Privilege: a right or immunity granted as a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor. – Merriam Webster.
The definition quite clearly means that race cannot be a privilege because it cannot be granted by humans, and God is, I assume, not implicated in favoring one race over another. Therefore, the phrase “white privilege” has no inherent meaning. It improperly juxtaposes two words as an emotionally laden way of saying that whites do not experience the burdens of being non-white. That is a truism. But the use of “privilege” falsely suggests that everyone white bears responsibility for the burdens of minorities, an assertion untrue and itself racist.
White privilege is both the cause and effect of an obsession with race that has reached ludicrous levels. In Oregon, mathematically correct answers are questioned because of a supposedly racial bias. In Teen Vogue, two authors conclude that racial history affects today’s sleep patterns. This is a narcissistic game of “Where’s Waldo?” searching for racial intimations and explanations among many factors. But Waldo is often not even in the same state, let alone the crowd.
This would be humorous if it did not have serious implications. Well-documented history is being selectively parsed to serve a narrative, rather than impart the lessons it holds. Science is being refuted wherever its conclusions might have racial implications, however remote, that are disfavored. Race obsession has metastasized far outside the realm of discrimination and bigotry, with white privilege being the vehicle for the spread.
This is producing ever-growing backlash and may well be counterproductive. Vast numbers of white Americans cannot fathom why they are told they have “privilege” when nothing in their lives suggests it. Could they have obtained a position where a minority might have been unjustifiably passed over? Maybe, but they likely never knew it and were not responsible for it. Assigning culpability under the guise of privilege serves only a mercenary purpose: it empowers the left’s own racist behavior in their quest for power.
A prime example of this is forced re-education under the label of “racial sensitivity training.” This exercise is far from benign and is happening at many companies, governmental entities, and even the military. It is becoming more and more aggressive and malevolent. White “students” are browbeaten to embrace the burdens of being black, refute perfectly legitimate behaviors, and apologize profusely for the sin of being born white. The focus is usually on denigration rather than empathy (which might have some benefit).
For the left, mercilessly flogging white privilege has juicy political value. It will demand that I be silenced for my assertion that white privilege is a racist shibboleth, enforced by a digital mob and woke patrons that could somehow hurt me. It is an effective and chilling tactic that necessitates my writing under a pseudonym. But that does not make me wrong, so the rise of intimidation may be one of the most discouraging consequences of this exploitation of race for politics and control.
A far more constructive (and unifying) mindset would be to focus intently on mitigating minorities’ burdens. Top on that priority list is to reform our education system. Many public schools today, especially those in large urban settings serving large minority populations, are likely to consign their students to a life of underprivilege through undereducation. The problem is not the racial makeup of the student bodies, because private and charter schools overwhelmingly succeed with student bodies no less minority. The problem is the teachers’ unions and school boards. The unions hate accountability because it threatens job security. School boards cower in fear, changing the subject from ensuring safe learning environments, and punting on holding students truly accountable for their performance because the public system offers no solution and, too often, they get frenzied blowback from angry parents.
From the burden of a poor education flow countless other problems. Crime becomes a career option for undereducated youth, with minorities more likely to turn that way as part of a persistent cycle. That in turn “trains” law enforcement to be suspicious of minorities overrepresented among criminals, leading to many abusive encounters with innocent people. It explains the overrepresentation of minorities in prisons. Lack of competitiveness due to poor education in seeking jobs and positions results in compensatory but often blatantly discriminatory programs, the worst of which is equal outcomes and quotas (now repackaged as “equity”) which is gaining traction. And the downward spiral continues.
Equity is a Marxist shortcut to the difficult job of exhorting people to embrace their challenges, seek opportunity, fight the sources of their disadvantages, and discard victimhood, envy, and defeatism – i.e., assuming personal responsibility. Equity purposefully ignores personal responsibility and agency in favor of demographics because it is easier to impose and more alluring for its quick fix. It raises race to a paramount position at the expense of merit, achievement, and skills. The validity of this approach is effectively refuted by enlightened thinkers such as Shelby Steele (who is black).
Putting aside value judgments about equity, it is impossible to implement fairly. I can trace my ancestry back to Spain at the time of the Inquisition. Does that make me Hispanic? Or is there a statute of limitations on identity? Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts claimed and leveraged minority status because one of her 1,024 parental ancestors from 10 generations ago might have been Native American. How can identity quotas ever be set fairly when we are a stew of genetic makeups? Answer: it cannot, so the system gets rigged for the politically favored.
The monomaniacal focus of equity on racial demographics treats any innate advantage as if it were a malfunction of evolution and society to be fixed regardless of any adverse consequences. Intelligent people tend to do better in life, so racial disparity attributable to this becomes justification to hold high achievers back. That is happening now by eliminating accelerated academic programs or objective test-based admission to magnet schools. Mao Tse Dung sought such “equality” during his barbaric cultural revolution, when university researchers were sent to toil in the fields. Is a modern version of that next?
And what about family “privilege”? A nurturing family with two parents that places a high value on education and acts accordingly confers a sizable starting advantage to its offspring (witness Asian and Jewish culture). But when they apply for university admission (or jobs), institutions such as Harvard and Yale seemingly discount the results under the mantle of diversity. Parents are understandably outraged that their efforts are in vain. Inherited wealth is a powerful advantage, so is confiscation appropriate? This list could go on and on.
The obsession with race, with its vehicles of white privilege and equity, yields political power for its sponsors which for them excuses any damage along the way. But none of this Marxist ideology comports with a society that supposedly believes in individual freedom, equal opportunity (to succeed or to fail), and progress. Americans do not aspire to become the next Venezuela. White privilege and equity belong on an ideological scrapheap, along with Marxism, communism, and fascism, to name a few, and the sooner they get there, the better off America will be. And stop searching for phantom Waldos.
Winston Reilly is a pseudonym.