Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The "white privilege" hoax

This is not going to pull any punches, which is rare for me.

Of all of the nonsense that oozes from our university system, and there is a lot of it, the latest dung heap is one of the most pernicious. I am talking about "white privilege" (followed in a close second by "micro-aggressions"). The concept is pretty simple, you just declare that white folks are all caught up in a supposed privilege upbringing based on their skin color which gives them an unfair and insurmountable advantage. Of course you can't suggest any sort of sweeping generalizations about blacks or Latinos based on their skin tone or ethnicity 'cause that is racist but hey hypocrisy and double-standards don't exist in the rarefied air of the ivory tower. You can't even call them out for it because that just means that you don't understand it.

"Man, you just don't get it. You are so caught up in your own white privilege that you don't even realize it."

Baloney.

I am not saying I didn't have a "privileged" upbringing, because I did, but it wasn't because I am white. Let me tell you about real privilege, I know a little something about that. I grew up in a fairly small town outside of Toledo, Ohio. It was a sleepy community for the most part when I lived there. My neighbors were all over the economic scale, from blue collar workers to highly paid professionals. Nobody was shooting each other and most of the criminal mischief in town was carried out by bored boys (and I may have been involved in such shenanigans including one trip in the back of a police cruiser). Granted my dad was the town doctor so I not only had an intact family but never wanted for money and was never concerned about how to pay for college. Going to college wasn't something I fretted over, it was a given and the only question was where I would go. The same was true for many of my classmates with parents who were not physicians. Looking back some 25 years later I can see many of my classmates have built pretty good lives for themselves, some in professional careers, some in the skilled trades. Many would look at us and say that we are just the product of "white privilege". I have a term to respond to that and it has to do with what happens to hay after horses digest it.

Our main privilege had nothing to do with being white. It had to do with growing up in intact families. Sure there was divorce and there were single parent households in my community and school but the vast majority of us were in intact two-parent homes. In fact, when I was growing up you didn't need to add the qualifier "two-parent" because that was the norm. In the era before the normalization of divorce and single parenthood kids had an enormous advantage compared to far too many children today. Like I said, there were certainly broken homes (back when you were allowed to call them that), parents who fought incessantly and parents with substance abuse problems. It wasn't entirely idyllic but the basic setting was more conducive to a successful future for kids, whatever that looks like, than the norm today. The reality, supported by innumerable studies, is that children do better in homes where both parents are married (to each other) and present in the home.

Unfortunately for a lot of children, several entire generations of them in fact, that reality is a political liability. No one in government or academia prospers from telling society that the best thing we can do "for the children" is to encourage people to not have those children outside of marriage. Rather our elites find it more profitable to advocate for subsidized child care or dumping endless funds into the public school system or more broadly creating a "social safety net" that is intended not to supplement families down on their luck but rather to replace fathers as breadwinners and guardians of the family. Even if "white privilege" existed, there is not really a solution to it. Perhaps that is the point. It is an amorphous, unsolvable pseudo-issue. When it comes to the real privileged upbringing a lot of kids have and a lot more don't, there is something to be done about it but it would necessitate taking money and power away from the self-imposed elites of our society and returning a level of trust to parents.

A black or Latino or Asian kid growing up in a home today with a mother and father who are married has limitless opportunity in this country. Just about anyone who wants to and has a modicum of intelligence can go to college or a trade school. Even being poor and a minority only makes it easier, not harder. A poor black kid from Harlem or L.A. who works moderately hard at school will have their choice of college opportunities. In fact they will have an easier time being admitted and paying for college than a middle income white kid with comparable grades. Those are simply facts and they are indisputable, even if they are inconvenient.

Instead of encouraging kids with these simple facts, many try to discourage them with fatalistic moaning about "white privilege". The message they get force fed through the media and their peers is that achievement is beyond their grasp and their behavior doesn't matter because they are simply the victims of the inescapable "white privilege". Far from "empowering" minority kids, it simply reinforces the notion that they are victims who can only sit back and helplessly watch their lives unfold before them.

A privileged upbringing has nothing to do with race and an awful lot to do with family. The now prophetic words of the late Democrat Daniel Patrick Moynihan still ring true. There is nothing to be gained from suppressing self-motivation except from those who are invested and enriched by a system that created and now perpetuates generational poverty and dependence. When someone complains that I don't understand because of my "white privilege" I am simply going to tell them that real privileged upbringing comes from having two parents at home.

2 comments:

Curt Day said...

I found that I didn't understand what white privilege was about until I heard a Black Reformed theologian talk about it.

There are two concepts involved with white privilege: advantages and obliviousness. Those of us who are white have the most difficult time in seeing the advantages we have because of our race. And that is part of the problem with this post. Only using one's own experience to determine if white privilege exists is to take use an inadequate sample in employing an inductive approach. We can speculate and deduce that white privilege doesn't exist but that is open to counterexamples from the lives of nonwhites.

We really need to listen to those who are different from us before we can conclude that white privilege does or doesn't exist.

Arthur Sido said...

Curt, this is a prime example of what I am talking about. You assume that I just don't and indeed can't "get it" so the mythical conversation about race devolves into one race lecturing another. I look back to the evidence of other discriminatory patterns in American history against Asians, against certain European immigrants, etc. and wonder why some minorities have been able to overcome these obstacles and yet blacks are not only making progress but arguably are losing ground.