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Does white privilege exist? Show more Show less
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White privilege, the notion that white people are afforded societal benefits that members of other races are not, has seeped into our lexicon to explain racial disparity in wealth, race and health. But are racial privileges responsible? Does white privilege exist? Can it adequately explain individual experiences? Or are other factors at play in creating racial inequality?

No, white privilege doesn't exist Show more Show less

White people can be just as disadvantaged as black people. There is no deliberate policy that seeks to afford white people additional privileges and by many measurements, white people are struggling as much, if not more, than their counterparts in other minorities.
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White privilege conflates individual circumstance with structural inequality

To assert white privilege exists is to ignore the millions of white people who live in dire economic circumstances and to assume that every white individual is afforded privileges in some way.
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Context

White privilege assumes that every white person is ‘privileged’ in some way. This is an inaccurate way to talk about structural inequality. It belittles the very real struggles white working-class families endure.

The Argument

Framing poverty in terms of ‘white privilege’ fails to acknowledge circumstance in an effective way. It is true that society-wide averages suggest that white people are doing better financially than black and Hispanic people, but the highest number of individuals in poverty are white. [1] To assume that white people are more affluent of better off because of ‘white privilege’ is to ignore the felt experiences of millions of white people living in poverty. The same can be said of any other metrics of ‘white privilege’. Around half of all deaths caused by police officers every year are white. While it is true that black communities are disproportionately affected by police violence, to frame police violence in terms of white privilege ignores the experiences and tragedy suffered by thousands of white Americans.[2]

Counter arguments

White privilege goes beyond individual circumstances. While it is true that white people can suffer from poverty and police violence, they still enjoy certain privileges in a way that other races do not, and these do not detract from their individual economic circumstances. For example, a white person of every economic class can turn on a television and see their race widely represented, they can buy band-aids that match their skin tone, their children can play with toys and dolls that feature their race, and they don’t see their culture hanging in stores as a Halloween costume. These are all egregious examples of white privilege that have nothing to do with an individual’s circumstances.[3] Also, white privilege is not distributed evenly. It is possible that white privilege exists but some white communities benefit from it more than others. Gypsy and traveller communities in England, for example, are an example of a white demographic that has white privilege, but do not have privileged lives and are excluded of many of the benefits white privilege affords.[4]

Premises

[P1] White privilege means that every white person is afforded certain privileges. [P2] Many white people live in hardship without any visible privilege. [P3] Therefore, some white people are not privileged. [P4] Therefore, white privilege is a myth.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P2] Just because those privileges are not immediately visible, doesn't mean they are not there.

References

  1. https://quillette.com/2019/05/23/what-does-teaching-white-privilege-actually-accomplish-not-what-you-might-think-or-hope/
  2. https://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/police-killings-hit-people-color-hardest-study-finds-n872086
  3. https://www.sbs.com.au/nitv/article/2016/10/13/10-things-you-should-know-about-white-privilege
  4. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0038038519837177
This page was last edited on Friday, 17 Apr 2020 at 11:41 UTC

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