Except that’s kinda the point at issue - no one’s arguing with the existence of the phenomenon, just that it has a poorly chosen name.
A privilege is an extra cookie after dinner. Unsupervised use of the jungle gym. Getting to keep a television in your room. The term ‘privilege’ suggests some special unearned bonus that, if we’re concerned about fairness, should be taken away. Treating people with basic human decency is not a privilege.
Everyone should be able to go into a store without the clerks assuming they’re there to steal from it. Everyone should be able to find television programs that feature people ‘like them’. Everyone should have their job application evaluated on the basis of their skills and experience, rather than their skin color. Everyone should be able to walk down the street without worrying about being assaulted by police.
These are the things I get by virtue of being a white man, but the solution is not to take them away from me, but to also give them to everyone else, because they are things that people should have. They aren’t privileges. Personally, I think those are called rights. The problem isn’t that I’m getting privileges, it’s that other people are being denied rights.
When someone tells me that I benefit from white privilege, I become defensive. I think, “My life has problems enough already! Why are you trying to make my life worse? Get lost!”
When they tell me that I benefit from the oppression of people of color, I think, “Wow, my life has enough problems already, how much worse must it be for those people? I should try to help them.”
The words we use to describe problems matter, and I think this one could be better named.