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Unpacking Peggy McIntosh’s Knapsack

[White Privilege is] the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

—Peggy McIntosh, quoted in the Racial Equity Resource Guide

The concept of ‘white privilege’ was popularized by Peggy McIntosh in a 1989 paper written at Harvard University and titled, “White Privilege: Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack.” It was written as a personal, experiential essay, and it details 26 ways in which McIntosh’s skin color has been decisive in determining her life outcomes. This hugely influential paper has been responsible for the subsequent proliferation of a rigidly enforced theory of privilege throughout social movements and university classrooms. So central has this doctrine become to progressive politics, pedagogy, and activism, that to even question its validity is to invite the inquisitorial wrath of ‘social justice’ radicals. But it is for this very reason that it is important to subject McIntosh’s ideas to scrutiny. So let us return to the source and to first principles and unpack Peggy McIntosh’s knapsack…

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Peggy McIntosh was born Elisabeth Vance Means in 1934. She grew up in Summit, New Jersey where the median income is quadruple the American national average—that is to say that half the incomes there are more than four times the national average, some of them substantially so. McIntosh’s father was Winthrop J. Means, the head of Bell Laboratories electronic switching department during the late 1950s. At that time, Bell Labs were the world leaders in the nascent digital computing revolution. Means personally held—and sold patents on—many very lucrative technologies, including early magnetic Gyro-compass equipment (U.S. Patent #US2615961A) which now helps to guide nuclear missiles and commercial jets, and which keeps satellites in place so you can navigate with your phone and communicate with your Uber driver. Means is also recorded as the inventor of a patent held by Nokia Bell in 1959 known as the Information Storage Arrangement. This device is the direct progenitor of ROM computer memory, and is cited in the latter’s patent filed in 1965 for IBM. So, long before Peggy McIntosh wrote her paper, her family was already having an outsized effect on Western culture.

Elizabeth Vance Means then attended Radcliffe, a renowned finishing school for the daughters of America’s patrician elites, and continued her private education at the University of London (ranked in the top 50 by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings), before completing her English Doctorate at Harvard. Her engagement to Dr. Kenneth McIntosh was announced in the New York Times‘s social register on the same page as the wedding of Chicago’s Mayor Daley. McIntosh’s father, Dr. Rustin McIntosh, was Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics at Columbia University. His mother was President Emeritus of Barnard College, an institution in the opulent Morningside Heights district of Manhattan, famous since 1889 for providing the daughters of the wealthiest Americans with liberal arts degrees. This was once the stomping ground of American cultural luminaries like F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cecil B. DeMille, and several Supreme Court Justices. Kenneth McIntosh was himself a graduate of the Phillips Exeter Academy, which boasted alumni including Daniel Webster, the sons of Presidents Lincoln and Grant, and a number of Rockefeller scions. He later completed his elite education at Harvard College and the Harvard Medical School. By the time of his marriage to Elizabeth, Kenneth McIntosh was a senior resident at the prestigious Brigham Hospital in Boston, founded by millionaire Peter Bent.

In other words, Peggy McIntosh was born into the very cream of America’s aristocratic elite, and has remained ensconced there ever since. Her ‘experiential’ list enumerating the ways in which she benefits from being born with white skin simply confuses racial privilege with the financial advantages she has always been fortunate enough to enjoy. Many of her points are demonstrably economic. One is left to wonder why, given her stated conviction that she has unfairly benefited from her skin color, there seems to be no record of her involvement in any charity or civil rights work. If she did take to the streets in support of some cause or other, she left no trace that I can see. Nor, as far as I can tell, has she spent any time teaching the underprivileged or working directly to better anyone’s condition but her own. Instead, she has contented herself with a generous six figure salary, and has not shown any particular eagerness to hand her position over to a more deserving person of color.

‘Vice’ headline, 2016

Very few of the people reading this article—whatever the color of their skin—will have even the vaguest idea of the comfort and privilege in which Peggy McIntosh grew up and to which she has since become accustomed. Nor will we have access to the world of opportunities that she has been fortunate enough to enjoy. But even though the lifetime of privilege McIntosh has experienced is almost certainly due to her wealth and not the colour of her skin, she nevertheless found a way to share this irksome burden with the illiterate children of Kentucky coal miners, the hopeless peasants of the Appalachians, poor single mothers struggling to make ends meet on welfare, and the vast majority of whites in the United States and throughout the world who never had the chance to attend Radcliffe or Harvard. She simply reclassified her manifest economic advantage as racial privilege and then dumped this newly discovered original sin onto every person who happens to share her skin color. Without, of course, actually redistributing any of the wealth that, by her own account, she had done nothing to deserve.

All of which means that pretty much anything you read about ‘white privilege’ is traceable to an ‘experiential’ essay written by a woman who benefitted from massive wealth, a panoply of aristocratic connections, and absolutely no self-awareness whatsoever. This alone calls into question the seriousness and scholarly validity of the derivative works, since they are all the fruit of a poisonous tree. But McIntosh’s hypothesis was eagerly embraced nonetheless, because it served a particular purpose—it helped to mainstream a bitter zero-sum politics of guilt and identity. This dark epistemology has quietly percolated through the universities and the wider culture for two decades now. It has had the effect of draining attention from a massive and growing wealth gap and it has pitted the poor against one another in public spectacles of acrimony and even violence. Even so, it was readily embraced by progressively-minded professors who might otherwise have had trouble squaring their thirst for social justice with their high six figure salaries. In the last decade, this dogma has come screaming out of the nation’s august halls of learning and into mainstream civil discourse (although to call most of what passes for discourse today ‘civil’ somewhat labours the definition). And, still, we are endlessly and forcefully reminded that to question this concept in any way is, in and of itself, racist.

The apostles of this ludicrous doctrine cherry-pick narrow snippets of history and count on the decline of classical education and the meretricious imprimatur of obscurantist pseudo-scientific jargon to ensure the doctrine is never carefully examined. The fact that progressives are so heavily over-represented within the humanities and social sciences naturally helps their cause a great deal. Universities now have exacting strategies in place to enforce doctrinal compliance should the reluctant require encouragement. In one Ontario middle school, class students were instructed to fill out a questionnaire and then physically line up in order of their ‘white privilege.’ Amazingly, not even physics now escapes the iron grip of this dogma. But to resist this nonsense is to bring the nine plagues of political correctness down upon one’s own head. A school board in British Columbia even thought it would be a good idea to greet its poor and working class white middle school students with this poster reminding them of the guilty burden they bear on account of their skin:

I grew up a very poor white kid. By which I mean, single-mother-on-welfare-in-Alberta poor. As a child, I remember feeling utterly hopeless about ever making any sort of life for myself. If I were at school in British Columbia today, I would now have to deal with seeing this admonition every morning as well. One wonders why Teresa Downs doesn’t simply step down from her $200,000 a year job and pass it to a person of colour since she acquired it unfairly. Is her public declaration of culpability supposed to be compensation enough? Presumably, like Peggy McIntosh, she has convinced herself that human well-being will be better served by shaming the children of people whose average annual income is around $23,000.

And all of this has created the societal conditions in which a spoiled racist like Sarah Jeong—another hyper-privileged Harvard graduate and member of a population group far more statistically favored by rates of wealth, education, and incarceration than whites—can send countless tweets denigrating white people, and then have the validity of those ugly sentiments defended by the self-appointed gatekeepers of the progressive consensus. Dozens of articles suddenly proliferated patiently explaining that we just don’t get it, that only whites can be racist, that only whites have privilege, and that anyone who disagrees is almost certainly a racist.

Identity politics have made organizing in social movements almost impossible, as division and suspicion are increasingly encouraged and groups splinter as a result. Every work and every action is now scrutinized for micro-aggressions and the “invisible package of unearned assets” benefitting anyone not deemed to be sufficiently ‘marginal.’ No one, it seems, is interested in questioning the wealth gap anymore. Those of us on the Left who still care about social justice are now expected to devote the limited resource of our attention bandwidth to the cultural appropriateness of cafeteria food. And, all the while, the emphasis on divisive racial categories and the arrogant dismissal of debate has handed the radical Right the best recruiting tool it has ever had.

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But then what do I—a person privileged by accidents of race and gender—know about ‘identity politics,’ that Peggy McIntosh does not? Well, I can share at least one lesson drawn from my own ‘lived experience.’ The year I turned 25, I was serving as a United Nations Peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia. My unit engaged the Croatian Army in what would come to be known as the Battle of Medak Pocket. Eventually, we halted the enemy’s advance and pushed them back.

Clearing a house after the fighting, we discovered the contorted and charred bodies of two young women tied to chairs. One was estimated to be in her early 30s, the other in her late teens. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police techs who processed the scene for the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague confirmed what we could tell just by looking at the corpses: the exaggerated arching of the backs, the screams of agony that still seemed ready to burst from what remained of their gaping mouths, the fingernails embedded in the wood of the chair arm—these two young women had still been alive when they were dowsed in gasoline and set alight. But then the tech added a detail that was not readily apparent. His tests appeared to confirm that they were almost certainly already dead when the Croatian Army rolled into town. That meant they had been burned alive by their neighbours. People they had lived beside and gone to school with.

The area that the Croatian army had briefly overrun had been mixed Croatian and Serbian farming villages. These people had lived together for half a century. They had intermarried, lived in the same streets, eaten the same food, and attended the same social events. But slowly, starting in the 1980s, political leaders and demagogues of various stripes had started using a politics of identity to solidify their social and political power. Each side’s citizens were repeatedly told by respected academic figures that they were being robbed, and that the ‘other’ was exploiting unearned ‘social privilege’ granted by their ethnic status. Children were taught this in school as received truth and ostracized if they dared to question it. Slowly, this curated resentment built into hatred. From there, events developed according to an inescapable logic. Sometimes, soldiers on one side of the ethnic conflict would ask us for news of a high school sweetheart or friend across the lines. But identity allegiance remained paramount. To those who respond with the fatuous claim that this was simply a ‘white-on-white issue,’ I will only note that, as I was fighting for my life in Eastern Europe, the same divisive hatreds were being broadcast across Rwanda by Télévision Libre des Mille Collines. Tribal hatreds are not a white or a black problem, they are a human problem.

Every time identity politics has been used by any faction in human history for any reason violence eventually follows. No matter how detailed and intricate the justification, no matter how reasonable it can be made to sound as a way to correct for unequal social conditions and historical injustice, it always ends in the same foul basement of mutual fear, loathing, and depravity. It is past time to consign this foul epistemology to the trashcan of self serving debasements and return our attention to the real causes of ‘privilege’; the growing disparities of wealth that divide us, whatever the color of our skin.


William Ray is a decorated former Canadian Peacekeeper now working as a Journalist, Documentary Film-maker, and very substandard handyman. He is active in advancing Press Freedom in Montréal. You can follow him on Twitter @billyray105


  1. Small quibble: A mixture of privilege and being the local majority- items like the local newspaper reflecting her race is a product of being a majority population, it has nothing to do with privilege.

  2. Peggy should have left her knapsack strapped down and locked. Identity politics is toxic.

  3. I’ve long suspected that, considering that progressives are disproportionately from a high socio-economic background, white privilege was a way for the children of the wealthy to assuage their guilt over their fortunate circumstances. This is the unvarnished proof.

  4. There is something in what you say. But what I’ve found, moving amongst the rich and privileged as I do, is that the progressives are usually themselves nouveaus and the wannabes or the children of nouveaus and wannabes.

  5. Fantastic article. It’s also great to have an article from someone outside the narrow confines of academia, and I say so as an academic myself.

    The point you make about Rwanda, however brief, is crucial. I think we should talk about it a great deal more, because if you ever needed proof that racism isn’t just white on black, there you have it.

  6. Her father produced inventions that have an incalculable value. I dare anyone to calculate how much is made from the technology he was the father of. Yet the author acts as if this was some grand conspiracy. He held and sold patents. Oh my God! A dastardly man! Pray tell how he got those patents. My guess is (I had two inventors in my family) is that he got a sliver of that value for his work. My first wife’s father, Maurice Olfman, sold a patent. It was a way of coding 36 different signals and decoding them on the other end. Unscrambling. The cable box. He got $1M and bought a home across the street from the San Diego zoo so he could visit his beloved Gibbons daily. My own uncle, Rudy Sonmor, born into poverty, invented, patented, and sold the technology used today to lift baggage on and off airplanes. He left $1M to each of his three children because he worked very hard. Those are personal fortunes but still a tiny sliver of the income that they generate or save those who use them every day. There is no aristocracy in America. 90% of inherited wealth is lost in 3 generations.

    One more thought about inventions. Consider the shovel, the wheel, and the wheelbarrow. Whoever made the first of these probably got wealthy from all the labor saved. But tote up the value in foot-pounds of pressure (the unit that measures work) and you have incalculable wealth. And human wealth too. How many died building St. Petersburg with stones in their shirts who could have lived with a shovel and a wheelbarrow? Now consider the tractor, the dump truck, and so on. Welath creation takes nothing from anyone and gives to all, including laborers.

    The gap between the richest and poorest is one of the things the left gets wrong and which the right borrows just to seem less shameful. But in any world where there is real freedom, the sky is the limit for creation, accomplishment, and wealth creation. Wealth creators are the riches people. Wealth is not accomplished by taking if from the poor. Real wealth, worldwide, grows all the time. That’s because freedom is a feeling that demands the best of each person to achieve their highest goals and aspirations. “To fulfill men’s basic needs” is a race to the bottom. To fulfill the highest aspirations subsumes that and that has been the history of humankind.

    The left, by maintaining the misunderstanding of wealth creation, plays into the hands of the postmodern neo-Marxist picture of the world. It merely shifts the focus from race to class, class to race, inheritance to… you get the picture. It’s a shell game.

    As long as the poor are free to advance and aren’t hungry, there is no meaningful wealth gap not stirred up by envy. Envy was what stirred the first human being to murder his brother. When I read articles like this, correct in their assumption that the academics are dead wrong, wrong in their understanding of why they are wrong, I despair that Spengler’s theory that Socialism will be the last idea of the West and that, no matter how hard one struggles against it, one will be a socialist in the end, either on the red or blue team. His two-volume tome was prophetic as national socialism battled international socialism a generation later.

    But liberalism won the day in the end and liberalism must be protected from socialism. There is not such thing as an aristocracy in a free market system.

    OK. Ready for the guffaws. Bring on the Marxist BS. I used to be one so I know all the tricks. Oh. Please save the appeals to authority. They might convince you but they won’t convince me. Talk common sense from your own mind and experience. And consider one thing. What is the greatest single source of capital? Hint: it’s free.

  7. I abso-bloody-lutely agree. I think it substituted the notion of “luck” in a less superstitious age.

  8. One wonders if Albino Africans (terribly abused) have heard of white privilege.

  9. The Marxists failed with Class War once many white people moved out of poverty in the late 20th century so they moved onto Race War. No matter where a man goes or how much money he gets, he can’t change his skin colour. Marxists all over the place say “gotcha!”

Continue the discussion in Quillette Circle


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  1. X. Citoyen says

    All I can say to this is thank you, Mr. Ray, for your ongoing service.

    • Pi79 says

      Not familiar with his previous work, but linking the identity politics to what has transpired in former Yugoslavia is incredibly important. Having been born in one of the most diverse places in former Yugoslavia (Sarajevo, Bosnia) I witnessed first-hand the genocidal outcome that identity politics leads to. Given that our instincts have not evolved much since the beginning of written history, by deemphasizing collective identity (Human, Yugoslav, American) and promoting tribalism and identity politics, we are creating frictions within the society that ultimately result in violence. With 4% unemployment and strong economic growth the bitter divisions in this country may continue to be isolated to cyberspace. However, if we ever experience serious economic downturn (due to technological dislocation of labor or other factors), many people will be amazed by how quickly these tribal divisions can result in violence that is spiraling out of control. I still distinctly remember in late 80’s how none of my relatives could ever phantom the war as even remote possibility. Most understood what a civil war in a multiethnic society would look like and simply could not envision anything like that happening in a civilized society. I still remember when first shots were fired, most thought that this was just a bad dream and that rational people would prevail. There was an eerie sense of disbelief at what was happening around us. I know its very hard for the American audience to relate to this, and I know many think that somehow Americans are better than this. Yet, divisions in this country today are worse than they were in former Yugoslavia and this is the scariest part for me. And what is really tragic, is that in these types of conflicts those with least amount of power tends to suffer the most disproportionately. So in effect, those who are promoting these types of identity based divisions are working against most disadvantaged, many of whom are minorities.

      • Melissa says

        It makes one wonder why then, do Democrats want the U.S. to become ever more “multi-ethnic” in the first place? Divide and conquer anyone?

      • Agree with you 100%
        I am from Belgrade, and it is uncanny how much some of the rhetoric of the “Right vs Left” divide in USA today resembles the rhetoric of the 90’s in former Yugoslavia. It is uncanny how unable and unwilling to learn from other’s experience with Communism and post-communism (not just in Yugoslavia) the current American left is. How ready they are to ignore similar narratives evolving in very culturally and politically different societies. The fact is that even the “tolerant” “virtuous” left of the USA thinks of Yugoslavia, China, Russia, Eastern Europe before 1989, etc as nothing more than at least political savages, if not underlyingly barbaric nations which have nothing to show, prove or gods-forbid *teach* people in the “exceptional” USA today, or ever. How blind they are to one of the most obvious “privilege” that the whole world except them sees clearly: the privilege of being a USA citizen.

      • Aren’t Russians and Poles and the like the richest and happiest people in the world because they truly get all that “white privilege” being nearly entirely white nations.

      • Daniel says

        Thanks for the comment. Very interesting and instructive. I’ve enjoyed the friendship and aquaintence of many people from what used to be Yugoslavia. They were all smart as whips. Your perspective is valuable and well-articulated to boot. Thanks!

  2. This article is riddled with logical fallacies. (1) Ad hominem. McIntosh’s personal history and family background is irrelevant to the truth or falsity of her claims about privilege. (2) The genetic fallacy. You can’t refute an idea by attacking its origins; it needs to be evaluated on its own merits. (3) False dichotomy. It’s possible to be concerned about racism *and* income inequality at the same time; the two issues aren’t mutually exclusive. (4) Slippery slope. It’s absurd to suggest that any attempt to address identity-based inequalities will inevitably result in Balkanized violence.

    A reasoned critique of McIntosh’s piece would have analyzed her examples of white privilege one by one, using social scientific evidence to determine whether the claims hold up to scrutiny. Unfortunately, the author seems to be uninterested in accuracy. Contrary to what he writes, progressives don’t argue that “only whites have privilege.” Wealthy people (like McIntosh) possess privileges as well, and a wealthy black person is almost certainly better off in most respects than an impoverished white person. I agree with the author’s underlying point: a fixation on identity has undermined the effectiveness of the progressive movement and obstructed the kind of coalition building which is necessary to achieve social change. However, Mark Lilla (among many others) has made this argument far more effectively, and without resorting to irrelevant personal attacks.

    • X. Citoyen says

      While I agree he could’ve parsed the piece, the rest is wrong. (1) McIntosh used her autobiography as an argument–ad hominem is therefore fair ball. (2) The right response to “My story is everyone’s story” is “No, it’s not.” No genetic fallacy. (3) McIntosh makes race into privilege, ignoring the more important variable, wealth. No false dichotomy. (4) Your slippery slope is a straw man. He didn’t claim that “any attempt to address identity-based inequalities” leads to violence. He said racial guilt of the type trafficked in by McIntosh does. And he’s right.

      • The anti-SJW ideology runs thick in the Quillette comment section! (1) No, she didn’t. Her own experience was a starting point for her reflections, but her claims are not dependent on her personal biography. (2) Yes genetic fallacy: you can’t refute the decades of writing about white privilege (some of which is based in fact, much of which is exaggerated or even fabricated) by criticizing the author who first popularized the term. (3) You evidently haven’t read her essay; she openly acknowledges other forms of privilege, including class-based bias. In fact, most of her previous work focused on male privilege. (4) “Every time identity politics has been used by any faction in human history for any reason violence eventually follows. No matter how detailed and intricate the justification, no matter how reasonable it can be made to sound as a way to correct for unequal social conditions and historical injustice, it always ends in the same foul basement of mutual fear, loathing, and depravity.” This is an absurd overstatement. What do the movements for Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, gay rights, worker’s rights, etc. all have in common? They opposed “unequal social conditions and historical injustice” on the basis of a shared identity. All things considered, I think they’ve made the U.S. into a more just and fair society, not into a “foul basement of mutual fear, loathing and depravity.”

        • beyondyesandno says

          If there’s one thing that can be said about the Quillette comments section it’s that most of the contributors are well aware of contemporary Social Science’s dependence on the garbage that is “Critical Theory”, its obscurantism, and its self-referentialism.

          “A reasoned critique… using social scientific evidence to determine whether the claims hold up to scrutiny” is a test most privilege and identity theory has never had to pass.

          • Agreed, but I think you’re overestimating the influence of Critical Theory in the social sciences. Most of the research conducted in psychology and sociology is empirical and quantitative, not quasi-Marxist and postmodern. However, area-specific disciplines like Ethnic, Women’s and Cultural Studies have definitely been infected by ideological nonsense.

        • Sad Observer says

          “What do the movements for Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, gay rights, worker’s rights, etc. all have in common? They opposed “unequal social conditions and historical injustice” on the basis of a shared identity.”

          This is a misrepresentation. These movements argued, justifiably, that laws needed to be changed to give them equal treatment. They specifically opposed the idea that they should be treated differently based on immutable characteristics. Identity Politics instead argues that special treatment is required for these groups to balance the scales for some historical acts done by people who are either discredited or deceased at this point. They argue that being equal under the law insufficient and they need additional preference and special protections. They are not equal until the are ‘more equal.’

          Please avoid conflating actual egalitarian efforts with not so subtle attempts to justify demands for positive discrimination.

          • Martin28 says

            @KAD Empirical and quantitative does not mean fair or unbiased. I’m glad you acknowledge the bias in the gender, ethnic, and cultural studies, but I think you greatly underestimate the bias in humanities in general. When you are only looking for one thing, and it is only professionally acceptable to look for one thing—white and male bigotry—that is all you will find, period. The humanities are so overwhelmingly leftist that the social pressure to support leftist politics and especially not question leftist dogma in research becomes stronger and stronger, and that is what we have seen over the last two decades—a gradual dialing up of pressure to conform.

          • Daniel says

            Immutable? Sadly, not for long, thanks to the self-identifying movement.

        • Apollo says

          @KAD: Thank you for taking the time to write these comments. The decline of Quillette from borderline science journalism to borderline tribalism has been depressing, especially as it has involved increasingly indulging in the same poor epistemic standards it accuses others of abusing.

          • Associate Professor says

            Quillette’s always been a right-wing publication pushing “scientific” evidence for black people’s cognitive inferiority (among other things). The genuinely interesting and thoughtful stuff is really just filler.

        • One wonders what the end-game for this “white privilege” stuff is. Certainly the rhetoric is nasty and dehumanizing and because there’s no reason to expect that different races would have the same outcomes along all dimensions, there’s really no way to “solve” the disparities except by violent means.

        • Northern Observer says

          “What do the movements for Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, gay rights, worker’s rights, etc. all have in common”
          This is a common progressive misunderstanding of recent history. All these movements may have been for the benefit of a specific identity, but the rhetoric they employed was always universal and inclusive. It was about making the rights we all share available to all. It was not the organization of a specific identity with the purpose of seceding from the majority culture and seizing power for their new sovereignty. Or at least, while these movements stayed liberal and universal they succeeded. These movements all failed when they embraced their Marxist elements who were interested in secession and revolutionary autonomy from the rest of the social order.
          This is the ongoing story of the activist movements in the west. The struggle to remain liberal and effective rather than Marxist and pointless. The foul debasement of mutual fear loathing and depravity is part and parcel of revolutionary ethics.

          As for McIntosh’s background versus her ideas, sure, take the arguments on their merits, but my God man, her environment sure sings don’t it.

        • It was a directly experiential essay. She didn’t speak to others it is “If I” experience If the foundational argument of any theory is flawed fundamentally it calls into question all derivative work, especially since its all so directly derivative. Kinda did read the article , what an odd presumption. If you actually knew history instead of dogma you would know that all the movements you mention became truly successful when they transcended limited identities and gained popular whole of society support.

        • X. Citoyen says


          I didn’t read it, eh? I wonder whether you and her other defenders here have read it. Here’s the link so you can all get on the right page:

          (1) You say her experience “was a starting point for her reflections, but her claims are not dependent on her personal biography.” Here’s what Peggy McIntosh herself says on in the original 1988 paper cited above: “This paper is a partial record of my personal observations and not a scholarly analysis. It is based on my daily experiences within my particular circumstances” (p. 2). Can you get any more avowedly personal than “based on my daily experiences within my particular circumstances”? Her claims, in her own words, are completely dependent on her personal biography.

          (Side note. The genetic fallacy is an ad hominem, and there are two kinds of ad hominem, the personal attack and ex concessis, meaning argument from the opponent’s admissions or premises. Ray’s argument was, in the main, from McIntosh’s own admissions. The fact that these were personal is McIntosh’s fault; she based her argument on her own experience.)

          (2) Straw man, again. Ray didn’t claim to “refute decades of writing on white privilege.” He argued that her claim had become a social justice doctrine. Is this false? I think it’s demonstrably true. You just claimed that there are “decades of writing” on it.

          I note that you’ve offered nothing to support your claim that “some…is based on fact.” Why not? Would not Ray’s claims be easily refuted by citing some of this decades’ worth of fact-finding showing how, say, son-of-a-single-mother-on-welfare Ray has benefited from his whiteness while the Asian daughter of a rich Hong Kong businessman with dual-citizenship in Canada has been forced to sit at the back of the bus because of the intersectional double-strike against her? Or maybe you could just explain what’s so privileged about being on welfare.

          (3) That “she openly acknowledges” other group-based privileges does not qualify her claim that all white people have and benefit from white privilege. In her words: “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” (p. 2). It does not matter how many other “interlocking oppressions” (her words) you add because she gives whiteness causal independence. And that’s the substance of Ray’s polemic: His single mother on welfare did not give him an invisible knapsack full of “blank checks.”

          If you’d read McIntosh’s piece carefully you might have raised the objection that she says her list of privileges is “not generalizable.” Before you waste time going there, it’s true but irrelevant because she nullifies that qualification by attributing her list of privileges to being white (not to being her and not to being rich), and white is generalizable because it’s the cause of her personal outcome. That makes the just-my-experience qualification rhetorical—the sort of thing you pretend to conceded to stave off the obvious objection that personal experience is anecdotal.

          (4) You’re getting into the absolutized histories of progressivist movements. I see no point when the ex concessis is right in front of us. If you and your fellow travelers concede that othering is the cause of all evil that is not caused by capitalism, then you have to concede that identity-based politics must end in a “foul basement of mutual fear, loathing, and depravity.” Hasn’t white privilege caused “fear, loathing, and depravity”? By your own lights, then, how else could identity politics end?

        • With all due respect, this gay semi-disabled WOC who majored in social studies & minored in women’s studies, calls bullshit on your assertion that violence doesn’t follow identity politics.

          Living in Portland, OR the capital of US cultural Marxism has given me a front row to seeing the ideologies I swallowed in public school/college come back to bite me in the ass. Two white women couldn’t even open a burrito cart here because of “cultural appropriation.” Kad, I spent too many years angry and indignant, because school told me repeatedly that I was disadvantaged or underprivileged or downtrodden…by whites. Picture that Kad, a brown poor kid being told over and over by middle class/upper middle whites how sad your life is for simply being born. If you think that doesn’t lead to a sinking feeling that induces a kind of violence, then you’ve willfully got your eyes covered and fingers in your ears.

          Eventually the simmer becomes a boil when a minority told how disadvantaged they are experiences an event that confirms the bias school has taught them to have regarding whites or the affluent or men or heterosexuals or ‘cisgenders’ or whatever. A white guy is having a bad day and doesn’t open the door for you – suddenly becomes a sign of his “unconscious superiority” and boom, you can confirm your victim status. Kad this in no way to live, for searching constantly for grievance leads to toxic levels of unhappiness and less care of what is rudimentary for living healthfully and happily.

          Recently a white friend said “what we need is an angry black woman in office.” How funny, a white liberal well meaning “ally” wants to see a black woman ruin her health with anger so she’ll give him the government he wants? Anyone else see the irony here? Identity politics doesn’t just lead to people getting fired for telling a black woman their bakery was closed…because it does – it leads to an internalized violence where self-care and life fulfillment takes a backseat to the cause. I lived that way for too long and paid with my strength & sanity. When I finally came to understand all of us are hypocrites, jerks, biased, and infallible – regardless of religion, ideology, politics, race, gender, etc. I became a happier person. While college doesn’t teach forgiveness, compassion, open reasoned debate, or looking into the eyes of our supposed enemies; these elements really are the way to create greater justice & community.

          • Tell these guys:

            DPD Senior Cpl. Lorne Ahrens, age 48, who had been with the department since 2002.[8][48][49]
            DPD Officer Michael Krol, 40, who had been with the department since 2007.[8][48][50]
            DPD Sgt. Michael Smith, 55, a former Army Ranger[51] who had been with the department since 1989.[8][52][53]
            DART Officer Brent Thompson, 43, a former Marine[54] who had been with the department since 2009. Thompson was the first DART officer to be killed in the line of duty since the department’s inception in 1989.[8][55]
            DPD Officer Patricio “Patrick” Zamarripa,[56] 32, a former Navy sailor[54] and Iraq War veteran who had been with the department since 2011.[8][57]

            Oh, wait, they are all dead.

          • You’ve covered a lot of ground in your life. Best wishes to you.

            White working class men have been dying in such numbers that they brought down America’s life expectancy rates. Angus Deaton termed them “deaths of despair.” Meanwhile the media / culture agonizes over white privilege and gender ID. If trouble comes, these will be the guys in the streets.

            We’re playing with fire.

          • Roothog Ordie says

            Mrs. Q, I read your story with interest. Can it be that you are Patient X, the first casualty of critical intersectional theory to recover from the infection and survive with faculties intact? Maybe there is hope for my own (POC) offspring, who attended elite American universities and were made guinea pigs of this hateful, soul-destroying ideology — and who as a result are now joyless, paranoid, and fearful — in terms of emotion, shadows of their former selves. When they are railing against the oppressive white man, I can hardly recognize my own children now. All the best to you, may you enjoy to the fullest your future as a free person.

        • Uh Skippy, most, if not all, the examples you bring up were aimed at doing away with identity politics. For example I remember some guy sayin’: “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

        • Alex Russell says

          re: What do the movements for Civil Rights, Women’s Suffrage, gay rights, worker’s rights, etc. all have in common?

          In my opinion, what these movements had in common was working to stop dividing people into groups which were discriminated against, and have these groups join the rest of society as equals. It was seeing that we are all people that should be treated the same before the law that quenched these injustices.

          Trying to divide people into finer and finer groups is counter productive as history has taught us over and over.

          RE:white privilege
          It is absurd to think that poor, uneducated white people are in any way, shape or form, more privileged than wealthy, educated, people of other shades.

      • The fallacy is acting as though wealth and race are either/or: “it’s not about race; it’s about wealth.” But what was her wealth built on? Her father’s ingenuity and business position–well deserved and honestly earned. We should take nothing away from his accomplishments. But do we really believe that gifted and driven African American men and women of that generation had just as much opportunity as he did? Would the Bell Labs of his day have allowed a black man to do what he did? Maybe yes, maybe no. But it’s worth investigating–and I have a feeling one would come away affirming that white people in America have had advantages that people of different races have not had (different advantages at different socioeconomic levels, but always a step above)–and that, in many places, the legacy of that advantage continues to have an effect.

        • …however, I absolutely agree that when any of this is used to value or prioritize one group over another, however one defines that group, the end result is misery. Learning about privilege, discrimination, and historical barriers to opportunity should help us take action to bring us together, not pitch us against each other in resentment.

    • @ KAD

      Personally I think there is very little substance to “white privilege”. But this is a bad case of Appeal to Hypocrisy:

      “One is left to wonder why, given her stated conviction that she has unfairly benefited from her skin color, there seems to be no record of her involvement in any charity or civil rights work.”

      Actually a quick google check revealed otherwise.

      – –

      “But even though the lifetime of privilege McIntosh has experienced is almost certainly due to her wealth and not the colour of her skin”

      Almost? A little hazy to, perhaps to bypass the fact that McIntosh was born pre-Civil Rights.

      • Martin28 says

        @Reading Nomad.
        “Almost? A little hazy to, perhaps to bypass the fact that McIntosh was born pre-Civil Rights.”
        Most of us were born in very privileged times. But in 1934, most Americans were not privileged. They were desperately poor, with little social safety net, in a way that few of us on this message board can understand. Wealthy or even middle-class people were privileged at that time. It sounds like McIntosh was wealthy. I think this is a fair comment, but it is arguable.

      • Martin28 says

        @Reading Nomad
        “One is left to wonder why, given her stated conviction that she has unfairly benefited from her skin color, there seems to be no record of her involvement in any charity or civil rights work.”
        Actually a quick google check revealed otherwise.

        She started the National SEED Project on Inclusive Curriculum, but that sounds like an extension of her ideological work.

          • Why would i its a heavily funded group that mainly pushes her dogma. She is still handsomely paid to speak at their events. So i maintain my assertion @ReadingNomad

          • @ William Ray

            Because else it is dishonest or at least appears to be. And it seems to do a little more than that.

            And if you really are the author… the appeal to hypocrisy and the sanctimonious use of your army career is a bit much and irrelevant.

          • My assertion was that she did no charity work or actual work toward civil rights. I used an example of Identity Politics that I watched first hand. Hardly irrelevant. “Appeal to hypocrisy” Meaning?

          • “Her charity work or lack of it is completely irrelevant. And we can go around the houses as many times as you like, it is still irrelevant.”

            Not at all. The character of a moralist is of utmost importance. This woman wasn’t talking about abstract science, but preaching, pointing the finger really.
            A moralist who fails to behave according to her own moral principles is a hypocrite.

          • @ Yneb

            She is NOT a moralist. If pointing the finger makes one a moralist then that is pretty much everyone.

            “A moralist who fails to behave according to her own moral principles is a hypocrite.”

            This might come as a major shock to you… BE WARNED!

            It doesn’t matter if someone is a hypocrite. It has little to no bearing on the truth value of their arguments.

          • @ReadingNomad

            Of course she is a moralist, in the worst meaning of the word. She’s instilling guilt into people’s hearts. Playing with guilt is an old religion’s trick.

            Anyone is entitled to be a hypocrite, and indeed we sometimes are in our private lives. However, MacIntosh was making moral judgments, pointing fingers and accusing an entire race. The least she could do was to act according to her own preaching before accusing others of undeserved privilege.

          • @ yneb

            You giver her far too much credit to declare her a moralist. She isn’t that.

            “Anyone is entitled to be a hypocrite, and indeed we sometimes are in our private lives.”

            You missed the point!

            “The least she could do was to act according to her own preaching before accusing others of undeserved privilege.”

            Whatever else she is or isn’t – two things she isn’t:

            1. Moralist
            2. Hypocrite.

          • Well Reading Nomad Now being Canadian I do own a tuque but I don’t own a tu quoque. Again the fact that her basic assertions are made in the form of directly, first person, experiential article means that her argument is in itself tied to her past actions. “This paper is a partial record of my personal observations and not a scholarly analysis. It is based on my daily experiences within my particular circumstances” (p. 2).” So as to my anecdotal evidence fallacy. If you mean “used a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence.” by that…well I’m not going to waste my time explaining the Irony there. If you meant something else please explain.

    • Glitter Afresh says

      And this, too. This web site is not interested in reason. It’s reactionary.

      • David Norman says

        A most peculiar comment. I think what you must mean is that the reasoning on this website is at odds with your own reasoning and that of the sources you consider to be ‘interested in reason’. That is, I suggest, the whole point of the website.

      • Alistair says

        Projecting much, Glitter?

        Do you find it painful that the social science data wrecks your narrative? Does it hurt that people point out your affirming-the-consequent fallacies? Do you wince when we use big statistical terms like “regression” and “coefficient” which you don’t understand? Are you….triggered…. when people point out your theory of privilege is unfalsifiable and unscientific?

        Yeah. Sure. We’re all “reactionary”.

      • Why didn’t you provide your reasonable counter arguments rather than just insult it without any contrary evidence to support your insult?

      • TarsTarkas says

        If you think this site is ‘reactionary’ I’d hate to see your reaction when you read the commentary on really ‘reactionary’ sites like:

        And no I’m not being sarcastic with my links. The word ‘reactionary’ refers to the backlash that results from introduction of ideas that are not in lockstep with the preferred narrative/ideology etc. Post something on a comments page on one of these sites that disagrees with the article’s premise or goes against the grain of the trend of the commentary and see how fast you get flamed. You may think Quillette is much too conservative for your liking, but I very much doubt that those posting here will call you and everyone you care about unprintable names, physically threaten you and your employment, chase you around the internet, doxx you, etc. Reactionaries are intolerant. This site is tolerant.

    • Fallacy robot BEEP BOOP deploy list of fallacies against those who insult reddit BEEP BOOP says

      Her personal history and family background does matter, if it colors her theory. Anyone that has done any philosophy of science or phenomenology knows that interpretation of facts are theory-laden or tinged with their own subjective lived structures of consciousness. So yes, her personal history, family background, and its origins of the theory matter, if you want an account of where her theory went wrong. Given that left wing ideas from the social sciences are regularly used to socially engineer the populace (with leftists always ignoring or explaining away the bad social consequences of their policies), we should treat such ideas as engineering. While engineering is underpinned by the sciences, when a catastrophe occurs — as in the case of contemporary left wing identity politics — we should treat it as disaster management, i.e. root cause analysis of the individuals, ideas, components, and processes that led to the catastrophe. The criticism here is one between the category of causal relationship (bad applied social science), not logical relationship (bad arguments), so it’s a category mistake to bring specific tools of informal logic, i.e. fallacies, on something that is trying to do a genealogy of disaster. Additionally, the empirical tools you want to use to assess the causal relationships are from the very accident-prone system at question (that again, is already theory-laden), which is like pouring oil on fire.

      • At the root, Ray seems to be arguing that white privilege doesn’t exist because a popularizer of the idea is wealthy and privileged. It’s a bad argument, and it’s not a category mistake to point that out.

        • Fallacy robot BEEP BOOP deploy list of fallacies against those who insult reddit BEEP BOOP says

          >At the root, Ray seems to be arguing that white privilege doesn’t exist because a popularizer of the idea is wealthy and privileged. It’s a bad argument, and it’s not a category mistake to point that out.

          No. It is a category mistake, because you are assessing and evaluating something that is in the entirely wrong category. He makes no so such claim that there is a logical relationship (hence not an argument, hence not to be evaluated by barking fallacies at it like a trained prog-dog), he is pointing out an explanatory structure in terms of a chain of causality embedded in a social mechanism (and again, it’s not a chain of causality that can be assessed by SCIENCE! since the theory-laden progressive ideology of the social sciences is the very thing that is at issue. Telling you didn’t pick up that in response, bet it’s because you are in deep water here).

          It’s hilarious to me that you make the claim elsewhere to be a philosophy instructor in critical thinking when you can’t tell the difference between an argument and an explanation, which is something that is done in most informal logic textbooks in the first two or three chapters. Moreover, any serious philosophy instructor worth their salt in informal logic would not confront an argument by proceeding to regurgitate fallacies at it in sophomoric manner. They’d identify whether it is an argument or not, they’d briefly outline the key conclusion and sub-arguments, then they’d proceed to critique the premises and the connection to the conclusion with actual counter-arguments. You’ve done none of these things. You completely fumbled the first bit (because its an explanation, not an argument, so the evaluative tools will be different), and your counter-arguments aren’t even arguments. Naming something as a fallacy, and saying “you’ve committed fallacy x” is not an argument for the person committing the fallacy. You need to do the work as to how this is actually done by explicating why the alleged claims have the property of fallaciousness, which you haven’t done to a level that a competent instructor might do in (1) to (3) (as pointed out by some other commentators here). For example, the claims about slippery slopes and an “absurdity” in (4). What’s the absurdity? Surely as an alleged philosophy instructor you can draw out the reduction to an absurdity here in an explicit manner. Why are you, KAD, making claims to authority and expertise here when you suck at it?

          Here’s an ad hominem for you: you honestly sound like a smug prog bullshit artist from reddit who memorized a list of fallacies.

    • Sorry, ad hominem means attacking the man. The piece does not say McIntosh is a privileged white cisgendered spoiled brat (or that she is reciting a “white nationalist talking point”) so ignore what she says.

      If I tell you that I got lung cancer from eating butter, and you point out that my lung cancer might be better attributed to the 5 packs of cigarettes I chain smoke every day, that is not “ad hominem” based on some kind of prejudice against smokers. McIntosh is making a claim about the CAUSATION of certain benefits to her in her life. The author is positing an alternative source about the CAUSATION of benefits.

      Second of all, McIntosh’s “experiential” essay is nothing more than a product testimonial. There is little to attack, because her piece is no different from a testimonial you might read about a diet supplement. Relying on personal testimony in support of claims is simply quackery, whether you are selling Yohimbe supplements or white privilege.

      SJW’s would be more persuasive if they took a course on logic and actually learned what the words meant that they throw around. Invalidly accusing someone of a logical fallacy they didn’t commit, and then regurgitating what you learned in your Maoist re-education course is preaching to the choir brother. You guys sound dumber than the average Jehovah’s Witness missionaries.

      • Martin28 says

        Sorry, a personal attack on McIntosh was not his main point. He was attacking the quality of her theory, which is garbage and begs a lot of questions. Most of what she was calling White Privilege was in fact economic and class privilege of which she was the beneficiary. Ideologues then took what she said and ran with it, uncritically. The subsequent research was mostly circular reasoning aimed at proving what they wanted to believe, based on the doctrine that only whites can be racist and only whites have privilege.

        • NO serious scholar argues that only whites have privilege, including McIntosh! Like most of the other commenters on this site, you apparently haven’t read her original article (let alone other other academic work). She openly acknowledges that different kinds of privileges exist, including male privilege and class-based privilege, and they interact with each other in complicated ways. Of course, it’s much easier to sneer at a caricature than to actually engage with the substance of an argument.

          • Martin28 says

            Oh, sure. There’s also MALE privilege. While male privilege is at the top of the pyramid. Your theory supports a blinkered view of the world that is bolstered by the theory that only whites can be racist, as shown in the tweet in the article. That IS a theory that so-called serious scholars believe. Combine that with white privilege, and white fragility, and intersectionality and it supports academic papers and research and teachings that are biased and ideological to the core. White privilege and fragility are DESIGNED to shut down debate. Check your privilege. In other words, shut up. And if you don’t shut up, you are fragile. And don’t even think about racism in other races. That goes against the narrative and proves you are a bigot. C’mon KAD. You can’t see the ideological blinders that the leftist—and it is almost all leftist—academy has put on themselves with concepts like white privilege, only whites can be racist, white fragility, etcetera?

      • Not that it’s relevant to the quality of my argument, which should be evaluated on its own merits, but since you brought it up (another ad hominem, by the way), I’m a philosophy instructor who teaches classes on critical thinking. I can assure you that my classes do not involve “Maoist re-education”; I encourage my students to think critically and arrive at their own conclusions.

        You’re making the same mistake that Ray and many of the commenters have made, assuming that you’ve invalidated the concept of white privilege if you criticize an article by one of its popularizers. That’s not how reasoning works. Like I wrote in my original post, if you were actually interested in demonstrating that white privilege doesn’t exist instead of just fulminating against SJWs, you would examine McIntosh’s claims on a case by case basis. For example, consider the 24th item on her list: “I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.” There’s a voluminous amount of social scientific literature about racial bias in health care, and if you’re more concerned with what’s true than with scoring points against your ideological enemies I would recommend you review it. The same applies to all of her other claims, some of which are more plausible and consequential than others.

        • Dear KAD:

          I haven’t made a mistake at all. I didn’t reject the concept of “white privilege”, I rejected your mis-characterization of the author’s argument.

          Pointing out your erroneous attribution of a fallacy to the argument is not ad hominem, any more than if I pointed you made a calculation error.

          Now, if I said “SJW’s always lie” and “KAD is an SJW” ergo “KAD lies”–that would be straight up ad hominem.

          Of course, assuming “white” privilege exists, then it is perfectly possible that “white” privilege could coexist with other forms of privilege, just like if we assume if God exists, he could act alongside other agents in creation.

          However, if I say God exists, and the proof is the Empire State Building, it would not be ad hominem to point out that the Empire State Building was built by a number of people, not God. My pointing out that God could work with and through those people, while technically correct, has no persuasive value to those who haven’t supped on the “woke” kool-aid.

          The problem is many people believe “white privilege” is a bullshit ideological construct, and its defenders, rather than cite evidence (or consider alternative explanations of the “evidence” when it is cited), call skeptics “racists” or whatever. . . which is exactly how people behave when they are selling bullshit ideological constructs.

          Maybe “white privilege” really is a thing–lets see the case. W.E.B. Du Bois came up with the concept originally–but back in a historical period where you had Jim Crow, restrictions on voting rights, lynchings, active KKK intimidation. Hell yeah, there was “white privilege” in Mr. Du Bois’s time. But 1970’s Affirmative Action America? Or in the Post-Obama period?

          No one in Germany pretends that they are still living in Berlin in 1939, why are Americans forced to pretend we are still living in Alabama in 1955?

          • @KD

            “No one in Germany pretends that they are still living in Berlin in 1939, why are Americans forced to pretend we are still living in Alabama in 1955?”

            This, times 10^99. Thank you for the succinct point.

            We are indeed living in 2018, and if we’re not careful, analyzing human beings based on ANY fallacious concept like “white privilege” is dangerous. Not to mention it’s rather childish, sophomoric, or whatever terms that means the same.

            Each human being has their own merits and their own downfalls, and sweeping them up and putting them in a box to be analyzed is what leads to “Berlin 1939” or “Alabama 1955.”

            And thankfully, the horrible groups of humans (like Nazis, or KKK) have and will always out themselves in a free society.

            But nobody “wins” in those scenarios, not even those horrible groups with their twisted ideologies. Only unnecessary death, more violence, and disjointed thinking result.

            We have to do better than ideas like “white privilege” if we want a just society. This article made its points very clear, nicely done.

        • In the US outcomes are determined by wealth in Health care. Im Canadian so your stats don’t work. Almost all of the work on this subject are DIRECTLY derivative. I don’t want to score points BTW I want to destroy the ideology for good and highlight the moral turpitude and intellectual bankruptcy. Im actual Left as fuck , like standing toe to toe with riot cops, freeing Journalists Left so there’s that

    • Timus says

      @ KAD: Thanks for your reasonable comment. The article, as well as its presentation on Twitter, is rather questionable. There are indeed excesses around the concept of ‘white privilege’ which need to be thoroughly criticised. But this article is not helping, rather the opposite. For quite a while now I’ve been on the verge of stopping my financial support for Quillette (quality is in severe decline, nunace is lacking more an more, and the comment section …). I guess it’s time now.

    • Martin28 says

      @ Associate Professor
      How sad to see a political attack, referring in general to “right-wing publication.” You don’t even make a point that references the article or discussion. You are not an intellectual, despite your profession.

      • Associate Professor says

        @ Martin28
        It’s funny how right-wingers see a simple description as an attack…

        • Martin28 says

          Right winger? That’s hilarious. You are literally the first person in my life who has described me that way. Something is happening dude, and you don’t know what it is, do you, professor?

    • Daniel says

      #KAD, I gotta say, I’m with #X. Citoyen,
      1) Ad hominem is indeed a fallacy we need to avoid, but all of McIntosh’s “evidence” is anecdotal. Pointing out that her background and “privilege” make her claims hypocritical is totally appropriate.
      2) Ray didn’t just use the genetic fallacy. He refuted the idea again and again based on its merits. And he also gave the background of how it all started. Background isn’t everything, but it’s an important piece of the whole picture.
      3) I find this point of yours to be the best, but Ray’s point wasn’t that the two issues are mutually exclusive, it was that McIntosh’s examples of privilege were all due to her wealth.
      4) Slippery slopes are real. Granted, people who use the slippery slope argument to say that we’re one election away from being like Venezuela are exaggerating or delusional. People who think a Rawandan (or Yugoslavian) genocide are imminent are as well. But this slope could have us slip into something we definitely don’t like.

      • How did he refute the idea of white privilege “on its merits”? McIntosh makes a lot of specific claims in her article; Ray didn’t seriously engage with any of them. Instead, he seems fixated on her personal background and her apparent hypocrisy, both of which are completely irrelevant. Obviously McIntosh doesn’t include evidence to support her claims in her piece, because it’s a brief, self-reflective essay rather than a book-length dissertation. However, you can’t therefore conclude that such evidence doesn’t exist! There’s been a HUGE amount of academic work done on racial bias in American society. Although some of the studies are more plausible and persuasive than others, it’s disingenuous and ideological to simply dismiss it all with a wave of your hand.

        • Martin28 says

          “There’s been a HUGE amount of academic work done on racial bias in American society.”
          And it has nearly all been done with the purpose of finding white racism. It typically ignores all other potential explanations. Honest studies on racism that are balanced, look at all possible explanations in an evenhanded way, consider and measure all possible biases, are few and far between.

      • @ Daniel

        “Pointing out that her background and “privilege” make her claims hypocritical is totally appropriate.”

        Nope. He told a small lie about her – that he cannot find if she has done any charity work. More importantly – Appeal to Hypocrisy is a fallacy and it is beside the point. She can be a hypocrite, yet that does not necessarily invalidate her point. That is you cannot use appeal to hypocrisy alone as a counter-argument.

        • Daniel says

          Reading Nomad,
          I saw your comment about charity work. I couldn’t find any. I’m sure you’re right, but what work did she do?
          We don’t know what Ray found or didn’t find. Perhaps he didn’t do his due diligence, which is fine as a criticism, but we should hold off on using the word “lie.”

          On the subject of the appeal to Hypocrisy, I’m glad you brought it up, and that’s a good point. You absolutely cannot use it alone as a counter-argument. Wouldn’t the rest of his article be the other counter-arguments, though?

          Also, because we’re all human beings, we’re all persuaded by things other than logical arguments and facts. A person’s credibility is a very real asset. It matters. I agree wholeheartedly that the criticism of hypocrisy has nothing to do with the facts of the case, but by golly, it has everything to do with McIntosh’s credibility. Ghandi is a much more credible source on building a peaceful society than Robert Mugabe, for instance.

          But the point is that Ray is doing what a persuasive writer should: marshalling evidence and arguments — which include arguments about the reliability and character of McIntosh.

          • @ William Ray

            You kind of did. It was a major omission.

            “I didnt lie madame” No need to be so fucking rude either.

    • David D Dennis says

      Let’s take a stab at this.

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

      This is true of any racial group I know of, as long as it’s above a certain minimum size.

      2 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.

      Not true for me as a middle class white male in Miami. Housing in appealing areas is prohibitively expensive. I regret to say that I cannot afford my favorite example of affordable housing in our city, a $12,900,000 Miami Beach house on the water.

      A $2,000 a month rent will provide a house in a neighborhood that was safe, but never really felt that way.

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

      How do I define neutral or pleasant? I suspect this is in fact so if you define neutral or pleasant in the way the underlying culture does.

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

      That’s unattractive middle aged person privilege. If you are attractive and female, of any race, I don’t think there’s any way to avoid harassment of sorts, in any place.

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

      I would say that today that is true of all races.

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

      Our educational system has made fixing this their primary purpose in life.

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

      Same as 6.

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

      But that’s because of your connection and influence, not because you are white. That nice Coates fellow who publishes White-hating screeds can find a publisher, too.

      8 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 that fit with my cultural traditions, into a hairdresser’s shop and find someone who can cut my hair.

      I’m pretty sure a black or hispanic person can say the same thing. Peggy MacIntosh just doesn’t go to those neighborhoods or explore those places.

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

      This only matters in terms of checks, which are almost never used. If you get the PIN right, you can use your card in the same way no matter where you come from. In terms of cash, my cash is scrutinized just as carefully as anyone else’s.

      10 I can arrange to protect my children most of the time from people who might not like them.

      Wow is this person sheltered. There were plenty of people in my school who hated me, probably because of my athletics hating anti-privilege.

      11 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.

      I dunno, swearing is pretty much universal nowadays. Otherwise I’m not sure how true this is, if at all.

      12 I can speak in public to a powerful male group without putting my race on trial.

      Well, nowadays they will all say I’m asserting my white privilege. But in all honesty I don’t think this one, or the next two, is really a big deal.

      13 I can do well in a challenging situation without being called a credit to my race.
      14 I am never asked to speak for all the people of my racial group.

      15 I can remain oblivious of the language and customs of persons of color who constitute the world’s majority without feeling in my culture any penalty for such oblivion.

      I’m pretty sure the same thing is true of members of any other racial group. Blacks that I know of are pretty ignorant of white culture, and I don’t see any particular reason why they shouldn’t be.

      16 I can criticize our government and talk about how much I fear its policies and behavior without being seen as a cultural outsider.

      17 I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

      Definitely not true anymore.

      18 If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

      I would expect that because of my income I would be much more likely to be audited than poorer people.

      She’s right about traffic cops and police in general, however. But crime is committed by blacks and hispanics at a much higher level than whites, so it seems reasonable that they would be pulled over more often.

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

      Of course you can! Of any race.

      20 I can go home from most meetings of organizations I belong to feeling somewhat tied in, rather than isolated, out-of-place, outnumbered, unheard, held at a distance, or feared.

      Depends on the organization. By all means select the organizations you are comfortable with. I have been a white photographer taking pictures of overwhelmingly black events, and I have never felt less than welcome.

      21 I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race.

      That’s the fault of affirmative action, no?

      22 I can choose public accommodations without fearing that people of my race cannot get in or will be mistreated in the places I have chosen.

      I’m not sure if there is any truth to this anymore. But I will note that blacks generally voluntarily choose organizations that are controlled by their tribe. As do whites.

      23 I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

      Why would it? If you have enough money to pay a good lawyer, they will work for you.

      24 If my day, week, or year is going badly, I need not ask of each negative episode or situation whether it has racial overtones.

      Not sure about this one.

      25 I can choose blemish cover or bandages in “flesh” color and have them more less match my skin.

      That seems almost impossibly trivial. Bandages of any skin tone do not hide wounds successfully. I also think there are now bandages for different skin colors but I’m not sure how they work.

      Okay. This took me about half an hour and I’m sure there’s plenty more than can be written. My dominant feeling, though, is that Peggy McIntosh looks at the world with smug ignorance, and wouldn’t know another culture if it hit it in the head. Here in Miami, if you want to see totally different cultures, you can see ten different ones in a single city block. How impoverished her life seems to be!

      Her piece explains why people settle in neighborhoods appropriate to their cultural thinking and income level. In Miami Gardens, Blacks speak their own language, have their own stories and restaurants, and so on. If you dropped one of their citizens in wealthy Coral Gables(*), they would be presented with an alien tongue, stores wildly unsuited to their needs, and restaurants selling totally bizarre food. So we have different forms of “privilege” everywhere. Nobody has a monopoly on it. And we really cannot be human without our own culture.

      I suggest we celebrate it instead of figuring ways to make it embarrass us.

      (*) Coral Gables is actually half Hispanic. But race does not define the place; wealth does. Median housing value is about US$1 million.

      • Martin28 says

        Well done. As for number 24, no one need ask if there are racial overtones to situations if their day, week, or year is going badly. That’s part of the problem, supported by MicIntosh’s theory, that if you are a certain racial group you are being screwed with every bad situation you face.

      • @david

        Thank you for taking the time to bring this to the discussion. It was enlightening to see the actual points being made, rather than someone with an ax to grind’s interpretation.

        I couldn’t help but noticing that the 25 points fell into three groups, A) pointless, irrelevant or just petty; B) solved historical issues, and C) issues that still need to be addressed.

        A) pointless, irrelevant or just petty:
        Tellingly, most of the 25 points fall here. Haircuts, dolls, music, bandages? Are you Freaking kidding me? Someone has ‘white privilege’ because their band-aid sticks out less? Because they can walk into a music store and buy what they want? Does anyone here seriously argue you can’t go on itunes and find ‘your’ music??? You can’t go on amazon and buy a poster with black people on it? All hair dressers only serve white people? We only see white people on TV? (Obviously anyone with ‘white privilege’ has never watched a professional football, basketball, or baseball game before.) WTF?

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

        Absolutely no one is denying the existence of any race. This isn’t a thing.

        B) Historical:
        Ok, there WAS something here in 1980’s, but it isn’t the 1980’s anymore, just as it isn’t the 1950’s. Per example,

        17- I can be pretty sure that if I ask to talk to “the person in charge,” I will be facing a person of my race.

        Certainly a minority community couldn’t expect only minorities to hold positions of power. That would be a dictatorship. This has to read “I will ONLY be facing a person of my race(white)”. Well maybe that was true at one time, but it isn’t anymore. The former president was black. There are black/asian/latino/jewish senators, congressmen, governors, supreme court justices. The most powerful unelected office in the USA, not on the supreme court, is the secretary of state. In my adult lifetime (ie the time I could vote) there have been 7 confirmed secretaries of state; 4 men and 3 women. 2 were black (ironically both republicans). The expectation that you will only see white people in government power (which I take to mean ‘in-charge’) is demonstrably false. If there are not “enough” of them to suit you, that is a different argument. Minorities can and do win election and appointment to high office, usually by getting lots of white people to vote for them. (Tellingly to the “white privilege” debate, 3 of the 4 minority governors in the USA today are Republicans.)

        23 I can be sure that if I need legal or medical help, my race will not work against me.

        The only color these professions see is green (in the USA). You have the money, you can have the best of everything.

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

        This is half the damn problem, and it isn’t an exclusive white thing.

        C) Current things:

        2 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.

        This is an economic issue, not a race issue. There use to be red-lining, but that is illegal. When banks got caught charging more, they got huge fines. If you have the cash, you can buy a home anywhere. The real problem is lots of people don’t have the cash or sufficient credit to buy a home. There isn’t really a race thing exept when minorities start complaining about gentrification. To try to deny white people the right to buy homes were they want to live is, well, oppression. Same as if we denied minorities the right to buy.

        18 If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race.

        This has been big lately, and needs to be addressed. But ‘hands up; don’t shoot’ is based on a lie. Cops have been murdered in cold blood. You will not solve issues of government tyranny with lies, murder or estrangement of the majority. Twice as many white people are being shot by cops as black people. Telling poor whites that they have ‘privilege’ because fewer of them are shot per-capita isn’t an effective way afflict change.

        • You’re right, some of the items are trivial, and some have definitely gotten better (like representation in the media) since McIntosh published her article. However, you can’t actually refute her points by making clever comments off the top of your head. If you’re truly interested in refuting the concept of white privilege, you need to provide actual evidence, not anecdotes and opinions.

          • Daniel says

            “However, you can’t actually refute her points by making clever comments off the top of your head.”

            The whole point is that she made all this up, just off the top of her head. Are you suggesting that she had a methodologically rigorous study?

      • Daniel says

        David D Dennis,
        Thanks for that. I’m going to agree with you, but come at it from another angle. Not only are the “privileges” trivial — and therefore not worth dignifying with mention; but they are inevitable any time you have two groups of people coexisting, and each has their own way of doing things.

        I’ve lived overseas most of my life. The “privileges” McIntosh mentions are merely things that happen when people get together and carve out honest, respectful lives for themselves. If you go to live in another country, there is a continual, subtle sense of foreignness. This culture shock is a strain and despite many delights, it also makes life at least a little bit harder. Those “privileges” are things you will notice if immersed in a foreign culture, and in your weaker moments, you may even resent them. But nobody would be so boorish and callous as to suggest that all French people are somehow to blame for an American tourist not “fitting in” or feeling comfortable. As if French “privilege” is some shameful thing. I mean, it’s inappropriate to say French “privilege” has any value — good or bad. It’s just part and parcel of society. And as everybody who has lived in another country for a long time will tell you, the key is to learn to do it their way — when in Rome, do as the Romans do. And I bet you money that everywhere you go, if you are genuinely interested in doing things their way, the people there will jump to help you!

        So I’m not convinced that McIntosh’s work is even relevant. Try moving to either Seattle or Louisiana (or any two places with distinct atmospheres), you’ll immediately notice that the locals operate more effortlessly than you. The “privilege” they enjoy is not anybody’s doing. You can’t say it’s their fault, nor can you say it makes them admirable. It’s just there.

        If McIntosh focused on doing things to bridge the culture gap, she’d be making a positive difference. But griping about flesh-tone bandaids (which some people — or maybe it’s just me — think are a stupid, consumer-idolizing manifestation of ridiculous vanity) is not helping anybody.

      • peanut gallery says

        One thing I learned from this list is that she think about race. A lot. Like more than seems healthy. Also I guess I’m not allowed to listen to DMX in my work-out list because I’m the wrong race for that music. Fuck off lady… What a racist —- with too much money. The more I read it the more mad it makes me. Shes sounds like a rich —- with too much time and money. We should break into her house and steal some Faberge eggs or something. Ugh, it’s gross that anyone even takes her list seriously.

    • I take issue with KAD’s post.

      (1) To cite McIntosh’s elite status is not ad hominem: the many worthy contributions her family and her husband’s family have made to everyone’s welfare forbid us to resent her enviable circumstances as “unearned privilege.” Unless, that is, we’re in the envy business. I’d rather not base my outlook about inequality, whether racial or economic, on what I’ve been reliably told is a mortal sin.

      (2) The origins of ideas do tell us something about them; otherwise, “Consider the source” would not be a familiar and valued saying. To take an especially fraught example, Persia changed its name to Iran during the pre-Hitler craze for all things Aryan. Nowadays, linguists and ethnologists don’t even use the word “Aryan,” substituting “Indo-European” for it. Ideas have consequences, and the consequences an idea has had in the past should inform our evaluation of its derivatives today. Iran hasn’t gone back to being Persia, but anyone who prattles on about being “Aryan” today would certainly be a suspicious character.

      (3) It may indeed be possible to be concerned about racism and income inequality at the same time, but that feat appears to have been beyond the ability or inclination of many politicians and academics. As a result, America went from President Obama to President Trump. One viewed the “bitter clingers” of the rust belt dismissively; the other heard them and cared about them. It seems to me that working-class Americans of all races are benefiting as a result of this change. The rich may be benefiting even more, but that doesn’t matter to me. (See “Envy” above.)

      (4) No, we’re not at a Balkan-level pitch of racial violence stoked by the identity politics Ray decries. We’re headed that way, however: assassinated cops, people being assaulted for wearing MAGA hats, riots here and there. America isn’t yet in late ’60s redux, still less the Balkans. But we’re on the slope. Let’s not let denial of that fact make the slope even more slippery than it already is.

      Finally, it’s not reasonable to ask Ray to analyze McIntosh’s 26 examples of white privilege “one by one,” in an article of this sort. TLDR would set in well before Ray got very far into the list.

    • Max Cuse says

      Bravo. Thank you for eloquently stating exactly what I was thinking.

    • Song For the Deaf says

      You’re kidding, right. “White privilege” is itself an ad hominem as are all identity politics. In fact, they consist of little else. Ad hominems are totally legit against you people.

    • Gar Lowe says

      In one sense I like the ideas presented in Quillette because even though I count myself as politically liberal, I am not part of the tribe and feel like many liberal ideas have been overplayed for political reasons. That said, many of the comments on these articles remind of the phrase “You go girl!” It’s as if these commentators, having finally heard an argument that favors their own beliefs become as bad as the SJWs. Instead of critically examining the argument, they sign on hook line and sinker. I have seem comments on Quillette that literally just say “No, no, no, no!”

      – not in your tribe

      • I think you are misreading some of it. From the DM’s and comments across platforms most of it seems to be”thanks for the info, thanks for making a rational argument and have the balls to do it publicly. I think you should bear in mind this is literally almost the only platform where this discussion could even happen. I had the goods on Peg for almost 2 years, it took me that long to frame it in a way that was bulletproof from being simply dismissed as racist or alt-right. Respectfully

    • ccscientist says

      While you may acknowledge that wealthy blacks possess some privileges too, most activists deny this, and many of the most vocal black activists on college campus’ grew up in wealthy families and deny that they have “agency” and assert that they are “silenced” on their campus (which is ludicrous).

    • Gerry says

      You certainly can’t refute *most* ideas by attacking their origin. The exception may be ideas that are themselves intrinsically based on the genetic fallacy.

    • Pathrik says

      I don’t agree that her background is unimportant since she makes it relevant herself.
      The article seems to insinuate a thesis behind the identity politics movement that I have long felt but never really heard. It is that identity politics are about the elites who are pushing the philosophy and there is something deeply psychological about the pathology. Many of these social justice advocates do come from privileged backgrounds from my experience. What these ‘privileged’ intellectuals are doing is not really engaging in moral self doubt about their own personal ‘privilege’, rather they are using identity politics to share their guilt with others. For example, imagine a rich aristocrat with mostly inherited wealth who discovers that his/her ancestry was tied to the slave trade or other types of exploitation. For this person identity politics could be a tool to deflect their own sense of guilt by sharing the responsibility with others. This person may them self by thinking, ‘my family were not really the ones responsible for owning slaves, rather it is a collective responsibility of all white people;’.

  3. No-Good Dirty Rotten Leaf says

    I’ve actually been using the original invisible knapsack article to poke holes in identity politics for a while now. According to it, I ought to be an oppressed minority, along with basically anyone else who grew up in a multiethnic area in Canada. It just doesn’t map well to people who live outside of gated communities

  4. Pingback: Unpacking Peggy McIntosh’s Knapsack – Foggytown's Micro Blog

  5. Thank you, Mr. Ray, Claire, et al, for unpacking the origins of “white privilege,” “white fragility” and other such nonsense.

    It is very valuable to know its origins in debunking those who think these things are real, when it actually was a very rich woman who mistook her great economic privilege for the color of her skin. Almost none of the SJWs who believe Ms. McIntosh’s fantasy know its real origin.

  6. Farris says

    The left is endeavoring to create a caste system, where middle and lower class whites are regarded as the untouchables, tainted by birth. Upper class whites can be absolved of this taint by recognizing it in others. How brave. Only upper class whites occupy the top of the caste. Only these whites can rescue people of color from the misfortune of their birth. People of color occupy the 2nd tier. These persons are immune from criticism but incapable of success without the assistance of the upper tier. “White Privilege” is the theory (now dogma) upper class whites use to practice their bigotry of low expectations against people of color. The dual purposes of the caste system is to pick winners and losers and to denigrate merit. The remaining tiers are occupied by whites deemed under privileged by circumstance (women, gays, disabled, ect..) Even the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized this system with its “Suspect” and “Quasi Suspect” levels of review. The strict penalty of banishment into the untouchables can be enforced against any tier member dissenting from “White Privilege Dogma”. The article correctly points out that division is key to maintaining this system. Dissent is heresy. Social justice warriors are the self anointed arbiters of morality. Ms. McIntosh should not be ridiculed because she was born white or even wealthy. Class warfare is not commendable either. Ms. McIntosh is only guilty of arrogance and short sightedness. Her dehumanizing theory condemns all. Whites are deplorable from birth whereas people of color are incapable of surviving without her benevolent pity. She can only see groups and not individuals. She is incapable of judging people by the content of their character. Is it surprising that she would formulate a theory where she and her ilk are savior and saint?

    • Peter from Oz says


      I think you are mostly correct. However, it’s not true upper class whites, but ewannabes who are jumping on the progressive bandwagon. They couldn’t make it in the world otherwise, as they are talentless without PC.

    • peanut gallery says

      You make her sound like a raging narcissist. (Probably accurate.)

  7. augustine says

    It seems to me that what we wish for most fervently is not “equality” but that goodness in people will emerge, recognizably and sufficiently, to help us keep faith in the human experiment. This goodness– decency, civility, charity– was more evident in the latter part of the 20th century in America than now. I don’t hear sentiments of this sort in the objectives coming from the most strident voices on the Left or the Right these days. Tribalism will tear us to pieces.

  8. ga gamba says

    I’m old enough to remember when “the privileged” were the aristocratic families such as the Cecils and Grosvenors as well as the offspring of the industrial barons, who the aristocrats looked down upon. At least the industrialists built railroads, ports, and factories. The land-owning aristocrats simply collected rent on land awarded to a long-dead ancestor in service to the crown.

    Seems perverse to me the same notion is applied to a mechanic and postman.

  9. Good article, esp. the parts about Croatians and Serbs. If this white privilege theory was true, albinos would be the most privileged of all. But the only albino I knew worked in the graveyard.

    • W. D. Hickey says

      Except for the part about “living together for half-a-century.”
      “Under the boot of the Yugoslavian dictator Tito for almost 50 years” might have made that era of multi-ethnic bliss sound less halcyonic.

  10. SeeDennyRun says

    “The anti-SJW ideology runs thick in the Quillette comment section!” :KAD

    Says the ‘logician’ who was quick to allege an ‘ad hominem’ fallacy.

    First off, you’re confused about the charge of an ad hominem. Her argument that her cushy life was due to her skin color is a ‘non sequitur’ (it doesn’t logically follow, and it is NOT a ‘Categorical Fact’). Her inference is also guilty of the fallacy of ‘Causal Oversimplification’ and/or ‘Single Cause’.

    It’s not even an inductive inference ( ex: all swans ever observed are white, therefore all swans are white).

    IOW, it’s rhetoric. It’s not a ‘logical’ (deductive) conclusion. We have no shortage of examples of ‘white people’ who are Not Privileged.

    The argument is worthless.

    What her father should have done was cut her off from her allowance and inheritance for making such a pathetic attempt at being a ‘profound thinker’.

  11. Ray criticized McIntosh herself instead of the substance of her argument — that’s the very definition of an ad hominem. You should know; you committed the same fallacy yourself at the end of your comment (And at the beginning, by referring to me as a ‘logician.’) The claim that people with white skin are (on average) privileged over people with darker skin is a complicated empirical question which can and has been studied. You don’t resolve the question by attacking a decades-old article by a popularizer of the idea, or by pointing out the obvious fact that not all white people are equally privileged. If you bothered to read McIntosh’s article, you’d know she makes that point herself.

    • @KAD

      “The claim that people with white skin are (on average) privileged over people with darker skin is a complicated empirical question which can and has been studied.”

      This is such an ignorant and unreflective statement it’s hard to know where to begin.

      1) for something to be an empirical question implies you have successfully formulated a testable hypothesis about the social theory in question. The distinctive character of ‘white privilege’ theories is that none of them are precise enough to actually make themselves amenable to the formulation of a testable hypothesis. They are all postmodern obscurantism and what they take for empirical proof of the phenomenon are amateurish cross tabs of group outcome statistics which they incorrectly assume to be a demonstration of causality. It’s as if these grown baby children never took an introductory statistics class, and from the sound of it, neither have you.

      2) you have failed to question your own ideological motivations and reflect on why exactly you deem white privilege an important ‘empirical question.’ America is meritocratic enough that the largest predictors of SES, aside from class born into, is intelligence and educational attainment. None of the empirical evidence points to race as the determining factor in individual life outcomes, you need to think long and hard about why you insist on pretending it does. Honest intellectual inquiry will not begin for you until you have answered the Socratic call to “know yourself!”

      3) empirical data is NOT your friend if you are trying to prove the ontological status of white privilege. If you had done some research instead of relying on the mangled and dismembered remains of what is taken as statistical proof by mainstream media outlets, you would not have made such an ignorant statement about it being an empirical question. Indeed, all honest research on the causes of differences in racial group outcomes either finds the opposite of the ‘white privilege’ narrative or else concedes that racial factors are too entangled with other predictors to make a credible claim about causality. If you want to keep pushing this narrative, you will need to run from the data like a Satan worshipper from holy water. Just as a primer: how do you explain the multiple studies that find black female college grads significantly out earning their white counterparts? This is just the tip of a statistical iceberg that has remained unexplored due to progressive bias in the social sciences. I’ve been working to map the contours of this iceberg and the preliminary results are devastating for the white privilege narrative.

    • John says


      Asian Americans have darker skin than White Americans, yet they are wealthier and better educated on average, which kind of debunks the claim that privilege can be ascertained by the use of a colour chart.

      “You don’t resolve the question by attacking a decades-old article by a popularizer of the idea, or by pointing out the obvious fact that not all white people are equally privileged. If you bothered to read McIntosh’s article, you’d know she makes that point herself.”

      She may or may not put that detail in her fine print, but the concept of White Privilege that she championed is most definitely used as “all white people are privileged.” The author’s supporting quotes certainly back this up.

    • SeeDennyRun says

      “Ray criticized McIntosh herself instead of the substance of her argument”

      That’s false. He clearly argued: “Her ‘experiential’ list enumerating the ways in which she benefits from being born with white skin simply confuses racial privilege with the financial advantages she has always been fortunate enough to enjoy. Many of her points are demonstrably economic.”

      “You should know; you committed the same fallacy yourself at the end of your comment (And at the beginning, by referring to me as a ‘logician.’)”

      You’re confused about what an ‘ad hominem’ is. Insulting or mocking someone is NOT an ‘ad hominem’. I didn’t use the insult as a basis to try and hand wave away her theory.
      I explained very clearly HOW and WHY her ‘Causal Theory’ was a non sequitur. You didn’t refute my arguments. They stand unrefuted.

      Since you’re admitting that the premise is FALSE, we can ignore your initial and subsequent comments.

      • Race-based and class-based forms of discrimination/disadvantage interact with each other in complicated ways. Ray doesn’t even attempt to untangle those factors, nor do you. You’re more than welcome to ignore my comments, but you haven’t actually engaged with the substance of what I wrote.

        • Daniel says

          For myself, I’m interested in the substance of what you wrote, but there’s a perspective gap. You seem to be using unfamiliar heuristics — or rather, you’re assuming points of agreement that don’t exist, hence all the talking past each other.
          Which point of yours hasn’t been adequately addressed? Maybe we could start there.

          • Thanks for the thoughtful question. I’m not going to reply in detail since it looks like the conversation has moved on, but I appreciate your attempt to engage on an intellectual level.

  12. Paul says

    Enter the Motte and Bailey. Term which has obvious broad application in ordinary language is actually a super specific term of art.

    What utter piffle

  13. DimtheQuiet says

    To me, the debate over whether or not someone or some group has privilege has always seemed like a misdirection. Most of us have privilege in some form (i.e. a caring family) that make life easier or some form of setback (i.e. bad knees) that make life more difficult. Does having a absurd amount of money equate to a life advantage, yes in many cases. Did that money originate from social systems in which other groups of people were systematically setback, perhaps and perhaps not. But why should our focus be on blaming each other for the inherent unfairness in life and the inequities of the past that we cannot undo? A better route seems to be taking the resources we do have, however gotten, and building a better world for everyone.

    • Glitter Afresh says

      I agree — but we really do have to get past the -isms to do that — you tell me if the right is ready to set their racism aside and “redistribute” resources for the good of everyone. Ha. And it is clear that blacks in the US still suffer from slavery — it has not been that many generations and plenty of white people are cruising on their familial wealth and privilege — I’m more apt to believe in paying reparations in the form of property, education credits and entrepreneurship and then cutting everyone loose for a while. I would hire successful, educated blacks as mentors and stewards of projects and hope for the best. Get buy-in from luminaries in black culture.

      • Peter from Oz says

        Yawn, yawn, another silly lefty thinking that ”welll, um …RACISM!!!!!!! is an argument.
        That is why the left has lost the argument. it can’t actually ever get to the argument, as it is hung up on threshold questions. The left also gives itself away by being fixated on power relations. The truth is that lefties want power. They don’t really give a fig about the members of the groups they pretend to want to help. In fact their policy prescriptions end up hurting the members of those groups.

      • John says

        @Glitter Afresh

        After the abolition of slavery in the US, African Americans had more rights and property than Asian Americans. And yet from being in an inferior position in 1867 Asian Americans now have higher incomes and educational outcomes than both Black and White Americans. Is it privilege or a culture of hard work and education that has benefited Asian Americans?

      • Alistair says


        “plenty of white people are cruising on their familial wealth and privilege ”

        Firstly, the vast majority of whites in the US have ancestry without slave wealth. Only a minority of white southerners owned slaves, and many of them were 1 or 2 individuals. Only a tiny minority of them had large holdings and could be accused of amassing substantial wealth from slavery. Their descendants are few, and further diluted by northerners and later waves of white immigrants who never had slaves. So your call for reparations is at best an indiscriminate collective punishment; hurting many more innocents than “guilty”.

        Secondly, and this economics point seems to entirely elude the reparations brigade, the statistical power of ancient wealth in explaining current wealth dissipates rapidly over time. It does not accumulate, or even remain static. It is logically and economically obtuse to causally assign more than a proportion of current wealth to ancestral wealth, even if a chain of biological descent is clear. Basically, the longer the intervening time period, the less of current wealth of an individual is meaningfully “caused” by ancient wealth of his ancestors. Wealth is dissipated by accident and folly or renewed by fortune.

        Estimates of this effect size vary, but iirc, about 50% of the variance in a generations wealth can be explained by reference to variation in parental wealth. So after 7 generations…less than 1% of the descendants fortunes might be fairly ascribed to slave capital formation.

        Basically, these calculations done properly by serious economists and actuaries produce values way, way, lower than you think. 1% of wealth from 10% of whites is not a lot of money….about $670 from 20m Americans, or about $13B, give or take. A total far less than the accumulated costs of affirmative action. Do you really want to pursue this?


      • Daniel says

        Stow that reparations talk, soldier! You can’t just give money to some black people because of the vague idea “slavery and stuff.” That’s so nebulus and unjust it would never work. Would recent black immigrants be included? (Try justifying either side of that one!)

        The problem with reparations is in order for them to be just, they’ll have to be assessed at a specific monetary value. Let’s imagine the impossible, and say that that specific value was calculated and agreed upon. The recipients were determined in a way that makes everyone happy. Then the reparations are paid. Then what? Do you honestly think that underprivileged people now will turn their lives around because of an influx of goods and services? Poverty is an incredibly complex, multi-variable problem. If it could be fixed by shoving money at people, it would have been.

        The other thing that is important to consider is, dammit, reparations have already been paid. The south was punished with 260,000 deaths, and the north bought freedom for the slaves with 360,000 deaths. If that’s not punishment enough for the south, you’ll never be satisfied. If that price the north paid is not enough, you’ll never be satisfied.

        We can help the underprivileged better without foolish (forgive me: ill-advised) talk about reparations.

      • Sean says

        “you tell me if the right is ready to set their racism aside and “redistribute” resources for the good of everyone.”
        There are many wealthy white lefties; pretty much everyone in Hollywood. Why don’t they set the example. Let them show us their wokeness by handing over their wealth and refusing to take any more roles so that POC can take them.

        Can I also assume you don’t own any property or have any savings as you have set the example by redistributing your wealth to the poorest POC?

      • @Glitter Afresh.

        I hope that your comment is sarcastic. How on earth realistically would you redistribute resources?

        Not every black person has a family that was of slaves or even a history affected by slavery. Over the last hundred years populations would have moved around significantly. (For example an Ethiopian who has moved in the last 10 years to the states to attend art school)

        So would you redistribute to blacks because of skin color or historical relevance? Would it be based on wealth, i.e. blacks who are not doing well financially? How much of a percentage of black would qualify? For example a person that would be 95% of European decent but 5% black from African roots (5% coming from relationship born of slavery)? Would it go to black “groups” or individuals?”

        The same issue goes for where the redistribution would come from. All whites? Even those behind the poverty line? What about whites that have nothing to do with slavery (such as a Polish immigrant who defects in the 70’s from communist Poland to escape destitution and more). What about whites who have a history of advocating for human rights, like those who have lost lives in the civil rights? Will sex be taken into consideration? A white female lawyer who made her life well in a male law firm – will her money be redistributed and to whom?

        Will those on the receiving end be scrutinized for addiction / gang connection / political ties so the money doesn’t get redistributed to other means?

  14. I believe the growing reliance on concepts like “white privilege” by the left led to Trump’s election.

    Not because people are racist, but because as soon as you drive 30 miles outside every moderately sized city in the US, you find the country filled with towns with populations of 3,000. These towns are 90% white but filled with hardship, struggle, and limited opportunity. How are they supposed to vote for a party that is constantly lecturing them about some supposed privilege they have?

    How common is the middle aged white person who has been laid off, couldn’t afford college, struggles to stay afloat let alone save anything for their kids, etc.; then to turn on the tv to hear some lefty/ Democrat say “white people unfairly gain advantages from their skin color and also actively oppress minorities in this system built to protect their own success and wealth…. now please vote for me. If you don’t, that proves you’re a racist.”

    People are sick of it.

    And the left seems to be doubling down on it.

    • Peter from Oz says

      You are correct. The dtat shows that Trump won the highly educated voters, the wealthier voters but gained his majority by appealing to enopugh of the people you describe.
      The left are trying to pretend that only poor white trash voted for Trump, the truth is that he won because he had a strong vote across the socio-economic spectrum, especially at the top end.

    • John says


      Yes, it’s just another way of middle and upper classes spreading the guilt of their privilege onto all white people.

    • The Hero's Journey says

      Trump won for a great many reasons. I think I’ll list them here. Never put them “on paper” before. No order, but the threshold = “could have swung it for her if somehow removed.” *** means “in the running for number one”:

      1. Hillary was a *horrible* candidate.***
      2. Social media advertising & manipulation, domestic.
      3. Social media advertising & manipulation, foreign.
      4. The Democrats’ general incompetence and fecklessness.***
      5. Billionaire/Corp dark money.
      6. Billionaire/Corp “light” money.
      7. Feminism.***
      8. Other identity politics.***
      9. Other aspects of PC culture.
      10. Democrats’ corruption.
      11. Democratic consultant culture.***
      12. Specific Clinton corruption.
      13. Less black turnout.
      14. Voter suppression.
      15. Trump bringing ratings to 24 hour toxic news.***
      16. Hillary’s sex.
      17. Bad internal campaign polling (see 11.)
      18. Stupid ad buys (see 11.)
      19. Clinton cronyism (see 11.)
      20. Voter hopelessness/rage***
      21. Democratic penchant for overregulation.
      22. Arrogance.
      23. ….okay, that’s enough for now….

      So add your own!

      Which do you think is number one?

      p.s. nothing here precludes a similar attack on Republicans… nothing much anyway.

      • You left off the most important one…. it was a Republican year.

        Look, there is a reason that each branch of the US government seems to be forever in flux in terms of who is in control. Since WWII only 1988 saw the White House remain with the party in control between candidates (Reagan to Bush). The ‘out’ party is incentivized to get out the vote, and feels more deeply about it, than the incumbent party. This tends to follow with the house in the ‘interm’/ ‘non-prez’ election years. Clinton wins 1992, republicans win 1994. Obama wins 2008, Republicans win 2010. Trump wins 2016, Democrats looking to take house in 2018.

        2020 will be a toss up year. Ford, Carter, and Bush I all got tossed. I think Trump will too; he can’t ride the “outsider” wave.

  15. Glitter Afresh says


    The concept of “white privilege” doesn’t have to mean guilt and it doesn’t have to mean white genocide. It’s as simple as this — in societies where whiteness (expressed in spoken language, decorum, manner of speaking, cultural practices, Puritan coldness, and the descendants of wealth in the form of pre-colonial money and status) is the “dominant” “habitus,” say, people of color are at a disadvantage both from skin color and out-group cultural practices and mannerisms.

    This othering has led to decades of systemic oppression. The actual law, slowly, has come around, but people are still OBVIOUSLY racist as fuck in this country (USA). Since white supremacy is the dominant “habitus” — (the best word I can come up with meaning body & culture) — and racism has done such lasting damage, black culture has borne, to some extent, the perversions of the othering in a multitude ways.

    Privilege does exist in its vertical channel — it’s not meant to be horizontal — to say – well, you are white, so bluebirds just land on your shoulder and people give you money — it means two things: you are white, so you are not subject to scrutiny from the dominant habitus and it means that you should probably literally shut the fuck up before thinking that you can explain what it’s like to be in that position or dictate to others how they should act or be.

    Further, intersectionality, should just remind us that the more privilege or not-privilege a person has in a set of multiple channels (also weighted each by value) can dictate their how they are perceived, how they perceive the world, their opportunities and abilities etc.

    And it does mean that it is harder for people with less privilege in multiple channels to compete in a meritocracy with people who have more privilege. And that it is easier for those with more privilege to compete.

    That’s it — just the recognition of these concepts. No permanent underclass of poor white males or whatever the dumbfuck people are writing above. Just the literal recognition that if you are born white and wealthy in this country, you’re going to have a fuck of a lot easier time of it than others — and own that realization, as with any other reality (as you people love to say), when you are tempted to disparage others or laud yourself.

    This is the question that I want to ask: Why is this so difficult to understand?

    The above interpretation is not radical — it’s not “leftist” — it’s been the dominant critique for decades, before try-hard reactionaries were calling it postmodern neowhatever idiocy — it’s the application of this idea from a few bad actors on the left, which have been blown out of proportion in the media that has somehow made this an untenable premise. Rich people have easier lives! White people in a dominant culture don’t have to navigate whiteness to survive! People with disabilities you can see have a harder time finding jobs.

    You don’t say.

    The author even makes this case in claiming that Ms. MacIntosh’s experience is too limited to understand the struggles of a poor white male. That’s the thing about entering a conversation on “identity” — inevitably, you have to confront your own. But yours isn’t an “identity,” right?

    Of course not.

    Maybe try not to pee your pants so fucking much.

    • @Glitter Afresh

      How do you explain the fact that a black person in America is 100 times better off than they would be living in a black majority country?

      If you took one second to look at reality it’s not the white devil keeping black people down. The ancestors of slaves are far more successful than those who remained in the home land.

      Everything you refer to as ‘white provilege’ is actually just the dominant cultural norms in the west which have successfully spread around the world and brought billions of people out of poverty. The West has a successful and admirable civilization built on the values you detest. I will never feel guilty or ashamed of the accomplishments of my white ancestors; in fact, I’m quite proud of it and will pass those evil white, puritanical values of self-sufficiency and individualism down to my progeny.

      Good luck to you. Try not to be so hateful and bitter, MLK knew where that leads and incessantly warned against it.

      • Glitter Afresh says

        Why the f- would you be proud of something you didn’t do, if you think that you can’t feel shame for something they DID do?

        • @Glitter

          I’m proud because I’m part of a civilization that has accomplished admirable things and due to that pride I do what I can to preserve the values that will continue to make it a success.

          Are you proud of your ancestors and their civilization? What are you doing to preserve that civilization? Do you feel shame for the atrocities that perpetuated by your ancestors? If not, then why would you expect anyone else to?

        • @Glitter

          I’m still awaiting an answer to my question:

          “How do you explain the fact that a black person in America is 100 times better off than they would be living in a black majority country?”

          I’m sincerely curious how an SJW finds the mental energy to have their world view in perpetual contradiction with facts. It must be tormenting.

        • Daniel says

          The pride isn’t the same as 1) arrogance, or 2) satisfaction in a job well done. The kind of pride AA is referring to has to do with something entirely different.
          At the risk of putting words in AA’s mouth, I’d say it’s a kind of appreciation for, and humility before, the bigger thing of which you are a part. The more you learn about it, the more value you see in it, and the more thankful you are to be a part of it.

    • Peter Kriens says

      Whenever I ask myself a question like “This is the question that I want to ask: Why is this so difficult to understand?” I try to find the answer by examining my own ideas. Working as a consultant for hundreds of companies world wide I’ve learned that if a group of people do not understand me, the problem is likely on my side. To find why people do not understand you it helps to not try to offend the people that might provide you the other perspectives. It also helps to get your facts straight.

      * A country that elects a black president twice can have racist elements but it cannot be racist to the core.
      * The actual laws that make all men, women, blacks, whites equals has been around for more than 50 years. Isn’t it a miracle that ‘white males’ (your words) gave up that power peacefully?
      * You complain it was slow but how do you judge that? By all standards didn’t it happen much faster than anywhere else in the world?
      * ‘White privilege’ is a one dimensional criterium while the benefits in a society have many dimensions. There are many blacks that are much richer than many whites.

      However, I think the main problem that upsets so many people is that using the term ‘white privilege’ is the definition of racism, the actual concept you say to fight with it. That logical fallacy is what makes it so hard to understand.

    • John says


      You said:

      “Just the literal recognition that if you are born white and wealthy in this country, you’re going to have a fuck of a lot easier time of it than others.”

      White and wealthy does not equal white. Is that so difficult to understand?

      Yes, there is far too much racism in the US, yes, black people there are disadvantaged, BUT, the solution to racism is not more racism. The concept of White Privilege is racism, ie, the a priori judging of a person solely on the basis of their skin colour.

      Is that so difficult to understand?

    • Alistair says


      How can you tell that the benefits of Privilege don’t accrue from successful behaviours rather than skin colour?

      Because, you know, all the differences in Black-White outcomes you are so twisted up about seem to be better modelled by IQ, education, wealth, and behaviour. It also explains Asian and Hispanic differences too, for a bonus. Your entire “white privilege” theory has no explanatory power. It is not science.

      But of course, you don’t read economics or understand statistics. (Do you understand multiple regression analysis? Hmm?). You shouldn’t have dropped maths, if you wanted to understand politics and society.

    • Just Me says


      “whiteness (expressed in spoken language, decorum, manner of speaking, cultural practices, Puritan coldness, and the descendants of wealth in the form of pre-colonial money and status) is the “dominant” “habitus,” say, people of color are at a disadvantage both from skin color and out-group cultural practices and mannerisms.”

      There are many problems with this argument.

      One is the use of the notion of “privilege” for what you yourself admit is the norm for the majority of the population of a society. A “privilege” by definition is something exceptional, special, not available to most, etc., and which should be taken away to produce equality.

      Are you really claiming that being treated fairly, respectfully, have a decent income, etc., is something unfair that no one should have, in order to ensure equality?

      Or should you not be arguing that everyone should be treated in such a way to have equality, and that therefore it isn’t a privilege, but a right? And the minority who do not have such a right are unfairly disadvantaged, and the situation needs to be remedied for those people, but not a decent life taken away from the majority?

      Another is the conceptual problem in deeming the habitus of the majority becoming the norm a “privilege”. Any population will have a majority habitus that becomes the norm for that population, that is what it means for something to be “normal”. The better question is, is that norm working well to make that population as a whole economically successful, productive, creative, happy, etc.? We have been critiquing our own norms for a long time now on various grounds, that is what being self-aware and self-critical means, but to claim that a society that has norms, i.e. every society, is somehow unfairly “imposing its privilege” on minorities is just logically untenable.

      What is clear is that some social norms produce better social outcomes than others, and if some subcategories of the population cannot or will not adopt the social norms that have made a society successful, while claiming it deserves the same success, i.e. it values the result but not the means to get them, how is that the society’s fault?

      Of course if some aspects of that habitus are irrelevant to any socially advantageous behaviour, that is another matter, but most are not.

      Instead of “privilege”, the better term is “advantages”. Of course there are advantages to being closer to the norm, to have been born in circumstances that make the norm easier to attain, like a good family, etc. But those who lack those advantages are disadvantages, and while society should be looking at ways to remedy those disadvantages for everyone, that does not make those without them guilty of being unfairly “privileged”.

    • When someone starts dropping a lot of F-bombs, as Glitter does here, we can be pretty sure his argument is slipping away from him. He shows every sign of having been miseducated in the modern academy. The language (apart from the F-bombs) is all there: “racist,” “othering,” “intersectionality” et cetera et cetera. There was wonderful cartoon in the New Yorker in 1982 in which an older man and his wife are seated side by side in matching wingback chairs. His comment: “I’m sorry dear, I must have passed out. What were you saying?”

    • I certainly realise that Black people have been victimised in the US and that has had long term repercussions, but its a bit of a stretch to say that a Chinese or Indian immigrant somehow vicariously suffers on account of that, particularly when Chinese and Indian Americans have had better life outcomes than whites for quite a while now.

      I am not sure if white supremacy is the dominant “habitus”, either. I am white, male and poor. Nikki Hayley is a woman of colour. If wealth and status are of only trivial importance, then presumably I would be higher up the societal pecking order than Nikki Hayley. Somehow I doubt it.

      However, I think that the main argument made by this article was that rich people like the idea of white privilege, since abolishing racist attitudes represents their preferred idea of “justice on the cheap”. Unlike universal health care, for example.

    • Daniel says

      You ask why it is so difficult to understand. It’s not difficult to understand. It’s a simple concept, and given the presence of literacy here, I suspect everybody here gets it.

      But it’s BS. Understanding that a jug of Kool-Aid is Kool-Aid doesn’t make me willing to drink it. The whole concept is predicated upon the assumption that privilege is race-related. McIntosh’s examples of privilege were so trivial they were irrelevant, or didn’t have to do with race at all.

      The point is: we all understand the point she was trying to make. We also understand that she is wrong. And beyond that, we understand that shoehorning life into the BS box of white privilege is dangerous, and will have terrible consequences.

      Why don’t you understand that?

    • The Hero's Journey says

      “Why is this so difficult to understand?”

      Because it’s
      A. So complicated & full of jargon & conveeeeenient redefinitions of words interwoven and “peer-reviewed” by a literal legion of smart but not-THAT-smart preening academics who’s livelihoods literally depend on it


      B. It’s so stupid it boggles the mind

      It would take all night to refute your points one by one. That’s the biggest strength of your narrative: it’s such a TAPESTRY of bullshit.

      I’m not going to bother, and I encourage everyone else here not to bother further. There are better proponents of Glitter’s ideas in the thread, ones who aren’t soooooooooooooooooo far down the rabbit hole they’ll never see daylight again.

    • Harold says

      The number of blacks in America is greater than the population of Canada. What need have they to interact at all with anyone else?

  16. All this white self-loathing (without which the present understanding of the idea of “white privilege” would not survive) — where is it all coming from? It’s too simple to say it comes from indoctrination by the schools and media. It’s coming from something deeper, something pathological. There’s something sick and unmoored in the culture if a low-income white kid from a single-parent family in some desolate coal mining hollow in Eastern Kentucky automatically and definitionally is deemed to have more “privilege” than a black kid from a high-income professional family in suburban Westchester County outside NYC.

    Actually, if you want to see where the privilege lies in the above example, let’s give that low-income white kid straight-A’s and perfect SATs, and that high-income black kid a combined SAT score about 300 points lower than the white kid, and see who gets into Harvard University. Well, thanks to the data obtained in discovery in the ongoing Asian-American lawsuit against Harvard, we don’t have to guess who wins: The rich black kid has a greater chance of being admitted. I suppose once you factor in all that glittering privilege bestowed upon the low-income white kid, and all the unrelenting oppression visited upon the black kid, that result sounds about right to the good people on the admissions committee at Harvard.

    • Peter from Oz says

      I think the problem with the “progressive” mindset is that it is rooted in what Roger Scrutiny calls “oikophobia” which is a something like the cultural self loathing you identify in your post.
      I think this oikophobia has its roots in the modern left’s lack of intellectual heft and its gross ignorance of history. There are several interweaving strands of mangled understanding of our cultural heritage and thought that they combined to get to the strange, garish fabric of belief that sustains them.
      What is interesting is that in some instances the roots of leftist oikophobia lie in the very parts of our culture that the modern liberal claims to detest. The tenets of Christianity, the ideals of chivalry and the concept of noblesse oblige have been drawn on to create the leftist mindset. The constant concern for the “disadvantaged” and the call on white people to become “woke” knights seeking the Holy Grail of diversity is clear evidence of the strange distortion that the old ideals have had on the liberal pathology. Mostly they despise “trade” and though they also feign to decry the old aristocracy, they have used some of its haute en bas in their approach to world. And so they cleave to the zero sum fallacy by thinking that if anyone gains in the world, then someone else must have suffered detriment. There is no such thing as proper bargain to a leftist. Commerce is something vulgar that must be done under cover of virtue signalling or be regulated to an inch of its life to protect the consumer.
      This all sets them up for the trap of folk Marxism. It’s not that many of today’s leftists have read any Marx. But what thy have done is to be the latest participants in a multi generational game of Chinese whispers in which Marxism has metamorphosed into identity politics. Whereas Marx was concerned with oppression of the proletariat by the bourgeoisie, the folk Marxist just sees all human relations in terms of oppressor and oppressed. Whites are the new Kulaks.
      And on top of all this is that special Puritan strain that American leftists in particular have given the world. It’s that eagerness to judge others and constantly be vigilant in case someone somewhere is actually having some fun in ways that the offenditrons of the left disprove. This is made most obvious when it comes to the way that the latest version of feminism has become just like Victorianism reborn, with the idea that sex is somehow an affront to decent women.
      Until recent times, as bonfire night approached, children would joyously chant the refrain “remember, remember the 5th of November,” looking forward to bonfire night. They didn’t know or care that the date they chanted was the anniversary of the Gunpowder Plot and that the bonfires were a traditional celebration of the salvation of King and Parliament from anihilation by Catholic rebels, which would have led to a terrible civil war and possible foreign invasion. Modern leftists remind me of those children, repeating notions of the past without actually understanding their meaning.
      It must be a dark, strange world for these perennial children of the left. Everything is so awful and everyone so evil. But most of all if the only true relationship is one of exercising power over others, then these kidult leftists have to make sure that it is they who wield that power. They cannot explain why they are justified in this, so they convince themselves they are doing it out of some noblesse oblige to the “marginalised”. If th critical theorists are right, and there is no real truth, then their truth is also lies and they must be ignored.
      Sinistra delenda est.

      • Just Me says

        @Peter from Oz-

        “What is interesting is that in some instances the roots of leftist oikophobia lie in the very parts of our culture that the modern liberal claims to detest. The tenets of Christianity, the ideals of chivalry and the concept of noblesse oblige have been drawn on to create the leftist mindset. ” Etc….

        Bingo! That’s exactly it!

      • Farris says

        The battle that is being waged is not people of color v. white or privileged v. under privileged. It is individual freedom v. group rights. Today’s divisiveness derives largely from these two competing ideals. Group rights are the antithesis of individual freedom. Membership and alliances are all that matter. Group rights are the death knell of individuality and only tolerate conformity. The old saying, “everyone is entitled to their opinion”, is not recognized. Only the opinion of the group matters. These people can only see humanity as groups competing in solidarity. Individual achievement is not recognized or celebrated. It is collectivist thinking and leads to tribalism. Group membership is actually not determined by race, it is determined by loyalty to the group. For this reason persons of color who dissent from the group are de facto exiles and are referred to as traitors, sell outs or uncle Toms. What these people fail or choose not to recognize is that protecting individuality is a uniting force. Would you prefer to live as individual or in accordance with the dictates of a group? To those who say being born white is a privilege the aborted would respond, “no it is a privilege to be born at all.”

        • Just Me says

          Farris –

          You are going to the other extreme. Group membership matters, emotional ties to your kin group, your society, your country, matter.

          Extreme individualism is as much a problem as extreme group loyalty. A healthy society balances the two.

          • Farris says

            @Just me

            I am trying to understand your post. Are you saying that governments should recognize that inalienable rights are or should be endowed to groups as opposed to or in addition to individual rights. I do not have a problem with loyalty to one’s family, region, country, fraternal organizations, ect.. I do have a problem with groups demanding freedom from dissent or criticism. And most of all I have a problem with groups who insist their rights of the trump the rights of the individual. This notion is contrary to the Bill of Rights.

        • vladdy says

          This makes more sense than anything else on the page. Just as it’s not left-right, but sovereignty/globalism; its not privileged/oppressed, but collectivism/individualism.

    • Christopher B says

      As both the article and a number of commenters have expressed, it’s the strategy used by privileged people like Mcintosh keep “the wrong kind” of whites and minorities out of their social and economic circles. So-called “affirmative action” and “diversity” are a way to select people with the right attitudes (namely, animus towards a broad spectrum of Americans) for inclusion.

      • Peter from Oz says

        @Christopher B
        Yes, the ”progressives” aren’t really interested in destroying privilege, just in giving to the people they think should have it.

  17. totjee says

    @glitter afresh

    “Maybe try not to pee your pants so fucking much”

    Good advice. You really should take it..

  18. D Bruce says

    “White privilege” is an uninformed echo of JS Mill’s once much discussed and still completely valid “unearned increment”.
    The Unearned increment derives from land ownership. Anyone who bought a property in London or Vancouver in the 1980s will know all about it.
    The left is undeniably right to believe that there is systemic privilege, but the nub of the issue is not race, its land.

  19. I’m chuckling a little at the hyperbolic degree of conviction that runs through many of the comments and the article itself.

    Clearly, there is certainly nothing wrong with ventilating intuitive social and political observations in this form. It’s useful to develop awareness of the general contours of a debate and of the general observations and priors that folks in contemporary society bring.

    Yet we should all be aware that this form of discourse is very far from being the state of art for investigating the questions raised. The extent to which “white privilege” (or unearned, hereditary class benefits) exists in a specific social setting is quite obviously an empirical question. Our best methods for evaluating such a question are in the realm of data gathering and statistics. In principle, you take hundreds of thousands of randomly selected individuals that cover the terrain (e.g. geographical, demographic, psychographic subsamples etc.) of interest. You ensure that for each of those individuals you have a wide panoply of attributes measured and coded. Then you run the whole thing through a multi-factor regression model, the form of which itself is developed iteratively, to determine and isolate the contribution of various variables and measures. There are many methodological subtleties and considerations for accomplishing this work correctly. But essentially you discover in the present context with these methods to what extent the game is rigged and along which arbitrary dimensions.

    What’s the actual right answer? Personally, I have no idea. Unfortunately, so much of the bandwidth for taking up these questions, including at the highest levels of academia, is clogged with methodologically weak studies, many of which do shade into mere autobiography or esoteric hypothesizing. Even in quality newspapers, one encounters almost no summaries of results from such quality studies.

    At the end of the day, we need to change the composition of the academic branches of study that should be informing and helping us with these questions. We need to ensure that researchers who wish to study these questions have spent years in the full-time study of empirical methods, including various branches of statistics such as econometrics and psychographics. Second, we need to ensure that, for the most part, they are engaged with very large-scale, appropriately resourced studies. If you want to study particle physics or epidemiology, nowadays you mainly join forces with hundreds or thousands of others who collaborate in the use of shared data gathering and processing projects such as the Hadron Collider. The ideal scale for studies in the social sciences is probably quite similar, and so we need to ensure that these fields progress from very immature cottage industries generally engaged in something that looks a lot like basement alchemy to productive and coordinated undertakings that can reliably inform us on important contemporary question such as the ones raised by this article.

    • @David

      For something to be considered an empirical question requires you be able to formulate a testable hypothesis. If you are unable to do this, chances are the theory under consideration is non-falsifiable and is no more amenable to empirical analysis than the existence of god.

      White privilege, like all totalizing and unidimensional theories, is non-falsifiable. All of the data in the world could be leveraged to demonstrate that differences in group outcomes are due to factors beside race (and there is a preponderance of such data), and you would still be able to tell me that white people have unearned privileges without worrying about being proven wrong by facts that suggest otherwise.

      It is odd that you, who is presumably trained in statistical methods, did not stop for one instant to reflect on why it is impossible to empirically challenge the claims of white privilege. Well, I have stopped to reflect and discovered that white privilege is less an empirical theory and more a metaphysical construct designed to dehumanize and exercise power over an out group; in short, it’s no different than old fashioned racism — there’s really nothing new under the sun.

      It never ceases to amaze me how doltish people such as yourself can be when they get a small taste of power and cruelty on their tongue. People smarter than you have figured out a long time ago that what is needed to destroy a white dominated country is not empirical data, but unfalsifiable theocratic doctrines cloaked in an academic veneer so as to appear reasonable and intelligent. Good luck with that agenda, most good Americans (of all races) can see it for the BS it is, hence the election of Donald Trump and precipitous decline in popular support for academic institutions and lefstream media.

  20. JayDee says

    I wish they had made the narrative more positive. This white privilege nonsense is just ripe for satire and memes, nothing else. I found this ridiculous, satirical article about the topic in question
    I’m so sick of people trying to justify racist behavior on the grounds of white privilege and systemic racism. I worry what kind of world we’re leaving behind. This is most certainly not the route to paradise.

  21. @GA

    “you tell me if the right is ready to set their racism aside and “redistribute” resources for the good of everyone. Ha”

    You tell me if the left is ready to set their own resources aside. How about their opportunities? Opportunities for their children?

    Living near Seattle, I know plenty of well-meaning lefties who feel strongly about concepts like white privilege or socialism. All of whom have a household income that is at least 3-5 times the median in the county.

    I always ask them why, if these things are true, they don’t give their next two paychecks away to an underprivileged black family who needs that money more. Why do they continue to abuse their unearned privilege, passing it down to their children, as they send them to private school or pay for their college?

    Invariably, they’re talking about someone else having gained unfairly from the system. “Other people” are actually wealthy and that’s who needs to have their property seized and redistributed. They feel they personally worked really hard to achieve their station in life, even if they did have some unearned benefits that helped, therefore, it wouldn’t be just to take their property. Their kids? Well the system is what it currently is, so they aren’t willing to sacrifice their kids’ chances when nobody else will.

    This is why attempts at imposing policies based on socialist / Marxist ideas invariably require mass violence – nobody, not even the true believers, are actually willing to do it themselves.

    It isn’t a matter of whether or not “the right” is willing to redistribute their resources – nobody is.

    Want more proof? Ask your lefty friends how many of them try to lower their own tax burden come filing time.

    • augustine says

      Attacking so-called white privilege (or patriarchy, etc.) is put forward as a solution to artificial problems involving natural hierarchies. Not all hierarchical outcomes are defensible and we should question some social inequalities, but an emotional and “progressive” appeal is all the Left can come up with. They know they can sell their message to many based on feelings and hunches, having somehow abandoned curiosity and good faith reasoning along the way. What is a problem for them may or may not warrant attention, but only their appraisal and solution is to be considered valid. The West’s peculiar spirit of rebellion and revolution that drives the Left/liberal mindset is like an exotic spice– a dash can be refreshing, much more makes the food inedible.

      • bodydrawings says

        Your last sentence is absolutely correct. I have been that spice. The right seems to know the existence and limitations of its dogma. The left has no idea.

        • augustine says

          The Left defines itself largely by claiming not to have limitations or boundaries. That is its mystique, especially for young adults. How can anyone put a limit on love and empathy? Only haters. Conservatives know what is best for themselves and those closest to them. Liberals know what is best for everyone on the planet. They cannot both be right.

    • Peter from Oz says


      That’s a good point. The fact is that most middle class (in the British sense) lefties live conservative lives and obey all the conservastive tenets. They would be silly not to do so, as the facts of life are conservative.
      The joke is that they are keen for other people to live without the benefits of bourgoise respectability, when it is clear that a solid conservative way of life leads to greater stability and happiness.
      The hypocrisy of the oikophobes is never-ending.

    • @Joe

      There is an immense amount of truth to this. I was once a trendy lefty socialist. My red pill moment was when we were gathered at a Starbucks to trash capitalism and virtue signal our sincerest feelings about the oppressed. A beggar walked up to our table and asked if anyone had anything to spare. Not a single one of them, including myself, raised a finger to help.

      I left that meeting with an insight about myself. I wanted to transform society by exacting revenge on those more wealthy and successful. I wanted revenge more than I wanted to help the disadvantaged, and from the lack of care for the beggar, it is safe to assume my fellow revolutionaries shared a similar pathology.

      • AA

        I thinking was Orwell that said something like, “It is hatred of the rich, not care for the poor, that animates the middle-class socialist.”

        So very true.

        • “I think”

          Not – “I thinking was”

          Autocorrect seems to auto-scramble more often than not.

  22. Jeffery Lewis says

    While i’m firmly in the camp that you don’t fight racism with more racism I’m sure there must be more to Peggy McIntosh than the article is letting on. Does anyone have a Steelman for White Privilege that has nuance, or at least doesn’t sound loony toons.

    • Personally, I define “privilege” as unearned advantages that people possess by virtue of belonging to a specific group. Historically, certain groups (men, whites, the wealthy, heterosexuals) have been dominant in our society and other groups (women, non-whites, the poor, gays and lesbians) have been subordinate, i.e. they’ve faced discrimination on both an individual and systemic level. As a culture, we’ve made tremendous progress toward the goal of becoming a truly meritocratic society in which individuals have a roughly equal chance of succeeding regardless of their identity. In my view, this is mostly due to the efforts of social movements like the civil rights movement, second-wave feminism, the labor movement, and the gay rights movements. You’re *much* better off being black, female, poor and/or gay than you would have been fifty or a hundred and fifty years ago. This is why I think it’s absurd to suggest that our society is still “patriarchal” or “white supremacist.” Those terms deny the reality of the progress we’ve made and feed into self-flagellating victim narratives that alienate potential allies. However, it doesn’t follow that we’ve eliminated racism, sexism, etc. from our society. In many ways, whites are still privileged (advantaged due to their racial identity) over blacks in our society. If you’re honestly interested and look with an open mind, you can find numerous studies which demonstrate racial bias in housing, health care, education, criminal justice, etc. Yes, most academics are liberals, but that doesn’t automatically invalidate all social scientific research. Much of the work produced within disciplines like Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies is ideological garbage, but there are honest scholars in other fields who are definitely worth reading (see, for example, Matthew Desmond’s excellent book _Evicted_). Recognizing the existence of white privilege does NOT mean denying that other kinds of privilege also exist, including class-based privilege, nor does it mean that you necessarily endorse race-based remedies like reparations or affirmative action. (Not that anyone asked, but I favor race-neutral programs like the top 10% program in Texas.) Obviously, not all white people are equally privileged, and not all non-whites face the same level of bias. Finally, I think it’s important to acknowledge that dysfunctional and self-destructive subcultures can develop in response to oppressive conditions. White privilege may explain some of the social and economic disparities between whites and blacks, but culture is a huge part of the equation. There’s a reason why first-generation immigrants can succeed in America while native-born citizens with the same color skin remain mired in generational poverty. It’s not all about race! However, I think it’s equally implausible to suggest that racial bias plays no role whatsoever. In my view, the ultimate goal is a society in which systemic forms of discrimination are eliminated and individuals have a more or less equal opportunity to succeed. We need to move past our fixation on identity. Unfortunately, the regressive left is obsessed with identity; it denies the reality of dysfunctional subcultures and encourages people to become hypersensitive to supposed racist slights. However, I don’t think that adopting an equally vitriolic anti-SJW attitude which denies all race-based privilege is the solution.

      • Daniel says

        “However, I don’t think that adopting an equally vitriolic anti-SJW attitude which denies all race-based privilege is the solution.”

        But adopting an equally vitriolic anti-SJW attitude which denies all BS race-based privilege sure seems like an appealing solution!

  23. @GA (again)

    “whiteness (expressed in spoken language, decorum, manner of speaking, cultural practices, Puritan coldness, and the descendants of wealth in the form of pre-colonial money and status) is the “dominant” “habitus,” …

    …means two things: you are white, so you are not subject to scrutiny from the dominant habitus…”

    Uh huh.

    So white men aren’t subject to scrutiny in their spoken language, decorum, manner of speaking, cultural practices, blah, blah … have you never been involved in a job interview or college admission process (either as the interviewer or interviewee)? If so, then you can’t actually believe this.

    And, how many white people do you suppose descend from pre-colonial money and status? Rough guess… percentage of the population? I personally know exactly zero people this would apply to.

    • Alistair says


      Agreed. GA confuses “effective” behaviours with “white behaviours”. GA doesn’t realise that hard work, civility, successful marriage, lawfulness, smart appearance, IQ and education explain the success, and these behaviours are open to most people of any race.

      GA just thinks it’s “whiteness”. The inadequacy of this white privilege model to explain poor whites and rich Asians, and a host of other data never seems to cross GA’s mind. I wonder if something is deeply cognitively broken in such people that they cling to such simplistic and useless models of the world.

  24. Steve says

    Mr. Ray’s searing account of his experiences in the Balkans should spur each of us to actually do something about the rise of this latest wave of diabolical actors on the historic stage. The latter-day Jacobins that are worming their way into the culture must be stopped by any means necessary.

  25. bodydrawings says

    @Glitter Afresh
    Here you go with racist as fuck and dumbfuck people and shut the fuck up. This is insulting and people are sick to death of it and its hypocrisy. It is not hard to see that all these theories have escaped the university and run amok. It is not at all uncommon to hear black people say that homeless white people deserve it for fucking up their privilege. And to say much worse. And before you say that this is in response to ‘centuries of systemic racism’ and ‘no real threat to the existing power structures that privilege whiteness’ think twice about what you are actually saying. I understand the seductiveness of this current ideology. But it’s destructive at best and dangerous at worst. Nonwhite people saying horrible things about white people (with glee) and going on about destroying white institutions (with glee) and the joining in on all this by certain white people is, with pause, bizarre. The same goes for what women are saying about men. Rape accusations without due process as a response to Me Too is horrifying. And to say all this is to rectify ‘the past’ is not a good excuse.

  26. Martin28 says

    Great article. McIntosh’s essay begs the questions of where this privilege comes from and does it apply to anybody else who is not white. It is garbage social science, and McIntosh had and has no right to speak for anyone else. The subsequent use of her essay is one giant circle-jerk of ideological people who want to believe, so they are only looking for evidence on one side. In fact, McIntosh’s argument serves to invalidate research on the other side, because it can be called biased if you are a white person—a traitor or dupe if you are not.

  27. Chip says

    As a fellow white person who grew up in lower middle class desperation I can easily see how the author imagines white privilege to be alien to his existence.

    But in the same way that he accuses this affluent woman for taking her personal life experience and universalizing it to the whole world, it doesn’t seem to occur to him that other people, nonwhite people, experience the world in an entirely different way than he does.
    He ends up demonstrating that same blithe parochialism that he accuses Ms. McIntosh of having.

    • What difference does this make, exactly? McIntosh’s tiresome, dull essay marks her as an intellectual lightweight, and as this essay shows, a well-connected dilettante. The intersectionalists treat it as though she were a sort of Moses to their religion. Congratulations, people are born into unequal conditions! What a brilliant insight! The trouble begins when the intersectionalists make the claim, implicitly or explicitly, that such differences are responsible for all subsequent successes — which is risibly false.

    • Martin28 says

      @chip. How do you know that other people, nonwhite people, experience the world in an entirely different way that he does? This seems completely unsupportable. You don’t know how he experiences the world, or how anyone does, for that matter. It doesn’t seem to occur to Chip that this is the kind of generalization that leftists make, supported by overly presumptive concepts like white privilege that generalize over entire races.

      • Chip says

        Because of the testimony of literally millions of nonwhite people, saying that their experiences are very different than those described by the majority.

        Black, Hispanic, Asian and Middle Eastern people describe their encounters with authorities, fellow Americans, businesses and institutions and those testimonies of their actual lived experience are different than what the rest of us experience or describe.

        • Martin28 says

          @chip. You can’t possibly know the testimony of millions of people. A testimony is a personal account. You have heard testimonies, but a small number, subject to your confirmation bias and their ideological biases (millions of people now view themselves as victims due to theories like White Privilege). Putting these four groups together and separating them from white people is completely arbitrary, not scientific, and based entirely on your own ideological viewpoint.

          • Chip Daniels says

            You realize that black folks write books, and magazines, and newspaper articles and tv shows and movies?

            How do you think we know what the Canadian experience is, or what it is like to be French or grow up in the South? Right here in this essay, Mr. Ray offers his testimony of growing up poor, in Canada, telling us that he is not privileged.

            Should we dismiss it as ideological bias? Or should we accept it as his truthful experience?

            And shouldn’t we lay his experience alongside the experiences of nonwhite people and compare?

            The written experiences of millions of people forms the basis of history.

  28. One quibble (and actually, not necessarily a minor one): your link is to a paper on the subject of physics education. The X education departments, even in STEM, have been overrun with those incompetent at teaching in those fields, who long ago put away their undergraduate STEM degrees (one example here) in exchange for the security of pomo cant.

  29. c young says

    The concepts of ‘whiteness’, and the idea of ‘white people’ as one homogenous block, have no meaning outside of the tribal politics of the USA.

    From where I sit in London with dark skinned friends from Africa and South America who work for investment banks, and exclusively white Polish guys sweeping the streets and clearing the bins, it makes little sense.

    Black skin has no logical connection to slavery. In fact, Caribbeans here in the UK often accuse black African immigrants of perpetrating slavery.

    White skin has no connection to privilege. The richest races in the UK are Chinese and African-Asian. The white race sits near the bottom.

    ‘Blackness’ and ‘whiteness’ appear to be cyphers.

  30. Brian says

    Here in the world, all kinds of people have “privilege”. Tall people have more than short people, young people have more than elderly people, people with high IQs have more than people with low IQs,,healthy people have more privilege than sick people, the list goes on and on. The best way to help everyone is to treat people with humility and grace, not to pick out a group of people to denigrate.

  31. brad gillespie says

    It’s difficult to imagine anything more insulting that this ascription of certain behavior patterns to people merely because of their skin color. As a white male, I wonder how I can escape all the nasty inherent characteristics that pseudo intellectuals, who can’t get beyond the victimized narratives running wild and ruining society, as assigning me. In fact, to someone who dismisses all this academic garbage as the invention of those who have nothing else to do in life but create false narratives, and indulge themselves in them, I can’t imagine anything more worthless than someone who is wrapped up in attempting to classify people according to their color. This is so beyond the pale of reasoned thought that it should be an act of criminality to continue propagating it. The value of those inventing these wild scenarios seems to be totally dependent on existing in a world of false thought — and then attempting to convince others how valid it is. The genuinely honest ones reject it, as well as they depthless ghouls who create it, and wallow in it.

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  33. Kansas Allen says

    Thank you! My children attend the district where Teresa Downs is pushing her white privilege posters and we are trying to have them removed. She, unfortunately, has dug her high heels into the sand and refuses to listen to reason. It’s like dealing with a child having a temper tantrum. So many people, we have almost a 1000 signatures on a petition, and she refuses to budge. After posting the original photos on my fb I received horrible threats against myself and my family… my children were called “white racists,” even though they are all FIRST NATIONS along with my husband. People don’t even see anymore, they just jump on the Peggy McIntosh bandwagon and lash out because they are so brainwashed and led around by the nose. And if you DARE go against these SJW… well then, “YOU must be racist.” How on earth does one defend themselves? Hopefully, the violence won’t happen, but I think it’s already too late… school in our district starts next week, I really hope the posters will be gone.

    • Martin28 says

      Thank you for your testimony. This indeed is what it has come to. “White privilege” and similar concepts based on hanging labels and characteristics on entire groups of people are so poisonous. When enough people believe these concepts, you get mobs of irrational people such as the ones you describe. I am horrified by what I am seeing in academia and other institutions. Thank God for Quillette, Jordan Peterson, the IDW and others who are taking this on intellectually and philosophically. And thank God for people like you who have the courage to speak up in the face of the mob.

  34. Here is Du Bois on white privilege in 1935:

    It must be remembered that the white group of laborers, while they received a low wage, were compensated in part by a sort of public and psychological wage. They were given public deference and titles of courtesy because they were white. They were admitted freely with all classes of white people to public functions, public parks, and the best schools. The police were drawn from their ranks, and the courts, dependent on their votes, treated them with such leniency as to encourage lawlessness. Their vote selected public officials, and while this had small effect upon the economic situation, it had great effect upon their personal treatment and the deference shown them. White schoolhouses were the best in the community, and conspicuously placed, and they cost anywhere from twice to ten times as much per capita as the colored schools. The newspapers specialized on news that flattered the poor whites and almost utterly ignored the Negro except in crime and ridicule.[15]

    Basically whites were compensated by virtue of legal segregation providing higher status and inequities in funding. I agree with Du Bois’s point fully: there was definitely white privilege, especially in the South in 1935.

    However, who get special preferences in education and employment now?

    Who has benefits directly and indirectly from the “racism industry”? Not poor whites.

  35. Cynthea Sabolich says

    For the decade now I have been reminding our fellow citizens who love the hyphens (African-, Lation-, Asian-American, etc.) that American people of color think that being human and tribal are uniquely racist American traits. They are not. I worked in psych substance abuse and I can tell you, even among addicts, some will always need to feel they are better than others. Alcohols feel superior to drug addicts, who feel superior within themselves for not being THAT guy…..

    My only comment to this analogy is that Mr. Ray thinks the source of the problem was some point in recent times that taught the people to hate. I can tell you that Croatian-Americans and Serb-Americans can all tell you about their history, the history of what grievances they have with each other, and in some cases, the names of villagers who were murdered in a horrible way 600 years ago by the other side. It is beneath the surface at all times. It isn’t a new hate. It’s an old one that they cling to. People who live in no plumbing houses on the sides of hills in Tennessee thank the Lord they aren’t those ignorant fools living on the side of a hill in West Virginia. And so it goes to Africa, South America, China, and the former Soviet Union.

    People are tribal. America used to be a melting pot. People who refuse to give up their positions or prestige or prosperity (especially the unearned inheritances) always seem to find a yolk to put upon those that didn’t have their advantage, and always seem to deny the excellence of their target audience. Many many American blacks have done well, excelled in something, achieved something, made money, reached incredible heights, all while others are clinging to the boards of claiming they were denied because of some other group.. And if you really want to do comparisons, try comparing ANY ONE of ANY color to the Boat people, who came here with literally nothing and crawled and carved prosperous lives through sheer will and determination. Saying someone has their path blocked only means we have failed to teach them how to make new paths. And shame on us. Shame on her for gifting them an excuse. Shame on them for molding it into another destructive weapon to continue to separate us..

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  37. James J says

    Here is my definition of privilege. I learned this from my parents and from every person I met who displayed integrity and personal responsibility. “I have the right and I am entitled to enter into any business, establishment, institution or social situation and get out of it that which I desire. If I am refused entrance or the end result that I desire then I have the right and I am entitled to leave that business, establishment, institution or social situation and go achieve my qualifications to enter or I may leave and seek my satisfaction elsewhere.”

    • Color clearly plays a role, but there’s no gift bag for being white and handcuffs for being a Jew or Asian, which presumably are just “another form of whiteness” to SJWs.

      • I would say CAN play a role, but to what extent and how often is surely disappointingly low to the activist crowd. Hence all these claims of “subconscious” “invisible” “dog whistles” etc. Like, how elusive does something have to be before it simply ceases to exist?

  38. Can she enumerate the “unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white” that were given to me?
    And how does that map to Appalachians or the white homeless? How did a white-privilege country fail to prevent Jews and Asians from doing better than whites in measures of income and education achieved?

    • It never seems to add up. Likewise what kind of “patriarchy” is cool with over 90% male workplace injury and death? Or over 90% male homeless demographics? Or charging more for everything from insurance to nightclub admission? If that’s what needs to be “smashed” then hand me the hammer.

  39. On a side note, if this same party that’s constantly whipping everybody up into riotous rage wants a country without “battlefield weaponry” at the consumer level, they would do well to make the landscape look less like a battlefield. They have a remarkable ability to create problems by which they are then so confused and offended.

  40. AC Harper says

    “[White Privilege is] the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white. ”

    Maybe, maybe not. But to ascribe a group characteristic to an individual based solely on their skin colour is bigotry. Racist bigotry.To claim that white people cannot be oppressed just doubles down on the bigotry

  41. Fran says

    Funny — no one has commented on Peggy McIntosh’s segue from MALE privilege into WHITE privilege. She sees women as downtrodden too, by definition.

    People get angry when they are accused of something they cannot deny, and are not personally responsible for. They also get angry when they work, pay taxes and see someone getting something for nothing (excuse, for their identity).

    This is the anger that can easily be channelled into the atrocities in Bosnia. On a much smaller level, it is why I turn off CBC’s perpetual stories of the hard life of aboriginals.

    Identity politics is dangerous.

    • Martin28 says

      FWIW, you make a good point and I think the “white privilege” concept derives from McIntosh’s core feminism. It may even be a tactic, because the bigger the identity politics tent, the more likely that feminist identity politics will succeed. Moreover, it comes from the same underlying philosophy. Identity politics can only be effectively weeded out at that level.

  42. Rob G says

    Always wondered who came up with the scientifically hollow strawman of white (male) privilege. Recommend Quillette’s The Racism Treadmill by Coleman Hughes as a follow on to this article.

  43. codadmin says

    ‘White privilege’ is really ‘majority privilege’.

    Does anyone complain about ‘Chinese privilege’ when they move to China? No.

    The concept of white privilege is just another genocidal idea of the fascist left. Hitler spoke of Jews having privilege.

    To dehumanise, you accuse others of being undeserving.

    • @ codadmin

      “Does anyone complain about ‘Chinese privilege’ when they move to China? No.”

      Sort of yes. The Chinese vs the Tibetans or the Uyghurs.

      “The concept of white privilege is just another genocidal idea”


      “Hitler spoke of Jews having privilege. ”

      Not really the same thing. He was talking about those who were married to the Aryan race.

    • Song For the Deaf says

      I’ve thought the same. Chinese have the same privileges in China. So do Middle Eastern Arabs, Africans in Africa and Latinos in Latin America.

      The question is not, “Why do white people in white countries get to have privilege and how can we destroy it,” but, “What is wrong these white people who think it’s unjust that we should enjoy these things? How did they get to be that way?”

  44. Song For the Deaf says

    I’m a little disappointed in this article. Peggy MacIntosh built her career on an ad hominem foundation and I was hoping to see an ad hominem argument against her. What we got was an argument about her class. The article didn’t even discuss the insecurity her wealthy upbringing and left-wing education gave her and its effect on her thinking. I’ve known daughters of wealthy men, a certain kind of girl can be very insecure about how coddled she was in a culture that privileges poor black and brown people. Enter Peggy.

    I could have done better with just a google search for interviews with her. How?

    Go read the story she tells about how she was inspired to come up with th invisible knapsack. She wasn’t getting along with some black feminists where she worked. And they were complaining about how hard white women are to work with (lol). She said to herself, “Well it’s easier than working with you.”
    Later, she’s shocked by how “deeply racist” her thought was, because you know, it’s racist to think black people might be hard to work with. So what does she do? She goes home and sits down at the kitchen and writes out a list of all the ways she’s privileged, which she defines as an advantage she didn’t earn and therefore deserves to have taken away, and then publishes it.

    Does nobody else here get how profoundly *weird* that is? Who does that? Instead of answering her argument point by point, we should be asking ourselves, “What’s wrong with her? Where did this upper-class masochism come from and what is it’s nature? Is she being ideologically masochist because she doesn’t actually have any skin in the game, pace Taleb?” Meaning, she can say all this precisely because it has no effect on her bottom line.

    These are the perfectly legitimate ad hominem questions we should be asking this ad hominem scholar. But nobody’s ever asked them.

    • Why would you want to respond to an ad hominem argument with another ad hominem? Does nobody else here get how profoundly *weird* that is? Who does that? Why not raise the standards of debate and provide actual arguments and evidence in favor of your position?

      Augustine is right – triabalism is a scourge. Unfortunately it’s on vivid display in this comments section.

      • Song For the Deaf says

        That was a retarded reply. There’s nothing weird about responding to an ad hom in kind, it happens all the time.

        If her ad homs are enough to get her ideas a following, then they deserve to be taken down by same and any pretensions to objective arguments are transparent in any case.

        You guys on the Left are the douchebags who gave us all totalitarian notions like ‘the personal is political.’ Ad hominems are the foundation of your politics.

      • @ KAD, first of all thank you for challenging the original author as well as staying civil in the at times heated discourse. Also, I appreciate you sharing the original article. In the times of social media outrage it’s always highly informative to go back to the original source

        I still think that your arguments are confused. Let me illustrate why:

        Your “ad hominem” challenge: You are right that McIntosh’s personal background does not pre se invalidate her hypotheses. Where Ray has a point is, that there are strong alternative explanations for the things that she used to illustrate her so caled “white privilege”. That’s not at hominem at all.

        Any “honest” (to use the term put forward by another poster earlier) would have looked not only at the “white privilege” but also strong alternative hypotheses on drivers for what McIntosh observed.

        It is pretty obvious that many of her observations on “white privilege” can be easily explained in an alternative way by her coming from an extremely wealthy and highly connected background.

        Other observations (like what race do I see on magazine covers) can easily be explained by being part of the majority group in a given country. If you went to live in an Asian, Arab or African country as a “white” person, I am sure you would make a number of the observations McIntosh did in a way where the local majority “race” would have “privilege”. I have yet to see the outcry over “Asian, Arab or African privilege”

      • Why do you say the author commits his an ad hominem? If he did, it seems like his article could be summarized succinctly as something like, “Peggy McIntosh has a wealthy background. Ergo white privilege and everything she says about it is false. QED.” But he’s not simply trying to refute her claim on that sole basis, but providing an explanation of her life and what role it might play in her bizarre essay.

        As it is, her ideology of social justice she participates in is a quasi-religion, and her role is more like that of a devout believer or acolyte trying to divine some special insight through her own self-appointed role as a guru.

    • Peter from Oz says

      The massochism to which you refer is a perverted version of the old aristocratic ideals of chivalry and noblesse oblige.
      The best way to ensure that you are safe in your privileges is to pretend that undertand the lack of privilege of others. You can then use your self-righteousness as a weapon to give you power which also alllows you to keep a hold of your upper class status.

      • Song For the Deaf says

        Speaking of Augustine and noblesse oblige…

        Peggy and her ilk remind me of nothing so much as those neurotic upper-class matrons in 4th century Rome who helped entrench Christianity in the elite. Another universalist ideology in which the ruling group convicted itself of an original sin for which they would have to interrogate themselves endlessly while damning their ancestors. It’s the exact same phenomenon.

        They all inherited massive estates, had no children and willed their property to the Church, which is how the papacy originally came to own so much of Italy by the 5th century. That’s what the Peggy’s of the world want to do to white people today: they want to give everything we have away but only after they’re gone.

    • Northern Observer says

      Very good comment. It’s like building a system of through from a mental patient’s musings. Why would you do that? You would do it because the mental patient’s musings serve your worldview and power. So the real story about Peggy is not her so much but her first generation enablers and proselytizers. Who was her Peter? Who was her Abu Bakr? That’s were you need to go to understand this beastly ideology.

  45. duckweed says

    I’ll leave logic to smarter people. For me, being told about my “privilege” is personal. It’s a gut-level reaction. It seems like an invalidation. I resist having the complexities of a difficult, lonely, and other times very lucky life reduced to the two traits of skin color and gender.

    If someone wants to sit down, hear my story, acknowledge my experiences, look for our common humanity, I’d be happy to do the same in return. But it’s a non-starter to begin with a term that invalidates aspects of my life that have shaped me so profoundly.

  46. ccscientist says

    Leftists talk about exterminating whites. Feminists talk about getting rid of all men. This is dangerous stuff.
    Such talk of white priv is dehumanizing. Do they know the story of the person who they claim has this original sin? Do they know how hard he worked, his black friends, how many people he helped? No of course not. It is simple hatred for things that person did not do, that happened 150 years ago. Does it count that 1 white person died for every 6 slaves freed during the civil war? That is a pretty high “reparation”. It is simple jealousy. So much could be accomplished by blacks, as an example, if they turned away from gansta culture, finished school and stayed out of jail. So much easier to just call the game unfair.

  47. I love this website. This is what it looks like when those on the right and in the middle argue for the things that matter to them. Serious argumentation, (mostly) civil discourse, thoughtful composition, genuine curiosity. Comments and contributions on political sites from left of center are so often polluted with senseless angst and profanity one wonders if their effort is more about a need for emotional release than exploring ideas.

    Someone commented above to the effect that comments on this thread appeared to them as a sort of rally of self-congratulating right wingers. I’ve noticed that it has become more common that the Left criticizes conservatives for any undisguised bias, especially as a “group”, as if liberals offer us only the pinnacle of impartial reasoning. Well, they don’t, but since they are the reigning power in the culture they can claim the default standard. The MSM exemplifies this.

    Disinterested or “unbiased” investigation is necessary but reaches a limit when it comes to philosophy and politics, the stuff Quillette seems to be on about mainly. Arguments need to be supported by evidence and logical explication, but if any contributor has a stake in the game and actually cares about his subject matter, his views will inevitably skew leftward or to the right. This should be seen as giving us meaningful positions from which to argue and not as vacating objectivity or detached reasoning.

  48. That is one of the best take-downs on stupidity I’ve ever read.

  49. Jezza says

    I can’t see what all the fuss is about. I’m white and I’m a racist – I’m just not a very good one . . . I’m too lazy. I can’t be bothered with form guides, weights, and distances and all that stuff. I pick the one with the nicest legs.

  50. Hamr says

    Interesting essay. TY

    Awesome comment section. thanks y’all.

    I find it interesting with some of the commenters seem believe that white privilege is actually a real thing, and that white people should then have to prove hat they are innocent of white privilege.

    Does White Privilege exist within different cultural and economic classes within a predominantly white populous?

    Was there much of a difference between the daily life of agronomic surfs in: Russia, France, England…as compared to: China, Africa , and early North America (America’s)?

    Wealth is the major controlling factor. Land holder’s, tribalism, religious institutions, war lords…are the manners if control.

    Race only seems to matter, when it is tied to these.

  51. Sigurd Brekke says

    Great to hear more people talk against the current use of identity politics, would recommend everyone to check out this TEDx talk ( on the topic. These ideas face resistance at the university level, even though our voices are not the strongest at the moment.

  52. Gilles St-Gilles says

    The reason american intellectuals are creating so many strange theories is that black americans, as a group, are stubbornly doing so much worse than other groups, so many generations after slavery. It must be some discrimination that whites still do. It *has to*. Some unearned privilege that carries over from the slavery days. Systemic racism. Unconscious bias. Something! There just *has* to be some external oppression that is imposed on Blacks by an either openly racist or subtly WASP-normative society.

    Now, the reason that I don’t buy their theory is that you can check how various subgroups of the american population are doing. You can check out income by religion ( The top of the list, by a good margin, is judaism, with hindus right behind. You can check out income by race (for instance, and notice that the top of the income ladder is not occupied by Whites, but by Asians, and by a solid margin.

    A theory that purports to explain black social problems by “white supremacy”, whiteness, albonormativity or white privilege would have to explain why this curiously does not seem to affect jews, Asians, or Hindus. I can imagine that their proponents would argue that racism against Jews or Asians, or men in turbans is nonexistent, while racism against blacks is incredibly intense and entrenched. I would disagree with that. I have NO difficulty finding expressions of dislike and even hatred against Jews or Chinese. It sometimes comes from black people, anecdotally the recent repeated admonitions by democrat representative Betty Cook Scott not to “vote for the ching-chong”.

    To me, this *proves* that, no matter how racist or prejudiced american society is, it does not prevent minority groups, not just from doing almost as well as Whites, but surpass them all the way to the top of the social ladder.

    • Song For the Deaf says

      They do have an explanation for other ethnic groups/races excel whites when blacks don’t. It’s because we racist whites consider them model minorities and are happy to let them out-earn us and displace is politically, but blacks alone we refuse to let do that.

      The model minority idea has the added benefit of making successful minorities insecure about white people’s approval and turning them against us. It’s a great Leftist trick.

      • Gilles St-Gilles says

        Yes, I have heard the hateful sneers black activists have for “model minority”. The idea that all-powerful Whites “allow” Asians to succeed beyond everyone else just to spite Blacks rank up there with chemtrails in tin-foil hat conspiracies.

        I recently read “China girl in the ghetto” by Ying Ma. Not the greatest litterary biography ever. But the life of chinese immigrants moving to the Oakland inner city, the kids speaking no english, the father a head mechanic in China now working in a fish plant at minimum wage. The ghetto is a harsh environment. Ying is harassed and taunted at school by her black schoolmates, the family robbed in the street by black criminals but the family members blame no one, work and study hard and leave the ghetto behind.

        Asians, Indians. What do they have in common? By and large they have conservative values. Family is tight and traditional. They study harder than anyone else. They work hard and smart. They delay gratification. They value knowledge and respect autority, rules, society. The antithesis of **ghetto** black culture. With the right values, even in poverty you shrug off hardships, trudge and soldier on and improve your lot.

        • And 2 or 3000 years of living in an imperium with strata, cities, villages dependent on those cities (and reverse of course) and civil servants, specialisation in crafts etc etc. Now, look only just how the colonizers of the 19th century encountered the African tribes and villages inland, in the bushes, the savannahs? You can’t compare it. Only the exigencies to survive, completely different in both cases. The education needed, how do you raise babies, todlings, pubers, pre-adults? The habits, the social customs! Why do people always think immediately in IQ and genetics, and not in culture?

          • TarsTarkas says

            Disagree. It doesn’t take that long to assimilate into the dominant culture. The Irish did it, the Italians did it, the Jews did it, etc. etc. The black population as a whole was slowly and steadily doing it in this country up until the early 1960’s. The decline started with the almost deliberate-seeming destruction of the nuclear family among blacks, chiefly through too-liberal welfare plus promotion and celebration of nihilistic culture and values. Moynihan documented what was happening in his famous report, and LBJ at first praised its findings, but the welfare bureaucracy and industry immediately attacked it and made Moynihan look like a racist bigot, and nothing useful from his findings was ever implemented.


            Anthony Malcolm Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple) has documented almost the same exact thing among former working-class Brits in England, showing that race has nothing to do with the creation of a permanent welfare-dependent class.

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  55. Michael Davis says

    [Living is] the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are [living]. Generally [living] people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

    • @Michael: you could have been part of the commission to edit the text of the International Human Right bill, also rather optimistic over the rights and the opportunities of human beings all-over the globe. The privilege of just being there.

  56. Darwin T of BC Humanists says

    Well am I the only one who wants a quarterly international award given to those that do their best to make the world the worst they can?

    Let’s call it the, Post-ThoughtModern Award. I am open to improvements for this name. The funnier the better.

  57. X. Citoyen says

    Two complaints (worthy of addressing) have been raised against Ray’s piece. One is the use and justifiability of the ad hominem and the other is what I’ll call KAD’s motte version of the white privilege claim. I don’t mean to imply that KAD is using the motte-and-bailey tactic to defend white privilege because he has disavowed the bailey. I take him to be arguing in good faith by appeal to the evidence he has cited in the links above. (In fact, I don’t think KAD can see the bailey, a blind spot that’s endemic among traditional liberals when they read radicals. This blind spot is what’s exposed in my above response to his defence of McIntosh.)

    Argumentum ad hominem (“argument to the man”) is a catchall term for several rhetorical moves, not all of which are unjustified. In a trial context, a witness who alibis the accused has been found guilty of providing false alibis in the past, the ad hominem is probative and therefore relevant because testimony depends on credibility. Showing that the same alibi witness has a hundred unpaid parking tickets, however, is not relevant (other things being equal). This ad hominem works the same way outside courts, though it often proves less than people think it does. The fact that a researcher is paid by an interested party doesn’t prove the research is wrong.

    The second type of ad hominem, as I mentioned in a comment above is ex concessis (from concessions), meaning one exposes contradictions among someone’s stated commitments, whether assumptions, principles, or facts (e.g., this is how Socrates usually debated).

    How does Ray’s polemic fit into this scheme? He attacked the claim that white privilege exists by attacking the credibility of McIntosh as a representative of whiteness. All he ultimately did was show that McIntosh belongs to the 1% of the 1%. Her personal experience is the furthest one can possibly get from representative of white American experience. That’s a fair and accurate criticism.

    Two problems with KAD’s motte version. First, it bears no resemblance to McIntosh and other activists’ bailey version. They reify race into the dominant force shaping social interactions. KAD points to a couple of studies showing there’s still some discrimination in hiring blacks and Latinos. No one is going to dispute that there isn’t some discrimination against individuals based on beliefs about the group, whether justified or not. But KAD’s motte version isn’t just a more moderate version of McIntosh’s bailey; it is a completely different way of looking at the world. The sooner the KADs of the world recognize this, the better we’ll all be.

      • X. Citoyen says

        Thanks, Mr. Ray. You reminded me of something, though. If old logic-choppers like me were enough to defeat this idea, the battle would’ve been over before it started. It takes different people from different perspectives to really speak to a wide audience and persuade the critical mass people needed to defeat it. Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” for example, probably did more to discredit the Soviet Union than all the economic data ever produced. So I wouldn’t say I could’ve a made your article better than you did. I’d say we all needed you to write your article your way.

    • Nice explanation! I was going to mention this whole motte and bailey business, but it’s good to see someone smarter than I am do such a good job.

      The “motte-and-bailey” tactic is the main tactic the peddlers of these social justice theories use on ordinary liberals. For example, one can easily be made to agree with the statement that “White privilege actually exists.” This is just another way of saying that life isn’t fair. This agreement seems to be used to smuggle the more ludicrous assumptions, seldom stated outright, that underpin this whole quasi-religious belief involving collective guilt, its own conspiracy theory of history, etc.

    • peanut gallery says

      I agreed with a lot of what KAD said in one comment and I think this gets to the heart of what disagreement I do have. Saving the “Backpack” is a cross he doesn’t need to bear. It’s creator and her ideas aren’t worth the effort.

    • X. Citoyen, I appreciate the constructive criticism, and you may be right.

      I believe that racism remains a real and pervasive problem in today’s society. However, according to many anti-racist activists my views on race both reflect and reinforce “white supremacy.” Why? Because I challenge some of the dictates of contemporary anti-racist ideology. Specifically, I think that the U.S. has made real progress toward becoming less racist, I’m convinced that cultural differences are an important contributor to racial disparities, and I believe that compromise is often necessary to bring about change. Each of these claims would be considered suspect, or even heretical, by what could be called the radical anti-racist movement. Dissent is not tolerated; there are certain questions which must not be asked. All too often, this intolerant and illiberal reaction to well-intentioned criticism has a polarizing effect. Radicals alienate potential allies by insisting on absolute ideological purity.

      For example, the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement has rightly called attention to instances in which police killed unarmed black men. All too often, cops who commit wrongful killings face no legal consequences for their actions. What’s the best approach to addressing this problem? Many in the BLM movement have vilified the police, implying that all cops are racist and assuming that any use of deadly violence on the part of the authorities is unjustified. Their opponents have reacted to the slogan “black lives matter” by insisting that “all lives matter,” which is perceived by BLM activists as a racist affront. A more pragmatic anti-racist might have attempted to defuse this conflict by affirming that all lives do, in fact, matter – including the lives of whites who are killed by police, and those of urban blacks who fall victim to gang violence. Virtually all Americans will agree that police officers should not kill unarmed citizens who do not pose an immediate threat. Most would support reforms that reduce the likelihood of these incidents occurring, e.g. better screening of police recruits, the mandatory use of body cameras, greater focus on de-escalation training, and efforts to diversity police forces in majority-black cities. Undoubtedly, some in the BLM movement are advocating for these kinds of changes at the local level. Others, however, are blocking highways and engaging in polarizing rhetoric which is more likely to alienate potential allies than persuade them to support reforms.

      • X. Citoyen says


        I have no doubt you’re on the outs with the revolutionaries because, like all liberals, you see the specific problem as something to be fixed; they only ever see it as a waystation on the quest to the New Dawn, so they try to leverage the sympathy they get for a problem to organize for a bigger power-grab, which ends up killing public sympathy and dissipating the focus needed for the original problem. Then the cycle starts all over when they get traction on something else.

        So many of our social problems have been stalemated and polarized by the intransigence of radicals using them instrumentally to achieve their transformative objectives. I’ve seen it on the small and large scales on everything from social housing to environmental issues. Liberals and conservatives would probably come to a compromise on many of these problems, even if both sides had to eat a little dirt. But the radicals always reject anything but the achievement of the absolute.

        • augustine says

          X. Citoyen,

          Your analysis resonates for me but a question remains: why is some significant number ever drawn to such radical ideas? An idea without followers to propagate it tends to vaporize quickly. But the restless impulse you describe is persistent, probably long through history.

          • X. Citoyen says


            In a nutshell, it’s our experience of the human condition and our response to it. Inequality, violence, depravity, and all manner of horrors really exist in the world. The culture gives us various explanations for this–even the rarest ideas live on in books and stories. Your namesake said the City of Man would forever be in this state, and that the true home of the Christian was the City of God, where all things will be made right again—so, bear this world and plan for the next by taking up your cross. Accepting this doctrine generally has a calming effect on the noble passions of someone who’s outraged at the injustice in the world. He is as inclined to pity the powerful as he is the oppressed. Patience, humility, and charity are the responses.

            Modifying this story, however, can have the opposite effect on the noble passions. Suppose we substitute the City of God with the City of the Future, where all the injustices have been righted here on Earth. And instead of counselling people to grin and bear this world and to plan for the next, we assigned them agency in bringing about the City of the Future. This story inflames the passions: Patience, humility, and charity are replaced with outrage, pride, and hatred of the oppressors who prevent us from attaining our righteous and rightful inheritance. This story is available in a lot of forms.

            I’ll stop there on the assumption that you’ve probably heard all this before. I’m hardly the first to relate it, after all.

          • X. Citoyen,

            Thank you, I had not heard such a juxtaposition of these things before. I suppose one can say that either City is a radical proposition, but only one can lead to peace and salvation.

    • X. Citoyen says


      In case you’re interested, several philosophers and historians who have looked at the rise of radicalism in modern times through this sort of existential or “spiritual” lens. Eric Voegelin (loosely following Plato) thought that our response to metaxy (“in-between-ness”) in relation to any sort of transcendent order was at the root of all worldviews. Basically, this means we’re “wired” to search for capital-letter Truth, Beauty, Goodness, etc., but we can never attain certain knowledge about such things or whether a transcendent order even exists. At the same time, we seem to be “wired” to seek it. This is what in-between-ness is and, Voegelin argued, all worldviews are responses to metaxy.

      Historically, Veogelin argued, there have been two basic types of responses to metaxy. One type was, basically, faith in the existence of the transcendent order and the attempt to articulate what this means (e.g., Thomas Aquinas on faith and reason). The second was gnosticism, which, in its original form, rejected the uncertainty as the effect of the lies and machinations of others, usually an evil deceiver being. Veogelin thought that Marxism, fascism, Nazism, etc., were modern revivals of gnosticism in the wake of Enlightenment skepticism. The modern versions differed in that they made the deceiver deity into human enemies (capitalists, Jews, etc.) and rejected the transcendent world to come in favour of the immanent world of the future.

      (A cautionary note: if you’re interested, read Voegelin himself. Some of his contemporary followers have psychologized his account of reactions to metaxy, such that gnosticism is seen as a psychological disorder. It’s not. It’s both an intellectual and emotional orientation to the world, what’s usually meant by a worldview.)

      Norman Cohn and especially Karl Lowith (in Meaning in History: The Theological Implications of the Philosophy of History) offer similar accounts from a more historical perspective. Lowith sees Marxism and its progressive offshoots as forms of secularized and (again) immanentized Christianity. In short, God’s plan becomes material forces operating in history to bring about heaven on Earth.

      I’ve had to leave out a lot of bits and pieces, and some others (ancient and modern) could be added to the list, but these are good leads into this tradition of thought.

      • The only place I had seen Voegelin referenced before was by Lawrence Auster. The excerpts were difficult for me but a thin grasp of such an important idea is better than none. I won’t give up. Thanks again.

  58. Brian Henry says

    Seems to me the fundamental problem with the theory of “White Privilege” is that it’s valid claim is simply that black people are more likely to face discrimination than whites in the U.S. (and elsewhere). But it goes far beyond that. The claim is that all Whites receive positive benefit from the fact of their whiteness. I don’t know how on could even begin too prove such an idea.

  59. I hope to read more by William Ray, since this is an excellent takedown of the originator of “White Privilege.” It’s easy for anyone to observe how utterly bizarre Dr. McIntosh’s essay is, but it’s more insightful to understand the depths to which her own tremendous wealth and privilege likely played in her style of pseudo-scholarly activism.

    One remaining question, which I at least find curious, is to what degree she wanted or anticipated her concept to be weaponized in such a political manner. After all, one of the few things in her defense is that her essay, at least explicitly, seems more to envision the concept of “white privilege” as a tool for personal reflection for activists like her, rather than a justification for it to evolve into the crude tool activists use to stifle debate and demonize the opposition. Maybe this was her intention all along. If not, perhaps in the future it will be similar to how scholars claim that certain pre-WWII philosophers meant well but should have been more careful when their ideas were later used for nefariously in justifying things like anti-Semitism.

    It’s hard to believe she was merely acting in good faith, on the other hand, in her utter failure to even allude to her upper-class background and wealth in her supposed memoir.

    • I have the same question. My sense is that other actors weaponized it. Between that and intersection it destroyed the beginnings of co-ordinated world wide resistance after ten years of war and the financial meltdown. Now we don’t even have a peace movement.

  60. bob roberts says

    The author uses the term “aristocratic” several times to describe Ms. McIntosh’s family and milieu. But the list of the accomplishments of her father and her father-in-law show them to have been very active, accomplished men. In short, their wealth and social standing didn’t just drop out of the sky. The whole notion of “white privilege” or even just “privilege” in this context needs skeptical examination. Why shouldn’t men and women work hard to seek the best possible things for their children? And why should the state concern itself with eliminating the fruits of such work? Wouldn’t it be better to motivate others to emulate those parents?

    • I do hear your point. But neither Peggy or Winthrop are “self made” people. Winthrop traces his family back to Original colonies, Founding Fathers money. And Peggy didn’t get to be a Chair of a faculty at Harvard without her connections. Meritocracy is fine in principle but that is not what we have. Economic and social power accrues to very small groups who pass it down

  61. Michelle says

    I utterly enjoyed your column Mr Ray… by the second paragraph I was saying to myself, she enjoyed privilege due to her wealth and position, it seemed blatantly obvious. As I read further, your column confirmed it to be so. Why do people need to find an ominous, erroneous dark side to something that is simply just what it is… it does indeed cause resentment, hatred and revenge in humans, is that these people’s end game? I hope not. Why stir trouble where none is needed, is it to appear noble? I often say to myself, God must be looking down on us, the human race , and thinking… what are they doing to themselves!

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