White Privilege and Racial Injustice

Sunday, October 7, 2018
First Aired: 
Sunday, February 14, 2016

What is it

“White privilege” has become a buzzword in discussions about racial inequality and racial justice. The call to “check your privilege” appeals to those privileged to acknowledge the various ways they receive special treatment that others don’t. But when white people explicitly acknowledge their privilege, does this do anything to further racial equality? Is talking about “white privilege” just a way to assuage white liberal guilt? Instead of unequal privilege, should we be more focused on equal rights? What kind of theory of justice is required to improve black lives? John and Ken check their privilege with Naomi Zack from the University of Oregon, author of White Privilege and Black Rights: The Injustice of U.S. Police Racial Profiling and Homicide.

Listening Notes

Isn’t white privilege just another term for racial injustice? Isn’t racial injustice just another term for white privilege? John and Ken open the show with these questions. Do the problems behind racial injustices in the United States, particularly behind blacks and whites, stem from white privilege or the violation of black rights? What is the real distinction between these two options, and what would it mean for a solution?

John and Ken are joined by Naomi Zack, professor of philosophy at the University of Oregon and author of White Privilege, Black Rights: The Injustice of US Police Racial Profiling and Homicide. Zack explains the some of the motivation behind her book, claiming that the police homicides of blacks are an example of the violation of black rights and not white privilege. She distinguishes privilege as a perk or advantage, which is different than not respecting the basic rights of people of color. Ken questions whether this distinction makes a practical difference in regard to solving these issues, and Zack insists that it does.

Callers join in the discussion with their questions. One caller brings up the privilege of certain populations being unaffected by drug prosecution in comparison to less-privileged groups. In reaction, Zack and our hosts discuss the practical needs of a society in which issues take time to resolve and more severe issues demand priority. The episode ends with a conversation about the status of modern society and whether we still live in a white supremacist country.

  • Roving Philosophical Reporter (seek to 6:38): Shuka Kalantari speaks with two residents of Oakland, one white and one person of color, about racial injustices in their community.
  • 60-Second Philosopher (Seek to 45:57): Ian Shoales speaks about his experience with his own white privilege and how it has come up in the current election. 

Comments (2)

Harold G. Neuman's picture

Harold G. Neuman

Friday, October 12, 2018 -- 12:57 PM

History is what it is. But,

History is what it is. But, let's suppose that the history of the United States had never included slavery. Would this still mean that white privilege is a concern, or, would it mean that those who ended up here, through immigration or other migrations of choice, were subject to the same rights, obligations and privileges as every other resident, race, color and/or national origin, notwithstanding? Would it mean that a book about white privilege would have no traction, or that questions about equality would have to be framed differently? Your point about buzzwords is obvious: there are dozens of them. I am white (you knew that from reading this comment). And, I suppose, in the general view, that genetic fact renders me privileged. Sobeit. That fact, and, 99 cents gets me a cup of coffee at the corner Get Go convenience store. I'm going to have to move, though. Increases in property taxes; school tax levies and other living costs are rendering my retirement income null and void. So much for, uh, privilege. Yeah...

britch's picture


Wednesday, October 31, 2018 -- 5:12 PM

America is a violent nation,

America is a violent nation, from Day One. That violence, so persistent, has melded with strident capitalism. These two define the State in deeds. The words are considerably less authentic, as they always are when measured against action.

In remains to be seen whether or not a nation conceived in violence and dedicated to the proposition that all men and women can achieve class exclusiveness through wealth will perish from the Earth sooner or later.

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Naomi Zack, Professor of Philosophy, University of Oregon


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Spencer Giel

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