This morning I struck up a conversation with @GRIMACHU on the topic of “white privilege” — a term he rejects as nonsensical. I composed my reply in the form of a series of tweets, but he and I agreed in a friendly exchange that it would be simpler to itemize them here.
(I’ve retained the original numbering of my tweets for ease of reference, even though I posted only the first 6 of them on Twitter.)
1. IMO, @GRIMACHU, your ire over “privilege” is misplaced. But you’ve obviously given it much thought, so I’ll lay out my logic in detail.
2. Others are free to follow along, but I’ll frame the rest of these (30+) as replies to @GRIMACHU to keep from cluttering streams.
3. I also acknowledge that Twitter is cramped for this kind of discussion. We can change venue, if you want.
4. And I get it that we may simply disagree. If we do, please tell me where the disagreement arises. I genuinely want to know.
5. Okay, here goes. Let’s keep in mind a short vers. of that OED defn: “A special advantage available only to a particular group.”
6. The “Basic, expected, societal standard of treatment” you cite definitely SHOULD be equally available to all. Totally agree.
7. Alas, what do we observe IRL? That standard isn’t equally available, in this context, because racism still exists in society.
8. Now, COULD a POC be biased against white people? Of course. But is that really what we’re talking about when we say “racism”?
9. I don’t mean some abstract, philosophical definition of “racism” that applies it equally to any race. I mean in real life.
10. In the US, Europe, and many other parts of the world, whites have traditionally held most power, influence, and wealth.
11. And we’re not only talking about long ago. Whites remain the overwhelming majority of legislators, CEOs, the wealthy, etc.
12. This doesn’t mean that all whites are racist, or that things are as bad as they used to be. Not at all.
13. But wouldn’t you agree that POC continue to suffer from racial bias far more often & far more deeply than whites do?
14. If you don’t agree, what evidence would you cite that whites have it anywhere nearly as bad as POC in terms of racism?
15. There’s tons of evidence that IRL the basic standard of decent treatment is disproportionately afforded to whites.
16. Or, more precisely, that when the standard is denied on a racial basis, it’s disproportionately denied to POC.
17. This is no mystery; it’s grounded in mountains of research in history, psychology, etc. We know where it comes from.
18. So, unfortunately, the basic standard of treatment is not equally available to everyone. And the pattern isn’t random.
19. I’m a straight white native-born male. Through no action of my own, I experience nearly zero racism, sexism, homophobia, etc.
20. To use your term (which I have no problem with), I’m not “underprivileged” in any of those dimensions.
21. So how could we label MY experience? For instance, does it work to describe it as neutral?
22. Alas, it’s not really neutral, because it’s way better than what a lot of people get.
23. One way to describe it would be to say that I benefit from “A special advantage available only to a particular group.”
24. Philosophically, sure, it SHOULDN’T be an advantage. It SHOULD be the standard everyone enjoys. But IRL it’s not.
25. And in the abstract, sure, I COULD suffer from anti-white bias. But IRL: nearly zero instances, & none w/power behind them.
26. None of this means I did anything wrong. In fact I couldn’t have done anything to change my race, where I was born, etc.
27. Rather, it’s an observation that I benefit from a sort of exemption-from-systemic-B.S. that POC routinely don’t receive.
28. So my question for you is: What term SHOULD we use for that unearned, unwanted exemption-from-systemic-bullshit?
29. “Racism” doesn’t work, because racism is not what I’M experiencing.
30. I experience a 2nd-order effect CAUSED by societal racism, but I don’t suffer b/c of either racism or this 2nd-order effect.
31. (By the way, this is why I can’t agree with your rephrasing of my earlier question, or that I engaged in tautology.)
32. In fact I BENEFIT from this 2nd-order effect, relatively speaking – even though I didn’t ask for it or want it.
33. So what shall we call that benefit? “White exemption”? “Pro-white bias”? “Status quo bias”? What would you suggest? [End.]