First, let’s take a look at what it is supposed to be. Based on Wikipedia (only site with a definition), White privilege is the societal privilege that benefits white people over people of color, in some societies, particularly if they are otherwise under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. The first time that I heard this term was 2019, I have been white my entire life, and this term is new to many. Apparently, it was coined by known feminist Peggy McIntosh, in the late 1980s. You can see here essay here.
Basically, she is saying, as a white person, in this current decade, we are born with advantages, that no one else has, because we are white. If this was pre Civil Rights and during slavery, I would agree, to an extent. There used to be a British privilege, since all of the citizens were originally from Britain. When the Irish and German emigrated here, however, they were treated inhumanely, worse than slaves, in many instances. At least the slaves had places to live, sleep and had food to eat. The Irish had to live on the streets, no food, no shelter.
Since the slaves were freed and then the Civil Rights movement came about, that is not the case. White’s no longer get preference for their skin color. How do i know this? Simple, Affirmative Action. What is Affirmative Action? Per Investopedia.com, Affirmative action is a policy in which an individual’s color, race, sex, religion or national origin are taken into account, in order to increase the opportunities provided to an underrepresented part of society. So what does this mean? It means that people of color (blacks, Indians, Asians, etc), basically anyone who isn’t white, gets preference when it comes to employment, college, etc. It had a positive purpose, to make things truly equal, but like everything else, it went askew. It made it mandatory, country wide, to hire people based off of skin color vs actual qualifications. It was just meant to ensure that nobody was discriminated based on race, religion, sex, creed and national origin. Instead, it created quotas. A quota, per dictionary.com, is a fixed minimum or maximum number of a particular group of people allowed to do something, such as immigrants to enter a country, workers to undertake a job, or students to enroll for a course. Businesses had to hire a certain amount of people of color, women, etc. This started with Executive Order 11246, by Lyndon B Johnson. Under President Obama, the law went from being color blind to having race and gender preferences. This was done with Executive Order 13583.
People usually use the term Affirmative Action to equate to Equal Opportunity or equality. What’s the difference? Equal Opportunity, per Brittanica.com, is the idea that people ought to be able to compete on equal terms, or on a “level playing field,” for advantaged offices and positions. This means that everyone has a fair chance to compete for the position, based on their qualifications. Affirmative Action guarantees you the position, regardless of qualification. It should be pointed out that Affirmative Action leads to narrow standards. Only the officially protected minorities get favorable treatment. Other groups such as Jews, Irish, Asians, Greeks, Italians, white working class, etc; get no preferences, regardless of how much they may have been discriminated against in our past history. I can attest to this being an Italian-Irish woman. They lump us all under white or caucasian but it is a false narrative.
The whole purpose, behind America, is true equality. This means that only qualified individuals, regardless of race, creed, color, sex or national origin, should get the job. Another advantage, minorities receive, are scholarships based, specifically, on skin color. Whites have to go based off of Academic performance and merit. There are no scholarships for white women or men. As a matter of fact, based on a Gallup poll, most Americans oppose college admissions based on race. It is safe to say, the same can be said about employment.
No person is the same. Disparities exist across all races, educational backgrounds, economic status, etc. Everyone has different abilities and interests. For example, Asians are underrepresented in the jobs of forest ranger, lumberjack, and truck driver. It is not because they are discriminated against, in these occupations, but because they are motivated to pursue higher education and enter professions. Females are underrepresented in the jobs of fisherman, telephone/ utility pole workers, and roofing. This is, again, not because they are discriminated against, but because they prefer safer, cleaner, and more comfortable jobs.
Females work fewer hours, fewer days, and fewer years than men because they prefer to spend more time with their children. Whites and Asians are heavily underrepresented in some professional sports, the NFL and NBA because African Americans have successfully competed for those jobs.
Females are underrepresented in engineering, the physical sciences, and mathematics because they prefer academic fields that deal with people, such as the social sciences, humanities, education, and social work, where they are vastly overrepresented.
Different groups and categories of people also have different community and family cultures and family structures. Some communities are highly education-oriented and push their children to gain educational attainment, while others are less so. Some communities have strong, two-parent family structures, while others have weak, one-parent family structures. Weak families lead to detrimental consequences for children in academic performance and risks of crime and incarceration.
We cannot condense a person’s entire life by one parameter, such as skin color. You may remember Robin Williams trying to teach that lesson to Matt Damon in the film “Good Will Hunting.” This is why I have been able to realize that White privilege is completely imagined. A person’s life comes down to choices. We all have the same choices in life. Every last one of us. We all have the same opportunities. It all comes down to what we choose and the consequences of those choices.
White privilege is now being used as an excuse to be racist. Let me explain. In McIntosh’s essay, in support of White Privilege, she concluded “we (whites) are justly seen as oppressive, even when we don’t see ourselves that way.” She is literally describing an entire race of people (whites) with a derogatory term (“oppressive”). By definition, she has made a racist statement; which is a race based negative generalization. White privilege further fits the definition of a racist term because it neglects all of the experiences that make up a person. It doesn’t look at the individual but instead paints an entire race with a broad racial brush and stereotypes our experience, according to the color of our skin.
White privilege is also extremely divisive. Why do I say that? Think about it. If we replaced the word white with black, Chinese or gay there would be outrage. So why is it unacceptable, for us, to be outraged? The moment someone throws around a racially polarizing term, a divisive atmosphere has been created, which makes it very difficult for people to hear each other’s concerns. What white person would want to support a concept that describes her or him as a white racial oppressor? People aren’t inherently racist. It is not something we are born with, it is something learned. Racism has been on a steady decline since the Civil Rights movement.
History has proven that you cannot use a wedge to bring things or people together. Slavery was the wedge between the North and the South. It literally caused a war! Tyranny was the wedge between the abolitionists and the English King, which resulted in the American Revolution. Just go back in history, there are a ton of examples. A wedge divides, always will and always has.
Right now, using the term, white privilege, is literally causing racial division, and bringing racism back, when it was declining. We are seeing a racial war in this country right now, and it is very 1 sided. Most of us, as in whites, are not racist and are getting tired of people playing the race card, because we have differing opinions. It is used politically today, very liberally. White Liberals are calling White Conservatives racist for choosing the political party they chose. The ironic thing is, that history proves the republican party has been pro black, since it’s inception in 1854. It was actually founded to end slavery.
The only privilege that exists, applies to every American. We were born in an advanced, free, and open capitalist society. Therefore we have rights and freedoms, that do not exist anywhere else, because we are a Constitutional Republic. In an advanced, free, and open capitalist society, everyone, whether through birthright, citizenship, or legal immigrant status, has the ability to enjoy the “privileges” of that society’s accomplishments if they so choose, whether it be in the field of sports, entertainment, science, business, medicine, etc., or one of their own creation.
So moving forward, instead of dividing, let’s continue to treat each other as equals, not stereotype people according to groups. The first step is to leave harmful stereotyping behind, and that includes the stereotype of “white privilege.”