I’ve studied privilege, in post-graduate studies (completing my Mdiv. at the illustrious George Fox Evangelical Seminary, now Portland Seminary), and am no fresh-faced neophyte. My perspective is unique. I’m unique because I’m right. When it comes to privilege, sometimes the truth that matters most is what society perceives is true. Perception is king. Digest that a moment.
As with so many things, definitions have changed because times have changed. What we understand as evidence of racism today is radically different than in 1950. Times have changed. Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream came true. Yet still, so many people believe they live in a racist nightmare. That’s because MLK lived in a very different time, and had very different hopes.
In my opinion, privilege used to refer to a concrete external pressure, that was strong enough to prevent an individual from doing something desired internally. Colleges would not accept students based on race. Companies would not hire based on race. Today, such institutions would be litigated into compliance. It is no longer socially acceptable to discriminate based on race, gender, etc.. So, what has privilege become?
Privilege, if I can put it succinctly, is thinking the way one lives their life is normative. It has to do with my relationship to the system. If I walk into a business, and am not aware of my racial identity—because I am normal—I’m privileged. If I go into that same place, but am made aware of my racial identity (or sexual orientation, or disability, or whatever) I do not have privilege. If I have an interaction with law enforcement, and [I or others perceive] unawareness of racial difference or bias, I am privileged. I think you get the over simplification. Hope it helps. Applaud me.
Thanks. That was nice. You can see why a large portion of the population has trouble seeing privilege as a moral evil that must be resisted.
White privilege (specifically, white male privilege) is the confidence people believe white men have; of feeling normal in society. It is being confident that society is built for me. There are too many white people talking about privilege, not realizing that their place on the platform of idea exchange is the very privilege they are trying to educate everyone about.
Privilege is necessarily a social perception construct—both internal and external. Here, my more liberal readers will believe that I am secretly dismissing the idea of privilege. I’m not.
Undoubtedly, I am being subversive.
Privilege has more to do with feeling free of societal perception or expectation. And there is, I assure you, white privilege. It just isn’t what you think it is. White people are certainly, provably, free of certain expectations. Being free of those expectations allows an individual access to action and social acceptance, that others do not have.
If I’m not conscious of my race; I may be free to identify with others that I’m not really a part of. I know white people who identify as black, Indian, or whatever. Sometimes it makes national news. I don’t know many black people that identify as white, Indian, or whatever. See what I mean?
Let’s say I theoretically had a young black man, and a young white man that I followed for a year. I question their every behavior: from where they eat, what they buy, where they go; to how they vote, and who they date. When I ask, “why did you do that?” If the young man responds, “Because of my race,” they suffer from lack of privilege. The internal and external pressures resulting from their race, is determining their action: rather than their own desire. The privileged group get to do what they want, because they want to, and are expected to.
An aside here:
The difficulty with the conversation of privilege, is proof. If it is essentially a social perception: how do you quantify or qualify perception? Without quantification, discussing privilege with the right, or anyone not in lock-step with ivory tower academia, is impossible. In any conversation, the right usually asks, “Where’s your proof? What studies are you referencing?”
The question is unhelpful, because privilege is a social perception. The very people who don’t perceive it, necessarily won’t be convinced. Because, privilege is a social perception. It exists because people believe in it. It’s not in the data, it is in the interpretation of the data.
This is why hard-hitting direct approaches to convince the right of privilege are lost.
Zerlina Maxwell from Policy.Mic proves my point. In her up-front approach in "7 Actual Facts that Prove White Privilege Exists in America," she quotes figures and studies. Should be a home run. But it’s not, because all of the figures are attached to what is “more likely.” It doesn’t prove anything to the right, because what is “more likely” requires social interpretation to complete the logical connection. All an aggressive debate opponent has to say, “Sure, black men are more likely to go to jail, and feel they don’t fit in; but that’s not necessarily because of ‘white privilege,’ it could be because black men are committing more crime, and choosing to participating in alternative culture.”
And how to respond? Usually, we point out that such an insistence only proves the privilege; which the right interprets as circular reasoning. And what do you do when the person on the right is not a white male, or a white? Simply dismissing that person as an anomaly, or a tool of the right—seems disingenuous at best. It’s racist and privileged at worst.
It’s hard to tell a minority they are underprivileged when they reject the narrative. Which, believe it or not, is progress in the right direction. The more individuals don’t believe (internal) privilege, and refuse to allow Huffington Post (external) to police them; the less privilege can mean in our society.
Believe me, name calling is easy, but not helpful. I’ll get back on track.
White privilege is clearly displayed in the exclusively white ability to vote for any party they choose. White people, as a people in America, do not have any social expectation to fall along party lines. They have the confidence to walk into the public sphere, without any social expectation to represent “their people.” Virtually every other established tribal grouping is expected to act as a unit. This is an internal, and an external force; which translate into behavior. The facts and figures bear this out: without the need for social interpretation. It’s monolithic.
So, the truth is that a young black male is more likely to end up in prison than a white male. But the interpretation is up for grabs. The likelihood of prison doesn’t have to be explained by white privilege. Could be something else. All black people aren’t in prison; so we could explain the phenomenon with personal behavior. There must be a convincing argument that involves all of a racial group, so that there can be no doubt.
Racial political lines prove privilege by being monolithic, and the small (infinitesimally small) percentage that fall outside the norm are publicly ostracized. This is even, and especially true, of black people. It is not socially acceptable for the black community, or anyone else, to publicly ostracize a young black man for not being in prison. Nobody would dare to attack a young black man for going to college, or rising out of poverty.
“Young man, don’t you know we don’t do that?”
Monolithic black vote proves under-privilege. There are both internal [personal] and external [societal] pressures to keep black people “in line” with voting according to race. White people do not have that pressure. White people have privilege. To prove privilege, it doesn’t matter why the black vote is monolithic. The fact that it is, undoubtedly proves the case. It certainly is the result of both internal and external expectations that translate into real behavior. These expectations do not apply to white people. Privilege.
When it isn’t weird, subversive, token, or incredible, for racial diversity in the political sphere; we Americans will have won. When the left isn’t scared or angry about a black Republican, privilege will have changed dramatically. When being a Democrat, for the black community, is a choice and not a racial expectation, America will have won the privilege game.
For now, until progress can be made, and racial privilege is recognized, being a Republican is a white privilege.