It seems lately that the term ‘white privilege’ is being thrown around more extensively. Debates, arguments, and discussions from every corner of the country are using this term. But is the thinking behind this term legitimate?
Until recently, I didn’t understand what people meant when they called me “privileged” (I’m Caucasian). I took offense to it, as most do because the meaning is ambiguous. The impression made by the term is insulting. Are they saying I didn’t put in any work for the things I have, or that my parents didn’t work for what they have because of our skin color? That kind of thinking in 21st century America is undeniably racist. We all enjoy the same freedom under the law.
But it turns out, this is not the intended meaning for most people using the term. Instead, what they mean is this: white people enjoy easier access to success and exemption to stereotypes because of their skin color.
In some respects, this is true. There are stereotypes hindering certain ethnicities and minorities from achieving the same things. Black people are drug dealers, Hispanics are illegal immigrants, white people are racist. But we all know these statements can’t be true when used to cover an entire group of people; in fact, when used as a generalization, no stereotype would remain true.
The term ‘white privilege’, far more often than not, is used as a discriminatory term aimed at demeaning people with white skin color, delegitimizing their beliefs and accomplishments, and propping up another skin color in order to compensate for the gap in opportunity. In other words, it is revenge attempting to level the playing field of inequality — which does absolutely nothing. Instead, let’s find the root cause of this inequality.
It’s easy to differentiate opportunity gaps using only skin color, but they extend much further than one physical attribute. In fact, I think the socioeconomic disposition in America is caused by many associated factors.
Here are a few of them that contribute to an opportunity gap.
Straight from the National Center for Education Statistics, here are the high school graduation rates by ethnicity (2014-15 ACGR):
We see here that Asian Americans are graduating at the highest rate, while African Americans are graduating at a rate of only 3 people for every 4.
Following are the calculated unemployment rates in America, by ethnicity, straight from an October 6, 2017, news release by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Average income (2016)
By looking at these numbers, it’s clear that education directly correlates with employment and the trend continues with average income. It’s no coincidence that Black and Hispanic Americans have the lowest average income when they also have the lowest high school graduation rate. On the other hand, Asian Americans make almost 20K more per year than the second highest demographic. Why is nobody is calling for awareness to be raised on Asian privilege?
To a large extent, the above factors can be controlled by the individual. For example, a student is responsible for paying attention in school and keeping their grades up, right? They do so in order to eventually get a good job.
But who teaches kids responsibility? Traditionally, these values are taught in the home by the parents.
Percentage of children in one parent households according to the US Kids Count Data Center:
Data not available for Hispanics
Clearly, broken homes or homes without both parents have an effect on responsibility in school, and thus subsequent graduation rates. I think it’s also important to note how Asian American families, who financially are doing much better than any other ethnicity, are also keeping their families intact 86% of the time.
I could dig even deeper into this issue but in the end, it will always come back to one thing, responsibility of the individual — whether that be the parent, student, or otherwise.
After looking at this data, the verity of this ‘privilege’ idea becomes clear. “White privilege” is nothing more than an excuse used by those(not just minorities or certain ethnic groups) who feel they do not have a competitive advantage in society and want to place the responsibility for that disadvantage on someone else. It’s true that minorities tend to have a more difficult time finding their way through this society, but it’s not impossible. If it were then we wouldn’t have successful people of every race and religion living here, and Asian Americans — as a whole — certainly wouldn’t be doing so well. I’d say if the above statistics began to level out over the top, there would be very little talk of privilege in our society because it all boils down to personal responsibility.
We live in a very competitive society, but the freedom we enjoy comes hand and note with a healthy competition which, in the past, did well to effectively incentivize Americans. Every person has the opportunity to make their life better than their parents lives — the American Dream!
Perhaps we’ve reached a point in our society where everything is too easy. Maybe everything has become so simple that responsibility is barely required? In this kind of society, claiming one race has privilege over another when the laws explicitly state otherwise is a conceivable response to inequality — but it’s not the correct response and it’s certainly not the American response.
I’d say if the above statistics began to level out over the top, there would be very little talk of privilege in our society. Let’s just go back to emphasizing personal responsibility instead of faultless victimhood. I bet we’d all be much happier.
What are your thoughts on this?