Myth of White Privilege

Member Group : Lincoln Institute

White Privilege?

Of late the term "white privilege" has been bantered about in academia, the press, and in select governmental agencies.

While discrimination against people of color does happen, discrimination against others is equally as prevalent. It is how you deal with that discrimination that determines the damage that is done to society and to the individual.

The term "white privilege" appears to be the rallying cry of whites of privilege rather than a reality of privilege for all whites. The label discriminates horrifically against poor whites who will never know the "white privilege" they are told that they benefit from.

By the same token, poor blacks receive no such deferential treatment either because those blacks who benefit from "restrictions on white privilege" are wealthier blacks and not poor blacks.

White privilege allegations distract from the issues of poverty and lack of quality education for poor Americans regardless of race!

The term "white privilege" became famous with the publication of the article, "White Privilege – Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" by Peggy McIntosh in 1988. It has been further explained and publicized in Paula Rothenberg’s book called "White privilege"

White privilege is loosely defined as "societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by the non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances."

When white people attempt to debunk the theory of white privilege they have been met with claims of racism and of being ill informed.

In the research done on claims of white privilege four recurring themes show up,

Gina Crosley-Corcoran wrote the following when after she questioned white privilege since she grew up poor and this was her analysis and thought process when she saw the light.
"After one reads McIntosh’s powerful essay, it’s impossible to deny that being born with white skin in America affords people certain unearned privileges in life that people of another skin color simple are not afforded. For example:
• "I can turn on the television or open to the front page of the paper and see people of my race widely represented."
• "When I am told about our national heritage or about "civilization," I am shown that people of my color made it what it is."
• "If a traffic cop pulls me over or if the IRS audits my tax return, I can be sure I haven’t been singled out because of my race."
• "I can if I wish arrange to be in the company of people of my race most of the time."
Unfortunately with any the theory that has a basic premise that is false, the theory will achieve a life of its own if it is not questioned.
It seems intuitively obvious that in various stages of our nation’s life people of color were and in many cases still are discriminated against. That is not the complete issue though.
The issue, by the press, race peddlers, and academia, has been made that all people who are white are privileged. That is an absolutely absurd assertion.
For instance, with affirmative action programs today President and Mrs. Obama’s children will qualify as a minority for preferential admission to a university because of race. My grandchildren because they are white will be denied that same consideration because they are white.
The perception that it is the person’s color that is the only basis of privilege is frequently bantered about in academic institutions and other areas where privilege exists that most citizens do not have. In an academic institution, affirmative action programs start with the premise that all persons of race are less fortunate than all persons who are white.
In all the arguments that were made as to how white privilege is personified, they may have been true at one time but that privilege pertained to whites of privilege and not to all whites. The difference is significant because a "white privilege" assertion as pertaining to all whites masks the base cause of lack of privilege which is poverty and lack of access to quality education to break the bounds of poverty.
Dissecting Gina Crosley-Corcoran’s arguments above of arguing in favor of "white privilege", each basic tenant fails in today’s society.
When one turns on the television the people that one sees on shows and commercials are not white.
Should a police officer pull me over, the urban legend tells me that I am treated preferentially. I would encourage you to recognize that if you are a white male in a domestic relations court you will find no similar perspective on receiving preferential treatment. The allegations that are made by Attorney General Eric Holder about mistreatment by police may have been accurate in the past, and maybe accurate in some locations but it is certainly not national in nature.
If the Internal Revenue Service sends me a letter, because I am a white conservative I am far more likely to be mistreated than if I were of color.
The argument that I can arrange to be around people of my color is a matter for which each individual must make their own determination. It is certainly not accurate in my case.
There is an old expression that a lie that is told three times and not refuted becomes fact. White privilege assertions is that lie.
While there has been discrimination and slavery in our nation’s past, privilege exists only for the elite in academia, public sector labor unions, and government regardless of their race.
If our nation ever hopes to solve the problem of race relations, we must solve the problems of poverty, economic opportunity and access to quality education. Claiming the issue is just about race, perpetuates poverty, poor educational opportunities and substandard economic opportunities for those who are poor – regardless of race.

For the vast majority of white people in this nation, they are struggling as much as people of color. Only in academia, public sector labor unions and politics is there any privilege.

Col. Frank Ryan, CPA, USMCR (Ret) and served in Iraq and briefly in Afghanistan and specializes in corporate restructuring and lectures on ethics for the state CPA societies. He has served on numerous boards of publicly traded and non-profit organizations. He can be reached at [email protected] and twitter at @fryan1951.