There must be at least a million words in print on the concept of White Privilege, maybe a lot more, not that the numbers really matter. Essentially a privilege is some special rule, exception, or class allotted by a particular group to its members for whatever reason may exist. It may be a courtesy such as the expectation that a man should open a door for a woman or an elderly person. Or it may be an earned privilege such as the use of the title Doctor to the holder of a PhD. These are social conventions and if one wants to look at social behaviors in groups, these behaviors are not balanced systemically. Ultimate equality demands the exact same treatment for all members of a group and such ultimate equality is never to be found nor should it. Studies in small group dynamics shows the idiocy of such thinking, is simply does not happen and never will.
One writer used the analogy of traffic on a road. A semi-truck has more road privilege, if you like, than a bicycle. I suppose due to its size we might say that, but is it really a privilege? I would believe it more a matter of physics, the idea of a far greater mass that responds differently to the laws of motion. By the very nature of its size it takes up a large space on the road and by its motion it travels at a rate of speed somewhat faster than the bicycle. And then there is the matter of its use, it is a vehicle of commerce rather than recreation. Oh true, some may use bicycles for their daily commute and the law does afford them the same rights to the road as a semi. But that right to use the road does not convey a right to interfere with the flow of traffic. So in a sense the right to the road is unsymmetrical or imbalanced towards the larger vehicles. There are times when common sense should tell us that we are acting in a rather stupid manner. If I am driving a semi-truck and trailer with 80,000 pounds of total weight at sixty miles an hour, the length I need to stop in good conditions is about 400 feet. If you are driving a Miata and pull in front of me then you must keep that in mind. Why? because the Miata only needs 165 to stop from sixty miles per hour. I need to be more than three truck lengths behind you to be able to stop and not crush your vehicle. You do the math for distance. This isn’t about privilege, it’s about physics and never confuse the two.
Well, but different groups treat other groups differently. What of it? That, my friend, is natural human behavior. We are group exclusive simply because not all groups have the same goals and values. But that’s not right, it can’t be right, we should all have the same values and goals. Let us take a look at groups for the moment. A family is a group. You were born into a group at birth and you share, to some degree, those values and goals that your parents and siblings have. As for your extended family such as cousins, grand parents, and other, those values and goals are usually shared to a lesser degree. This is basic human behavior. That’s not right, you say, we should all be the same. No, we are not all the same. In science we call this individual variation and it is very natural. You can see this principle at work in animals, plants, and solar systems. Equality is not identical nor exactly alike. We treat individuals differently and it is sometimes based on biology. Take that new baby, at six months it smiles at its mother and frowns at the sight of dad. Why? It’s call the preference for rounded facial features. Women tend to have more rounded or softer curved facial features than men and we are wired for such a preference. That is why we prefer regular features in the basic individual body. We smile at a beautiful face and don’t really care to look at an ugly one. So if you were born beautiful you already have a built in privilege over those not so pretty. And it has nothing to do with morality, it is strictly biological and is seen in the wild to exist.
Now we can shift our thinking to larger groups. We tend to root for our own high school team since we are members of a group that identifies with that organization. Usually our friends belong to the same school and sub groups. Our cohorts attend the same school. We have teachers we may like that belong to that same organization. Normally we do not root for some other high school team against our own. Yes, there are exceptions. When we have jobs we are members of another group. And there are sub groups to that general organization. The department I may work in will be different from yours and sometimes we will not share the exact same goals and values within the company. The point that you should be seeing is that we are members of different groups which often interact with each other. The larger the group membership the less we share the same exact goals and values. We may all be Americans but we are not all democrats or republicans. And if we are democrats we are not all from the same state. Nor are we all from the same city or town. And we all don’t live in the same neighborhood nor attend the same church, clubs, schools, etc. We do not all share the same ethnic backgrounds. We do not all have the same skin color (I do not use race because as a scientific entity it does not exist). Some of us like to use the term race but that is a social and political application and should be stricken from our vocabulary. Unfortunately it will always be with us, one of the most stupid ideas humankind has ever devised and one of the most immorally used.
Throughout history we have seen homogeneous come together and usually clash to some degree. This is natural for we do not all share the same values and goals. The larger group will tend to dominate unless the smaller group has some advantage. As the Chinese spread out over southeast Asia there advantage was economic and technical. They tended to dominate the local economic and political affairs but sometimes there was a backlash and whole Chinese settlements might be wiped out. These are clashes of culture and the violence happens when one culture tends to suffer too much privation in the economic and political spheres. There are no garden of Edens and never have been. Sometimes the mixing of the groups takes place, such happened in France as the Roman and their sub groups mixed with the Gauls and the Franks. Not that the various regions in France are without their identities and strife against the others. America has become the great melting pot and has seen a very large increase in mixed marriages and offspring. In the past other groups have become submerged into the general American culture. Those of Black African descent have not been merged into the general cultural identity as quickly. This has been a problem but it is one that become far less of one. Indeed, the general black community that existed in the twenties and thirties has changed greatly through the decades. One can see that there have been many splits within that general group. Some groups have manages to do financially better than others, Some have secured better educational opportunities and employment advancement. Some have remained in geographical areas of high group concentration and low employment and income opportunities.
To say that White Privilege has deprived the general Black population group its due is to ignore those gains made by several subgroups within the general Black population. I am using the term Black rather than African American because the term is a subgroup. And I am using it as a general term. Color is a relative term. If I were to use the terms White American and Black Americans I would be denoting two distinctly separate groups who may share a geographical area but not a common culture. For me, an American is an American as far as a general group is concerned. We can subdivide populations in many different ways such as by regional difference. Nor are Black Americans a homogeneous group, for there are many individuals who do not identify themselves in the same manner. The same goes for White Americans and Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans. There terms are awkward at best. Back to the chase. The other problem with using the term White Privilege is that it denotes an excuse for failure on the part of the Black population. Perhaps a Black man or woman should not even try for any achievement because they are doomed to failure, they will never be good enough. Yet we see a good many men and women who proudly call themselves Black or of Black heritage, in high positions of government, education, business, medicine, engineering, and so forth. Many were the recipients of help in breaking the “color bar”, but many achieved success on their own terms.
On the other hand there are a great number of men and women who identify themselves on the census form as white (no code for Irish American or any other ethnic identity) and who have no and probably never will benefit from being white or having the nebulous term of White Privilege applied to them. They are poor and uneducated and will remain as such. More will suffer age discrimination. Many will find that those college degrees will not get them hired into anything but a low wage grunt job. The fact is, this so called identity called White Privilege has little to no significance in the daily lives of so many white people. And when it comes to the EEOC classification, I, as a white male am classified as a zero. A white female is classified as a one as is a Black or Hispanic or Asian male. Any female of “color” such as Black, Asian, or Hispanic, is classified as a two. What does this mean? If one has too many zeros in one’s organization then one is automatically guilty of racial and gender discrimination. And when it comes to laying off individuals the zeros are the first to go. They are now tend to be the last hired. This is the real world. Personnel departments will shift through all the ones and twos they have on file or can get recommended to them for job applications and promotions before they finally take a zero as the last result. This broad brush stoke is really a very silly idea. It assumes facts not in evidence. Those who promote this idea cannot and will not prove it by any measure of valid testing and multivariate analysis. Their assumption is that equality is where people are exactly equal in ever description. The tyranny of the Garden of Eden or paradise or perfect world is that to achieve it all individualism must be stamped out so that each knows his exact place in the garden, is happy with it and never challenges it. Human populations are dynamic, they change over time. If the change isn’t fast enough for you then there is something wrong with your thinking, not mind. There are no ideal worlds, you can’t have one, and they will never exist, they can’t. And I am not denying my White Privilege , I don’t have any, never did. You’re telling me I do doesn’t make it so. As I have shown, we are members of a great many groups and that means that there are very complex relationships between and among such groups. To try and postulate that there is only one factor that counts is like saying that the universe revolves around the earth simply because when we look up at the night sky we see some stars move relative to our point of observance. If you wish to believe in White Privilege , that’s your affair and your privilege. But don’t tell me I have to believe as you do, that is not your right.