What Is White Privilege?
I’m an average white guy. I’ve been told by memes posted on Facebook and YouTube videos that I have “white privilege”. No one has ever told me that in person though, which seems strange.
I can tell you that as a single father of 4 teenagers, I feel no privilege in practice. It’s simply not a real thing in my world. That got me thinking that it does seem to be a real thing in the world of some people. Social justice warrior groups like Black Lives Matter and feminists absolutely think it’s a real thing. Why?
What if – and I’m just thinking out loud here – the concept of white privilege stems from the very obvious difference in outcome between ideologies that value the individual over those that value the community? If you ask me if black lives matter, I will tell you no, they do not. If you ask me if all lives matter, I will tell you no, they do not. There are no black lives; there are black individuals. All lives are not a thing; there are just individuals. I would tell you that my life matters, your life matters, and the lives of each stranger I passed on the street matters. In this way, I live my life. I don’t blame “the police” for my bad behavior, nor do I blame “black thugs” for all manner of social ill.
It seems that all the people worried about white privilege have been raised with the idea, or have been taught and now believe the idea that communities have advantages over the individual when it comes to getting ahead in society. The leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement certainly purchased wholesale the idea of communal rights over individual rights. This is the classic struggle between capitalism and socialism.
The problem is complex. How do we communicate when the two philosophies are like oil and water? The truth is that the overwhelming majority of black people are not poor, despite what one would believe based on watching the news. Middle and upper class black people know the power of the individual. Poor black people, living in the inner cities who know nothing but communal rights, must see successful, happy people all around them and wonder how they got that way. “They must have some advantage we don’t know about”, they might say. Yes, there is, but it’s not what you think.
You can try to tell that poor black person the blunt truth, that he owes his community nothing and owes himself everything. That his community owes him nothing. That roots mean nothing outside his family unit and those concepts are just holding him back from success. That would be the moral thing. It also would probably not work. I would imagine that going from socialist to capitalist would be akin to going from being a Christian to Muslim, or vice versa. It takes an epiphany, so to speak. Republicans make the mistake of knowing what the problem is, but not knowing there is this ideological divide, making communication impossible. Democrats foster the misconceptions because it keeps the votes rolling in.
Is it really socialism, though? We are in America after all, right? Well, yes, I believe it is. Socialism is a system where the government controls the means of production. Land, labor and capital. If you are a poor, black person on welfare, the government controls your capital. If you also have a drug conviction and can’t get a decent job because of a felony, the government controls your labor. If you also live in public housing, they control your land. You are, for all practical purposes, living in a socialist system. A cage without bars; with full access to the capitalist system around you. A system that you are taught from a young age is tilted against you. You are taught that those that escape and don’t follow the line of community leaders are “uncle Toms” and not to be trusted. You are taught that you are a part of the community and the community is a part of you. You give up your personhood without even knowing it.
So, what’s the solution? Outreach, for one. The current political climate shows that black people vote 95% or so for Democrats in every election. That means that Republicans write them off and Democrats take them for granted. This leaves an opportunity for libertarians to find a common ground. Libertarians have common ground in the areas of ending the War on Drugs, mandatory minimums, and 3 strike laws. We have common ground on school choice. People like Rand Paul have already begun this outreach. I think that just knowing that someone on this side of the fence cares about them would go a long way. We can’t pander. We mustn’t treat them differently that we treat anyone else. That’s patronizing and wrong. The benign racism of lowered expectations has no place in this movement. We can respect cultural differences without disrespecting people.
In the end, it appears white privilege is just a belief in capitalism and the individual over socialism and community rights. It is the misplaced notion that someone has more access, or better treatment because of their skin color, when in actuality, it is because of their ideology. White privilege is the culture of rugged individualism.
* Matthew Wilson is a single father of four who transitioned from conservatism to libertarianism after discovering speakers like Dr. Walter Williams and Milton Friedman talking about liberty and government.