Does white privilege exist?

Really? Try saying that in Zimbabwe or much of the Middle East or really anywhere where whites are not a majority. There is a local privilege, because people there are part of the ‘in’ group. In some places the in group happens to be white; in others it happens to be Chinese, or black, or Amerindian, or whatever.

Great analogy.

I’m reminded of people who talk about the education gap between whites and minorities. We could easy solve that by simply doing nothing to help minorities but doing a crappier job of educating whites. Voila, the gap is narrowed!

I think there’s a presumption that we’re talking about the United States. I was.

Well, I’d say it has to be a majority that matters - that is dominant or has been in the past.

So all whites enjoy white privilege? And no blacks enjoy any privilege that whites enjoy? Ever?

I don’t think so.

I agree that race does not exist, but the term ‘white privilege’ highlights that people are overwhelmingly racist, and that results in a situation that is beneficial to some and detrimental to others as a result of that racism.

Asserting that something exists and coming up with a name for it is not the same as asserting that it is a problem that needs to be eliminated. It also doesn’t assert any particular actions that should be taken.

What do you find so offensive about the idea of having a word for the effect of systemic discrimination on the people who are discriminated for, rather than against?

I would argue that this can depend on the other race and the situation. I live in California, and there are teachers that treat Asian students differently than they treat white students. There is an assumption that the Asian students are smarter and superior - I would argue that there is an “Asian Privilege” in terms of assumptions in regards to academics and intelligence.

I don’t know how that extends to treatment by the police, etc.

But this assumes that for every against, there is a for.

Take my example - do whites somehow benefit from being treated normally when shopping? Do stores need to treat whites differently in order to stop treating blacks with suspicion based on their race?

I don’t agree, based on the article. Many of the examples of the privilege which are cited do not, in fact, require that the majority is or had been dominant - simply that they be a visible majority - assuming that the majority hasn’t been suppressed or subordinated.

For example, the very first privilege stated is the following:

It isn’t the only such example - in fact, lots of them are of the same sort.

Do whites benefit from being treated normally?
Yes, because the treatment you’re calling ‘normal’ is actually above average. If you took the experience of every shopper and assigned a quantitative value to it, then (again, all else being equal) the average value for white shoppers would be higher than the average value for everyone, because they weren’t being treated badly as a result of their race.

Do stores need to treat whites differently in order to stop treating blacks with suspicion based on their race?
Probably not. But that doesn’t change the above - white people are, overall, better off simply because they are white. There’s nothing wrong with having a phrase that describes this phenomenon.

I think that it doesn’t exist. Not that there aren’t things that can be misconstrued as “white privilege”, but that those things aren’t what they seem to be.

A lot of the perceived ‘privilege’ is a consequence of being part of the majority, and are not unique to the US. The rest are behaviors toward people of the economic underclass- again, not US specific.

The big difference is that the US is somewhat unique in that majority/minority, and economic standing are all tightly coupled- if you’re black in the US, statistically speaking, you’re likely poor and undereducated.

So it’s a double-whammy kind of thing- you have the prejudices against minorities working against you, and you have the prejudices against being poor/undereducated working against you. For example, if you’re black, and you can’t find black band-aids, it’s because only 12% of the country is black; J&J probably wouldn’t turn a profit on black bandaids. Not really “white privilege”, just cold economics.
I can easily see how that can be misconstrued as being “white privilege” to not have those prejudices working against you, but I’m pretty sure it’s not really “privilege”, so much as it’s a lack of prejudice.

I’d be curious to see how poor/undereducated white people see things, and how upper middle class black families see things. I suspect they’d see parts of what’s called “white privilege” working against them, but not the whole package.

Yeah, I guess what I’m saying is the article presumes that. You’re right that such privileges exist simply because a culture is going to tilt toward its majority. I guess, in hindsight, I meant that nobody would be talking about it as “privilege.” Which may have been your point.

But you can’t reduce everything to averages! You can’t claim that whites should be treated worse in that situation just to make things equal. The average should be higher by including blacks. Rights are not a zero-sum game. In this case, blacks deserve to be treated the way whites are, not the other way around. It’s a human right. You can’t reduce that to crude math.

But the problem is that it lumps everything together, just like you did. It implies - as the article I cited does - that every single gap between whites and blacks, or the sexes, can’t possibly be solved without knocking whites down somehow. That everything is about a pot of stuff that whites and blacks divide, and that for blacks to get more, whites have to get less. That’s not how every issue works. That makes “privilege” a dangerous concept if used wrong - such as simply using “averages.” As I mentioned before, we could easily “fix” the gap between education among whites and blacks by letting white test scores drop and doing nothing for black test scores. That wouldn’t help blacks one bit, and would hurt whites. In a case like that, equality and averages are really really bad measures of progress or guides for policy.

I dunno, one can still talk about it as a “privilege” if one wishes. My point is that such a “privilege” as those examples is pretty well always going to exist, and that there is nothing to be done about it, or that really should be done about it.

To my mind, the examples fall into two categories:

(1) Stuff that is always going to exist because that’s what being a visible minority means. The visible majority are always going to find themselves surrounded by people who look like them. It’s inevitable.

(2) Stuff that really is inequitable - like being treated worse specifically because one is a visible minority. This is by no means inevitable and is a matter of changing both laws and, more significantly, attitudes.

I’m a Canadian from Toronto, and a Black friend from the US paid my city a complement once - he said that he felt, walking around, that the average White woman in my city did not “reach for her purse” when he walked by - which (he said) was a more likely reaction in his hometown of Baltimore. Whites are just as much a majority in this country as in the US, but (again, allegedly) the atmosphere is different.

In summary, while it is inevitable that visible minorities are going to be visible minorities, it is not inevitable that being a visible minority means being treated inequitably.

I understand you better. Yeah, I think we’re on the same page.

This brings up a very interesting phenomenon I’ve observed.

I saw an interview with a black entertainer who started working in segregation days but then experienced desegregation. She grew up thinking whites didn’t like her because of her race, because they were always more cold and distant with her. Then, when she was allowed to be around whites in personal settings after desegregation, she observed that they were always like that, even to each other. That’s just how they were.

I have no doubt that whites look more suspiciously at blacks in many cases, but sometimes they treat everyone a certain way, and a black observer can’t tell. A lady may clutch her purse when seeing a white man who looks scary (there are plenty of those too) or any male - she may relax around black females too, meaning it’s a man thing as much as a race thing. It’s hard to say. It’s more complicated than it seems.


I don’t think you understand the meaning of the term, quite frankly. Some Blacks can enjoy the same privileges as white people, but they can never partake of White privilege itself*. Because it’s a singular cultural thing, not a bucket list of individual privileges you can tick off for any one person to have. It has symptoms (not being in danger of driving while black, for example) but those are not the disease itself.

*Unless they’re passing, of course.

That much is obvious.

Sounds like a comforting viewpoint, huh? Maybe those black people are just insecure and overly defensive! The thing is, we’re not limited to just being able to observe our own circumstances. As intelligent beings, we possess the capability to empirically measure the effects that race has on all kinds of interactions in all kinds of situations.

And we have. We’ve done a lot of those studies.

And most of the time, there do turn out to be significant measurable differences in the way black people are treated. Can I prove that any particular taxi driver shot right past me because just I was black? That’s a tall order. But can I prove that taxi drivers are much more likely to stop for people who aren’t black? Yes, easily, and it’s been done many times.

So you’ll forgive me if I don’t roll my eyes whenever a black person says that yes, they do think the fact that they are black plays into the way the world treats them. They may not always be right, but they’re damn sure not always wrong.

The term has a different definition spelled-out than in-use.

Does “white privilege” as explicitly defined by Tumblr’s armchair political scientists–something like “the lack of harassments that a white person is more likely, on average, than a black person to enjoy in America”–exist? You’d have to be pretty blind to deny that on average a black person is more likely to experience problems due to his racial appearance than a white person.

But there’s a huge handwave which goes on when jumping from the definition to the use. As used in context, the term nearly always refers to either “the reason why any white person is automatically possessed of an unfair advantage over any black person” or “the reason why white people are not allowed to disagree with, criticize, or have opinions about anything a black person does or says.” Going from the average to the universal–i.e., assuming things about any given white person based on statistics about the group of white people–is not logically sound, and “privilege” becomes not an analysis of dynamics in society as a whole but rather a bludgeon used to find an ad-hominem reason to stick one’s fingers in the ears and not listen to any contrary opinion. Given the entire spectrum of eludicated “privileges” (white, male, heterosexual, non-transgendered, non-disabled, native-born, on and on and on) there isn’t a single person on Earth who can’t be accused of possessing at least on of them…and that becomes the point for people who want to use “check your privilege!” as a reason to assume anyone who pierces through their cloud of bullshit is literally Hitler.

Really? So obviously poor or homeless whites, or toothless rednecks, or whatever can walk into any store, for instance, and be scrutinized by security at the same level as any other white?

But that’s the problem - you can’t possibly lump them all into one big “privilege.” If it’s not a bucket of things, then what is it? How is it experienced in the real world? It can’t possibly not be a bucket of things, because that’s reality.