Thursday, August 17, 2006

"White privilege".

Here we have a truly bizarre editorial on explaining "white privilege" to a child. Personally, I think this is a horrible thing to do to a young white child -- try to instill some sort of racial guilt for things he has no control over, as opposed to encouraging positive development and a sense of social responsibility.

Moreover, the notion of "white privilege" always sets my teeth on edge. Firstly because of the invocation of race as a source of benefit; secondly because of the invocation of "privilege" as a way of measuring the benefit. The former drives me nuts because race is really incidental: it's social class that really determines benefit. That many whites tend to be higher-class, and non-whites tend to be lower, is a contingent feature of our society. Focussing on the coincident racial feature ignores the underlying systematic problems, namely, the inequitable distribution of goods and the (subsequent) extreme difficulties involved in trying to move upwards in social class. The latter drives me nuts because "privilege" implies that benefit is undeserved. But the particular benefits cited -- for example, ability to access particular educational or employment opportunities -- don't look undeserved. Indeed, they look like basic benefits that everyone should have in society. So, rather than worry about "white privilege", shouldn't the discourse instead be focused on improving the deficits suffered by those in lower classes?

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