are flawed.

Movie stars?
Will Smith
Denzel Washington
Halle Berry
Don Cheadle
and lets not forget Oprah who is about the richest former actor around. These are some of the biggest names and highest earners in hollywood.

CEO's? The vast majority of them come from families who have large quantities of money. They can afford to send people to the best schools. They make contacts there and end up getting into high earning companies as a result. This would happen to the minority children of money.

Novelists? Well I am not the literature mavin you are but even I have heard of Tony Morrison and a few other big earners in the publishing game. If anything she is one of the few modern novelists people can name.

Music? Have you looked at the music industry lately? Rap is easily one of the most popular and best selling genres of music and it is dominated by African Americans. Now I will grant rock music is not as well penetrated but toi say success is denied to them is not really reflected in the industry. Even the publishing of the music is still well represented African American business men. If anything music is an example of an industry where there is nothing holding back people back by race.

All things being equal, there is nothing equal. Circumstances play a much larger part in peoples life than the color of their skin.

(Deleted comment)
May. 20th, 2009 02:57 am (UTC)
There are a lot of rich minority guys ahead of her as well I suspect though I will grant there are less of them than the white ones. But the color of her skin is not what inhibits her wealth. It is not what contributed to the wealth of the rich folk ahead of her. The majority of them got there through a combination of aspects and race was probably one of the least of them. Many of them faced discrimination for various factors. How many forms of privilege are we to have? Wealth privilege? Sex Privilege? Religion Privilege? At what point do we step back and say okay it is not about this one silly fact of their ancestry?
May. 20th, 2009 02:08 am (UTC)
I'll allow its wealth privilege if you allow that the overwhelming majority of wealth lies in white hands.
May. 20th, 2009 02:29 am (UTC)
But if you have money as a minority, do you get to ignore the privilege? The answer is yes. If you are white and don't have money then you don't get the benefit. That makes the progression seem to me that the so called white privilege only a money privilege. It is a cultural baggage of the past that calls it white privilege.
May. 20th, 2009 02:54 am (UTC)
No. its White privilege because the white people kidnapped and enslaved the Black people and didn't let them own anything until only a little over a century and a half ago.

It's called White privilege because we literally diseased and killed the native population, forcing them into slums.

Its called White privilege because we locked up Yellow people without trial during WWII.

Its called White privilege because we systematically rigged the system for white people through the 1960s and have only stopped because of MILITARY INTERVENTION.

Have you ever looked at a history book?
May. 20th, 2009 03:10 am (UTC)
Quite few actually. History teaches me many things. IT teaches me that few issues are as contentious as race in this country. it is the one we wont let go of. We are obsessed with it. Every fact of our lives can be viewed through it. Did you vote for Obama so he could be the first black president or because he might be a good president no matter his skin. Why Am I to be judged on my skin color?

White privilege has nothing to do with today. IT has to do with the past. The arguments you walk out are the history. I grant the history is bad. We grew up. We put that aside, but people will not put it aside will they. No matter how equal things become racially we wont allow them to be. Something must be corrected. We cant say the guy in the inner city needs a leg up to get help into college because he is poor. No it must be about his race. The other guy next to him who is just as poor, well we don't need to help him as much cause he is white and white people caused the problem right? Thats the argument isn't it?

We look at the evidence and we have a myriad of conclusions to draw. We could go by region. We could go by height or weight. We could go by faith. We can break them down by so many different things but we always break it down to race. We will never get past racism in this country until we stop looking at it and seeing the cause and effect. We will never get past it till we move past the pedestrian view of history we have in this country. We will never get past racism till people start looking at things as the mosaic it is.

White privilege, the idea of it is based on looking at the world in this very narrow way. It is an excuse and indictment all in one. The idea of it needs to be shed as yet another thing in our past. IT is as relevant today as Jim Crow laws. They are a fact of life. One we should not forget but only the past and no power is found there now. Only the power our race obsessed culture gives them.
May. 20th, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
Try to tell Carlos Mencia jokes at your office and not get dirty looks or fired. Speaks is right about one thing, there is no equality in America.

May. 20th, 2009 03:20 am (UTC)
In my office I might get away with it in certain venues. But the implication there is not the white privilege. It is almost the reverse. It has nothing to do with the idea of White privilege though. That has more to do with our obsession with race and our sensitivity to it. I certainly don't like most racist jokes. I would not tell them. That is not about privilege though.
May. 20th, 2009 03:27 am (UTC)
Fair enough.



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