White Privilege and Racial Injustice
Saturday, February 13, 2016 -- 4:00 PM
Ken Taylor

This week,  we're thinking about White Privilege and Racial Injustice.   Everybody knows that the US has a long and sorry history when it comes to racial injustice.  It also has a long history of privileging the needs, concerns and narratives of white people over those of people of color.  But how exactly are white privilege and racial injustice related?  That’s our question for this week. 

Some might think the the connection is completely obvious. Ask yourself how many times have we had to witness the tragedy of unarmed black men and boys getting shot and killed over practically nothing?   White people just aren’t subject to this kind of crap. Imagine if they were?  How loud do you think the uproar would be?   The point is that white privilege and racial injustice are just two sides of the very same coin.   Eliminate White privilege – and with it the unequal treatment of whites and people of color – and racial injustice automatically goes away.

This being philosophy, of course, things are never as simple and straightforward as they seem.   Even if there is, in fact, rampant mistreatment of blacks, that does not in and of itself prove the existence of so-called white privilege.    To see this, we need to start from the beginning and get clearer about what exactly we mean by white privilege.  Perhaps a good starting definition is that there is white privilege wherever whites enjoy unearned advantages relative to others.  Think not just of the criminal justice system, but of spheres like education, housing, and employment, to name just a few.

Now if you view white privilege in something like this way, you might be inclined to think that the fact that whites are much more likely to be treated by cops with respect than people of color is a sign of unearned white privilege.   After all, they really did nothing to “deserve” the advantage of being treated with respect by the police, except be born white in a racist society.  Ergo, you might think, the fact that they are so treated is a sign of white privilege.  

But there’s a problem with this way of thinking.   Although not everybody is in fact treated with respect by the cops, everybody surely deserves to be – whether they are black, white, or brown.   That is, we all have the right to be treated with respect.  And for none of us does that right have to be earned.   We’re get it automatically just in virtue of being born.   The problem with our earlier way of thinking, then, is that it misconstrues what are really matters of rights in terms of privilege.    

Granted, the cops far too often trample the rights of black people – though that’s not to say that they don’t trample the rights of whites sometimes too – but far less routinely and with far less impunity.   But this doesn’t prove anything about white privilege.    Quite the contrary. The problem isn’t that the cops are wrong to respect the rights of whites.  They are wrong to disrespect the rights of blacks.   I don’t mean to deny that there is such a thing as white privilege.   But it’s not a privilege to have one’s rights respected.  To eliminate the kind of racial injustice that involves the cops mistreating and even killing unarmed black men and boys, for example, we shouldn’t be focused on tearing down so-called white privilege, but on securing the too often trample rights of people of color.   After all, it’s not like we want cops to go around violating everybody’s rights.

So far, we haven’t really found a good example of white privilege in action.   It was simpler to do so in the days of explicit white supremacy, in particularduring slavery or the days of Jim Crow segregation.  Then just being white gave white people a privilege enjoyed by every white person and no black person – the privilege of just being white and not being black.  That was something that teh least among whites could hold over  even the best among blacks.   We’ve come a long way since then.  Indeed, we;ve come so far that some people  dismiss talk of white privilege as an anachronistic relic of a distant racist past.

But it’s not so simple.  Even if explicit, legalized discrimination is a thing of the past, a strong case can be made that far too many of our racial interactions are governed by implicit bias.   That’s where people unconsciously judge minorities or women more harshly than white men, even though they may consciously endorse and even live out anti-racist, anti-sexist points of view.  Implicit bias leads directly to white privilege.   Take those experiments where exactly the same paper is submitted to exactly the same journal, once under a black sounding name—Jamal, say -- once under a white sounding name—John, say.  Pretty reliably, John’s paper will be evaluated more favorably than the Jamal’s paper, even though they are otherwise exactly the same.  And many people think that implicit bias is a major source of white privilege.

There may well be something to this idea.   But I’m not sure it’s as straightforward as some might think. To fully establish the existence of white privilege on the basis of the phenomenon of implicit bias, you’d have to know whether John’s paper was evaluated higher than it should be by objective standards or Jamal’s paper was evaluated lower than it should be by such standards.   Only the former would be a sign of white privilege in action, because only the former would show that John was receiving an extra perk just for being white. If Jamal is evaluated lower than he objective deserves to be, that would be a sign of bias against blacks, to be sure.   But it’s not clear that would really be a sign of white privilege in action. 

The moral isn’t that there is no such thing as white privilege.  I think there surely is such a thing.   But it’s just not as cut and dried to establish what such privilege consist in as you might think.  Even the case of implicit bias raises issues a lot like our cop case. Everybody deserves to have their work evaluated fairly and by the same objective standards.  If Jamal’s work isn’t but John’s work is, that shows that Jamal was discriminated against and discrimination surely should be eliminated.  But it doesn’t automatically show that John enjoys some white privilege.

Now this week’s guest, Naomi Zack, argues that although there is such a thing as white privilege, the discourse of white privilege is often – though not always – a distraction when thinking about how to combat racial injustice.  Most of the time, we will get further with a discourse of rights.    I’m not sure I’d go quite as far as she seems willing to go in shifting focus from the elimination of white privilege to the securing of minority rights, but I find her ideas deeply engaging.  Give a listen and see if you do too. 

Comments (15)


Gary M Washburn

Sunday, February 14, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

The final paragraph is a bit

The final paragraph is a bit cryptic. The answer, of course, is that everyone should be privileged. But if that last remark refers to a call for "restitution", this sort of thing fuels the flames, creating more division and confirming the suspicion that minorities just want to mooch off whites. The reverse might be the case, and difficulty in explaining this to whites should be telling, but it is hard to see how a privilege (private legal right) can be institutionally enforced or redressed. We cannot entirely rid judgments about what we each deserve of subjectivity because such decisions are almost always made in private. More public accounting would be helpful, a bit of ventilation often clears foul air. It might be better to just make government responsible for some modestly decent lifestyle for everyone, rather than creating programs that single out groups. "Special treatment" is what opponents will call it. But this will still not address the issue of earned opportunities denied. Keep in mind, this denial is done in private, often tracelessly. And it is arguable, evident to some, that it is done explicitly to restrict opportunities within a loose grouping. But the plain fact is, where private decisions lead to socially toxic outcomes the public sector must intervene. Not by heavy handed intrusion in private institutions, but by providing opportunities in the public sphere that tend to restore a balanced potential to all. What we do with our lives is our business, but if there is no fear of destitution and a reliable expectation of seeing a reasonable rate of earnings for our efforts, then violence will subside. But as long as we have a culture that relies on cheating working people of their earning power racism will serve as a smokescreen for the real target that earning power is. In 1628, I think it was, a colonial leader near Boston tried to get rich by selling some of his followers into slavery in Virginia. They were white. This at a time when slavery was on the wane in England. Ten years later preachers spoke of a contrast between a "covenant of work" and a "covenant of grace". At the time of the American revolution a preacher in England (Jeremiah Burroughs) divided the world between "saints and worldlings". The theme that some of us bear the stamp of the divine and others of the "worldly" or profane runs deep in our culture, even in black culture. Racism is a most atrocious part of this theme that some are more deserving than others, but it is not the whole story, and going at that monster piecemeal gives it ample avenues of eluding our efforts to kill it, and time to reemerge in another form.

Gary M Washburn

Monday, February 15, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

How about Cornell West for

How about Cornel West for Scalia's vacancy?

Harold G. Neuman

Monday, February 15, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

I'll not go into all the

I'll not go into all the ramifications of the storied history of these United States of America. Yes, we have gotten a lot of it wrong and will, no doubt, continue to do so for the forseeable future. As a people, though, we are not much worse than most, and only little better than certain others in this world. Rights are commonly viewed as inherent in all free societies. Perhaps some would disagree, saying: if you want to have rights, you have got to fight for them. Maybe so. Most consider freedom a right and we know we have to fight for that. But, this is only because there are those who would deny freedom to anyone who they believe does not deserve it. And so, freedom is not an absolute. We have to earn it, one way or another. And, if we are unable or too pacifistic to do so, it, like the Tao, of which John spoke in a different blog posting, just disappears---goes away, evaporates. Privilege may be earned. Earning it is often difficult, requiring us to be or do things we may find insulting or downright repugnant. In one sense then, earning a privilege may also require us to fight for it. Privilege can be inherited, along with sufficient wealth to more-or-less ensure its longevity.Inheritance does not mean that the privilege is deserved. We inherit many things for which we are blatantly undeserving. But, some ancestor just could not (or would not) deny our right to the privilege of the inheritance he or she wished to leave us. It really is complicated, isn't it?
Privilege may be seized, violently or surreptitiously. Despots are especially adept at wresting privilege for themselves and ensuring that no one under their influence has a ghost of a chance. If there is no will, no where with all on the part of the oppressed, the oppressors always win. Look around, though. The oppressed in this country are not so dramatically oppressed as they used to be, Racially, we are an imperfect society. But privilege is not exclusively white nor is it any other color or national origin. I might think that some people whose heritage is Asian or Indian have been accorded undue privilege in attaining education and employment in the United States. If that were true, it would still be only what I think. And that would be my right and privilege, right or wrong. Yes, it is complicated. Cornel West is a lovable intellectual. Witty, outspoken and all-in-all, an iconic figure. But, his stature is of his choosing and would not necessarily qualify him as Supreme Court Justice. Call me crazy, but he would not mesh well with the likes of Clarence Thomas. Or Ruth Bader-Ginsburg. I doubt that the suggestion was all that serious. But everyone has the right to an opinion. Freedom of speech is a freedom. But, it too requires fighting the good fight.
Neuman.

Gary M Washburn

Tuesday, February 16, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

I see no reason the members

I see no reason the members of the court should be pals. Problem is, of course, that judges tend to stay out of the public eye, so we have little awareness of available talent. I'm sick and tired of "respect" for nice guys pursuing vile agendas. I'd rather see vile people pursuing a worthwhile agenda. Scalia's philosophy was that of the monster Chronos, a past that consumes its children lest they have a future not of its ordaining.
Tell those working double the forty hour week, and paying more than half their gross wages on housing, they are less oppressed than in former times! If anything, feudal serfs had more autonomy than the working poor today. There really is a shocking lack of appreciation about just how bad life is in America for low wage earners.
It is not complicated at all, all negotiations are asymmetrical, and that asymmetry is entropic. That is, unless governments exert a countervailing effect against it, it tends to increase until unsustainable without "oppression", that is, without the force of law to sustain it.

Rob Allen

Thursday, February 18, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

You guys missed something -

You guys missed something - when that caller used the phrase "private law", he was referring to the Latin roots of the word 'privilege' - privus ?private? + lex, leg- ?law.?

Guest

Friday, February 19, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Thanks Ken Taylor for

Thanks Ken Taylor for creating this philosophy talk.We know that you are one of the most important person who create this big philosophy platform.We are thankful to you.

Guest

Sunday, February 21, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Nice talk Mr. ken. But the

Nice talk Mr. ken. But the plain fact is, where private decisions lead to socially toxic outcomes the public sector must intervene. Not by heavy handed intrusion in private institutions, but by providing opportunities in the public sphere that tend to restore a balanced potential to all.

Gary M Washburn

Monday, February 22, 2016 -- 4:00 PM

Can I take that as a "like"?

Can I take that as a "like"?

Guest

Monday, March 28, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Thank you very much for

Thank you very much for sharing with us all, hopefully better future and success always for your website
Obat Kolesterol

Guest

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Thank you for sharing the

Thank you for sharing the information with usOBAT DARAH TINGGIObat HerniaObat Hernia Tanpa Operasi Alami Herbal Tradisional obat herniaObat StrokeObat Asam UratObat HerniaObat Darah TinggiObat Darah TinggiObat Darah TinggiObat SinusitisObat SinusitisObat InsomniaObat InsomniaObat Kurang DarahObat Kurang DarahObat MaagObat MaagObat MaagObat MaagObat Usus Buntu
obat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat strokeobat stroke
obat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maagobat maag
obat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggiobat darah tinggi
obat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam uratobat asam urat

Guest

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

Thank you very much for

Thank you very much for sharing with us all, hopefully better future and success always for your websiteObat KolesterolObat Hidrokel

Guest

Tuesday, May 17, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

it was amazing the contents

it was amazing the contents of the articles you post , it is very beneficial to me personally . thank youOBAT HERNIA OBAT ASAM URAT OBAT DARAH TINGGI OBAT KEPUTIHAN OBAT MAAG OBAT STROKE OBAT KEPUTIHAN

Guest

Monday, May 30, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

thanks obat maag kronis

thanks obat maag kronis rekomendasi para ahli
 

Guest

Friday, July 29, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

tanya herbal Jenis Obat

tanya herbal Jenis Obat Herbal Stroke Dari Tumbuhan Obat Herbal Stroke Obat Stroke Dari Tumbuhan Obat Stroke Obat herbal Shannen Doherty Bertarung Melawan Kanker Payudara Cara Mencegah Naiknya Asam Lambung Cara Mencegah Naiknya Asam Lambung

Guest

Friday, July 29, 2016 -- 5:00 PM

It is additionally a really

It is additionally a really sensible post that I actually enjoyed reading. it's not every day that I actually have the chance to examine one thing like this.
Dansulin
Obat Impotensi
Toko QnC Jelly Gamat
obat kanker
cara mengobati maag kambuh saat berpuasa
obat asam lambung
obat susah kencing
obat pencegah asam lambung kambuh saat berpuasa
obat bronkitis
obat osteoaarthritis
obat kista ginjal
obat herbal kistal
obat tuba falopi

 
 

Blog Archive

2018

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2017

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2016

December

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2015

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March

February

January

2005

December

November

October

September

August

July

June

May

April

March