‘White Privilege’ is a bad idea for everybody
Recently, I was told that as a white, straight, English-speaking, able-bodied, Christian man (it gets worse – I am Catholic to boot), my type has had its day, and now it is time to cede power to the ‘Other’. To our PC society, this may sound like a good plan, but in truth, it is a pre-cursor to social disaster.
The notion of white privilege is predicated on the idea that society is ultimately entirely about power, and class or demographic conflict, in which there can be only winners and losers. And that’s no way to build a society.
So let me be as clear as I can be – this type of identity politics will destroy our civilization. We need to cut it out before it’s too late.
Note: I wrote an article on white privilege in March 2018, and received a lot of vitriolic criticism from it. I had nice left-wing Christians telling me God would soon cut me down! Nevertheless, some of the criticism was valid in that it exposed some sloppy or incomplete writing – a perennial curse of blogging. So I have decided to update the piece, with additions and some further editing below.
There are a number of reasons to laugh off the entire concept of white privilege.
Number One – Is white privilege even historical?
Despite our culture’s great love of modernity and progress, the 20th century was not actually that great – for everybody and also for white men. A ton of white men lost jobs in the Great Depression. Being white and male didn’t protect you either from some pretty terrifying odds of being wounded or killed in two world wars. Yet still people believe today that somehow being white protects you from the struggles of life.
That’s not true. A few examples from white-majority countries: life-spans for white males are unbelievably in decline in North America; white working class boys in Britain have the least chance of getting a university degree of any other demographic.
Yes, many whites are unbelievably privileged. But not all whites. And not all whites are privileged because of conquest. Many are privileged because they had good parents, or got lucky, or went to good schools. None of these things are sinful, and millions of other ethnicities share, or can share, in these good fortunes too.
Again – here are a few neglected facts. Slavery was not invented by white men. (Transatlantic African slaves had already been enslaved by their own native overlords – hence they could be sold to slavers with no conflict.) Most historians ignore simple facts like that there were still white slaves in the Ottoman Empire after it had been abolished by British colonies and the US.
Just as being white does not protect you from the vicissitudes of life, neither does it imbue you with any kind of inherited guilt or burden of the past.
For example, violence has not been the monopoly of white men in Africa – far from it.
The body count of apartheid pales in comparison with intra-national genocide as seen in Rwanda, and under the tyrannies of the likes of Idi Amin or even our revered King Shaka. ANC presidents have had no moral compunction in holding hands with notorious ethnic cleansers like Robert Mugabe. Never mind the historically unprecedented bloodshed at the hands of ANC allies like the Russian and Chinese Communist parties.
Please understand – I am not excusing any terrible things done by the scores of evil white men in history. I am rather saying that there is absolutely no historical reason to blame white men uniquely for the violence of the past and the present. The world is a complicated, messy, and tragic place. The notion of white privilege is too laughably simplistic to have any kind of analytical power in such a world.
This leads to the second reason we should abandon the concept of white privilege.
Number Two – It makes no philosophical sense
The Russian dissident, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, noted that the line between good and evil does not run between nations, but down the centre of the human heart.
(He wrote this while in a communist gulag, famously writing that his earlier willingness to live by the lies of the totalitarian state meant he must carry some blame for his own predicament.)
Good and evil know no skin colour or demographic. They war against each other in every human heart. And so individuals must be judged as individuals. This is the very essence of all decent justice systems – and the very contrary of modern ‘social justice’ theory.
So there is really no such thing as white guilt or privilege. Some whites are guilty. Some whites are privileged. But not all. And not all privilege is a sign of guilt. Privilege is not a zero-sum game. Person A’s privilege does not imply Person B’s oppression. Not all property has been stolen. To assign guilt to anybody because of their ethnic identity is simply the very definition of racism.
Yes, I know, the modern liberal will interject at this point and say that nobody is suggesting all whites are guilty because they carry white privilege – rather they must simply ‘check their privilege’, or something along those lines.
Such people are making the dangerous assumption that everybody is rational in society, that you can tell millions of people that their troubles are due to the actions of their ethnically different neighbours, who carry privilege unfairly, and they will all still be able to make the distinction between unfairly carrying privilege and personal guilt. One visit to Twitter should cure you of such naivety.
This is what I mean when I suggest above that white privilege can only end badly for society – because it encourages a kind of fatalism for both blacks and whites, by placing us in a historical narrative from which there is no escape.
When you start dividing the world up into groups of victims and oppressors, in the long run, you will create a never-ending division of group identity and thus perpetuate conflict without end. (See the ‘intersectionality’ movement if you want to watch this endless division in real time.)
If our intellectuals continue to assert that all whites carry privilege and guilt, we can’t simply expect white men to simply agree. In fact, given our human nature, all you will do is spur them into a kind of defensive solidarity. Is that what our society needs? Is that what you want?
The only way any society heals itself is when it allows for excellent people to come to positions of power and authority. The peace and trust of any society is such a tenuous thing – that’s why a country like Zimbabwe can destroy itself in a matter of years.
The wrong people with power is a short-cut to hell. And it’s much easier for the wrong people to get power when the identity politics game is being played.
We simply can’t afford to divvy ourselves up into groups, even if we have done so in the past. Yes, by all means, lean the priorities of the state towards the poor and the abused. They are objectively vulnerable in our world. But don’t pre-empt that prioritisation by asserting that only some people can be guilty or innocent, privileged or victimised.
Stop saying things like take white people’s land, or all men are trash. You’re not going to inspire the best in anybody by doing that, I can guarantee you.
Rather, look for cases in which land has been taken from somebody and make restitution. Look for cases of rape and throw the rapist in jail. Don’t use those individual cases as a springboard to incite racial and gender ideological warfare.
When we deal in ideologies, people like Zuma come to power in the midst of the chaos, as supposed champions of the masses. One morning you wake up, and find your state has been captured by crooks and foreigners.
Finally, Number Three – We all have to take responsibility
If you have any privileges of your own, the right thing to do is to be grateful, and to live in such a way that you earn your privilege so to speak by using it for good and by treating others how you would like to be treated.
And if you have been wronged, as all of us have been at some point, look for ways to take back control of your own life. Revenge does not give you control. It makes you weak. Yes, it would have been better if you had never been wronged. And yes, hopefully restitution can be made.
But, at the end of the day, we only have one life to live, and our lives work better if we do all we can to make them better. We all get dealt different hands. But we need to play those cards. Or what the hell are we still doing drawing breath?
Steve Biko famously said, “Black man, you are on your own.”
Malcom X said this: “It is imperative that a man works. Get off welfare, get out of that compensation line. Be a man, earn what you need for your family, then your family will respect you. They are proud to say that’s my father; she is proud to say that’s my husband. Father means you are taking care of those children. Just because you made them doesn’t mean you are a father. Anyone can make a baby, but anyone can’t take care of them. Anyone can go get a woman, but anyone can’t take care of a woman. Husband means you are taking care of your wife, father means you are taking care of your children…you are accepting the responsibilities of manhood.”
Forget white privilege. Forget male privilege. Forget any kind of demographic privilege. It might sound good but it helps nobody. Take whatever privilege you yourself have, and walk a heroic path of responsibility.
Sometimes we talk about these issues in an echo chamber – so here are a few people from outside the politically correct world discussing white privilege.
First, I strongly encourage you to read a piece entitled ‘The High Price of Stale Grievances’ by a black philosophy student, Coleman Hughes, which appeared in the online journal, Quillette. See here.
Then, watch these two videos below in which various American black people discuss white privilege:
1. ‘Do White Americans have White Privilege?’
2. ‘Jesse Lee Peterson Asks Black Woman for Evidence of White Privilege’