The concept of “white privilege” is a destructive narrative with little basis in reality. It oversimplifies something that can’t be quantified – that all white people (men, in particular) can live their lives without fear of race-based harassment or suspicion, while others – specifically blacks – live in constant fear and must always be looking over their shoulder.
In short, it’s lazy thinking.
A concept first crystalized by W.E.B. Du Bois in the 1930s and made popular in the late 80s by Peggy McIntosh, a women’s studies scholar at Wellesley, white privilege has become a fairly popular narrative in the past five years or so.
The problem is that there’s simply no way to know if it’s true. Interactions between whites and blacks largely happen on an individual level.
For example, if a black man driving his car is pulled over by a white officer, I think most would assume the white officer pulled him over because he was suspicious of the black man. That’s the narrative.
But how many black men get pulled over by white officers in America? And how many times was the black man speeding, or doing something that earned him some attention by local police? There’s no way to know. It’s one word against another.
It’s like religion. You have to believe that every time a white officer pulls over a black man, it’s because of race. Similarly, you have to believe that it’s totally unrelated. There’s just no proof of either.
So what purpose does the narrative serve? Considering this narrative comes mostly from Democrat Party members, I’d say it serves to give them power. It’s pretty rare that Democrats don’t talk about race issues without also blaming Trump, or Republicans, for hating black people and being racist.
They they talk about white privilege to ingratiate themselves with the black community and do their penance for being white. Nevermind the Democrat Party’s long history of racism and harassment of white Republicans supportive of black rights.
Reverse the example. Let’s say I’m pulled over by a black officer, and I’d been told my whole life that black officers pull over white people to harass them and try to provoke them. I may then be worried, as a black man who’s been told this about whites would be.
If you can convince an entire race of people that the majority race in the country hates them and is always looking to literally kill them, they’d tend to always be looking over their shoulder, as well. Taking it further, that it’s only members of one political party that feel that way, you’d duck for cover under the umbrella of the other party. In this case, the Democrats.
The Democrats, having instilled unnecessary fear in nearly an entire race, then benefit from those who vote for them in exchange for protection. They talk about white privilege to erect obstacles and make blacks believe they can never catch a break. The message gives them no hope. Nothing to look forward to. In fact, the message keeps the entire black community down. Meanwhile, the promised protection never comes and blacks fear the very party (the Republicans) that has generally been on their side all along. It’s diabolical.
And it also explains how we got here. Instead of sharing a message of hope and a roadmap of how to live one’s best potential life, we keep telling the black community that the deck is stacked against them, white privilege is keeping them down, and they don’t stand a chance.
So, instead of seeing what happened with George Floyd as an isolated incident, one would instead think black men are dying at the hands of white police officers every day, all across this country. And we know the data doesn’t support that assertion.
What we should be protesting about George Floyd is not the racial aspect of it, but the fact that there are incompetent or bad police personnel who need to be identified and removed.
Regarding the message of white privilege, it, like talk of racism itself, needs to stop. We can either create a blanket narrative about “society,” or we can deal with the reality of our individual, one-on-one, daily interactions.
If a white officer pulls over a black man, we’d be better, as a society, if that black man told himself no narrative at all. It’s simply a traffic stop. If there was speeding, or an infraction, a ticket will be given and all will go on their way. If it’s just a warning, that’ll be that.
We can’t know what’s in another man’s heart and mind, and it’s simply destructive to believe everything bad that happens to someone is due to racism.
That fact is, everyone has privilege. Some have big privilege, like a friend who’s a CEO and can get them a great job. Others have smaller privilege, like a friend who works at the movie theater and can get them in for free. That spans all races. It’s just a matter of degree.
Bad things happen to everybody every day. It’s how you deal with them, cope with them, and learn from them that will determine your future. How many times a day to black people assign racism to something that may have otherwise just been a normal encounter? My guess would be a lot. And that’s because that’s the narrative.
When people, black or white, believe it’s a total loss and they’ll never succeed, they’ll almost always be right.
We’ve got to start talking about hope and possibilities. Instead of lamenting whatever racism rears it’s head from day to day, we instead should celebrate all of the opportunities and possibilities… for all people.
Instead of lamenting everything and keeping everybody down, we need to optimistically see the possibilities and strive to reach them.