— Round 1 —
Good topic. It is encouraging to see topics like these on this site. I also believe that racial equality has not yet been achieved in our society. The Civil Rights movement of the 60s made HUGE progress, but to say that it completely fixed all discrimination in America is, I think, a product of ignorance. So kudos for realizing that there is still work to be done.
I really like your definition of "white privilege" at the beginning of your post. So much so that I think it is worth quoting here again:
"The philosophy of 'white privilege' is that our society, government, economy, and culture have all been systematically created or adjusted to give favor to people with white skin. It's not so much a moral assessment of an individual person, or even an attack on white people, but more of an acknowledgment that's saying, 'the system is set up in such a way that white people, whether they realize it or not, benefit from'."
That being said I was confused by the ending of your post. The conclusion seems to indicate that white privilege is a construct that is primarily used to make white people feel guilty, and that it does not serve any constructive purpose except for Caucasian embarrassment. Am I understanding this correctly? This seems to be a different perspective than the one quoted above. If white privilege is simply an acknowledgement of a societal advantage, and not a moral assessment of an individual or attack on white people, then what grounds do we have for feelings of personal guilt? Could we not assent to the reality that our system is built to favor white people without admitting any sort of prejudice or racist behavior?
I feel like this is a very possible notion. I cannot account for every situation where the term "white privilege" is used. I think it is very realistic to say that, at times, the term has been used to make an individual feel guilty. But I would disagree that it was created for the primary purpose of creating guilt. I also felt guilty when I was first confronted with the reality of white privilege, because I am a white male as well. However, I soon concluded that those feelings of guilt were a result of my misunderstanding of what "white privilege" tries to emphasize. I would argue that a proper interpretation of the term should motivate white people toward advocacy. I think we should speak up when we find out that most of the prison population is made up of minorities, or when we look at our legislative bodies and see that they too are overpopulated with white people. These are sad realities that we should feel comfortable speaking out against without fear of implicating ourselves as racists. This will not divide us further, but bring us into partnership with minorities who are already trying to be heard.
Be encouraged! Advocate! Don't feel guilty.
Nicopotomus23, thank you for engaging me on this topic. I agree there's still work to do, and there may always be work. Racism and discrimination are found in every culture, not just America, and it's probably something that we'll always deal with. But we can still try to bring understanding and equality in hopes to improve our great country.
My definition of 'white privilege' is one that I formed from what I believe it is meant to mean, and one that I believe it probably does mean in retrospect. 'The system' that I mention is a very complex one, and it is evident that my definition of 'white privilege' is an utter generalization.
This leads to the point of my article, which is that it's always imprudent to generalize or stereotype a class based off of their race alone. There are many 'privileges' that Americans are born with, aside from just the color of their skin.
The truth is, the term 'white privilege' has been used to advance determined political ideologies, and yes, to make white people feel guilty. Should we feel guilty? Absolutely not, but 'white privilege' has and continues to be used in such a way that clearly insinuates a feeling of guilt and shame for white people. Not always, but frequently.
You ask, "Could we not assent to the reality that our system is built to favor white people without admitting any sort of prejudice or racist behavior?" The apparent answer to this question is "yes", but we must ask ourselves, is the term 'white privilege' bringing our country together, or is it dividing us further?
The alternative to blaming 'white privilege' is to acknowledge that every individual has the capacity to pursue the life they want by recognizing what 'privileges' they were born with, despite their racial makeup.
However, I do agree there needs to be a combined effort of the authentic meaning of 'white privilege' through awareness, with a message of hope to those who are viewed as unprivileged, even though (I must add once more), they may be privileged in other manners.
I do want to challenge you to consider that the term 'white privilege' may have not been created for virtuous reasons. You say, "...I would disagree that it was created for the primary purpose of creating guilt." How do you know? Because the way it's so often being used, I am skeptical of an upright motivation. I do hope its true meaning is that of my own definition, but I am still unsure.
The truth is, we need to focus on why African Americans are much more likely to be born into a single parent home, drop out of high school, become a criminal, and so on. I believe the root causes lie in a lack of good education, enterprise, access to good healthcare, healthy food, and the list goes on.
— Round 2 —
I guess I would have to disagree that the term "white privilege" inherently places blame on White people. This does not mean that it has not been used in that way. I have also seen this concept used in such a way. However, I would assert that that use is an interpretation of a set of facts, and those facts can be interpreted in more constructive ways. The set of facts which I refer to are nicely summarized in Jerry V. Diller's book, Cultural Diversity. They include the fact that White males hold 95% of senior management jobs even though they make up only 43% of the workforce. Or the fact that African-Americans make up over 45% of our prisoner population (Diller, 2015).
These are simply facts, and they can be interpreted as any one White person is guilty, or they can be indicative of an institutional inclination toward White people. Any one White person could not have incarcerated every African-American in the prison system. The blame does not rest on one person, but an institution. In this case, the justice system, education system, healthcare system etc. We cannot place blame on any one person because of their skin color or because they receive privilege. But again, I agree these facts can be twisted to serve such a purpose.
I also agree that everybody is privileged in one way or another. This is really just another way of saying that everybody is diverse, and those diversities should be celebrated. This is a good and healthy stance. On the other hand, these privileges that, as you said, are characteristic of different races are not valued by many American institutions. Why is it that there are over 35 million hispanics in the U.S. (12.5% of the total population) according to Diller (2015), 21,000,000 (60%) of which can speak English and Spanish (source here), and yet are still more likely to hold lower-paying, unskilled jobs? I agree that bilingualism is a privilege, but it does not seem to be one that is valued by our job market. Compare this to the fact that only 14.5% of Whites speak a language other than English at home (source here), and they are the ones who hold 95% of senior management level jobs. Bilingualism, as valuable as it is, is not acknowledged by the American job market. White skin is.
The fact that white privilege exists divides us. Even though there are other privileges out there, it is ours (as White people) that tends to result in more money, education, and healthcare. By acknowledging this, I do not think we are creating division. I would argue the opposite, I think it can lead to advocacy and institutional change, which will lead to more racial equality. If we ignore it, however, there will be no change, and minorities will continue to suffer the negative consequences of the circumstances imposed on them by the dominate culture.
I actually do think the term 'white privilege' places blame on white people at some level. If the system was only set up to favor White people, then why is it that other races are just as successful as White people? (This is something I did not bring up in my article).
For example, Asian Americans have a lower incarceration rate in the United States than Whites do. Asian Americans also earn more money than White people do. If the system was set up specifically for White people to succeed, then we do we have other racial groups who are actually more successful than the average White person???
Incarceration rates for Hispanics are about double that of Whites, but the numbers are still significantly lower than that of African Americans. Hispanics also earn less than Whites, but they earn more than African Americans.
So what does this all tell us? Does 'white privilege' really exist? I agree it seems to at some level, but I don't think it exists to the level we think it does in comparison to all races, and even inversely with Asian Americans. Perhaps it only exists in the context of African Americans? These are all things we should consider.
The statistics you brought up on bilingualism are rapidly changing. More and more people enter our country every day who speak Spanish, and therefore, we are going to need more jobs that require our citizens to be bilingual. Anyhow, my example was very specific, so that wasn't even the point I was trying to make.
In addition to some of the statistics you brought up, I think we also need to look at what's really happening in the African American community to lead to high prison rates, low paying jobs, and welfare checks. You recite prison statistics, but that's only a result from what the true problems are. For example, 72 percent of children in the African American community are born out of wedlock. That means absent fathers. And the studies show that lack of a male role model is an express train right to prison and the cycle continues.
Lack of male role models also leads to an increase in high school drop out rates, which then leads to unskilled workers, and therefore, an increase in crime. It's a downward cycle more than it is about 'white privilege'. So rather than saying how White people are privileged, why don't we try to fix the root of the problem, which lies in education, health, good jobs, enterprise, etc.
'White privilege' may be a byproduct of this terrible cycle, but it's not the leading cause.