The falsehood of ‘white privilege’

I recently had what might politely be called an exchange of views on Facebook with a Black female journalist, who I do not know from Adam. Or Eve.

Before it was over, she was calling me a racist and I was calling her a moron.

It began with her firm assertion that I got my job “at the Inquirer” because I was white. She is a Philadelphia journalist and somehow didn’t know that I had spent 44 years at the Daily News before also appearing in the Inquirer, which never “hired” me.

I questioned an intellect  that allowed her to supposedly know “how” I was hired — for my race — without knowing “where.” She clearly is a product of the grievance machine who was riding the rocking horse of “white privilege,” while I (in her eyes) was a dullard supremely unaware of the strong, racist wind that was the only thing propelling me forward.

I am not going to use her name as this is not personal with her. Her views on “white privilege” are shared by other Black people, some of whom are my friends. Some white people, too.

The idea of “white privilege” is only a concept that is traced back to Peggy McIntosh, a women’s-studies scholar at Wellesley who started writing about it in the ‘80s. It is her invention, a magic beanstalk, nothing more.

Some facts can be assembled to support it, while arguments can be marshalled to challenge it.

I challenge it here — again — as I have in the past. I suggest you follow the link as I will not repeat my whole argument here, just parts of it. I do so knowing that arguing against “white privilege” is used as proof that you are clothed in it. This is supremely ingenious, because it transforms an accusation of racism into proof of racism. George Orwell would be proud.

I tell my Black friends they have no idea how offensive the concept of “white privilege” is to some whites, maybe most whites. Why? Because it smacks of white people being granted something extra that they did not earn. When he was on “Saturday Night Live,” Eddie Murphy did a hilarious sketch “revealing” how a secret network of whites take care of each other. That satire probably could not be aired today because of Political Correctness. It could kill Murphy’s career, not because it tells a lie, but because it ridicules a lie.

Some guilt-stricken whites have been brow-beaten into Maoist “confessions” of their sin of whiteness. Their next step is to join the self-congratulatory anarchy of antifa, which is largely composed of young white fools.

In reality, what whites get is standard treatment, not “special” treatment. White people get the norm, while some Black people get sub norm treatment. I realize this is a nuance hard for progressives steeped in victimhood to grasp, that most whites don’t benefit when Blacks are wrongly denied.

Put another way, when a cop pulls over a Black driver, it doesn’t mean a white driver does not get stopped. The two actions are not connected.

I previously called this effect “Black disadvantage,” but now I prefer “Black deficit.” It means sometimes Blacks get less, and that’s wrong. But it doesn’t mean whites get more. 

Life is not binary. If Blacks don’t get something, it does not automatically default to whites. Life is not a seesaw, with Blacks going up only when whites go down, or vice versa. 

There are millions of whites living in poverty who have zero privilege. The children of a Lower Merion African-American surgeon will have a much more privileged life than the kids of a single white mom in Kensington. Isn’t that obvious?

How would you feel as a successful Black person, if I said you got to where you are because you are “an EEOC baby”?

That term is used to suggest that a Black got a job because of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which was created to foster parity, but was suspected of putting a finger on the scale which led to nonwhite, nonqualified candidates being promoted to keep employers out of hot water with the federal government.

Is that true? As true as “white privilege.”

If you believe that you have unjustly benefitted from “white privilege,” you must disavow it. You can’t return your education, but you can quit your job to open it for a minority. You can sell your house well below market value to a minority. You can transfer your savings to nonprofits that service the disadvantaged. If you are not willing to surrender the “loot” your “white privilege” has stolen, then shut up about it.

I find it curious that the same academicians who support “white privilege” would loudly condemn any other form of racial stereotyping.

The “white privilege” coinage makes many whites angry and many Blacks bitter. It is wrong headed, it is divisive, it is harmful. It’s time for it to go away.

58 thoughts on “The falsehood of ‘white privilege’”

  1. Excellent piece, Stu. My white privilege is that my father was a longshoreman who worked on the docks for decades, doing dangerous work. We lived in a South Philly rowhouse. We were not poor but far from rich. My parents, like many black parents, emphasized education, and I was the first Morley to finish college. I went to law school( LOTS of hard work there). Had a good career in law. I proudly describe myself as an inner city kid that did good. There are thousands of these stories. Not just lawyers, but those who got good jobs and raised good families. The Mayor amuses me when he describes his white protege. He grew up in a rowhouse on Cantrell Street, not Gladwynne. No silver spoons there. Keep up the good work, Stu.we need more voices like you.

    1. The optimum word is “my father worked”. Big part of the problem today is no father,no direction and no example of work ethic in the home.

  2. I don’t buy into it or drink the “Kool Aid Lefty” term of white priveledge .
    I think it’s a ridiculous “crutch” term & implies nothing was accomplished through hard work, sacrifice and determination.
    Is there Asian priveledge , Russian Priveledge, Greek priveledge , C’mon !
    It’s so ridiculous when you break it down !
    Many races and cultures overcame slavery & adversity throughout the history of the world.
    You can’t keep crucifying people in America today for the Ills of the past (over 400) years ago.
    Do the Jews of today hang slavery on the neck of The Egyptians still ?
    Stu As always , you made Many Great points .

  3. With the revelation that ANOTHER white woman posed as a black woman in order to secure a job at a university and accrue other ‘privileges’ bestowed on minorities , I think it’s time to put the concept of ‘white privilege ‘ to bed and to admit that blacks have many opportunities that are provided to them merely because they are black but we all have to make the effort to be successful

  4. Stu you made the point of white privilege. All Black people are demanding is to be treated as you referred to “as normal.” Black people are asking to be treated “normal” in our education, labor, housing, and health systems. Equal pay for same labor. You would probably need to spend a week in Black skin to understand these frustrations in 2020.

      1. It is a plus because it maintains the status quo which guarantees the “deficit” (your word) continues for blacks and not whites.

  5. Stu, I love this article. Yes, I am offended by the term “White Privilege”. It is an insult to the reality of the life I lived. The whole idea and the arguments to support it have become little more than a laundry list of what some people have decided I is wrong with me if I don’t totally adhere to the narrative they are pushing. I must admit that I jumped over here to read this and comment before I read the FB thread completely. What jumps out in the few posts was the confabulation, obfuscation and compartmentalization of thought used to try to knock down the obvious. Einstein once pointed out that where everyone thinks alike, it is because nobody is doing much thinking at all. And yes, it might be 36 years after the target date, but George Orwell would have been proud.

  6. ‘White privilege’ was demonstrated to my father and mother by some people in the Wynnewood neighborhood on the Main Line in which they were purchasing a house (in a move from West Philadelphia), asking them to reconsider. It seems the neighbors took offense to their Italian heritage. This was in 1948, only three years after Dad had returned from a German POW stalag, where he sat out the war after being captured — in a war in which he was fighting for the freedoms of those very neighbors. Now, fast forward to the same Main Line, this time Gladwyne, where the school district in that rich suburb has implemented a ‘white privilege’ curriculum for grade schoolers, to teach them how racist they and their parents are. WTF?

      1. The woman who brought this to light and questioned the school board (and never got a reply) has pulled her children from the school and is sending them to private school. Other guilt-ridden parents have supported to school board’s actions. And you wonder why the nation is falling apart.

        1. Vince,
          Not an amusing thought. You don’t like the school. You’re working class. What’s the price of private ed today. 10K per year. I know that would be a bargain out here in Chester County.
          So, your choice, is to start a movement and go after the school board. Be sure to invite all of the news networks to the next school board meeting.

          1. Vince,
            most people aren’t qualified to be parents – and now you want them to be teachers ?!? this is a lost year in the academic world. but then again, “no child left behind”.

  7. Stu,
    Great article, and on-the-mark. It is a glaring symptom of our confused times that we endure arguments about who has privilege rather than working together, in common purpose, to address those in deficit as you cite. One of the enduring failures of real socialistic thinking (the term is over-used these days, but don’t get me started) is its unacknowledged intention of reducing everyone to the lowest common denominator, rather than improving the lot of those with legitimate complaints about the fairness of our system. The core of the ‘white privilege’ argument is the same malignant tribalism that is destroying so much in the west today. Whether on the right or left, it is a true ‘zero-sum’ dead end.

  8. I agree the word white priviledge is used to apply to any action taken by whites that appears to in some way equate to racism or bigotry. Racism still does exist not because of a flawed belief in special priviledge but simple human choice to hate pigmentation and people of colorl. We have come a long way in the opportunity for all to succeed. The gains were through motivation and disipline. Inwardly we all should see what problems have stifled advancment for minorities.When we have spent 23 trillion dollars on poverty since the civil rights act and the percentage of those recieving benefits both black and white is exactly the same should speak loudly. If the black community has over 55% of black fathers leaving the home then the result is student failure with a loss of dicipline and motivation.
    If 60% of the Nigerian student community go on to graducate school then both black and white should see that the family cohesiveness, along with disipline and motivation are paramount. The solution lies in education but sadly not the way it fails to deliver equality today. It has to be transformed into a real parnership beginning with the study of genetics and scientific explanation of our all coming from Africa and were all black at one time. Add to this concept that black and white families should be equal participants in knowing the curriculam along with the teachers, provide all schools with the same books, qualified teachers, safe environment and political leadrship to provide the funding. Maybe one day all students can take pride in saying I am priviledged to have made it in America.

  9. Stu I have been reading your column for most of my adult life and must say that this article embodies all that I feel to be true about this subject. I take great offense to the term “white privilege”. My education and life were reared by a single father. We worked and studied hard for what we have today. It was not given to us, being white didn’t open any doors for our family. Never have I ever felt that I was entitled. We were taught to work and study hard for what you want in life. Thank you for setting the record straight.

  10. All of you who agree with Stu on this post are exactly what’s wrong with this country. Stu didn’t hit the ball out of the park, he missed the damn ball all together, as did the rest of you. Instead of getting your panties in a bunch when you hear the phrase, “white privilege”, take some time to dig deeper and learn how it really reflects in your daily existence as a white person in America. White privilege is walking into a bank and being able to secure a mortgage with average credit. Now, go and research how many banks have denied Black people mortgages with A-plus credit. It’s not solely about the individual experience, it’s about the collective experience. Your “white fragility” blinds you’re ability to honestly admit the tenets of our society that are in place to benefit you, while giving less than a damn to those who don’t look like you have have brown and black skin.

      Ms Nelson-Haynes,
      What’s wrong with OUR country ? How much time do you have.
      The white man was the first explorer to set up homes in North America. Never mind the fabled Vikings and other peoples. The native Americans wiped them out. Those English brought their slaves here. Some were supposed to be working off a crime conviction. Truth is, by old English law, the crown owns everything and everybody. Then with a little help from traders, such as the Portuguese, Along comes the negro, and some unlucky white people. Fast forward to the Civil War, courtesy of the dimocrats and their followers. Freedom for the slaves by the Republican President, Abe Lincoln. Now the problem exacerbates. No formal education for the former slaves, leaving them to do the labor – for the educated white man. Nothing gets any better too soon. In the 1950s, the colored were still second class citizens. Two World Wars helped immensely to right some of the wrongs. On the path, but it’s a long slow journey to equality. Civil rights tried to help, but the KKK affiliate to the dimocrats held things up. Now we are here in today’s 2020 . We were heading in the right direction. All people were feeling the great achievements of these United States. Until we had our political uprising ! We will get through these horrible times. We will get back on track to enjoy equal rights for all. Why ? Very simply, because we want to. laws don’t make things happen. People choosing to follow law makes things happen.
      I ask you to have patience. If you are black, more than likely, your grandparents were slaves, or were born to slaves. Senator Tim Scott would lend some credence to that thought.


    2. Lisa, where exactly would one find the information you cite regarding people of color with excellent credit being turned down for mortgages.

  11. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Stu,

    Thanks for this thoughtful and courageous little essay.

    It is worth recalling that Black Americans have been here in this country a long time. The slave trade was abolished in 1808, and most Black Americans have a colonial or near colonial heritage. But as a group, and in comparison to other demographic groups in the population they have not done as well on average. One recalls that slavery was not abolished until the 1860s, and even after that, official segregation was long the rule in the South where most Black Americans lived until the 20th-century migrations to the North changed this in degree.
    Though Pennsylvania passed its gradual abolition act during the Revolutionary War, meaning that no one would any longer be born into slavery, still in the new PA constitution of the 1830’s Black Americans of the state were officially disenfranchised.

    On the other hand, there is also a long history of integration, and I mean by this term the integration of the various and diverse sources of the American population. While the various European nationalities were fighting dynastic wars in the 1700’s and 1800’s the same people were often quietly integrating in America–on a one-to-one basis–becoming “one people.” This was a gigantic cultural achievement made possibly by open lands and economic opportunity. We need to learn, once again, to appreciate what was accomplished by the settlers, pioneers and later immigrants. Such things did not always happen in the Americas. The U.S. is surely one of the most successful countries in the world based on immigration and integration.

    Multiculturalism and identity politics have cast doubt, denigration and obscuring shadows on the genuine achievements of this country. We hear now that this American past is all a matter of “white privilege.” It is more, I think, that integration, has in significant degree, too often failed at the lines of race. If you put a pin in the middle of the North sea, between the U.K. and the Netherlands, and attach a string, then the length of the string to any particular source of the American population is a rough measure of the difficulty or ease of integration into the U.S. population. By this rough and approximate method of reckoning, the rural areas in America’s deep South are an interesting example to consider.

    The Democratic party was once closely associated with the policies and politics of racial integration. (No doubt many mistakes have been made.) These days it is not so clear, because multiculturalism and identity politics emphasize and seek to preserve diversity and difference for their own sake–and organize it along group lines for political purposes. I believe this is a fundamental mistake, and that people will not be effectively integrated by forced political programs and political pressures. We are threatening to ignore the national motto: E pluribus unum,” –out of many, one. But that is how we became one country and likely the only way we may continue to be one country.

    My sense of the matter is that the contemporary notion of “white privilege” is effectively linked to the doubtful notion of “systemic racism.” Go far enough back in American history and you will find both. No doubts about it. But contemporary proof of “systemic racism” is now taken to consist in the mere disparity of outcomes. There are many possible explanations of disparity of outcomes, but the variety of factors tend strongly to be ignored in explaining disparity of outcomes regarding racial groups: Every disadvantage of Black Americans is then attributed to racism and “white privilege.”

    It is indeed important to emphasize, as you do, Stu, that the notion of “white privilege” is highly offensive and divisive. Many people who have fought and struggled for what they have simply do not see themselves as “privileged.” O.K. the children of J.D. Rockefeller were privileged, but the son of a family growing up in a crowded, working-class, Brooklyn apartment? Are the white citizens of Philadelphia’s Kensington neighborhood, “privileged”? (Were they “privileged” over the several post-WWII decades during which the neighborhood was often ignored and progressively impoverished?)

    What’s true, I think, is that those who have been here longer and are better integrated have some advantages. This is to be expected and is partly the consequence of putting needed policy incentives on integration. But the contrary official policies linking “system racism” to mere disparities of outcome make matters worse. They encourage and justify divisiveness, finger pointing (“the blame game”) and discord. Rome was not built in a day, and the fact is that integration is a slow, discursive process which works best on a one-to-one basis.

    We are tending to ignore how we became one country and how we can best continue to become one country. It was not by continually emphasizing the unavoidable differences we are born into and cannot change. Think of “out of many, one” as a needed and unavoidable, unending process. It requires a long-term politics which crosses and unites people of differing backgrounds and races.

    H.G. Callaway

  12. Grew up in a SW Philly row house. Very lower middle class. Wanted to be a fireman. Since I was white, I wasn’t given 10 extra points on my test (I got a 98). Never got to be a firefighter and it makes me mad to this day. I’m going to be 67.

  13. Conversations are so interesing and informative. As for myself, I too, worked hard to educate myself with the help of loving parents dedicated to decency and encouragement. Our color was never an issue. My parents and I were judged on our ability, qualifications and desire to accomplish something with the gifts and talents given to us by God.
    Thank God, and all of you for your impressive and thought-provoking ideas, and you, Stu, for initiating this conversation.

  14. Good article.
    I am still trying to find my white privilege. I grew up in Kensington. We lived in a row house and I am the oldest of seven children. To get spending money I sold pretzels, collected rags, metal and papers for the junkyard and had a Bulletin and Inquirer route. I went to North Catholic, tuition paid by the small amount the parish paid and the rest by me. I worked in a movie theater, a textile mill and as a janitor in North Catholic to pay the tuition. At one time I held these jobs concurrently. After high school the army grabbed me. The GI Bill paid my way through college. Nowhere did the color of my skin give me any benefit. What worked or me was work, nothing else.

  15. I respect your offense to the term “white privilege “. I would seriously like to have a conversation about some of your presumptions!!

  16. still HAPPY TUESDAY !!!
    Do you remember when you came out to take a picture or two of the guys helping”the Flag Man” install a Flag? Do you remember all the nonsense the Flag Man went through? Just curious, because in 2015, PWD started the first round of “white privilege” seminars. maybe all of that was just to much for the Flag Man to bear. Maybe, he left the water department with a broken heart – not a damaged heart, as you might suspect.
    This just came to light. As in, the concussions cleared enough to see the past.
    just say’n’,

  17. I grew up in Kensington. I had no idea white privilege existed.
    The cops didn’t practice anything of the sort. Employers didn’t either. Let’s see, the local high school was Edison. I’m sure there was lots of white privilege there. I couldn’t tell you, I worked hard to be able to go to Central. Not a lot of kids from my neighborhood went there. How can I tell? It’s strictly hearsay but I never saw any from my neighborhood on the bus or the subway in the four years I attended.

    So why aren’t they calling it what it is: economic privilege?

    I have had my own theories but being poor white trash from Kensington, I can’t imagine anyone wanted to hear from me until I distanced myself from that status or needed my vote.

      NICE ! Economic Privilege ! The disadvantaged will not go for the change, which may be more accurate.
      BTW. You may have grown up poor, but I doubt that anyone in your family is trash.

      1. That is what I meant when I posted

        Charles says:
        September 12, 2020 at 8:45 am
        There is 1 color that carries privilege in the USA. And that color is green. And I don’t mean Irish.

  18. On the surface, I agree with you in that the term ‘white privilege’ being unnecessarily polarizing as it makes some people defensive of their experience. I believe the point you were making wasn’t that white citizens have more so much as non-white citizens have less. The truth would lie somewhere in the middle as there is no consistent standard for expectations in the real world. When observed over populations and not solely individuals, these differences would be apparent. I think you understand this. I think you would better express your point by explaining this to the many replies that you have from individuals that state that they didn’t personally experience this privilege growing up. In your neglect of this, it comes across that you are supportive of the idea that the concept of unequal treatment is a myth.

  19. As you said, the new White Privilege, BLM nomenclature has made previously nice relationships between blacks and whites very uncomfortable. Being a city dweller and worker, I feel the tension on the streets. Where we all used to get along, there is a certain air of distrust, exacerbated by the wearing of masks, which I choose not to wear on the street for exactly that reason.

  20. Stu

    I will be short.. As a “white” I felt I was never given any privilege and my father who was a minister made minuscule money but found a way to educate his three kids with a college education and obviously all of us kids had to work at many jobs as well to accomplish this. We respected all people but I am having unbelievable heartburn and resentment when I am being told I had white privilege. Your piece struck really hit home to me and appreciated your writing on a subject that I’m sure many would avoid. Keep going Stu (and I’m a conservative who really appreciates your writings.) Please please continue your writings as I know I don’t know everything and am willing to listen to other opinions. Appreciate all your efforts in giving us many issues to think about.

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