The Real Reason the Term “White Privilege” Needs to Die

Want to start a fight? Put an honest white person and an honest person of color in a room together and tell them to discuss white privilege. “White privilege” is one of those phrases that means two totally different things to most white people and most people of color. Outside of colleges and and multi-cultural training seminars it is a complete conversation stopper that does nothing to illuminate anything and everything to sow seeds of enmity between races. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it’s a phrase that should be abandoned altogether.

“Now, wait a minute, Rebecca,” I can hear some of you saying, “you’re a white person married to an African American. You’ve even written a book which is enormously sympathetic to the perspectives and experiences of African Americans and quite critical of whites inability/unwillingness to deal with those perspectives and experiences. How can you speak so negatively of ‘white privilege’? Isn’t it just a reality?”

And that’s just it. If I as an extraordinarily sympathetic white person who can offer hundreds of examples of the ways that racism has affected my husband – who is just one man! – hear the phrase “white privilege” and get my hackles raised, then clearly there’s a problem. And frankly, I really don’t think that the problem is with me. The problem is with the language involved.

When the phrase “white privilege” is spoken, most minorities hear, “a pattern of treating white people better than non-white people combined with the ability to remain blind to this pattern happening in their own lives.” However, I and, based on every conversation I’ve ever witnessed, most white people hear, “white people have it too easy. They have no problems. The world gets handed to them on a silver platter.” And the conversation stops right there. A lot of times the response by white people is to tell their own stories of being poor, overcoming enormous obstacles, being mistreated etc. Privilege belongs to the rich, the powerful, celebrities, politicians, royalty. Not white share croppers or immigrants or a white kids with an alcoholic father.

At which point, people of color say, “but you don’t have to deal with racism! You don’t have to deal with people following you through stores or refusing to hire you or housing discrimination. The cops don’t pull you over for ‘driving while white’! You don’t get stopped and frisked walking down the street in New York city! Don’t you see how privileged you are?”

And here is the problem; a privilege is something that you don’t have a right to. It’s something that is suspect. As Americans in particular, we don’t approve of the wealthy or powerful having privileges that others don’t. When the mayor gets pulled over while drunk, we expect him to be treated just like anyone else who drives drunk. We want him to be treated just like us. When we say that someone has privileges, we are saying that they get treated better than they should be. And very few white people think that they are treated better than they ought to be treated. It is one thing to say that minorities are not treated as well as they ought to be and something else entirely to say that white people are treated too well. And that, I believe, is why the phrase “white privilege” is such a conversation stopper.

Not only is the phrase a conversation stopper, but I believe it has an insidious tendency to create norms which are based not on how white people have always assumed they have the right to be treated, but based on the inferior treatment of minorities. When the town mayor gets pulled over driving drunk and is given preferential treatment, we don’t argue, “we should all be able to drive drunk and get away with it!” We say, “he needs to be treated like everyone else.” If the way white people are treated gets defined as an undeserved privilege, then we are – perhaps unintentionally – defining the way that minorities get treated as the norm that we can all expect. And frankly, I don’t think it should be a privilege to move about my world freely and without being treated as a probable criminal of inferior intelligence. I think that’s something that I and others should be able to enjoy regardless of skin tone.

In fact, I think that we have seen just that sort of downgrading of how we can expect to be treated. Our police are increasingly militarized and oppositional. We are electronically strip searched before boarding planes. Debtors prisons are making a real comeback. Especially since the economic downturn, Americans are finding that regardless of skin color, we’re all being treated more shabbily, have lowered prospects for prosperity and have less control over our government than ever before. In fact, my husband has been saying for a while now that he’s going to write a book called “We’re All Nigga’s Now”.

The question I would raise is whether that’s really what we want – that we all be treated equally badly? How about instead of “white privilege” we talk about the advantages that white people tend to enjoy without even noticing?  I think that we should all agree that being a minority shouldn’t be a disadvantage – especially a disadvantage in terms of how one is treated. However, when the phrase “white privilege” gets pulled out, more often than not the whole discussion gets shut down and turns against all of our best interests. It’s a phrase that needs to be allowed to die.

You can hear me discuss this post and the events in Ferguson MO on Moody Radio’s Up For Debate program from September 2014.

UPDATE: Thanks to Pat for directing my attention to this in the comments below – Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is by John Scalzi. I would just like to say – what he said. It’s a very good explanation of what people are trying to communicate when they talk about “white privilege”. I’m more sympathetic to the umbrage people take at the phrase than he is though.😉

44 thoughts on “The Real Reason the Term “White Privilege” Needs to Die

  1. You make an interesting point, but I’m not sure it would matter in practice. For instance, isn’t affirmative action an attempt to do what you suggest – raise the treatment of minorities to ‘American standard?’ And it is just as vigorously resented as ‘white privilege.’

    People are smart enough to know when a concept’s consequences will be to take something — deserved or undeserved — away from them and give it to someone else. Changing the terminology won’t work, because it is not really the issue. It’s only the part of the issue that it is respectable to complain about.

    By the way, have you seen John Scalzi’s take on this?


    • I really like Scalzi’s take on it. My point is really that there are discussions that need to be had and stories that need to be shared, but the word privilege is just too loaded to be useful. Even for me it’s loaded and clearly I’m a very sympathetic audience. But I do think it’s a bit unfair to insist that resistance to the term is simply a matter of not being willing to deal with racial inequalities. It may be an accurate term if we use the strictest definition of the word, but our understanding of privilege in real life is such it’s not useful at all.


  2. Another bit of bad terminoloy was hijacking “racism” to mean ~ ‘racially-based excuses for exploiting/mistreating racial minorities.’ Which made it hard to talk about the reactive racism of black people. Not that this was such a big deal, compared with white racism– or that a lot of it wasn’t well-deserved, confirmed every day by government decisions, media framing, interactions with clueless whites.

    So why do people end up trying to talk delicate issues in clunky terminology– much of it booby-trapped at that?

    So far as I’ve noticed people borrowing mass-market catch phrases– and using them straight, with straight faces, not attempting to customize, no “”s, not even checking “Do I really look as good in this opinion as I thought I did?”– these seem to impede understanding.

    Maybe because words make powerful weapons, but that’s not what they were meant for?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think that there’s just a lot of very simplistic thinking that goes on when it comes to difficult subjects. I struggle to communicate enough nuance without going overboard, but I’m always surprised at how a lot of people have subject where their thinking is just very shallow and simplistic. Also, I have noticed that people of different races use the same language differently. For example, the issue of power seems to be much more important to a lot of minorities than it is to white people. Thus the argument that black race-based hostility isn’t racism because racism requires power to back it up. It’s one of the reasons that I generally think that it’s more helpful to share stories than it is to come up with labels and such. Stories communicate truths that are too easy to shove aside or try to manipulate in other forms of discussion.


      • Power looks a lot more important when you’re aware of being deprived of it… I had an uncle with a rat farm near Stanford, racks and racks of little wooden cages. When I was working for him, he pointed out a rat who’d found a way to leave his cage. You could tell because the rat had spread chow & ratshit over the top for extra shade, but he was still living in there. A lot of white people still think they aren’t living in cages… while black people usually get disillusioned early on.

        John Holland wrote a lot about designs for ‘genetic’ computer programming. One useful concept was ‘tags.’ Different routines to be mixed and tested by a program would have some random string of binary digits associated with them, which they would ‘post’ when they ran… Other routines would be selected to follow, using the tags as a basis for responding to what had [probably] been done so far.

        Many human beings use language in a similar way, ala “Four legs good, two legs bad!” in _Animal Farm_. Especially when stressed. What they read is whatever they’re expecting, nuances being an impediment to getting my reply out right now!

        The Mate book I mentioned… advises parents, upset & desperately trying different power plays on their upset kids– to let short-term goals go, concentrate on communicating their wish to maintain a loving connection. And once that’s established, everyone listens better. Complications simplify. If people knew we all mostly mean well…


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  6. You raise some great questions. You’re right – privilege is a loaded word, carrying lots of not-too-helpful baggage, almost impossible to discuss without endless attempts at redefinition.

    I’ve been noticing how many words we have like that: feminist, evangelical, liberal, conservative, Christian . . .

    I’ve been wondering: do we let the words go? Do we try to reclaim them?

    And if we start over with new words, how quickly will those new words be abused in the same ways?

    You end “we all mostly mean well . . . ”

    Do we? Or are some of us busy twisting words and manipulating ideas so we can hang onto the power (and privilege) we aren’t willing to let go of?

    Just wondering –


    • It’s probably more accurate to say that we all think that we mostly mean well. Whether that’s the truth or not, who can say? But I’ve found that it’s usually easier to start with a person’s own perceptions and work from there. Trying to get people to see that their own perceptions about themselves may be wrong is a nearly impossible task!


    • My biggest problem with this phrase- is that it is a generalization. And I personally know it is a generalization to say that all light skinned people “enjoy” privileges that brown/yellow skinned people don’t. I have experienced racism/classism/sexism and been the minority in my school and neighborhood growing up. I also know people who have dark skin and have never experienced racism throughout their whole lives. My good friend grew up in a wealthy upper class neighborhood, excelled at sports and is now a Doctor. He said if anything poor people experience more disadvantages than he ever has and that he thought it was wrong that a person assumed he had been discriminated against for his skin color when he in fact hadn’t. Racism roots in false bodily identification. Color of your skin is liken to the color of your eyes, we are all the same bodies, just having different personalities. I am not color blind, I am color descriptive and I refuse to use words like black and white to describe a rainbow of beautiful skin tones that people just so happen to have. White privilege is a powerful propaganda technique which ignores the fact– that in cases of social injustice no one is privileged. No one wins. This pits people against each other instead of talking about true EQUALITY and getting to the root of the problem.

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  9. Interesting post.

    But as a white person I think there’s an important point hidden in the term “white privilege” that your replacement explanation of what we’re worried about doesn’t get at.

    A lot of what racism is about is just minorities being denied their rights…not that white people have unearned privileges that they didn’t deserve, but that non-white people get treated in unacceptable ways that *they* don’t deserve.

    But there’s also this fact: if you’re in a society where a significant sector of the population is discriminated against and disadvantaged, that gives you advantages. If the folks at the jobs I’m applying for, or trying to get promoted in, subconsciously discriminate against black applicants, I am in fact MORE likely to get a job there than I deserve, or to get promoted, because without that discrimination it might have gone to a better-qualified minority instead.

    Alternately, I can expect my race to be considered “standard” or “normal;” the fact that I have a race at all and that it’s only one of many possibilities becomes nearly invisible.

    The truth is that the overall system of racism does end up providing certain systematic undeserved advantages to white people. And I think this fact, unrealized, ends up serving subconsciously as the source of some resistance to anti-racist efforts. Sometimes, it might actually happen that an anti-racist effort takes something away from me that I would have gotten before, however trivial. And because human beings all tend to interpret everything we have had in the past as ours by right, when something is threatened to be taken away from me, I will feel like I’m being unjustly attacked, that I’m losing what was rightfully mine, and that it’s minorities who are unjustly pushing for special privileges. (See also the behavior of Christians in America–and I’m a Christian too, so I mean no offense–who will often very sincerely, genuinely feel that their right to religious freedom is being attacked, when in fact all that is happening is that other people are asking for their OWN right to religious freedom be respected, which unfortunately means that Christianity cannot maintain its unjustly privileged status in the public sphere.)

    The term “white privilege” DOES tend to be upsetting to white people, but maybe there’s no way around that. If we’re going to be able to respond to the problem of racism sensibly, white people need to realize that NOT everything they have historically gotten by being white was a right. Some of it was unjust privilege.


    • I agree with what you’re saying, actually. And I think you’re right that this blindness to the advantages that come with being a white American allows a lot of racism to go unchecked. My husband disagrees with my position on the use of the word “privilege”, but the word that we can both agree on is advantage. It’s both accurate and a less loaded word. However, “white advantage” just doesn’t trip off the tongue so well!


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  12. Thank you for this. I lost a friendship because I tried to explain to her that as an abused, disabled, poverty-level white kid with no access to higher education, not only did I not feel “privileged” but I couldn’t understand her Ivy League debating skills on the subject matter. I do, however, agree racial disparity is all too real. (My family is interracial as well, seen it from a very young age.) This is the first explanation of about 300 that I have read in trying to understand how I never knew I was a racist that MADE SENSE.


  13. The issue with “white privilege”, and the every common phrase “male privilege”, is that it’s simply a fallacy. A ridiculous fallacy used to dismiss any and all criticism.

    The best example i’ve had is explaining to my class one year, a minorities study class (which unsurprisingly had a significant amount of non-whites in it), what the difference is between two poor neighbours (one black, one white), living next door to each other in the bad part of town, both working at the same shitty job, both earning the same low wage for the same hard work. What was the difference in relation to white privilege?

    Despite explaining they both are in the same situation, students piped up with “the white man won’t be pulled over for being white”, “the white man won’t be rejected for a promotion because of his skin”, “the white man won’t be followed around in a store”. After responding to this with a variety of scenarios, using other ethnicity in the class as example, in which the “white man” was placed in another country that wasn’t predominantly white and even a totalitarian dictator that oppressed them equally in a society where race didn’t exist, most were stumped. They still clung onto their “white privilege” dismissal of the equal hardships even though they couldn’t logically confer that with what was being presented.

    I calmly told them that such an impasse on logic was entirely the issue. Here they were desperately trying to adhere to a vague notion that held no relevancy to the very notion of equality, despite the fact they were vigorously trying to defend equality.

    I pointed out to them that the entire time they were arguing the “white man” was privileged, they failed to grasp that the “white man” was being treated with the same equality they expected the “black man” to be treated. They were effectively arguing that the “white man” was “privileged” because he was being treated equally, instead of arguing that the black man should be treated the same.


    • Kira, that’s a load of crap. Allow me to offer one, small example. I am married to a black man who was born to a poor, single 15 year old grandchild of slaves. He spent several years living in the Robert Taylor Homes where he witness several murders close up, went to a school with no playground and couldn’t get help from the police or an ambulance if one was needed because they wouldn’t answer calls at all after dark and in a timely manner during the day. When he was a teen, he was pulled over almost weekly while driving. When he and his friends went out, they all made sure they had IDs -even if not driving – and planned together how much cash to carry and split it up between them as a precaution for having to deal with a police stop. When he went to college on an earned scholarship for music, he was regularly told by other students that he was an “affirmative action” student and looked down on. In the workplace he has lost a job after bring a racist cartoon left on his chair to a supervisor. He has had employees refuse to attend meetings he called and grafitti his car with racist sluts. When he contacted a labor lawyer, he was told that if he filed a complaint, he might win, but he would become unemployable. As a supervisor he has been told that he could not hire an employee who had filed such a complaint – and won, meaning she had been found to have face serious racial discrimination – because she was too high of a risk. He had an employee scream, “I’m not working for that n*** in front of an entire department when she found out he would be her new manager. She stormed out and was allowed back later without so much as an apology to him. 7 years ago, in a move which was openly acknowledged by people in the upper levels of his company as being motivated by racism on the part of a new boss, he was fired, despite several years of “exceeds expectations” reviews and a record of accomplishments in the company. I have seen this man in tears after a young girl saw him, reacted with a look of terror on her face and ran away. And I’m just giving you a few of the highlights – I’ve witnessed much, much more.

      Now, could any one of those things happen to a white person? Yes, absolutely. Could a few of those things happen to a white person? Yes, absolutely. Do white people IN THIS COUNTRY have to deal ALL of those things happening and creating a pattern which circumscribes and affects all aspects of their life? No. We don’t.

      And you “point” about some other society with a dictator or whatever is beyond pointless. We are talking about our own country and what could happen, hypothetically speaking in some other imagined place has nothing to do with anything.

      The real problem is that there is an appalling lack of empathy by many Americans for the experiences of African Americans. And as people like you demonstrate, people will go to absurd lengths to keep it that way.


      • Sigh. Just sigh.

        Here you are, arguing against ALL white people for the actions of a FEW white people against a FEW black people.

        Thanks for missing the point and proving mine. You use white privilege as a fallacy to dismiss any and all criticism. You complain that because some white people treated some black people badly, it means all white people suffer from a privilege regardless of whether or not they ever received that so-called privilege.

        All for what? You’ve managed to shout “white privilege” as loud as you can in the crowded room. Now what? What exactly have you accomplished?

        “But, uh, they have white privilege!”? And?

        A racist can be attacked on their racism. Affirmative action can easily defended. The bigots are defeated with logic, those backing the bigots views defeated with the same. What we are left with is the demeaning of those who aren’t racist as racist solely because of their ethnicity. Making the claim of “white privilege” in the face of criticism pointless.

        And the worst bit of your ignorance? You’re complaining that others being treated equally is a privilege. You demean others, you verbally attack others, criticising them for being treated equally because they “dared” to be born into an ethnicity. You’re making a pointless insult that does nothing but deliberately try to distance people who support the end of racism and the equality of all human beings. People like you are the detriment here. We’ve got an entire generation who embody the very anti-racist, anti-sexist ideals we’ve been fighting to establish for decades growing up being insulted for being born the way they are.

        What you’re complaining about is someone being oppressed. And your response to that? You complain that people are treated equally, instead of complaining that some people are treated unequally.

        Do you go telling people with one black parent who “look white” that they need to “check their privilege”? After all, despite being half-black and all the social issues that entails growing up, they clearly must have white privilege because they “look white”.

        No? Then I suggest you understand that people who aren’t racist, defending our cause, don’t need to “check their privilege”. I suggest you understand that those who have never experienced privilege do not have to “check theirs”. I suggest you understand that, since you don’t go declaring rich black sports stars should “check their black privilege” (as they are disproportionately given sporting opportunities) and you don’t tell people to check their “Asian” or “Jewish” privilege.

        I suggest you understand all of this before -I-, an AFRICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN whos father was brutally beaten fighting for my right to vote, tell you to check YOUR “privilege”.


      • First, I want to apologize for my harsh tone in my last response. I was working on about 3 hours sleep and not at my best. But I do want to push back. You are looking at this from a very white-centric position. It’s not about blaming white people. It’s only marginally about white people at all. Really the whole point of what this essay said is that the problem isn’t that white people are privileged – in the sense of enjoying a life that’s too easy or advantaged. The problem is that people of color are too often treated poorly and almost always dealing with the after-affects of centuries of institutional racism. Sure, a particular white person may have a life which over all if harder than some particular black person, but that’s not the point at all. We all have problems, but there are a set of issues common to people of color which are the direct result of being born non-white in this country. The phrase “white privilege” is problematic in part because it does make it sound like it’s a white issue, in fact. What I’m really talking about and what we really need is having empathy and compassion towards the particular struggles of people of color.

        If you went to your child’s principal to discuss a group of bullies who were tormenting your child, it wouldn’t go over well if he got defensive and siad, “well, just because some kids bully doesn’t mean all kids at this school are bullies. Are you going to expect all of the kids here – most of whom don’t bully – to take responsibility for the actions of a few? That wouldn’t be fair”. In fact a proper response from the principal would be to develop strategies to bring in the majority of kids who do not bully to stand with the child being picked on to bring the bullying to an end. What I’m talking about here is much the same.

        There is a tendency to spend so much time trying to fend off blame – which isn’t really the point AT ALL. And to people of color (who are trying to elicit some sort of compassionate response and even action), it’s very tiring and frustrating to have to deal with a big old defensive reaction about who is to blame. Not the point. Barely even relevant. That’s white people fixating on their own issues and refusing to look past their own noses to see the issues of another group of human beings. The fact that the phrase “white privilege” tends to elicit this sort of response is one of the main reasons that I argue that the phrase needs to be dropped altogether.


      • And for the record, I am the mother of children who are mixed race and can pass for white. (Among white people anyways. People of color almost always recognize them as mixed race.) And I’ve never had to tell them to “check your privilege”. All on their own, they have developed a keen awareness of how looking white changes their experience of moving around in the world. I have two teen boys who have noticed the difference looking white makes in their lives as compared to their half-brother who is a dark skinned African American. In fact, they often make a point of calling themselves African American simply to screw with people’s expectations. They know from watching their step-brother when he lived with us that his experience is not the same as theirs and it’s all because they look white rather than African American. So actually, they consciously “check their privilege” all the time despite probably not being familiar with the concept of “white privilege”. Even my daughters who are 7 and 8 have commented on how people treat the few darker-skinned African Americans at their school differently. They have had other kids tell them that they “aren’t really black like so-and-so” and pushed back that yes, they are black. Already they’ve noticed that their African American classmates get in trouble more often than other kids and are confused because they don’t perceiving them as being more poorly behaved than other kids. What people are trying to talk about when they speak of white privilege (which as I say in my blog post is a poor phrase to use to describe what is really non-white disadvantage) is not something people just made up to guilt white people. It’s a reality so obvious that even young children notice it.


      • And sorry for the multiple responses. But going back to my whitish looking kids, I have discussed with my teen boys their tendency to identify as African American as well as the specific issue of whether they should take advantage of scholarship opportunities or other such programs for people of color. They have told me that a big part of the reason that they identify as African American and would feel comfortable taking advantage of minority programs is because they recognize that the challenges of being born non-white in this country go much deeper than simply dealing with people’s prejudices. They look at my side of the family and the contrast makes it very clear to them that their own experience has been profoundly shaped by being the child of a person of color. It shows up in the emotional baggage their dad carries. It shows up in the lack of resources available to their father. He has an uncle who can get him a job working the grill for a concession stand for a minor league baseball team. My uncle was able to contact a professional baseball player he knows to help get my sister into an overseas study/internship program. They also see that my family treats me much differently than my siblings. That could be for any number of reasons, but they assume it’s because I’m married to a black guy. They have had to live with their dad’s PTSD and sometimes over-the-top fear which was directly related to his experiences in the projects. Being African American in this country isn’t just about how people respond to how you look. It’s so much deeper than that. It affects how you were parented and will parent your children. It affects the opportunities available to you, how hard you have to work to take advantage of those opportunities, the margin of error you are allowed, the networks you can tap into, the attitudes towards power, achievement, priorities, expectations, etc. So while they understand and can see quite easily that their experience is shaped by looking white, they also understand that the problems people of color have to deal with go much deeper than that. And what they look like doesn’t provide any real defense against those inherited challenges.


    • Really Kira you teach a minorities class? Lol. And yes it is unsurprising that your minority class class had a significant number of non-whites in it (lol why did you feel you needed to mention this btw?..would you mention a lot of females in a feminist class? Just thought that was interesting). Thanx for this article it really made me think (which I love doing!)..and yes as a woman of colour there is a whole other dimension to our struggle in the world..this struggle is not always caused by how some white people can treat us but by how we can mistreat ourselves ( my mother often told me growing up that the local high school I attended wasn’t that good because there were’nt that many white students, which would make me angry haha). One situation in my life made me look at the color issue differently. It was when I went to the movies with my white ‘country’ guy friend in town. We went to this kind of uptown theatre and he looked so uncomfortable and when I asked him why he said its because these are my type of people (me being a city girl). The funny thing is that I thought he should’ve been more at home since everyone was pretty much


  14. I agree, the term should go.

    I agree with most all your points, except one. You say, “And very few white people think that they are treated better than they ought to be treated.” That’s true. So is saying very few rich people think that they are treated better than they ought to be treated. And that’s why people of color use the word privilege to mean “a pattern of treating white people better than non-white people.” Just like you still use the word privilege in relation to the rich, the powerful, celebrities, politicians, and royalty. I expect rich people think derogatory terms about them should go too.

    All derogatory terms should go.


  15. I am reminded of Audre Lorde, who said “… survival is not an academic skill. It is learning how to stand alone, unpopular and sometimes reviled, and how to make common cause with those others identified as outside the structures in order to define and seek a world in which we can all flourish. It is learning how to take our differences and make them strengths. For the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house. They may allow us temporarily to beat him at his own game, but they will never enable us to bring about genuine change. And this fact is only threatening to those women [or any marginalized group, for that matter] who still define the master’s house as their only source of support.”

    Privilege, in the context of oppression, refers to advantages a group of people are given based only on their race, class or social status. This status is more or less automatically accorded to certain groups, rather than being seized or appropriated by individuals (not something that is even asked for), so it can be difficult sometimes to see one’s own privilege. To negate the idea of “white privilege” because it makes people uncomfortable is to miss the point of the discussion. To feel threatened by the term is to realize that one relies on the master’s house for support, regardless of marital/familial affiliations, logical gymnastics or personal experience.


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  17. It doesn’t raise my hackles, even though I was born into abject poverty, brought up in an abusive environment in a slum and, as a female too, started off with a lot less privilege than many. I still understand that if I had started off with all those defaults, and in addition had been black, I would have had an even bigger struggle. It took me a while to understand that, but I get it now. I like this piece on white, male privilege, in case you haven’t seen it.

    Maybe we do need a new phrase to replace white privilege, but I am not sure what it would be, it would have to be pithy and succinct, which white privilege does have the benefit of being.


  18. I’m surprised anyone falls for this in 2014 – it’s the same old nonsense the hard left have been spouting for years. Privilege = Inverted Snobbery. That’s all you need to know. Taken to it’s ultimate end the idea of valuing ideas based on the skin tone and sex of person who articulates them ends up in such mental gymnastics as “racism exists when privilege and power come together”. Of course reality and the dictionary state the racism is race or discrimination based on race but people this bonkers come out with such classics as “white men invented the dictionary”. Yes, boys and girls the slave trade was Samuel Johnson’s fault.

    “What people are trying to talk about when they speak of white privilege (which as I say in my blog post is a poor phrase to use to describe what is really non-white disadvantage) is not something people just made up to guilt white people”

    That’s not privilege it’s a lack of equality. When I was a kid there was only one black kid in primary school. As one teacher explained to him “when they all run away they’re difficult to tell apart, when you run away you’re easier for people to pick out and blame”. The fact there isn’t total equality or there is casual racism isn’t an argument for the systematic dismissal of people’s ideas based on their skin colour and sex which is what “white privilege” most often means.

    Let us go through Peggy McIntosh’s classic Sticking an Invisible Chip on Everyone’s Shoulder from which most of this originates. Some of the things she notices – like my bird being followed round by security guards are obvious even to me … I dont actually go around with my eyes shut. But much of it is presupposing and spurious:

    1) I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.

    Raises the question – why would I want to? The list of privilege starts with a coded statement implying I am a racist from the off. And actually, living as I do above an indian shop with a black woman and having worked for US and Iraqi bosses I dont think I can. I just go where the money is. But from the off she has insinuated I am racist for being white.

    2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.

    I dont recall being trained to mistrust anyone – except possibly Church of England Vicars by the RCC. That’s not to say I dont have racist relatives and aquainances but they dont spend all day training me in their points of view. They just are.

    3. If I should need to move, I can be pretty sure of renting or purchasing housing in an area which I can afford and in which I would want to live.

    Again, just doesn’t apply to me. Have you seen house prices?

    4. I can be pretty sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.

    What like the Spanish woman downstairs who told the white Poles beneath me to go back to where they came from and told them I’d complained about them as well? Yes, it’s all rosebuds bein white

    5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, pretty well assured that I will not be followed or harassed.

    I get a taxi home after 12pm and when getting home late because the shop beneath me has been targetted 5 times by criminal gangs this year.

    6. I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented.

    Yes, black people are still under-represented on film and TV but they’re not invisible…

    7. When I am told about our national heritage or about “civilization,” I am shown that people of my color made it what it is.

    That’s because prior to the mass immigrations from the 1950s on that’s just how it was on the whole. Although I would refer the writer to the “racist” Dr Who story “The Talons of Weng Chiang”. I’d also like Hollywood to apologise for all the stereotypical English vilians but then again I’m a bit jealous that we seem to have lost that gig to Asians at the moment following 9/11

    8. I can be sure that my children will be given curricular materials that testify to the existence of their race.

    You’re asuming my children will be white which is unlikely

    9. If I want to, I can be pretty sure of finding a publisher for this piece on white privilege.

    Funny before the internet

    10. I can be pretty sure of having my voice heard in a group in which I am the only member of my race.

    Again another entreaty that white men should shut up and are bullying everyone else just by exisiting

    11. I can be casual about whether or not to listen to another person’s voice in a group in which s/he is the only member of his/her race.

    Loaded inference that I’m a racist

    12. I can go into a music shop and count on finding the music of my race represented, into a supermarket and find the staple foods which fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

    Well, obviously I’m and Englishman living in England

    13. Whether I use checks, credit cards or cash, I can count on my skin color not to work against the appearance of financial reliability.

    I was unware the Experian database included skin colour

    But my favourite is

    18. I can swear, or dress in second hand clothes, or not answer letters, without having people attribute these choices to the bad morals, the poverty or the illiteracy of my race.

    This sums it up. I cant swear at work. I cant go to work in 2nd hand clothes – well, I could but no one would take me seriously if I looked shabby. I cant not answer correspondence without people thinking me rude. If I did these things people would not employ me or put me down as “chav scum” the pejorative UK term for the white working class with no taste. And this is the key to the whole twisted system. Instead of telling black people that they should be held to the same standards as white people (no more or less). It is telling them that white people can get away with a whole load of behaviours that they cant and that the reason that low standards are not accepted from them is racism. It isn’t. It is because they are low standards. The logic is that because not everyone is treated equally the solution is to lower standards.

    I also particularly enjoy

    26. I can easily buy posters, post-cards, picture books, greeting cards, dolls, toys and children’s magazines featuring people of my race.

    Buy a brown pencil and colour in the faced the right colour. That’s what my girlfriend does. Simples.

    We could go through all 50 moans but we’d be here forever….


  19. My problem with “White Privilege” is not the term but the fact that it is pseudoscientific. Any criticism of the concept is discredited as “white people being unable to understand or see their own privilege.” A small example of which is demonstrated by your exchange with Kira above. The tone of your aruguments quickly changes when we find out that Kira is a black woman.

    An individuals anecdotes are not scientific evidence of a sweeping social phenomenon in your society that oppresses a minority by inappropriately elevating white people. Even when people use stats that show the lower economic status, lower education levels and higher crime rates of most Black americans as “proof” of “white privilege” there is no scientific reliability there. You can’t identify a cause/effect relationship between the hypothesis of “White Privilege” and lower status. Other hypotheses are equally valid such as, “Degradation of social values among black communities” or “devaluation of education by black communities” both of which are “proved” by the same stats.

    Also, there is an issue with the fact that we never really hear of concepts like, “Asian Privilege” or “Black African Immigrant privilege” or ” Brown (middle eastern) Privilege all of those groups are constantly shown to have better educational, economic and even social prospects than their Black American counterparts and are even on par with their white counterparts. Yet we only ever hear of “White Privilege” or “White Advantage”


  20. A person of color told me I had white privilege because I could sit down in a restaurant and be surrounded by people who look like me. So how is this privilege? I think blacks are the only group that would be fully submerged by blacks 24/7,and Im not being negative. No other race displays this. We are very different, and thats okay. Just don’t call me privileged because Im surrounded by similar looking people. I have no control over population equality.


    • Yeah, you’re missing the point, which I think is what happens when the word “priviledge” is used to describe how life is different for white people than for people of color. The point isn’t that the difference between the experience of white people and the experience of people of color is your fault or that you in any way created it. It’s just that the difference exists. And it has an effect on people of color that we white people are usually oblivious to.

      Your friend brought up a fairly minor example – being the majority everywhere you go. Back in college when I began dating my husband, I found myself being the only white person in the room or in the group for the first time in my life. And honestly, it made me uncomfortable. I kind of assumed that the other people were quietly hostile to me – wondering why I was there, holding the poor behavior of other whites against me, maybe even resenting that I was intruding on their pre-existing dynamics. And certainly, I felt sure that they were all judging me. I often didn’t get the jokes made or the cultural references used. I didn’t feel confident that I understood the unspoken social rules that everyone else present knew, so I was often very quiet out of fear of accidentally saying something dumb or insulting. As I thought about this, it occured to me that what I was experiencing was a regular part of my husband and his black friends’ lives. Every person of color, particularly in a place like college or a professional environment regularly has to deal with being the only or one of the only non-white people present.

      And that is al white privilege really describes – my white privilege meant that I had gone nearly 2 decades without having encountered this uncomfortabe experience which is just part of everyday life for many people of color.

      So, it’s really not about blame at al. It’s about awareness and empathy of the experiences that people of color have which I am usually oblivious to. Obviously, as you say, I can’t do anything about popuation patterns and such. But I can be more aware and perhaps go out of my way to be welcoming and friendly to someone in a potentially uncomfortable setting. I can be more deliberate about making sure more people of color are included in my activities or social settings. I can deliberately put myself into settings where I am not the majority in an attempt to build bridges. Again, it’s not about bame, just about increasing awareness and empathy.


      • “The point isn’t that the difference between the experience of white people and the experience of people of color is your fault or that you in any way created it.”

        The problem is that word privilege means “a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group” (OED) and for such a thing to exist people must be knowingly complicit in it – therefore it is an accusation of FAULT individually and/or collectively and no volume of sophistry can conceal this. The inference is that white people have no idea that their experience is different to that of black people and need it constantly pointed out to them. No one is missing the point. The word privilege is an accusation of racism or discrimination. Saying “it isn’t Prince William’s fault he is privileged” is meaningless. Of course it is his fault because he can give his privilege away. And that’s what people are supposed to do arbitrarily and with no rational thought. The clue to Critical Race Theory is in the name “Critical Theory”. It is derived from Marxism. It is Marxism meets Racial ideas (or racist ideas depending on how far you take it). But no one has misunderstood the phrase. They’ve read the dictionary and realised it means they as an individual are a ****.

        This idea that there are no ideological or concious dimensions to racism is the genesis of Pat Bidol’s odious lie that Racism = Privilege + Power. The assumption that the many will always dominate the few. This is of course nonsense. If you look at the British Raj the few actually dominated the many. This was easy as it was already a very racially stratified society and we just had more guns than they did. It is also a denial that there is a physical apparatus of power (weaponary) and suggests that inequality is simply perpetuated just by passive institutions. Nazi Germany was not perpetuated by everyone just forgetting to “check their privilege”.

        Of course there is an inoffensive phrase for the same thing as “white privilege” is used to describe “institutional racism” but it doesn’t have the advantages of either waving an accusing finger at every individual white person or immunising the critic themselves from any criticism.


  21. What about the many cases when minorities seek retribution against the white people who live among them? Is that not a form of racism?

    Telling white people they are privileged holds holds them accountable for circumstances they may not have caused or choose to benefit from. It comes across as an unfair accusation. I think a lot of people actually become racist because they feel they are often accused of being racist. I am for justice and equality. Please stop using this divisive term.


  22. This is the first, and perhaps only post on the term “White Privilege” that defends the concept (and is left of center) that I agree with.

    I hate the term. Every time I have seen it used (also “male privilege”) was as a way for someone (usually a minority) to dismiss or delegitimize a white person’s accomplishment. The next line of argument goes something like “since you are white, XYZ was easier for you, and therefore any benefits or earnings you got from XYZ are unfairly earned.”


    WP: “I worked hard for this job and salary.”

    POC: “You didn’t have to work as hard as a POC would have had to, to get the same so you should be passed over for promotion next time, lose your bonus, cut down a notch, etc.”

    This is why I loathe the John Scalzi article. Because in gaming, if you are set to the lowest difficultly level, you are cheating. Your win is not fair. His definition of “white privilege” is “white people cheat, even if they don’t know they are cheating, the points white people get they don’t deserve.” It diminishes every accomplishment.

    I agree we need to raise the floor, so that all people are treated better by government and have equality of opportunity under the law. I reject is the idea of using “white privilege” as an excuse to lower the ceiling on white people, which is how so many want to use it.


  23. If you look back to the era of the Civil Rights struggle the term people used was rights, not privileges. Whether it’s Martin Luther King or the Black Panther Party their message was we have rights that aren’t being recognized. There was a battle for voting rights, not voting privileges, voting’s not supposed to be a privilege. Another problem with this whole white privilege theory so popular on the left these days is it’s basically saying the average white middle/working class person benefits from systemic racism and therefore really has an interest in maintaining it.

    That seems like a really counterproductive message to be putting out there to 65-70 percent of the population if you really want to change things. Back in the days of slavery you really think it was doing white workers and sharecroppers and small farmers and craftsmen any favors that they had to compete with a labor force that literally gets paid nothing at all. Then after slavery the boss class was still able to pit White and Black and then Latino and Asian workers against each other to keep wages low. What’s the poorest part of the country, the southeast, the states that made up the Confederacy. The great Black intellectual W.E.B Dubois talked about how White workers got a “psychological wage”, you can’t eat a psychological wage or buy a house with it, it’s a false sense of superiority, kind of a scam really. So why do all these highly educated “progressive” activist types run around promoting that scam?

    This identity politics, privilege theory approach is also, I fear filling people with pessimism about the real possibilities of overcoming racism in our lifetimes. I really think the political will at the Federal level plus a couple of generations for the changes to sink in and we could live in post-racial America, but the way these critical race theory adherents talk racism is some kind of magic evil demon with a life of it’s own and it mainly lives in the individual prejudices of individual white people so if you don’t see things change much then hey that’s not a surprise. In this viewpoint theres not much use in pointing the finger at the elites in positions of power, might as well just blame average joe sixpack white guy who drives his beat up old pickup truck with a gunrack and a Confederate flag and makes his racist jokes because it’s his opinions despite his virtual powerlessness that are holding us back.

    The most blatant example of this I saw was at a public forum at a school in the months after Ferguson about issues of police and racism where out local sheriff was deservedly getting raked through the coals on various issues, from hiring more cops of color to whether or not he had really cancelled chokehold training for his officers in the wake of the murder of Eric Garner. The energy in the room was white hot, sweat was dripping down the sheriffs face, then one of the panelists, a Latino guy with a job in the community college bureaucracy decided it was a good time to tell us all how we needed to look into our hearts and see the racist assumptions there and how he had taken some test online to test for racial bias and how he had found that even he had some despite being a “person of color” himself. Oh how brave of him to be so candid and “real”. Oh how we need to have this “dialogue on race”, blah, blah, blah. Suddenly the sheriff was no longer in the hot seat, suddenly a moment for community members to bring maximum pressure on law enforcement officials to change policies that are potentially matters of life and death shifts into a call for us all to look into our hearts and not be racist. That bureaucrat lowered the level of discussion to that of an MLK day assembly at a suburban middle school. This is what they pay people in the diversity industrial complex to do, and so much of today’s campus based identitarian social activism is about increasing the budgets and the grants for sensitivity training and workshops on privilege and PR for institutions that remain controlled by wealthy predominately white people but don’t want trouble with lawsuits and accusations of racism.


  24. I had a fairly brief internet exchange with a black guy regarding white privilege. I had to push but eventually he finally declared that justice demanded black people get a free college education, free decent housing and a monthly, financial stipend for life. So that’s what the anti-dote to white privilege was, free college, free housing and free money for non-whites.

    That will never fix the problem of “white privilege.” That will make one a permanent ward of the state.

    I do believe there is, indeed, “white privilege.”

    The question is; how to fix the problem of those with non privilege. I don’t think putting them on the government dole will fix anything; indeed I think it will ultimately make their lives worse.

    From a human perspective; is life on planet earth just? I’d say, “not at all.” Never has been, never will be.

    The only justice is found in the eternity of God where His children are indeed equally privileged in their eternal existence. None will be richer/poor, less infirmed/more infirmed, more intelligent/less intelligent, more pretty/less pretty, more athletic/less athletic etc. They will all have equal standing before a just God who is not “a respecter of persons.”

    You can’t change injustice here on Earth, you CAN decide if you wish to spend eternity with Jesus Christ where all injustice is forever wiped away.


  25. I can’t believe all this back and forth. There is plenty of real injustice to go around. Are quotas a solution to all these woes? You think yes? Tell that to the white anesthesiologist (my mother’s friend) who had give up her job to the hospital could meet the quota for blacks-and the one the hospital hired was a textbook case of free education-where the graduation was all that counted, not the actual education. The end result? Three or more dead patients who died of improper gas treatment. White privilege-my a***


    • OK, I just have to say that either you or your mother’s friends are lying. That is not how reality works. Not now, not eva, not never in the history of eva has reality worked like that. I will eat one of my children if you can prove that a white person was pushed out of their job so that a quota for black people could be met. I will eat all of my children. I will eat your children. I will sprout wings and start farting glitter like a fucking unicorn. Because I’d be a unicorn if I lived in a fantasy world where such a thing happened. So, either you are dishonest, or your have believed a dishonest person. Either way, that story is pure, unadulterated bull. Liar, liar, pants on fire sitting on a telephone wire. So, if you’re not a liar, you now know that your mother’s friend is not to be trusted with the good silver.


  26. another thing: if a white person (I am) has never met anyone of color but watches the news about lootings and mass-beatings for fun and jollies, or gets mugged by a black person, what sort of opinion will that white person now have? Could it be that those yelling about “white privilege” are really only wanting to lower the bar to normal, civil behavior? Don’t say “oh but civil behavior is a ‘white ‘ construct!” What sort of puerile talk is that? Is saying “thank you” or “please” somehow evil? NO, I and many like me owe noone anything more that demand decent behavior, and that goes for all those University children we hear about all the time screaming cuss words in others’ faces, as if that somehow will a. change minds or b. get their points across. What is all this about? Above someone mentioned the Marxists were connected to this all. It is true: have chaos among the masses so the elites can run/ruin it all for their own gain.
    I have seen many (no-not all) blacks behave poorly at my factory. Men attempting to fondle ladies, chatting instead of working, sitting about, etc. Those behaving poorly, without manners or respect for either themselves or others make it harder on all the other blacks.
    Another story: One black that worked with me was from Cameroon, a first generation immigrant. He saved his money and eventually bought a house in the suburbs. The blacks at the factory all scolded him and warned him that the whites in the suburbs would do terrible things to him, that they were all racists…etc. blah blanh
    End result? The nieghbours came over with pie and invites for family barbeques, etc. He came back later and laughed at the ‘the world is out to get us blacks” losers-his words.
    The world is what it is. If people, white or black don’t think the US is all that great what is stopping them from leaving and going somewhere where they, I am sure (sarcasm) they will have a better life, like, say, Liberia?
    Simply put: don’t like it where you are at? MOVE
    “Oh but I can’t…” NO? If you can’t then why are people from Africa and Central America making it to Chicago AND finding work?
    This “white privilege” thing is just talk.


    • I think it says a great deal that you are aware that the picture of African Americans presented in the media is almost uniformly negative, yet rather than recognizing that there is something deeply wrong with our media, you assume that this is reality. Which it’s not. This is the media brainwashing which keeps racism alive and kicking after all this time. Before you object, I would ask that you go watch this brief clip:

      Now, please do tell Uncle Ruckus I said hello the next time you have dinner with him. I actually used to know a black man who did the whole “I can’t get ahead because the man is keeping me down” thing. That was one man out of dozens of black men and women I have known personally. So, I don’t run claims of racism and injustice through the filter of that one man as if he were representative of how black people think. Because I’m not racist.

      And you obviously don’t understand what people mean by “white privilege”. As I argued in this essay, I think using the word “privilege” is confusing and problematic. But all it means is an absence of having to deal with the sort of racial animus which allows your success to be written off as “affirmative action” (even though actual affirmative action is exceedingly rare). White people don’t have to deal with a media which mendaciously depicts people of your skin tone as nearly uniformly violent, dishonest, vulgar, uneducated, etc. It OBVIOUSLY doesn’t mean that white people don’t have problems. It just means that whatever problems a white person has, racism isn’t going to be layered on top of those problems. The way I explain it is, think of the most unfortunately, disadvantaged, mistreated white person you know. Thin about the details of their life and how they can’t catch a break for anything. Now imagine that they had to go through all of that while black. Being black just adds another layer of difficulty on top of the difficulties which everyone has to deal with. Now, if you keep trying to use the problems faced by white people as an argument against the idea of what is called white privilege, that means you are either obtuse or dishonest. Because it’s not that hard to understand and since you can type and form sentences, you can’t actually be so unintelligent that you just don’t get it.

      And it is the height of idiocy to suggest to people who are here because their ancestors were stolen from Africa that if they don’t like being disadvantaged here in America, they should go back to Africa. Aside from the fact that most people are living paycheck to paycheck and couldn’t possibly afford the tens of thousands of dollars it would take to move to another country. But really, that’s about as ignorant as telling a Native America to get their own country when they complain about broken treaties and corporations poisoning their lands. You’re making white people look really, really, really dumb, evil and ignorant as all get out talking like that. Please stop.


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