Many well-meaning reformers talk constantly about "white privilege." I share their desire to combat the lingering consequences of "America's original sin," but I fear that this rhetorical strategy is counterproductive.
Much can depend on where we measure something from.
"White privilege" (with its implication of something excessive) is only one of two ways our racial situation can be described. The alternative is to speak of "minority underprivilege."
Both ways of speaking accurately describe the relative position of the two parts of our population. But "minority underprivilege" frames the problem more accurately and is more likely to encourage progress.
The privilege enjoyed by the white population includes things like having to worry less about arbitrary treatment by the police or being regarded with suspicion when going into stores.
But this privilege of the white population is not a problem requiring a solution. Nobody should be treated arbitrarily by the police, or by anybody else.
This privilege is not something that the white population has too much of. It is not a problem that could be fixed by reducing this privilege of the white population.
The real problem is that members of minorities have too little of this privilege. They do have to worry about unfair treatment by police (and other people.) The more accurate way to speak would therefore be to call this problem "minority underprivilege."
The first way of speaking suggests that one part of the population needs to be pulled down. The second way suggests that the other part of the population needs to be raised up.
Which approach is more likely to be successful politically in a democracy where people vote and majorities count? No one wants to be pulled down.
There is an analogy here with the basic problem with Karl Marx's "solution" to the extreme inequality caused by 19th century capitalism.
He proposed to destroy the ruling "bourgeoisie" (capitalists) either by physically exterminating them or by pulling them down into the "proletariat" (workers.)
Naturally, the bourgeoisie did not take well to this idea. Since money is power, the bourgeoisie had plenty of ability to prevent this from happening.
According to Marx the distinguishing characteristic of the proletariat was that it owned none of the society's productive property. They therefore received no dividends or interest, but had to live entirely on income produced by their labor.
An alternative to Marx's approach is presented in my book, Beyond Capitalism: A Classless Society With (Mostly) Free Markets.
It proposes to pull the proletariat up into the bourgeoisie by making everybody joint owners of all natural resources and distributing the income from these resources through a social dividend that is equal for everybody.
Nobody's labor created natural resources, so equal distribution of their bounty makes perfect sense. Natural resources are the equivalent of the biblical "manna from heaven."
See Alaska: oil dividend.
Nobody objects to being pulled up.
Critics accuse reformers who talk about white privilege of trying to make white people ashamed of being white. Terminology like "white privilege" can lend itself to this interpretation, whether it is intended or not.
This kind of talk is therefore unlikely to produce the political consequences desired by reformers.
A reform strategy lending itself to claims that it strives to make white children ashamed of their race is based on a terrible miscalculation. We are already seeing unfortunate side effects of this strategy in school board politics around the country.
No one can control what their race is. Shame about one's race or pride in it are therefore equally crazy. But shame is psychologically demoralizing.
Civil rights reformers recognized this when they popularized the slogan "Black Is Beautiful" decades ago, an excellent strategy that has done a lot of good.
Reformers might do better to focus on eliminating underprivilege rather than complaining about white privilege.
Paul F. deLespinasse is Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Computer Science at Adrian College. Read Professor Paul F. deLespinasse's Reports — More Here.
© 2022 Newsmax. All rights reserved.