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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.

Comments

aetatis
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.
technoir
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.
aetatis
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.
technoir
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)
technoir
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?

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