Does white privilege exist?

If anyone wants to discuss whether there is such a thing as white privilege, or to what extent it exists, or how it is relevant, or what we should do about it, or any other privileges, I’m posing the question here.

(I would hope a mod would not consider discussion of the topic posed in the thread and the title to be hijacking it - that would make no sense whatsoever.)

I think that privilege exists, but exactly how and to what extent is harder to pin down when you look at specifics. The idea the privilege can also be abused to justify unjust, even racist or sexist, policies, for the same reason. And there are sometimes “reverse” privileges.

No, it doesn’t exist. To not be discriminated against on the basis of race is not a privilege, it’s a right that should be extended to everyone.

Whilst I agree with the sentiment, I would argue that the very fact that as a white person, I don’t get discriminated against on the basis of race, is very much evidence of white privilege.

Okay, the first two responses cut to the heart of this debate, which is whether this is a zero-sum game.

The difference between a right and a privilege is that a right is something you are entitled to, while a privilege is something you get that could be taken away. So yeah, in the case of discrimination, it’s a right. The solution is to stop discriminating against blacks by race, not to start discriminating against whites.

This is a famous article that questions that idea, with regard to male privilege, but citing examples of white privilege:

(It was cited in another thread that prompted me to post this one since a mod didn’t like discussion of privilege there and said move it to another thread).

The irony is that, if you look at all of her specific examples, most of them support the view she’s challenging! For instance, one of her examples of what a white person could say but a black person couldn’t:

Of course, that’s not always true, but it often is. But the solution is to stop following and harassing blacks, using the assumption that all blacks are likely to shoplift, NOT to start harassing whites more just to equal things out.

Of course it does. You’re getting hung up on where to frame the baseline default level of societal privilege. You don’t want to think of yourself as someone who benefits from society’s firmly established institutional and social racisms, so you’ve decided to set “normal” equal to where you are and call everything below it “disadvantaged”.

This changes nothing about the facts of the situation, which is that unless you live in a tent in the woods eating squirrels and berries then of course there are a hundred ways that being white gives you a leg up on any non-whites in competition with you. You didn’t work for those advantages and you don’t inherently “deserve” them. How does that make you feel?

It certainly exists. I think a more pertinent question is whether it can be eradicated. You can provide for equal access to facilities and the like by law, but you can’t legislate against attitudes.

No, it does not exist. 'Race" doesn’t exist, therefore the word ‘white’ does not refer to anything real.

Or else it does exist, in which case ‘race’ does refer to something real.

You pays your money and you takes your choice.


No, I decided to set “normal” where a decent human being would set it. It is not a privilege to not be assaulted and tortured by the police, any more than it is a privilege to have two functioning legs.

Not quite.

When it comes to something like, say, economics, of course whites are more advantaged today. I’m not sure that’s the same thing as “privilege” though.

Yes, when it comes to many issues, “normal” is where whites are. For instance, issues that clearly stem from racial discrimination. Ending discrimination against blacks doesn’t require, or justify, discriminating against whites. That’s non-sensical.

Like I said, we have to look at details and specific examples to figure this out.

How do you know exactly how much I got because I worked for it and how much I got because I’m white though? And what would you have me do - quit my job so that a black person can have it? I don’t know if you’re white, but if you are, what have you done to eliminate your unfair privilege?

I think you’re defining “privilege” as a state of being- i.e., being white means you are likely to have certain things, such as economic advantages, because of past discrimination (though plenty of whites certainly aren’t seeing that). But privilege is better defined as certain things you can expect to get in the future for being white, such as walking into a store without being harassed as a potential shoplifter. This is still discrimination, and it’s not remedied by harassing whites, but rather stopping the harassment of blacks.

Today I learned Shodan doesn’t understand the difference between biology and culture.

Who says race doesn’t exist? It exists as a social construct, but not a useful biological one.

I would say “nice try”, but it wasn’t.

It was a nice try the first time he trotted out that idiocy. 412 attempts later you don’t have to humor him.

I’m not sure there’s really grounds for debate here…

White people are, all else being equal and on average, treated better than non-white people. ‘White Privilege’ is just the phrase that describes this phenomenon.

What, if anything, should be done about this fact can be debated, but the fact of it seems pretty well established.

Define “social construct” in some useful way.

If you have a group of people, is there any way to predict which of them enjoys white privilege, and which do not?


You would do it the same you would employ “attractive” or “articulate” or any number of traits. Subjective, but still useful.

Yes. The White ones.

Resolved: that many of the issues identified in the article raised by the OP are examples of a “privilege” that exists by virtue of one group being defined as in the majority, and would exist with any majority vs. a minority - unless that majority were subordinated for some reason.

Take a representative sample of the population of the society that the group lives in, and ask them which members of the group they identify as ‘White’. The higher the percentage of the sample that identify an individual as ‘White’, the better the chance that that individual will experience white privilege.

“White privilege” is a stupid, offensive, arse-backwards concept. It’s not society’s treatment of whites that is the problem. It’s like a bunch of idiots going on about “notcancer” and how to solve the problem of “notcancer sufferers” living longer than everyone else. Until they are capable of comprehending that cancer is the problem, they don’t have anything of use to contribute.

Yep, but I think you’ve hit the nail. I think white privilege exists, but saying so is way too simplistic. As you note, it’s only true “all else being equal and on average.” So turning from whites and blacks as a group and trying to apply it to individuals is, like any generalization, very dicey. There are dirt poor whites and millionaire blacks out there too. And there are reverse privileges - things that minorities get that a dominant majority doesn’t.

The way you tease this all out in my mind is look at specific examples and see how you might remedy them.