Even though I’m not Caucasian, the term “white privilege” pisses me off. I’m not sure why. Maybe because I believe deeply that asking an entire section of people to watch themselves or “check their privilege” is insulting. It groups white people together as a whole and I dislike grouping. Especially in the US which is a society based on individualism – unlike perhaps Europe or most certainly Asia. And individualism is something I deeply admire. I don’t like to be viewed as part of a group – and I imagine lots of white people don’t either.
But I also have more solid reasons for thinking that white privilege is a myth. At best, I think it’s an inaccurate term to describe a real problem. There’s enough evidence to show that on average people of color face a lot more difficulty in life than white people in the US. But talking about “white privilege” is illogical, and here’s why.
When we say people benefit from “privilege”, we’re assuming better treatment over and above the norm. (Look at any definition of privilege, and you’ll see a reference to “special”, “peculiar”, or “unique” advantages). And when that privilege is removed, those who benefited from it will now get treated just like everyone else. Otherwise it was never a benefit in the first place.
When we say people benefit from “privilege”, we’re assuming better treatment over and abovethe norm.
So royalty is privileged because people treat them with a deference that they do not show to regular people. If that privilege is removed, no one will bow and scrape (literally) to them anymore. Again, in India for example, politicians get VVIP treatment in airlines and other public spaces that the rest of us do not. This is also privilege. If that privilege were to be removed, politician’s lives would be the same as everyone else’s.
You get the idea.
When I read articles about white privilege, there are the “benefits” I hear:
1. White people don’t get stopped by the police as often as black people.
2. White people are not discriminated in the job market.
3. No one draws conclusions about all white people when a white person commits a crime.
4. White people do not face bias when applying for housing or a loan
5. And so on and so forth…
I’m not denying the realities of these points. Though I haven’t personally experienced these difficulties despite being a minority, I’m willing to believe the statistics and personal life experiences of those who say that people of color have it rough in these areas.
But is this “white privilege”? I don’t think so. Here’s why.
Tomorrow, if white privilege suddenly vanished, would the lives of white people be any different? Would white people suddenly be stopped by the police unjustly? Would white people start facing discrimination in terms of housing or loans?
If you’re saying that white privilege benefits people, then surely they will suffer when they lose those “benefits” right? Just like royalty would suffer when no one bows to them anymore, or politicians in India will suffer when they lose their privileges. But no – the loss of “white privilege” would not mean that whites would be treated any worse than they are now. All it would imply is that people of color would be treated in the same way as whites.
The loss of white privilege means that people of color would be treated in the same way as whites. There are no “benefits” to be lost.
How can it be a “benefit”, if your life doesn’t change when that benefit is taken away? How can you call something a “privilege” when the loss of that privilege doesn’t make your life worse? You can’t!
These so-called “privileges”, are simply the baseline for how everyone should be treated. If people of color are having it worse than the baseline, then the focus should be on raising them up to that baseline! Not talking about “white privilege” as if it’s some great undeserved benefit.
It’s a question of what you view as “normal”. If you view society as a shit hole where everyone is treated like dirt, then yes – white people have privilege because they’re not treated like dirt. But if you (like me) view the 21st century society as a place where everyone should be treated decently, and where no one no one should be discriminated against, then there is no such thing as white privilege.
These distinctions are important, because they serve to highlight where you will focus your efforts. If you keep harping on “white privilege” as a bad thing, then your focus is to remove that privilege – to remove the fact that white people are treated as everyone else should be treated! The focus lies on pulling people down. If however, you focus your energy on black mistreatment instead of “white privilege”, the focus is on raising people up up, instead of pulling others down.
The term “white privilege” creates a sense of hatred for those who have it better than you. The world “privilege” carries a sense of it being undeserved. And how can you not feel resentment towards those who have something undeserved – something that you do not have? It’s human nature! And white people in return feel attacked and victimized by this term, because they sense it. How can they not? Imagine telling someone they’re privileged – how can they not feel attacked?
Taken to its extreme, you get situations like this where a school in New York teaches children to feel guilty merely for being white. A hateful, and poisonous atmosphere that is directly created by viewing things from a “white privilege” point of view.
But if you focus on the other side of the equation – “black mistreatment” (or colored mistreatment, or whatever), then that is a more hopeful and positive view. You’re not looking to take away, but to add. You’re not seeking to blame, but to fight for yourself. You’re not looking to put the burden on other people. You’re acknowledging that there are people who are being unjustly treated, and the goal is to remove that injustice!
So which side of the fence do you want to be – do you want to pull people down, or fight to be treated like everyone else? What version of “normal” do you subscribe to? Do you want to work towards a crapsack world where everyone is treated like scum, or do you want a world where you’re viewed as a decent human being?
Remember – the choice of words will shape not just your worldview, but of everyone who listens to you as well.