Features, Philosophy, Privilege

Skepticism About White Privilege

Privilege, and race-based privilege in particular, occupies a key niche in the rich ecosystem of error that is campus leftism. White privilege is a central theme of the protests at Evergreen State College, University of Missouri, Yale University, and so on. Detecting and eliminating it is the aim of a new method of pedagogy that effectively renders education the handmaiden of activism. Unfortunately the question “what is to be done?” has here, as in other domains, prematurely eclipsed “what is to be thought?” A close look at the notion of white privilege casts doubt on whether the racial disparities that currently exist within the U.S. constitute any such thing.

White Privilege as “Invisible Knapsack”

Peggy McIntosh’s 1988 paper, “White Privilege and Male Privilege: A Personal Account of Coming to See” is a seminal work on white privilege. McIntosh observes that many men who recognize that women are disadvantaged are reluctant to admit that they are over-privileged. She extends this observation to race, lamenting that “My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture.” As a result of McIntosh’s reflections, however…

I have come to see white privilege as an invisible package of unearned assets that I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was “meant” to remain oblivious. White privilege is like an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions, assurances, tools, maps, guides, codebooks, passports, visas, clothes, compass, emergency gear, and blank checks.

McIntosh unpacks her own “invisible knapsack” by enumerating 46 ways in which she is unfairly advantaged. Here are the first five:

  1. I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.
  2. I can avoid spending time with people whom I was trained to mistrust and who have learned to mistrust my kind or me.
  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.
  4. I can be reasonably sure that my neighbors in such a location will be neutral or pleasant to me.
  5. I can go shopping alone most of the time, fairly well assured that I will not be followed or harassed by store detectives.

My personal favorite is:

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

Although McIntosh admits that her article constitutes “a partial record of my personal observations and not a scholarly analysis,” it has been a smashing scholarly success. According to Google Scholar, “Male Privilege and White Privilege” has garnered 3,115 citations as of this writing. In 1989, the article was republished in a shorter form as “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.” Google Scholar shows that this version of the article has racked up an astounding 3,435 citations. For comparison, Peter Singer’s 1971 “Famine, Affluence and Morality”, perhaps the most famous article in applied ethics, registers only about 2,500 citations, notwithstanding a 17-year head start.

The ideas in these articles go hand-in-hand with a theory of pedagogy, which McIntosh conveys in her “Some Notes to Facilitators on Presenting My White Privilege Papers.” She recommends that instructors task students with producing lists of their own unearned advantages. Although McIntosh cautions instructors “Please do not generalize from my papers,” she does this herself by assuming that all or most students can create a list like hers. McIntosh also recommends a practice she calls “Serial Testimony.” Students take turns sharing their experiences as others listen non-judgmentally. She writes:

The work goes best when you draw on participants’ own personal experiences, not their opinions. Opinions invite argumentation. Telling about your experience invites listening. Opinions tend to bring on conflict, whereas shared experiences tend to elicit curiosity and empathy. When participants move from experiential testimony to opinion, bring them back, knowing that most schooling discourages testimony.

This procedure doesn’t resemble the testimony given in a courtroom, which is subject to cross-examination. Rather, it resembles the testimony that occurs when religious believers proclaim their convictions to others of the same faith. The method seems better suited to reinforcing existing convictions than facilitating fresh insights. In Professing Feminism: Cautionary Tales from the Strange World of Women’s Studies, Daphne Patai and Norette Koertge write: “It is assumed [in women’s studies classrooms] that an inability to testify to personal experiences of gender oppression casts doubt on the authenticity of one’s commitment to feminism.” It’s true that conflict can be deleterious to learning. But so can aversion to conflict. Imagine what Plato’s dialogues would be like if Socrates and his interlocutors avoided argument in favor of “shared experiences”.

One can reject McIntosh’s ideas about pedagogy and agree with her about white privilege. We shall see, however, that there are good reasons for being skeptical about even the broad contours of her account.

White Privilege and “Undeserved Advantage”

African-Americans are worse off than white Americans in many significant ways. For example, they are poorer, they have shorter life expectancies, and they are more likely to be imprisoned. Do these disparities show that white privilege exists? Consider the following McIntosh-inspired account of race privilege given in a recently philosophy paper, “Offsetting Race Privilege” by Jeremy Dunham and Holly Lawford-Smith:

In sum, according to our specific version of the conditions that make an advantage a privilege, such an advantage must (a) be undeserved and conferred systematically to members of a racial group; (b) entail a corresponding disadvantage; and (c) be granted simply because of membership in a racial group and thereby almost never justifiable.

I will focus on (a), which canvases two criteria common to most definitions of white privilege: that they are undeserved and systematically conferred. Do whites’ advantages meet both criteria?

Consider desert. The word “undeserved” can describe unjust acquisitions (for example, wealth amassed through slave labor) or acquisitions that are morally innocent and lucky (for example, inheritance or winning the lottery). Being fortunate is not an affront to justice. It is far from clear that whites’ relative advantages come at the expense of others. If poverty, crime, and other major sources of African-Americans’ woes ended overnight, most whites would be better off as a result because they would live in a safer and more prosperous country. When they flourish, they do so despite, and not because of, black suffering.

Also, some of the good things that whites enjoy are deserved. Addressing this, Dunham and Lawford-Smith write (internal references omitted):

For example, it strikes us as unintuitive to claim that a student’s securing a place at Harvard University is unearned, given how hard any student would have to work to obtain the required high GPA and excellent SAT and ACT results. However, in 2013, African-Americans made up only 6.5 percent of the undergraduate population at Harvard. This figure should be more than twice as high, since the African-American share of the undergraduate population nationwide is 15 percent, yet it has actually gone down, from 7.4 percent in 1994. This shows that white Americans . . . have an undeserved advantage, an advantage that is the result of a long history of structural injustice.

Dunham and Lawford-Smith presume to know both what percentage of the incoming Harvard class should be black and why the figure is as low as it is. It’s worth asking what else we can infer from similar information. If we know that African-Americans constitute 15 percent of auto mechanics, can we conclude that roughly 15 percent of auto mechanics who specialize on Porsches should be African-American? If 13 percent of Americans are African-Americans, can we infer that they should be about 13 percent of American florists? NASCAR drivers? Zoologists specializing in the mating habits of aardvarks? If they are under-represented anywhere, is historical injustice the presumed explanation? Dunham and Lawford-Smith apparently assume that absent past injustice, groups would be indistinguishable. There is no reason conceptually or empirically to think that this is true.

Dunham and Lawford-Smith claim that securing a place at Harvard is earned, and also that whites have an undeserved advantage in Harvard admissions. But consider the strangeness of saying: “You’ve earned your place at Harvard, but you don’t deserve to be here!” If we are committed to saying that successful white applicants have an undeserved advantage in Harvard admissions, then we should conclude that they haven’t actually earn their places, after all. Likewise, if we’re to maintain that they do earn their places, as I believe is the case, then it is reasonable to conclude that the resulting racial disparities reflect deserved advantages.

Does it matter whether this disparity exists because of racial injustices for which the successful white applicants aren’t responsible? I think not. Suppose that after we each earn fifty dollars working together, I am robbed, while you are not. You are now fifty dollars richer than I am. May I complain of your undeserved advantage? If by this I mean the state of affairs resulting from the robbery, then yes, though the complaint couldn’t be directed at you. The fact of your having more money than me is not morally troubling. Only the robbery is. Certainly you have no obligation to offset an “advantage” like this that doesn’t render you any better off, nor result from anything wrong that you’ve done.

Your fifty dollar advantage in this scenario is not undeserved. You earned this money. The same holds in competitive contexts. Suppose that because of the robbery, you are able to outbid me in an auction. Would it follow that you don’t deserve whatever you’re able to buy? I’m inclined to say no; my misfortune is irrelevant to whether or not you deserve what you honestly then acquire – even if you acquire it at my expense. The same goes for the successful white Harvard applicants and, I think, white advantages generally.

Advantages “Conferred by Society”?

The second criterion within (a) is that advantages constituting privileges must be systematically conferred – apparently by society. Does society, strictly speaking, confer anything? True, we say things like “The world dealt Helen Keller a difficult hand.” This is a metaphor, however; the world is not an agent that capriciously decided that Keller should be deaf and blind. If the “systematically conferred” criterion is to impose a substantive constraint on what advantages constitute privileges, then we must understand these privileges to be literally conferred by society. Uncoordinated outcomes of group behavior are no more literally conferred by society than Adam Smith’s invisible hand is literally a hand.

We often speak as if corporate agents like the U.S. government and Nike, Inc. can make decisions and be held responsible for them. What this means exactly is controversial, but plausibly these descriptions are not metaphorical. If society is a corporate agent, then perhaps it can literally confer advantages. But corporate agents are generally created and maintained by speech acts (for example, those preserved in charters, contracts, constitutions). No speech act creates society itself unless we take the probably-imaginary social contract that Thomas Hobbes describes in Leviathan as a historical reality. Society includes corporate agents, but the claim that it is itself a corporate agent is dubious.

Grant for the sake of argument that society does non-metaphorically confer advantages. We need a further argument to show that whites’ advantages are so conferred. I’ve argued that some of the advantages whites enjoy are deserved; treating these advantages as conferred by society robs them of credit. This points to a general worry about the idea that society confers outcomes: once we grant this, it’s hard to see why it does not confer every outcome. When society is treated as an agent, all other agents recede into the background or disappear altogether. People and their choices are reduced to the manifestations of social trends. Society appears godlike.

This kind of thinking seems to be present in Dunham’s and Lawford-Smith’s discussion of the notorious August 9, 2014 incident in Ferguson, Missouri. At the outset of their article, Dunham and Lawford-Smith inform their readers that police officer Darren Wilson is white, that Michael Brown is black and was unarmed at the time of the incident, that Wilson shot Brown six times, killing him, and that unarmed black men are more likely to be killed by the police than unarmed white men. (They do not mention that black men commit crime at higher rates than white men.) Described this way, the incident appears to be the product of impersonal social forces.

A different picture emerges when a few details are added. Brown had apparently committed a robbery shortly before the confrontation. He was shot only after he engaged in an altercation with Wilson in which he tried to seize his weapon. Although “hands up, don’t shoot” became the slogan for many of the ensuing protests, some of which culminated in riots, an investigation by the Department of Justice, then led by Attorney General Eric Holder, rejected the claim that Brown had raised his hands to surrender. The forensic evidence seemed to back Wilson’s version of the story. A grand jury decided not to indict Wilson for killing Brown. The Department of Justice investigation into Wilson’s killing of Brown concluded: “this matter lacks prosecutive merit and should be closed.”

Brown was not a passive recipient of a fate conferred upon him by society. Neither do we have reason to believe that the good things in life that whites are fortunate enough to enjoy are systematically conferred upon them by society. It follows that these “advantages” are not instances of white privilege.

Conclusion

After defending their account of white privilege, Dunham and Lawford-Smith describe how the race-privileged individuals have obligations to “offset” their race privilege. Here is how this would play out in a particular case:

Imagine that a white American woman checking her race privilege in 2016 finds herself to be in the 50th percentile among white Americans alone. She earns around $23,462 per year. Now imagine that she compares this to the average wage of someone in the 50th percentile on the whole-society income distribution . . . which she finds to be $21,544. This comparison shows our individual that her income privilege amounts to $1,918 per year. This means that for her contribution to be commensurate with her privilege, it must amount to $1,918 or its equivalent in terms of time or effort.

Briefly, two objections. First, suppose that white Americans invite ten million penniless Muslim refugees into the U.S. As a result of adding many poor non-whites to the country, the average American income decreases while the average white income stays the same. Perversely, whites would then have more race privilege to offset as a result of this magnanimous act! Second, what is the baseline, the point at which all privilege has been offset? The average American income includes the privilege-boosted incomes of whites, and so that figure must be too high. If we factor out whites, however, why not factor out the next best-off group? And so on. In fairness, Dunham and Lawford-Smith recognize that this is a problem, but I don’t think they recognize how serious a problem it is.

The most fundamental problem for this or any proposal to offset white privilege is this: American whites’ advantages do not constitute white privilege. Therefore, there’s nothing that needs to be offset in the first place.

Filed under: Features, Philosophy, Privilege

by

Spencer Case is a philosophy doctoral candidate at the University of Colorado, Boulder. He is a politically conservative vegan, a sign of the end times foretold in the Book of Revelation.

29 Comments

  1. Santoculto says

    Oxidental elites have invented white guilt to blame the common people and the race for the international predation it has committed since the great navigations.

    It’s the fault of racism, they say, not theirs.

    Racial division is also important to weaken the class struggle, which they are directly concerned.

  2. “Reality is socially constructed.”

    This mantra causes war in the soul of Progressives and Critical Racialists. On the one hand, they can cite any unbalanced statistic and shout down the injustice conferred by a constructed subset of society. On the other, the absurdity of examining individual acts by individual individuals in actual reality exposes their position as deeply twisted.

    To manage the conflict, SJWs learn to shift the POV in a flash, from pouncing on a Darren Wilson shooting Michael Brown and pounding away on the proof of their point, but shifting to 35,000 feet (or outer space) when the example goes bad, with “Well, it doesn’t matter if Brown didn’t put up his hands, the incident still functions as a Power/Knowledge node of racism.sexism.classism.”

    The best thing Mr. Case did in this piece was to bravely say “..the world is not an agent…” which breaks the back of the SJWs’ twisted manipulation.

    P.S. I read recently that the phrase “on one hand … on the other” is hate speech and a micro-aggression against people who are (or could be constructed to potentially be) paralyzed or have had a limb amputated. My deepest apologies for using this term if it triggered anyone. I can’t help it, The World made me do it.

    • Santoculto says

      Human and social-species realities are ALSO socially construct.

      And at long term socially construct can become selectively construct…

  3. This comparison shows our individual that her income privilege amounts to $1,918 per year.

    It would if she were being paid that much more compared with a black woman doing the same job.

    And while those on medium income bicker about a difference of $36.88 per week the 1% are still sitting on 34% of the nations wealth.

  4. Ace says

    Wonderful piece. It’s a shame that I gave to use a burner account just to publicly appreciate good logic.

  5. Lucky Camper says

    I don’t think the phrase “conferred by society” needs to be read as implying that society is an agent. It might just be used to distinguish advantages that result from social practices from those that result from biology or luck. For instance, women have a longer life expectancy than men, but this does not count as “female privilege” since it is mostly biological. On the other hand, the fact that women have a much easier time getting jobs in philosophy counts as “female privilege”.

  6. Lucky Camper says

    I too am skeptical that the Harvard admissions statistics demonstrate undeserved white advantages. Dunham and Lawford-Smith seem to jump to that conclusion remarkably quickly, without looking for any corroborating evidence or considering any alternatives. We could try corroborating the theory by, say, looking at standardized test scores for applicants of different races . . .

    “A 2009 Princeton study showed Asian-Americans had to score 140 points higher on their SATs than whites, 270 points higher than Hispanics and 450 points higher than blacks to have the same chance of admission to leading universities.”
    [https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/30/opinion/white-students-unfair-advantage-in-admissions.html]

    Hm, how are we going to make this a story of white privilege?

  7. The list starts off with a blooper at #1:

    “I can, if I wish, arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time.”

    Yes, and this is the case for probably 90% (95%? or more?) of people on the planet. The USA is according to census data 77% white (63% if you discount white Hispanics), so if you’re American, being in the company of white people most of the time should be…expected? Normal? Ditto if you live in China, you’ll be in the company of Chinese people most of the time…if you live in Africa most people around you will be black. Et cetera. Since people spend most of the time with their families, if you’re white in America, you’ll definitely be spending most of your time with white people…

    This is a backwards question – the question should be – are minorities being segregated into ghettos? Do they spend most of THEIR time with only people of THEIR race despite most people around them in society being of another race, and are they forced into doing so?

    The question shouldn’t be why the average white American has 8/10 white friends, rather it should be why the average black American has 9/10 black friends…and if so, is that a problem? (It doesn’t have to be; some minorities are very withdrawn to themselves in terms of social interaction yet very successful in society and do not suffer discrimination)

    I mean, if we’re talking South Africa, and then realizing that white people there can “arrange” to minimally interact with black people who form the overwhelming majority of the population, that’s an entirely different matter. In countries where white people are the majority, the question’s kinda pointless.

  8. James says

    http://www.cnn.com/2016/01/03/us/oregon-wildlife-refuge-protest/index.html armed Oregon men take over Govt facility with rifles..machine guns..on horseback and S.U.V thdn gst acquitted by jury..sounds white privilege to me. Can any of you so called experts name an instance of of equivalent self control..patience crom las enforcement for a similar situation where an armed militia took over a government facility with similar results?

    • Mark Luhman says

      Occupy wall street. BLM blocking highways access to stores, the Baltimore riots, the Ferguson riots, the LA riots( at least twice), the Detroit riots. College campus riots because of conservative speakers coming to speak. You also forgot one of the Oregon protester was killed by law enforcement. You also conveniently forget the left has murdered 200,000,000 people in the twenty century and to the most part the leaders that did that are well thought of in leftist circles. Present your leftist are dressing in black and donning mask so they can beat the opposition and riot without being identified and you bitch about one protest in Oregon that the right did where the full force of the law was brought down on them from my point of view was due to fact they were white on on the right. If you leftist protest were treated the same you would be screaming about the evil white power structure, Oh I forgot is that not what BLM is doing?

    • Mark Luhman says

      “rifles..machine guns” you lie. they were no machine guns there, machine guns are difficult to own and need to be licensed and taxed, you cannot license any ,manufactured after 1988. If you were a licensor of machine gun holder and participated in a protest like the Oregon protest you at a least would lose you license and guns, quite possible be fined and jailed. If you did not knowing lie than you are ignorant and it look to me you also have selective memory.

  9. Santoculto says

    When you talk about ”white”, to be really accurate, think also the % of jews, because beyond ”Quillette alternative world”, it’s make a lot of diNfferences.

  10. “Privilege” does not exist ex nihilo. It had to start somewhere with some people. I have no problem with others admitting to the world that my ancestors were more apt, more intelligent, more able, more sophisticated, and much more likely to come out on the winning side of any conflict with their ancestors. If they want to take it back 50 years, 500 years or 5,000 years I am up for that. The better team apparently won the privilege game and took home the trophy. The 2nd place team took home — well — 2nd place.

    If they say the game was rigged, then my ancestors were smarter than theirs and figured out how to rig the game and theirs didn’t. If they say my ancestors were more savage than theirs then that means theirs were weaker than mine. If they say there were more of mine, then that means that mine were simply better at understanding how to use the environment and technology to sustain a greater population. If they say that my ancestors were better geographically situated that means that they were better realtors, able to find and hold superior territory. If they say my ancestors had bigger, badder, and more destructive weapons that means than their ancestors were probably stuck in a stone-age existence for 10,000 years past their time.

    No matter how you slice it… they are making the claim for me that their ancestors could not quite hack it when it came to competition for the “privilege” of being on top. They were weaker, ineffective, and overall a fine example of Darwinism in action. Seems to me as if they are pointing the “finger of blame” at the wrong set of ancestors. I’d suggest they have a heartfelt talk with their grandma and grandpa and ask them why ~their~ grandmas and grandpas were so pitiful in the game of life.

    Now understand that ~this~ is how ~they~ see the world. This is what ~they~ are admitting happened. Unless, of course, they want to somehow claim that “privilege” just happened along one day from out of nowhere and someone picked it up off the ground and has been using it ever since. Should be an interesting and amusing read.

    Because they believe that since what they call “privilege” was obtained either unfairly or by simple luck they have a “moral right” to take it.

    If they want to admit to having inferior ancestors who were not good enough to not be taken advantage of, or just plain unlucky that is fine with me. And it doesn’t say much for their current ability to “take” anything away from me. Bring it on and we’ll see how the rematch goes.

  11. Debbie Jones says

    This kind of writing is why Plato said children shouldn’t be allowed to do philosophy. Shitty wordplay and uncharitable readings that take us further from truth and corrupt our society.

    This writing shows minimal familiarity with the scholarly landscape of feminist philosophy. Stick to working on your thesis Spencer.

    • Debbie presents an on-point argument with logic, rationality, reason, and facts in rebuttal of the essay. Or maybe not. Perhaps she just posts what makes her ffffffeeeeelllll gggggooooodddd. That is all that is necessary in her mind.

    • This writing shows minimal familiarity with the scholarly landscape of feminist philosophy.

      That scholarly landscape is a desert with an mountain of shit in the middle.

    • It is impossible to assess without taking into account how much African ancestry those called African-American have, and whether the more or less factor plays a part, and also taking into account the culture in which people live.

      Many so-called whites are a lot darker of skin than a lot of so-called blacks so Melanin or the lack of it, is not the culprit. All races are equal but all cultures are not.

      As to the list:

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

      My question is why one would choose friends or people on the basis of race. I am of mixed race and have no race. I have a nationality but I still don’t want to be with my nationality most of the time and I say that having lived as an expat for decades.

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

      Many people grow up mistrusting others. A mature and fully functioning adult gets over poor social programming in childhood. And since most African Americans are of mixed race, does this mistrust apply to the bits of themselves which relate to other ancestries? That must be confusing.

      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.

      You have to be kidding. Plenty of non African Americans cannot do this. It is a human experience.

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

      You have to be kidding? Generally people give out what they get. Perhaps if you could release your racism you might have a better time of it.

  12. If you want to scientifically measure the extent of white privilege in America, you need a control group to establish a base line – say a white society with a negligible non-white minority such as Iceland or Ireland.

    Are the benefits listed in the 1988 paper also enjoyed by the Irish? If they are (and they are) then they are not the product of white privilege enjoyed at the expense of any other people group. They are simply a manifestation of how people of Western European extraction choose to interact among themselves.

  13. What is this fantasy of white? Does it mean Anglo-Europeans? My great grandfather was European, Greek, and my grandfather was so dark his nickname was Nigger. Then again, in Australia such irreverence was common and the term did not have the same connotations as in the US. He didn’t mind. It is engraved on all his cricket trophies.

    Is white a term for the Anglo/European world, the most developed world in recent centuries, the modern, Western world? But since everyone seems to want to be a part of that world, how can ‘white’ or white be a bad term?

    Societies have always been mixed and now more so. The Western world particularly. Finding people with really white skin, mostly it is pink, is difficult.

    So who are these ‘whites?’

  14. If white privilege is sourced in the majority group which dominates then presumably in Africa and India we have black privilege and in Asia, we have Asian privilege etc. etc. which makes it all ridiculous.

    • Lup says

      Exactly.

      In America, liberals call it ‘white privilege.’ In Rwanda it was the Hutu’s (underclass) wiping out the Tutsi (upper class). India has their caste system. China has theirs and on and on.

      ‘Privilege’ is just a super clumsy stand-in for class.

  15. I can completely buy the argument that African-Americans (by that name I mean those who are predominantly descendants of former slaves, not recent African immigrants from Nigeria or Ghana) are “historically disadvantaged”, i.e. due to slavery and afterwards segregation and lack of civil rights and law-enforced racism, they are “behind” white Americans since their ancestor were forcefully disadvantaged by the majority, were poorer and restricted in their access to better paying jobs and education, and could thus not pass on as much wealth to their descendants.

    Let us look at the situation today: slavery has been outlawed for a century and a half. Full civil rights were achieved more than 50 years ago. Segregation has not only been ended in the vast majority of contexts, but also made illegal even when it’s “spontaneous” or “natural” in many cases (e.g. children being bussed across town just so schools would be racially mixed). Official, legal, government-sponsored racism is unthinkable. The general attitude of society on the racist file has been vastly improved (anyone who doesn’t realize this is, quite frankly, an idiot) and a black person today is vastly less likely to encounter racism as an impediment to their daily life then their parents’ or grandparents’ generation. This of course doesn’t mean that racism is gone – however it has become generally and completely unacceptable. Racist attitudes that were prevalent a generation or two ago can’t just disappear over a couple of decades, but they are on their way to disappearing.

    Having said that, the fact that the vast majority of things that were disadvantaging blacks in America have gone away does not erase their “baggage” and past consequences, some of which are still relevant today. There have been programs which have, essentially been a form of compensation for past disadvantage-ness: various forms of affirmative action, mandated diversity quotas, and the like. Now one say this has not been enough – which may be fair. One should also say that this cannot go on forever: should schools be mandated to accept a % of minorities in a 100 years time as well? I don’t think so.

    I’ve seen some stats lately, Nigerian-Americans and Ghanian-Americans (if I remember correctly) have a higher median income than white Americans (while black Americans as a whole are lower than whites). This is proof that the poverty of black Americans today (on average) is not caused by presently existing racism and white privilege (otherwise it would affect the recent African immigrants as well), but is a leftover from previous times – most of African-Americans’ problems stem from the fact that they are poor, and they are as a group poorer than average because of past discriminatory policies. Similarly, the fact that there are African-Americans amongst the richest people in America shows that high-performing (or just lucky, or both) black individuals are not held back by racism – today.

    So I’ve got an idea to float, which I’m sure is not original: compensation. Let us calculate and quantify in dollar terms the disadvantageness of African-Americans due to past discrimination. Then, the federal government should pay this out to everyone who is overwhelmingly a descendant of former black slaves. It’s not perfect compensation, but since time-travel is impossible, it’s the next best thing. Then end this discussion on white privilege and move on to more important things, like how to help poor people advance in life regardless of their skin colour.

    • Handing over money does not solve problems or most lottery winners would not be broke again within a few years.

      • Lup says

        Handing over money is totally justified and should happen. But yeah, that doesn’t address racism or problems inherent to capitalism.

        • Kurt says

          Re:Handing over money is totally justified and should happen

          There’s your checkbook. Don’t be stingy with the zeros.

      • Getting paid by the offending party who smashed your legs in a car crash does not get you walking again either, but that’s beside the point. Monetary compensation has been an acceptable way to ameliorate past wrongs for a very long time now. Of course that’s not the end of it – but it would greatly help unpoison the public debate about these issues.

        • Lup says

          I think compensation would poison the debate.

          While POCs have higher rates of poverty, there are still a lot of poor whites. Reparations for blacks, while deserved and necessary, would become another white grievance and fuel more racial violence.

          A better solution would transcend race and life everyone up.

  16. Lup says

    This website is hilarious with its white identity politics.

    Anyway, liberals would be wise to engage structural racism and wealth inequality by avoiding all this ‘white privilege’ stuff. Whenever they go that route (as the very existence of this author’s essay demonstrates), too many weirdos show up to shoot ink all over the actual problems worth addressing. Worth addressing, if you aren’t served by the status quo. (Maybe even ‘politically conservative’ philosophy students would agree that racism and inequality are things a society ought to address.)

    Whatever liberals think they’re accomplishing in their ‘white privilege’ crusade, they’re not. It’s counterproductive and alienates poor whites who suffer from structural inequality as well if not more. Of course, racism must be stamped-out from the system, but this should go with a broader fight for equality.

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