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When Exceptions Prove the Rule: Poverty, Whiteness and Privilege

As someone who writes regularly on the subject of white privilege, I am often electronically attacked by those who insist that the very notion of such a thing is a mere figment of my imagination: well, mine, and that of all the other "race hustlers" out there. "Don't you know that millions of white people are poor?" they typically ask, suggesting by virtue of the question that if the answer is yes (and of course it is, as I am well aware), then white privilege is obviously a myth.

Recently, I was e-mailed links to a 20/20 special on poverty and hardship in Appalachia, by someone who felt I obviously needed to see it before I ever again uttered the words "white" and "privilege" in the same sentence.

"How in the hell can you say all white people have privilege? Look at these people. Look at how they're living. Look at how miserable their lives are and how much they have to struggle just to keep from living on the streets," the message read.

Indeed, the special was heart-rending. And there is little doubt that the conditions of life for many whites--including but not limited to those living in the hills of Kentucky and West Virginia--are deplorable and worthy of our immediate attention. Their pain is real, and their claims on our conscience valid. Yet none of that denies that white privilege is a real and persistent phenomenon, also worthy of being addressed.

First off, even were we to grant that the white poor of Appalachia enjoy no privilege on the basis of their race, this would hardly diminish the truth of the general claim for white America on the whole. Exceptions sometimes prove the rule, precisely because they are so exceptional. Just as the existence of a statistical handful of dizzyingly rich black entertainers and athletes doesn't change the basic contours of the opportunity structure for 38 million other African Americans, nor does the existence of a half-million desperately poor white Appalachians (out of a white population of over 200 million) suggest that there are not still advantages that come from being a member of the dominant racial group.

Let's consider an analogy to help demonstrate the point. Consider persons with disabilities. Some among these are obviously affluent, with the financial means to provide for their well-being and that of their families. Despite their infirmities, they have the resources to take nice vacations, live in large homes, and lead, despite their conditions, comfortable lives. Alternately, we can easily envision plenty of able-bodied folks who are poor, facing foreclosure, and who just lost their jobs. That said, would anyone point to these well-off disabled folks and their poor but able-bodied counterparts as proof that the able-bodied weren't advantaged, privileged, as a general rule, vis-a-vis the disabled? Of course not. Able-bodied privilege is a social fact, which remains every bit as factual even in the face of individual able-bodied persons who experience barriers on the basis of class.

Likewise, there are many prominent gays and lesbians, in the entertainment industry for example, whose financial profiles far and away dwarf those of most straight folks reading this essay. And what of it? Despite their financial privilege and advantage, they still face overt hostility, even violence on the basis of their sexual orientation; they can't, in most places, marry or adopt children with one another; and as with all LGBT folk, they can be fired or denied housing, for no reason other than the bigotries of an employer, landlord, real estate agent or banker; and all of this legally. Those of us who are straight have the privilege of being viewed as normal, of being able to hold our partner's hand or kiss them in public without drawing the ire of onlookers; we can put up pictures of our partner in the workplace or dorm room, without wondering if doing so is going to result in some form of hostile retaliation. The peace of mind that such privilege purchases for us is worth more than money, and is not truncated by the fact that many heteros struggle economically.

Or, consider an even more obvious example: suppose I were to say, "smoking cigarettes causes cancer." Now, on the one hand, we know that for millions of people this is true: their intake of tar and nicotine over many years is indeed what causes them to develop cancer, especially of the lungs. And because it is true for so many, scientists can say with absolute certainty that there is a positive and significant correlation between smoking cigarettes and cancer. Causation on an individual level for many, and correlation overall for the society. But let's say you have a great aunt, let's call her Polly. And let's say Polly has been smoking unfiltered cigarettes for fifty years, and hasn't developed so much as a cough, let alone cancer. And let's say there are literally tens of thousands of people like Polly out there, as there likely are. Would you then be able to claim, with any intellectual integrity, that your Aunt Polly's experience (and the experiences of others like her) somehow disproved or debunked the larger truth of a link between smoking and cancer? Of course not, anymore so than the fact that some people get shot in the head and don't die, doesn't invalidate the fairly safe bet that if you get shot in the head, you will. 

Individual anecdote and exception cannot, by definition, disprove observable, statistically significant and quantifiable evidence that points in an opposite direction. So the fact that some high school dropouts go on to be millionaires doesn't disprove that people with college degrees generally do better in life; the fact that many people who grow up in desperate poverty never commit a crime doesn't debunk the high correlation between extreme deprivation and lawbreaking; and the fact that some folks who eat greasy, fried foods still have low cholesterol doesn't suggest that you needn't worry about the kinds of things you put in your body.

As a second consideration, remember that the claim of white privilege as a social phenomenon is merely one that argues this: the lives white people lead are substantively enhanced, materially and psychologically, vis-a-vis people of color, due to whiteness. The key words here are the lives white people lead. In other words, the real, on-the-ground lives of real white people, not lives and people in the abstract. This is critical to understand, because the lives we lead are mediated by other social truths. So, in the U.S., for instance, we live lives that take place within a class system. Thus, in the real world competitions for "stuff," white poor folks are not up against rich black people. Mostly, they are competing for jobs, educations and housing against poor folks of color. Likewise, rich competes against rich, middle class against middle class and so-on. The claim of white privilege presupposes that that privilege plays out in an intra-class manner. And can anyone really deny that when poor whites and poor folks of color vie for opportunities, that it pays to be white? Or that when middle class whites compete against similarly situated blacks and Latinos, that whites have the edge? Bottom line: to test a social science hypothesis it goes without saying that you need to control for other factors that could influence outcomes, like, in this case, class.

So, in the case of Appalachians, the proper test of their racial privilege (or lack thereof) would be to compare whites in the region with blacks in the same region and to then ask, do whites have an advantage or privileges relative to their regional counterparts of color? That most people aren't even aware of the existence of blacks in Appalachia (though they comprise about 6 percent of the region's population, and are among some of the poorest) seems a pretty good answer to that question. That whites are the ones we instantly think of when we think of Appalachian poverty, and the ones for whom we typically then express such great sympathy, seems to indicate a very substantial kind of privileging; a kind that erases from our consciousness altogether, the problem of rural black poverty as though it were a non-factor.

And indeed there is far more sympathy expressed for the white poor, historically and today, than for the black and brown poor: another form of implicit preference for, and privileging of, whiteness. Now that the economy is imploding, one can hear concern expressed about the poor (especially the once middle-class poor, mostly constructed as white), and how terrible it is that they are now facing such hardships. Yet when those same hardships were being experienced by the urban black and brown (whose communities have been in a recession or even depression state for entire generations in some cases) little sympathy attached. Indeed, as Martin Gilens explained in his book Why Americans Hate Welfare, as the media imagery of the poor began to shift in the early 1970s, from mostly white and rural to mostly black and urban, public animosity towards the impoverished rose in lockstep. As contrasted with the mostly sympathy-filled portrayals of the Dust Bowl poor in the 30s, or the white families that were losing their farms in the 80s, black families suffering under the combined forces of the decline in city-based manufacturing employment, as well as racism, redlining by banks and neglect of urban school infrastructure, were viewed as responsible for their own plight.

The simple truth is, working people are not all in the same boat, and white working class folks have real advantages. Black and Latino workers are typically the first fired in an economic downturn, and remain twice as likely to be unemployed and 3-4 times as likely to be poor, in good times or bad; and white high school dropouts are twice as likely to find work as similarly uneducated African Americans.

Furthermore, according to Thomas Shapiro's groundbreaking work on the racial wealth divide, whites in the bottom fifth of all white households (in terms of income) have, on average seven times the net worth of similar blacks. In large part this is due to a major advantage in home ownership and thus equity, due to passed down property from parents. Indeed, as Shapiro and his colleague Melvin Oliver have found (and chronicled in their book, Black Wealth/White Wealth), whites with incomes below $13,000 are more likely to own their own homes than blacks with incomes that are three times higher, largely due to these intergenerational transfers of wealth.

None of this takes away from the real economic struggles faced by millions of white families. But it does suggest that people of color face those struggles and then explicitly racial ones too. To acknowledge this truism does not mean that racism is more important than classism, or that issues of poverty should take a back seat. But to avoid the conversation about racism and white privilege is to evade a fundamental truth. What's more, finessing the topic will likely make it hard for people of color to trust white liberals and leftists, the latter of whom seem to prefer a color-blind class unity, not realizing that the unity they claim to seek can never be built on a foundation of half-truths and convenient fictions.

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29 Comment count
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Good stuff as usual Tim

5:55 am? Did you write it all this morning or just publish it? :) I've always been curious how long it takes you to write your essays and if your citations come off the top of your head or if you have to research the specifics of them.

So...how to condense this down into a short paragraph usable in every day conversation when confronted with a comment akin to the email that prompted this essay? I am all too eager to use what I've learned from you and the countless other activists and authors I've read when engaging in discussions where long thoughts and arguments are welcome and patiently given the floor, however my dilemma is how to respond when faced with a brief and impromptu scenario where I need to get a short argument out in a few sentences or less to refute claims such as the one regurgitated from the author of that message.

Thanks again for all you do and keep up the great work Tim.

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thanks for this piece

I really appreciate your work, Tim Wise. Yours is a strong and important voice.

Peace,
Evie
(a native Nashvillian)

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sad, but necessary

I encounter these illogical reactions myself from time to time. It's not racist if it also affects white people, and it's not sexist if it also affects men. People will say such nonsense without any regard for whether or not white people and men are affected proportionately. Thanks for having the patience to write these things, when sometimes, I'm sure, it feels as if you're talking to a wall.

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Different Topic

Matt: Right you are, but this is a different topic than what Tim talks about.

The first issue is: Does poverty among whites, in and of itself, disprove white privilege? No, no more so than a poor person discovering a lottery ticket disproves that a lot of people are terribly poor and will remain that way. These are specific social arguments, and to say that white poor disprove the existence of racism is about as cogent as responding to "The sky is blue" with saying "No, the sky is up".

So our model recognizes a number of social factors, but the direction that race plays is always negative for blacks and positive for whites. We're arguing that someone in Appallachia, or Sacramento, or wherever else who is poor and white is poor DESPITE their whiteness.

The argument you're talking about is the second position, the backup of the race denier. "Okay, yeah, race clearly matters even when we control for class or gender or what not. But everyone experiences discrimination." Or, alternatively, the actually TRUE argument, that "Whites lose a lot for their privilege".

The response to the first is, "No, not everyone 'experiences discrimination'. It's like saying that everyone experiences hunger because the poor haven't eaten all day and the rich are waiting for their steak dinner from D'Antonio's. Blacks and other racial minorities experience far more consistent, far more serious, and far more ubiquitous discrimination. When whites do experience occasional discrimination, not only is it piecemeal and usually unrelated to their race position, but they also have institutional immune systems to protect them."

The response to the second is, "Of course, white privilege hurts whites more than it helps them. But it hurts blacks yet more. For whites, it's a mixed story. For blacks, it's far more consistently bad."

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thank you!

As usual, you put it down Tim. Might I suggest that you pay Ms. Tyra Banks a visit? She is in desperate need of someone to explain this whole racism/white privilege conundrum to her and her audience. If you don't believe me, peep her site: www.tyrashow.com

For someone with a nationally syndicated show, she spews much misinformation regarding racism/white supremacy/privilege.

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hmmm...

Hi Tim,

I saw the same special you are talking about. As I was watching it, in my mind I could here the millions who tuned in saying "oh that is so sad". However in my mind that got overshadowed by my own thoughts " Hey, I wonder where the black folk are in this special?" I wonder if the help that poured in after the show aired would have been any different if the folks interviewed had been changed... On another note...really hoping to see you way up here in Nova Scotia

Jude
http://rantonracism.blogspot.com/

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white privilege

I remember spending a few months trying to convince a friend that she had white priviilege. We argued incessantly. And I sent her a bunch of your writings to help prove my point. Shortly after our arguiing--she and her two kids were evicted from their home. Of course as whites, they had advantages that people of color in the same boat didn't have, but I think a more apt description of her situation would be: "oppressed." And a better way of talking to her about it would be: "Yes, you're oppressed. No. you're not alone --there's millions of others just like you. And it's not your fault at all. You are entitled to a place to live. Unfortunately we are impotent to change the situation because racism super-oppresses people of color, and divides us all--we're too weak as a movement as workers to help you."

This woman is not an appalaichan woman. And millions of whites struggle with oppression.

My gripe about the white anti-racist movement is that it's sooooo middle class. And if we are serious about reaching out to poor and working class whites as well, we'll need to acknowledge--discuss and recognize that the oppression that many whites suffer from--isn't simply the "exception to prove the rule."

Why is the white anti-racist movement so middle class? I think that bears some discussion.

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Good Question

This is a great question, and one that surely has a wide array of answers.

 For one thing, a lot of the LEFT in general, whether it be anti-globalization, anti-war, anti-capitalism, etc. is stolidly middle-class. I don't know if the anti-racist movement is any more so, and in fact given the disproportionate amount of black brothers and sisters, I would say not much more. But that begs the question, why is ANY left movement so disproportionately middle-class?

A) The left has traditionally had a strong student and youth element. As college prices rise, this will inherently lead to a greater and greater class bias.

B) The left has often failed at reaching out to the very people it's trying to help.

C) Poorer people in general have less time to educate themselves politically, figure out where to go, and spend an afternoon writing a blog post on the topic or reading such a post or going to a teach-in.

D) Especially with the case of race, white allies who join the movement are likely to be the types who, even without a racial opportunity structure, would probably be better off anyways due to class elements.

I'd say it's a mix of these and all sorts of other factors...

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a question

What do you folks think we white people should do about this? And I mean something concrete not theoretical.

Also; if I am not allowed to make judgements about your perceptions of racial relationships, white privelege and african-americans (or black people, whatever you you choice of words may be) then why do you feel that you can make judgements about mine? I realize that as minorites you have more interaction with whites than vice versa but I think you might be laboring under some misconceptions.

I have asked my black friends if we could discuss this; to a person they have refused!! One even said that i should get on the internet if i want to know about groups of people. (and shewas/is, I presume, a good friend).

So much for the brave new dialogue Eric Holder was talking about. I gues if you don't agree totally that there is white privelege then you aren't worth the dialogue. All we are left with is a dialectic.

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Hold Up

Well, Jonna, here if you disagree that there's white privilege there's plenty of folk, Tim included, who'll set you straight, so perhaps this may be a peculiarity of your friends.

But to deny white privilege really CAN be a conversation ender. Why? Well, first of all, it's so obvious and such a well-supported sociological fact that to deny it either requires that one be spinning some mendacious propaganda or that one is totally uneducated about the topic. Neither are good places to begin a conversation. And if whites can't recognize their privilege, then we immediately have a problem in terms of rectifying the situation. See, if we whites aren't willing to give up our excess advantage, then blacks and other minorities will by their very nature have less, no matter what else we do. If we believe that we're entitled to our excess, then we will defend it. That's fairly insurmountable.

Chomsky gets this question all the time on varying connected issues, and he says, "Just DO it". He points out that, elsewhere, people just start fighting for justice. What could you do concretely?

1) Write your Congressman to stop supporting three strike laws, or to support a full employment policy, or to correct the racism in the criminal justice system, or to pull out of Iraq (and thereby free up monies for social spending here).

2) Make a stink over the fact that the Fed isn't abiding by its obligation to protect wages and jobs.

3) Join a teach-in.

4) Make sure that your local schools aren't tracking their minority students into remedial tracks irrespective of merit.

And so forth. One can think of hundreds of things one can do...

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Blind to White privilege

I think maybe white privilege or whiteness is so ingrained in the historic white consciousness that whites tend to think of other whites naturally and” instinctively first,” before they consider anything- or anyone else. It’s as if the tendency to see or think in terms of whiteness is passed on through the DNA. Whites are simply blind to it, and will scoff at the notion of a “white-think” mentality. Whites seem to naturally and instinctively gravitate towards their own for their cultural wounds are few and in-between. For whiteness is seen as the norm; the barometer by which everything else is judged. Non-white is not normal and therefore figuratively invisible to the white mind. We see it locally and on the national scene.

I can’t remember the last time my town had a black news anchor- (and I’m 51) even though the racial makeup is roughly 51% White, 44% Black or African American. We have 4 news stations servicing our local area and all are staffed with one white male anchor and a white female anchor. None of whom live in the city, so the tendency is to report the news from their own communities. One long-time local radio commentator(Dan Ryan) said that when the news anchor looks into the camera to report the news, he is assuming he is speaking to a white middle class family.

Most of the news seems to focus on the surrounding suburbs with very little attention given to non-whites. Volunteerism, Charity work, Sports and Local politics, and human interests are gleaned from the surrounding white suburbs as if we do not exist; course if we shoot- or rob someone that is usually the lead story. The brighter side of the news focuses on everything good and wonderful whites are doing in the community. We just aren’t considered synonymous with good things. As though there are no black churches or organizations doing the same thing where blacks/Latinos live. Should you complain about the lack of coverage- or positive images you are told to get over it- or, "you blacks whine too much."

Whites just aren’t in the habit of thinking or considering blacks until we have done something to either hurt their sensibilities or challenge it. Whites (not all) usually have to be forced to think of blacks in the same vain as they think of themselves. Obama’s growing popularity forced whites to view him as they would view themselves. Course he had to empty himself of his blackness and take on a generic tone so as not to frighten or alienate whites. He couldn’t be the angry black male- and he couldn’t associate himself with any other actor in the civil rights movement.
That would give him too much of a cultural black taint- and immediately render him a non-issue to white voters. But what does that say about most whites?

I'm glad for your voice Mr. Wise and I love your site. I hope someday blacks will be able to speak and address the very same concerns as you do and not be dismissed for it, simply because they are black. Take care, and God bless.

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White Privilege is not a "fact"

Frederic,

"White Privilege" is not a "well-attested" fact. There is a certain segment of academic Marxians that invented whiteness studies, and its largely they who make the argument for the existence of a so-called white "privilege". There is even a Marxian critique of the concept of White Privilege from those Marxians who disagree with it, and indeed of the whole intellectual fad known as "Whiteness Studies".

I dont know what "excess advantage" you think anyone needs to give up. Every American group has enormous advantages simply in being born here and not elsewhere. Being born black in Boston is a world of difference than if the same child were born in Botswana. And as place of birth is an inherently non-meritocratic factor, you can say that the enormous unearned advantages that all races of Americans enjoy over billions of other humans are "privileges" and "excess advantages".

But is indoor plumbing a "privilege"? Better sanitation? Better access to better health care? Better housing? Surely these things shouldnt be "given up". We should "give up" vaccination?

SOme can call this "American Privilege" if they wanted to. I would understand what they meant. But if, like me, you regard a living wage, decent housing, access to health care, a good job and sanitation to be human rights, then you regard them as entitlements and not as "privileges".

There has to be some sensible divide between privilege and deprivation so that we dont say something silly like a 7.25 US minimum wage is privilege since its 700% higher than the Mexican minimum wage. Its two different degrees of relative deprivation. Its as nonsensical as thinking millionaires are "deprived" for havign 1,000 times less than billionaires.

I would argue that there is a middle zone of good standards of living, a livable wage, good healthcare, etc which is neither "privilege" nor "deprived", and that all below have relative degrees of deprivation and those above hav increasing degrees of relative privilege.

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Simple

""White Privilege" is not a "well-attested" fact. There is a certain segment of academic Marxians that invented whiteness studies, and its largely they who make the argument for the existence of a so-called white "privilege". There is even a Marxian critique of the concept of White Privilege from those Marxians who disagree with it, and indeed of the whole intellectual fad known as "Whiteness Studies"."

That's funny, Michael, because you're posting on the blog of Tim Wise, not exactly a Marxist. Michael Albert, Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, etc. are all not Marxists, indeed often quite hostile to Marxism and Marxists (Albert has said that he thinks it's antiquated and gets the economy wrong) and they accept white privilege as a sociological fact. And at Davis, I've taken classes from Bruce Haynes, Sasha Abramsky, Natalia Deeb-Sossa, Diane Wolf, and Bill McCarthy who all stressed the importance of race and white privilege, none of whom are especially Marxist.

So, in short, you're talking out of your ass, with all due respect.

Any review of the literature in any domain, whether it be criminology, the legal system in general, economics, politics, sociology, the literature on the drug war, the literature on welfare and public support, all identify areas where whites are privileged and other minority groups not. If that's not white privilege, I don't know what is.

"I dont know what "excess advantage" you think anyone needs to give up. Every American group has enormous advantages simply in being born here and not elsewhere. Being born black in Boston is a world of difference than if the same child were born in Botswana. And as place of birth is an inherently non-meritocratic factor, you can say that the enormous unearned advantages that all races of Americans enjoy over billions of other humans are "privileges" and "excess advantages"."

Sounds just fine, especially considering how America has stolen that excess wealth through centuries of genocide, imperialism and slavery. Funny how, when you try to make a reducio ad absurdum, you end up making standard, very sensible Left arguments...

"But is indoor plumbing a "privilege"? Better sanitation? Better access to better health care? Better housing? Surely these things shouldnt be "given up". We should "give up" vaccination?"

You don't know what you're talking about.

I'm sorry to be so harsh, but these are really elementary issues that we talk about in classes, seminars and workshops on race, white privilege, etc. Simply over my last two QUARTERS, we've talked about these issues in two entirely separate classes.

To answer your argument rather simply: There are, at the first level of approximation, three types of privilege.

The first is excess privilege. That's when someone makes more money, or has more of a good or resource or benefit than someone else. They need to give it up to the people who have less. (We're assuming here that these are unjust privileges, in that they arose out of unjust circumstances. Easy enough to prove for our present topic).

The second is reasonable privilege that is just poorly distributed, or privileges that are okay but given for the wrong reasons. I have a right to a fair trial. The fact that I get one as a white person, ceterus paribus (primarily with class held equal), is not something to rectify. It IS a privilege, however, and in terms of the BROADER SOCIETY one that is unfair because I have it and someone else doesn't, which reproduces inequity. In that situation, everyone deserves the privilege. You don't take it away, you make sure everyone has it.

Finally, there are privileges that are obscene for anyone to have. It is obscene for anyone to have so much wealth that they can beggar countries. No one should have that kind of wealth, so we take that "privilege" away from EVERYBODY.

Understanding this, understanding that we want to get from injustice to justice through whatever direction is warranted, solves all your silly misconceptions...  You get to these later, but seem to fail to see how your own model accounts for white privilege.

"SOme can call this "American Privilege" if they wanted to. I would understand what they meant. But if, like me, you regard a living wage, decent housing, access to health care, a good job and sanitation to be human rights, then you regard them as entitlements and not as "privileges"."

Again, you clearly know nothing about the topic you are speaking about.

Yes, there is American privilege. On average, Americans have access to more wealth, more "soft power", more cultural capital, etc. They have, all else held equal, advantages.

But, as I'm sure you might happen to know, not every American is doing equally well. Hell, some are starving. More importantly, some have the wealth of entire countries. This is unjust. That's CLASS privilege, on TOP of American privilege.

Hold up, though. There's ANOTHER type of privilege, ABOVE AND BEYOND those two, that stays EVEN WHEN YOU HOLD THEM CONSTANT.

It's called white privilege.

The same is true for male privilege: It's there above and beyond class, race, American and political privilege and power.

Indeed, that is the point of the entire piece you're replying to. You don't argue against the point, you in fact repeat it verbatim. I don't understand why even otherwise quite sensible leftists get so confused over such a simple issue...

"There has to be some sensible divide between privilege and deprivation so that we dont say something silly like a 7.25 US minimum wage is privilege since its 700% higher than the Mexican minimum wage. Its two different degrees of relative deprivation. Its as nonsensical as thinking millionaires are "deprived" for havign 1,000 times less than billionaires."

Why not?

I think rather the opposite. A 7.25 minimum wage is not enough to reasonably support a family. The fact that Mexicans make 1/7th that is even more obscene. It doesn't make the 7.25 less obscene.

But the people who make $7.25 ARE better off than those Mexicans making $1.

This is transparent.

More importantly, the fact that you can only understand things in terms of class is transparently obvious. So let's make it very clear.

If I am black, I'm not competing with Bill Gates. I'm competing with you, my white, working-class neighbor.

And in that competition, I will lose disproportionately more often than I will win.

I will get less loans, less jobs, less promotions, lower wages, worse treatment, and be far more likely to go to jail. I will be maligned, as will my family. I will be pulled over by cops and monitored in stores.

Further, even were I much richer than you, many of those things would STILL occur. So whites making a fraction of what middle-class, professional blacks make are still as likely to own a home as them thanks to generations of racial covenants and racist law.

From the Federal Housing Assistance loans ALONE, that difference between white and black America is $1 trillion.

This is real. It is a massive amount of wealth, even if we just want to talk about wealth differentials. Black America owns about 1% of the nation. It should own its numerical share: 12-13%.

So, yes, clearly millionaires aren't underprivileged. But that's totally moot to this discussion.

In any case, the only way this is a confusion is if we don't understand what justice is. Justice means that we want a fair, equitable bar set. People who currently are above that bar, having more wealth or power than they should in a reasonably fair and just society, need to give it up. Those who have less need to get more. Yes, some will lose more and some will gain more than others in this process (Bill Gates loses more than Steven Spielberg, the average black worker gains more than the average white worker). But that's only a concern for those of us who want to talk about pedantic irrelevancies...

"I would argue that there is a middle zone of good standards of living, a livable wage, good healthcare, etc which is neither "privilege" nor "deprived", and that all below have relative degrees of deprivation and those above hav increasing degrees of relative privilege."

Yes, this is true.

And anyone who is white has on average more of that relative privilege and less of that relative deprivation. Anyone who is not has less of the relative privilege and more of the relative deprivation. Simple.

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"What's more, finessing the

"What's more, finessing the topic will likely make it hard for people of color to trust white liberals and leftists, the latter of whom seem to prefer a color-blind class unity, not realizing that the unity they claim to seek can never be built on a foundation of half-truths and convenient fictions."

Well when the top 300,000 earners (not all white) make the same as the bottom 150,000,000 (lots of whites) its not all that hard to see why class is the main focus of alot of the Left. When you can have a top group where individuals are making 500 times more than individuals in that massively largely bottom group, you can see the issue.

The differences by race, gender or ethnicity are dwarfed by the massively larger differences of class in terms of income and net worth. When you have a genuinely privileged class that literally spends more on shoes or spa treatments in a single year than the net worth of the average white person after a lifetime of work, you see the problem.

When the little 1200 sq foot house that might divide a lower middle income white person from the lower middle income black person living in an apartment is worth less than some peoples shoe collections its hard to talk about "privilege" for the modest white home owner.

They deserve that modest home. They've earned it. Whats more, they dont have to earn it, they have a right to it. No, they dont have a right to having more than the middle income black family thats in an apartment. But they have a right to what they have. Its blacks who should have more, not whites who should have less.

To spend 1,000s of years as peasants and serfs, and even generations in this country as micro-wage labor, the modern white person who FINALLY gets a tiny 1/10th of an acre yard with a 1200 sq ftt house deserves better than to be described as "privileged".

100's of generations of their families struggled for millenia in desperate poverty and hardship and all that they have to show for it is this little house and yard. Thats "privilege"?

Tim, those Marxians and others, who criticise you and Roedinger and Ignatiev and Peggy McIntosh and Robert Jensen have a pretty good case to make. Its a better case IMHO, than the one you make.

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It's Racist

"Well when the top 300,000 earners (not all white) make the same as the bottom 150,000,000 (lots of whites) its not all that hard to see why class is the main focus of alot of the Left. When you can have a top group where individuals are making 500 times more than individuals in that massively largely bottom group, you can see the issue."

Yes, a class focus is important.

Does that mean we need to be dumb about race? Does that mean we need to deny obvious facts about it?

No. This is a silly false dilemma.

Focusing on the vast disproportion of power that white, rich, politically connected and active, heterosexual males have in the society isn't a contradiction. Socialists, anarchists, Marxists, progressives, feminists and anti-racist/multi-culturalist activists can all agree on this point, easily.

Yes, the top 300,000 earners are not all white. Just vastly disproportionately so, something like 99%. Honest sociologists estimate how a group is doing by looking at their median income. Turns out blacks have a substantially lower median income, and when you look at median net worth between blacks and whites, whites DWARF blacks. And, yes, plenty of whites (indeed, a majority) are in that bottom 150,000,000 wage earners. Except that that population is disproportionately black.

"The differences by race, gender or ethnicity are dwarfed by the massively larger differences of class in terms of income and net worth. When you have a genuinely privileged class that literally spends more on shoes or spa treatments in a single year than the net worth of the average white person after a lifetime of work, you see the problem."

That's actually untrue.

Substantially richer blacks are as likely to have their own home or significant savings as substantially poorer whites. Whites below the poverty level still in many ways are better off than blacks above it.

The problem with your argument is two fold, and both are incredibly damning, making what you say seem callous and foolish.

First: It's not just about class, net worth or income. Respect, treatment of one's concerns by media, treatment by law enforcement, treatment by legislators, health concerns, segregation... these concerns are real. Being black makes one poorer on average, yes, but that's only one of dozens of disadvantages.

Second: As both Tim and other commentators have tried to explain to you, race works within a class system, just like sex/gender and political power. The fact that Oprah exists and is black is totally irrelevant to me, because I and most whites will likely never be trying to get the same loan, the same lawyer or judge, the same job, the same promotion or the same wage as Oprah or T-Pain. I am competing against Jamal Johnson from down the corner. And in that competition, I am already ahead even before the game starts.

Now, this ADVANTAGE may not seem like much to whites. If you don't think it's a lot, buy White Like Me. I think the anecdotes do much more justice than numbers.

But the DISADVANTAGE matters to blacks.

The fact that they're already behind when they apply for a job, even at Mickey D's, is another way on top of class and gender and sexual and state oppression that they are kept in their place. It is another hurdle they must cross if they want to succeed or even be treated fairly. And it's a hurdle I don't ever have to cross.

Rectifying white privilege may not hurt me that much. But it helps blacks so much. So denying its existence or its position in our activist portfolio, among numerous other inexcusably and catastrophically stupid things such does, is to make blacks very loath to participate. Is it any wonder why Leftists keep losing when they're willing at the very outset to not even BOTHER to appeal to 12%?

"To spend 1,000s of years as peasants and serfs, and even generations in this country as micro-wage labor, the modern white person who FINALLY gets a tiny 1/10th of an acre yard with a 1200 sq ftt house deserves better than to be described as "privileged"."

After spending hundreds of years under slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK, the blacks deserve better than being described as "privileged".

Make a choice, Michael. If whites aren't privileged, then blacks can't be UNDERPRIVILEGED, can they? For blacks to be underprivileged, someone else has to get that excess privilege. But if you want to say that blacks aren't underprivileged, you either have to say that they in fact make as much money as whites (which is stupid and just wrong) or you have to say that they DESERVE to make less.

Which is racist.

Get why this position isn't very popular?

Your argument here is a false appeal to guilt that ignores the sociology of the argument. Whites may be underprivileged as workers, or as women, or as those ruled by the state apparatus, but they are almost NEVER underprivileged AS WHITES.

"100's of generations of their families struggled for millenia in desperatepoverty and hardship and all that they have to show for it is this little house and yard. Thats "privilege"?"

Hundreds of generations of black families struggered for millenia in desperate poverty and hardship to be segregated into inner-city ghettoes self-destructing thanks to guns, crack, prisons and poverty. That's "privilege?"

Get with the program.

"They deserve that modest home. They've earned it."

And those Guatemalans who got shot by security forces and STILL work as peasants while we're comfortable and privileged have earned it?

The wealth these nice, hard-working white people you're talking about came from didn't come just from their sweat and anguish. It came from the blood of Native Americans, the sweat and tears of blacks, and on the backs of the Third World.

I worked hard to get to where I am. But so have Guatemalan peasants, and they have less to show for it. Either you admit that my efforts ALONE did not get me my result or you say that they're incompetent or stupid. Note how that's racist?

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You make good points

You make good points Michael, but your arguments takes the concept of "white privilege" out of context. American privilege is one thing, so a black child born in Boston WILL be better off than that same child born in Botswana. However, that dilutes the argument because we're not talking about what part of the world someone's born in. The discussion is based on how privilege to an opportunity structure is still partially based on race in this country. So that same black child born in Boston has to be measured against a white child born in Boston. Based on Boston's history of treatment regarding blacks just in law enforcement alone, I can't think of ANY white person that wants to be viewed as black or brown in the eyes of law enforcement in Boston. That alone is privilege for some and oppression for others.
But let's go further, you mentioned minimum wage for Americans as dwarfing that of Mexico, which again placing the argument out of context because you're comparing two different countries as opposed to "white privilege" in America. A better argument would be to compare the wealth of Mexicans in America as opposed to whites in America or blacks in America. Tim already pointed out the economic differences in wealth regarding black and white families with roughly the same income. So to only push the argument into just a class issue dilutes it because it doesn't take into account how race plays a role within the class system. Whoever doesn't believe that is blind to how racism actually operates.

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Eric, I appreciate the

Eric,

I appreciate the argument, but the point was that the existence of a differential between two groups does not mean that "privilege" is the proper word to use for the higher group. American workers making the US minimum wage dont deserve to make 700% more than Mexicans making the Mexican minimum wage. They dont work 700% harder, and so they dont deserve to make so much more.

But...they do deserve to make what they make. $7.25 is no ones "privilege". That doesnt mean that the differential is deserved or earned, only that, if anything, the US worker is underpaid. The fact that a Mexican worker is underpaid by ALOT more, doesnt change that fact.

The more accurate way of wording that would be that they are experiencing two differing degrees of relative *deprivation*, and not that one is "privileged" and the other "underpriveleged".

Being in a better position than someone else is not in itself proof of "privelege". That applies not only to American "Privelege" but to so-called white "privilege" in this country.

Is anyone really saying that white middle and lower class persons have "too much" healthcare? That their wages are "too high"? Their lifespan is too long? SHould they really die younger, and have worse healthcare, and lousier wages? Of course not.

That blacks in Boston are much much closer to white Bostonians than they are to black Botswanans doesnt mean that white and black Americans are "privileged" anymore than white Americans are "privileged". Oppression for many is not "privilege" for you.

As for class, lets remember that the 7x difference in net worth that Tim mentions, and which TIm rightly notes is due in large measure to home ownership, is dwarfed by the class divide.

Just between a billionaire and a millionaire the difference in net worth is a factor of 1,000, not 7. Between 4 billion and 400 thousand, the factor is 10,000. Even between 40 million and 400 thousand, its a factor of 100.

SO a 7x difference in net worth is substantial, but compared to 100x to 10,000x, its not even remotely in the ball park. It simply isnt credible to compare them. Thats not a denial of race as a factor, but an answer to those who falsely believe that race and class are simply two different factors without recognition that one is massively greater than the other.

There is a world of difference between owning the means of production and owning a house in the burbs.

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"Does that mean we need to

"Does that mean we need to be dumb about race? Does that mean we need to deny obvious facts about it?"

Of course not. Only that the class divide is massively larger. You cant compare  a 7x difference in net worth to a 10,000x difference in net worth.

Yes, median income does differ by race, but that doesnt mean the higher of the two numbers is a "privilege". American workers do better than Russian workers and Russian workers to better than Guatemalan workers. The fact that the differential is not deserved doesnt mean that the higher wages that Russian workers make over Guatemalans is unearned or undeserved.

If anything, their wages are far too low. Its only that others segments of the international working classes are doing even worse. But that doesnt make the better off segments "privileged".

"Respect, treatment of one's concerns by media, treatment by law enforcement, treatment by legislators, health concerns, segregation... these concerns are real. Being black makes one poorer on average, yes, but that's only one of dozens of disadvantages."

These are not arguments to the existence of privilege for whites, but discrimination against blacks. After all, you are not saying that whites should be more marginalized, or have worse health care or be unfairly treated by police or legislatures.   

There are real disadvantages, but thats not "white privilege". It misnames and mis-identifies the problem because its not fundamentally about whites being treated with too much respect, or medical care that is too good, but that others do not have good enough. 

This of course is entirely separate than the discussion of how extenisive these other issues really are, and whether even the sum total of them combined is even close to class as a factor.

Indeed, TIm own admission that the class divide is so enormous, that there is effectively no real competition between classes is actually a point for OUR view and against his. Its an acceptence that blacks and whites can compete, however unequally, within their class, but that interclass competition is such a lop sided blowout for the upper class that there is no effecitive competition.

But in reality, while individuals of differing clases may not seem in competition with one another, the different classes most certainly ARE in comptetion. The whole underlying basis of class struggle is that we do indeed compete with them. The fact that it isnt a very competitve competition doesnt mean you arent in competition.

THe whole reason behind organizing and struggling *as a class* is that it is only in combining the collective strength of many many millions of workers that we can be a force that can compete more successfully with them. If its one on one its no contest.

"So denying its existence or its position in our activist portfolio, among numerous other inexcusably and catastrophically stupid things such does, is to make blacks very loath to participate. Is it any wonder why Leftists keep losing when they're willing at the very outset to not even BOTHER to appeal to 12%?"

Lets be honest, no Marxian party has had any real success whatsoever. The real Left (as opposed to "liberals") has little chance of gainign any power whatseover. And if you think running on the exitence of a so-called "white privilege" will increase the odds of such a Party winning, I can only wish you good luck with that.     

"After spending hundreds of years under slavery, Jim Crow and the KKK, the blacks deserve better than being described as "privileged"."

They sure do. Thats why I say that neither the whites, nor blacks of this country are, as a whole, "privileged".

 "For blacks to be underprivileged, someone else has to get that excess privilege"

This simplistic two-polar model is exactly whats wrong. As I argued, a middle position between privilege and deprivation (I call it this, since saying "underprivileged" is the same kind of understatement that "underdeprived" would be for milionaires) there is a area of living wages, decent housing, access to health care etc.

Everything is not either too much "privilege" or too little.  

 "And those Guatemalans who got shot by security forces and STILL work as peasants while we're comfortable and privileged have earned it?"

They deserve and have earned ALOT more. But the fact that segments of the International working classes and humanity throughout the world occupy many varying levels and degrees of deprivation, oppression and success, doesnt mean that the better off ones are "privleged" simply by comparison..

"The wealth these nice, hard-working white people you're talking about came from didn't come just from their sweat and anguish. It came from the blood of Native Americans, the sweat and tears of blacks, and on the backs of the Third World."

These whites have alot less than they deserve from their sweat and anguish. What they have gotten is small compensation for all they have poured out. The fact that others have had it as bad or alot worse doesnt do the slightest thing to change that.

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Absolute and Relative Privilege

"Of course not. Only that the class divide is massively larger. You cant compare  a 7x difference in net worth to a 10,000x difference in net worth."

Which is irrelevant. Like Chomsky's pointed out several times: If I'm a kid in the South in the 1860s to 1950s, being lynched is a lot worse than having low income.

"Yes, median income does differ by race, but that doesnt mean the higher of the two numbers is a "privilege". American workers do better than Russian workers and Russian workers to better than Guatemalan workers. The fact that the differential is not deserved doesnt mean that the higher wages that Russian workers make over Guatemalans is unearned or undeserved."

No, but it's about WHERE it comes from.

The income differential between whites and blacks comes from white privilege.

The fact that many whites, FOR OTHER REASONS, might be underprivileged is irrelevant.

And the problem is that you obstinately continue to look only at raw income, which is a terrible ECONOMIC indicator, let alone everything else it overlooks.

Fact is, whites have innumerable social, economic, political and cultural privileges that they must give up. Yes, in a liberatory process, many white workers, just like black workers, will gain in an absolute income sense. But many of them will LOSE in, say, disproportionately good treatment by police. This is a real distinction, and something you're whitewashing.

"These are not arguments to the existence of privilege for whites, but discrimination against blacks. After all, you are not saying that whites should be more marginalized, or have worse health care or be unfairly treated by police or legislatures. "

No, I'm not.

But I AM saying that white drivers need to be pulled over more often.

See the difference?

There are many privileges whites have, like the ability to make their parochial racial perspective the national dialogue, that no one should have. They will have to give those up. This is very simple.

"There are real disadvantages, but thats not "white privilege". It misnames and mis-identifies the problem because its not fundamentally about whites being treated with too much respect, or medical care that is too good, but that others do not have good enough. "

What part of it is a bad name?

They're privileges that accrue to whites and not to blacks. The word is very simple, direct and completely accurate on its face.

Let's be clear: No white, AS A WHITE, has too little.

People FOR OTHER REASONS (being workers, being women, being gay, being handicapped) have too little.

But not whites.

Insofar as any of us are white, we have advantages. This is an overwhelming and obvious social fact.

This matters. Let's say I'm stolidly middle class. I may not lose that much CLASS-WISE by a just society, but I may lose plenty vis-a-vis others in the middle class who are black.

The problem with your logic is that if someone doesn't have enough, others have too much. Societies are zero-sum games. If you have an apple, that's an apple I can't eat. So to make a distinction between X having too little and Y having too much is silly and obfuscatory.

"This of course is entirely separate than the discussion of how extenisive these other issues really are, and whether even the sum total of them combined is even close to class as a factor."

Is it? If race was overwhelmingly important, say if a tiny ethnic minority had all the wealth, then actually your arguments would be very different.

"Indeed, TIm own admission that the class divide is so enormous, that there is effectively no real competition between classes is actually a point for OUR view and against his. Its an acceptence that blacks and whites can compete, however unequally, within their class, but that interclass competition is such a lop sided blowout for the upper class that there is no effecitive competition."

Yes. Race operates in a class structure.

But to then say that class is somehow more important is really, really stupid.

Because for those blacks, changing the class structure may not actually help them that much. Pre-capitalist America had horrible racial conditions but relatively low inequality compared to now. Changing the racial dynamics is a very, very large step for a just society.

Further, even if one can acknowledge that class is still more important, this ISN'T because race was NEVER more important than class. Jim Crow, lynching and the end of Reconstruction was far more onerous to blacks in the post-Civil War period than capitalism, as was slavery in the pre-Civil War period. In fact, capitalism is to THANK for the Great Migrations from the South and the emergence of ANY kind of black middle class!

Race and gender oppression have had tremendously successful movements chipping away at their power. Class and political oppression have not, but don't let that mislead you into thinking race and gender oppression aren't still decisively important.

"But in reality, while individuals of differing clases may not seem in competition with one another, the different classes most certainly ARE in comptetion. The whole underlying basis of class struggle is that we do indeed compete with them. The fact that it isnt a very competitve competition doesnt mean you arent in competition."

Which is irrelevant to m, and Tim's, point.

The "competition" between me and a capitalist is sociologically a very different thing between me and my fellow workers. From a broad perspective, I want to get rid of the capitalist. But from an immediate survival perspective, I just want to get the job at McDonald's so I can pay my tuition and my rent. The fact that I can do so more easily is VERY important to my living situation. My class situation is NOT likely to immediately change. Given the fact that the class situation remains so static, whatever advantages I get in other arenas are tremendously important.

Sure, I may be "competing" with Bill Gates, and of course badly losing. But neither he or I are tremendously likely to go to jail for smoking pot. Even a very rich black man is.

Fact is, I have advantages over even the richest black man or woman. That's a fairly massive exception to the class structure.

 "This simplistic two-polar model is exactly whats wrong. As I argued, a middle position between privilege and deprivation (I call it this, since saying "underprivileged" is the same kind of understatement that "underdeprived" would be for milionaires) there is a area of living wages, decent housing, access to health care etc."

But it's stupid to argue against it.

If I have $3 and you have $1, and I didn't earn the $2 difference between us, I have more privilege and you don't. Period. The fact that we're both starving is moot.

Relativistic AND absolute indices matter.

The most consistently poor, starving, miserable people in this country are black and minority. Period. There are white poor, indeed plenty, but even the poorest of them have advantages.

Let's make a game analogy to make this clear.

Let's say that in poker, one guy has been cheating. He's ahead several million.

Suddenly, breaking the rules of the table, he gives me $10,000 and doesn't give the black player any.

The fact that everyone but him should have had more money period doesn't mean that the money I have isn't an advantage that I didn't earn and that I shouldn't have.

Yes, quite a lot of white people are poor. But:

A) They're not poor BECAUSE they're white, they're poor DESPITE it

B) They have advantages over people in their class echelon (just like rich blacks have advantages over people in their race echelon and white women have advantages over people in their gender echelon)

C) Part of whatever wealth they do have is very likely due to white privilege

Again, take the FHA loans, something you didn't deign to respond to. Even very poor whites are far more likely than pretty middle-class blacks to own their own home, thereby able to use it as wealth. There is a massive amount of white, intergenerational wealth.

Now, if you think it doesn't matter to those white folks, just take away their homes that they got thanks to racist policies years ago.

They'll kick and scream to hold onto it.

Makes this all seem very petty.

Yes, in a just society millions of whites would be doing BETTER than they are now. But they would NOT be doing better as white. And they have real privileges they have to renounce if they want to GET to that just society.

"Everything is not either too much "privilege" or too little.  "

No, but everything IS either me having more than you or you having more than me. Period.

Every advantage I have as a white male is an advantage a black person or a woman doesn't have, in direct proportion.

Denying this isn't going to get you far...

"They deserve and have earned ALOT more. But the fact that segments of the International working classes and humanity throughout the world occupy many varying levels and degrees of deprivation, oppression and success, doesnt mean that the better off ones are "privleged" simply by comparison.."

Actually, it means exactly that.

Let's make a distinction, once and for all, between absolute privilege and relative privilege.

Absolute privilege is what Bill Gates has. We can both agree that's bad. We can also both agree that millions of white workers don't have it.

But relative privilege is what Americans, and men, and whites have.

The relative privilege isn't any more fair. It's not any more just. And it matters.

Bottom line...

"These whites have alot less than they deserve from their sweat and anguish. What they have gotten is small compensation for all they have poured out. The fact that others have had it as bad or alot worse doesnt do the slightest thing to change that."

But if you begin the conversation by denying the importance of what the Guatemalans suffered and the Native Americans suffered, don't be surprised when they tell you to fuck off.

"Lets be honest, no Marxian party has had any real success whatsoever. The real Left (as opposed to "liberals") has little chance of gainign any power whatseover. And if you think running on the exitence of a so-called "white privilege" will increase the odds of such a Party winning, I can only wish you good luck with that. "

Maybe part of the reason that Marxian parties tend NOT to win is because they tend to alienate blacks, women and the working class?

The Left needs to do a lot more to resolve the stickiness problem, and one thing it can do is to make sure that it represents all oppressed people.

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"That's funny, Michael,

"That's funny, Michael, because you're posting on the blog of Tim Wise, not exactly a Marxist. Michael Albert, Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky, etc. are all not Marxists, indeed often quite hostile to Marxism and Marxists (Albert has said that he thinks it's antiquated and gets the economy wrong) and they accept white privilege as a sociological fact. And at Davis, I've taken classes from Bruce Haynes, Sasha Abramsky, Natalia Deeb-Sossa, Diane Wolf, and Bill McCarthy who all stressed the importance of race and white privilege, none of whom are especially Marxist."

Frederic, I'm sorry, but I laughed out load when I read this. I know you were trying to show the supposed political and theoretical diversity of persons who have come to accept the absurd notion of "white privilege", but when you object to the "largely Marxian" (which does not mean "entirely" Marxian) phrase by naming a collection of socialists, libertarian socialists and other specimens of the radical Left,and of the conflict perspective, you havent really accomplished the purpose.

In other words, "its not just Reds who say this, its Pinkos too!! Get it straight!!"  Lol, ok Frederic. 

Whiteness Studies was still invented by Marxians, and it is still largely they who make this argument. Its true that it has gained a currency among some others of the radical Left and of the conflict perspective who are not strictly or classicaly Marxian, but this is hardly a refutation of the point. Which by the way, was not that in being Marxian, it is therefore wrong. Its only that, it is an artifact of ideology and not a scientific discovery, and that its largely people of one group of closely related ideologies that created and support this.

 Tim Wise, meanwhile, offers a Marxian analysis and certainly one within the conflict perspective, whether Tim calls himself one or not.The paradigm he is working from is a Marxian one. Whether he acknowleges his debt to Marx or not is another matter.

"So, in short, you're talking out of your ass, with all due respect."

 I think you need to take alot more classes, with all due respect. You dont appear to know what Marxian means, or how many varieties of Marxian and neo-marxian theory that there are (including people who disagree with Marx on the economy and other issues).You dont even seem to know what the conflict perspective is, who created it (Marx) and that the whole idea of "white privilege" and of "whiteness studies" is an example of it.

 "Any review of the literature in any domain, whether it be criminology, the legal system in general, economics, politics, sociology, the literature on the drug war, the literature on welfare and public support, all identify areas where whites are privileged and other minority groups not. If that's not white privilege, I don't know what is."

 Inequality has been known to exist since long before "Whiteness Studies" came about. The questions we ask of so-called "Whiteness Studies" is: what has it accomplished? What do we know now that we didnt know before? How does the theorized existence of a so-called "white privilege" done anything whatsoever to make the issue of inequality and social and economic justice any clearer than they were beforehand?

None of the areas named above show that whites are "privileged". There is inequality, but that doesnt demonstrate "privilege". Someone having less than you, or treated more unfairly than you are, does not make your condition or treatment "privileged" simply by the comparison. It certainly doesnt make anything clearer about inequality. This is the fundamental problem with the concept of white so-called "privilege".

 "Sounds just fine, especially considering how America has stolen that excess wealth through centuries of genocide, imperialism and slavery. Funny how, when you try to make a reducio ad absurdum, you end up making standard, very sensible Left arguments..."

 It is a very sensible argument. But it shows the absurdity of the view that undeserved inequality= "privilege" for the better off group. The US standard of living is deserved and earned, and more than that, it doesnt have to be earned, since its a right, and not a "privilege". It is true that colossal exploitation hugely benefitted the ruling classes, but the immense bulk of whites had far less than they deserved and earned, and certainly not more. They were themselves stolen from, and for millenia.

 When one group has living wages, better sanitation, health care, and decent housing, while another does not, the more accurate way of describing that is deprivation for the group that doesnt have it and not "excess privilege" for those that do.

 I am not even going to touch your apparent notion that wealth is a permanent fixed quantity and is merely stolen and distributed differently. You dont have to give up your house and have it physically moved to Guatemala for them to have a house. Housing can be built there, even while yours stays where it is. Healthcare, sanitation and food can be increased dramatically for them, without yours needing to decline.

 "You don't know what you're talking about."

 I do, but you are having trouble understanding that "Whiteness Studies" doesnt yield a coherent definition of "privilege".

"To answer your argument rather simply: There are, at the first level of approximation, three types of privilege. The first is excess privilege. That's when someone makes more money, or has more of a good or resource or benefit than someone else. They need to give it up to the people who have less. (We're assuming here that these are unjust privileges, in that they arose out of unjust circumstances. Easy enough to prove for our present topic)."

First, wealth, resources and goods are not "privileges". And others can have more even while you do not give up what you have. There is not a fixed quantity of food, medicine, housing, etc  that never increases and cannot be increased and therefore necessitates "giving up" so that others have more of it.

 Second, if there is sufficiently significant differences in wealth, goods and resources, then by definition there are unjust cicumstances. Thats a given Frederic. If all that is meant here is equitable distribution of wealth, resources, and goods, then you get no argument.

 But privilege has to be measured in terms of human needs and human rights. Thats the only yardstick that gives you a coherent conception of "privilege". Under this, the US middle classes wouldnt have to give up anything and have no "excess" privileges.

"The second is reasonable privilege that is just poorly distributed, or privileges that are okay but given for the wrong reasons.I have a right to a fair trial. The fact that I get one as a white person, ceterus paribus (primarily with class held equal), is not something to rectify. It IS a privilege, however, and in terms of the BROADER SOCIETY one that is unfair because I have it and someone else doesn't, which reproduces inequity. In that situation, everyone deserves the privilege. You don't take it away, you make sure everyone has it."

 A fair trial is a right as you mention, and therefore an entitlement, and not a privilege. There is no coherent argument for regarding these things as "privileges". Why you or others feel the term "privilege" is appropriate here is completely mysterious. Those who are not having their rights respected, does not mean that your rights become "privileges".

 It is unfair that they are not getting a fair trial, not that you are getting one. Everyone deserves to have their HUMAN RIGHTS respected, not their "reasonable privileges". Health Care is not a "reasonable privilege", Frederic, its a RIGHT.

 It fundamentally misnames and misidentifies the problem. Far from making anything clearer about inequality, it obscures it. Worse still, it appears from the wording here that a fair trial would still be a "privilege" even if everyones right to it was equally respected, further rendering the term "privilege" meaningless.

 "Finally, there are privileges that are obscene for anyone to have. It is obscene for anyone to have so much wealth that they can beggar countries. No one should have that kind of wealth, so we take that "privilege" away from EVERYBODY."

 In other words, actual privilege. The first definition already covered "excess".

"Again, you clearly know nothing about the topic you are speaking about."

 This tired refrain isnt an argument and doesnt address what I said. Do you, or do you not regard basic sanitation, living wages, health care and decent housing as human rights? Entitlements, and not "privileges"? Yes or no?

 If yes, then what is the logic of calling the black, white, asian and latin middle and working classes "privileged"? For having what every human on earth has a right to?

Its always been understood that some segments of the international working classes could achieve much greater results than some of their class compatriots internationally. Region by region, and country by country, workers find themselves in a wide range of very differing cultural, political and economic circumstances. Methods will differ accordingly, as will rates of progress and success.

The very idea that SOME percentage of them, in some circumstances, succeeding in winning better wages and benefits after decades of hard bloody struggle, makes them "privileged" is the worst possible abuse of the term "privilege".

 "Yes, there is American privilege. On average, Americans have access to more wealth, more "soft power", more cultural capital, etc. They have, all else held equal, advantages. But, as I'm sure you might happen to know, not every American is doing equally well. Hell, some are starving. More importantly, some have the wealth of entire countries. This is unjust. That's CLASS privilege, on TOP of American privilege."

No, there is class privilege, but no such thing as "American Privilege".  Adavantage does not equal "privilege".

 "Hold up, though. There's ANOTHER type of privilege, ABOVE AND BEYOND those two, that stays EVEN WHEN YOU HOLD THEM CONSTANT. It's called white privilege."

 That doesnt exist either.

"In any case, the only way this is a confusion is if we don't understand what justice is. Justice means that we want a fair, equitable bar set. People who currently are above that bar, having more wealth or power than they should in a reasonably fair and just society, need to give it up. Those who have less need to get more. Yes, some will lose more and some will gain more than others in this process (Bill Gates loses more than Steven Spielberg, the average black worker gains more than the average white worker). But that's only a concern for those of us who want to talk about pedantic irrelevancies..."

 This has been believed in and struggled for, for generations by socialists of many varieties and others. This goal is the same goal as before. No input from "Whiteness Studies" has in any way aided this project or made the issues any clearer. The belief in a so-called "white privilege" is not only not a more accurate way of describing inequality, it is a less accurate way of doing so. In addition it offers no positive benefit whatsoever in attaining these goals.

So I will repeat this: "I would argue that there is a middle zone of good standards of living, a livable wage, good healthcare, etc which is neither "privilege" nor "deprived", and that all below have relative degrees of deprivation and those above hav increasing degrees of relative privilege."

 This means that the immense majority of whites in the US and the World do not have "privilege", inc. non-existant "white privilege". You say you agree with the above formulation, but you clearly do not agree with it. If you did, you would abandon the concept of white privilege.

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Absurdity

"If yes, then what is the logic of calling the black, white, asian and latin middle and working classes "privileged"? For having what every human on earth has a right to?

Its always been understood that some segments of the international working classes could achieve much greater results than some of their class compatriots internationally. Region by region, and country by country, workers find themselves in a wide range of very differing cultural, political and economic circumstances. Methods will differ accordingly, as will rates of progress and success. "

Because internal to those societies, they ARE privileged, and defending their rights can tell the poor in those countries that we're not especially concerned about them.

It's also been understood that those in the richer areas have the RESPONSIBILITY not to sell out their comrades elsewhere. Which is exactly what we're talking about.

"That doesnt exist either."

Yes, it does. It simply, plainly does.

" This has been believed in and struggled for, for generations by socialists of many varieties and others. This goal is the same goal as before. No input from "Whiteness Studies" has in any way aided this project or made the issues any clearer. The belief in a so-called "white privilege" is not only not a more accurate way of describing inequality, it is a less accurate way of doing so. In addition it offers no positive benefit whatsoever in attaining these goals."

The socialists who defended Lenin, Trotsky and sometimes Stalin? The socialists who thought they should abandon sex before the revolution? Socialists who sold out the anarchists in Spain? Socialists who thought that talking about abstract art would help free workers?

Sorry if I'm not going to jump on the "socialists did it first and better" bandwagon. They didn't. They made mistakes. We learn from them. One of their mistakes was not to put race, culture and gender up front.

Incidentally, one of their SUCCESSES was to do something to protect blacks. The Communist Party in this country, whatever their flaws, were fighting against segregation very early on. Their efforts at Highland Park and so forth helped to start the civil rights movement. Credit where credit's due.

Let's be very clear here. If you're black, knowing that you are disadvantaged and that you are disadvantaged even by your white working-class neighbor is VERY important. It's ironic that in denying white privilege's importance, you are erasing, imperially, the viewpoint of millions of blacks and Latina/os.

Fact is, millions of people and tons of activists are going to be talking about race, gender and political equity and justice. You can either join the bandwagon or not.

"The very idea that SOME percentage of them, in some circumstances, succeeding in winning better wages and benefits after decades of hard bloody struggle, makes them "privileged" is the worst possible abuse of the term "privilege"."

It isn't if OTHER people working just as hard, often much harder, didn't win as much, won nothing or in fact backslid and were killed.

"It fundamentally misnames and misidentifies the problem. Far from making anything clearer about inequality, it obscures it. Worse still, it appears from the wording here that a fair trial would still be a "privilege" even if everyones right to it was equally respected, further rendering the term "privilege" meaningless."

That's not the discussion we're having. We're having the discussion whether or not it is meaningful to say that whites have advantages black don't. This semantics discussion is incredibly obscurantist, ironic given your concern about obscuring things.

Yes, if everyone had a fair trial across the world that would not be a privilege. I don't know where you're getting that.

"No, there is class privilege, but no such thing as "American Privilege". Adavantage does not equal "privilege"."

Why doesn't it? It's something I have that other people don't. It "privileges" me by giving me resources. Yes, I am not AS privileged as Bill Gates. But neither is the average millionaire, yet we don't feel sorry for the millionaire either. I am MORE privileged, though, than a Guatemalan sweatshop worker or a black man.

"So I will repeat this: "I would argue that there is a middle zone of good standards of living, a livable wage, good healthcare, etc which is neither "privilege" nor "deprived", and that all below have relative degrees of deprivation and those above hav increasing degrees of relative privilege."

This means that the immense majority of whites in the US and the World do not have "privilege", inc. non-existant "white privilege". You say you agree with the above formulation, but you clearly do not agree with it. If you did, you would abandon the concept of white privilege. "

And what if more people who are black are below that middle zone and more people who are white are above that middle zone, even controlling for income, occupation, etc.? What will you do then?

Actually, one CAN buy your formulation and still think white privilege matters.

[i]If you notice that there's something else besides class in the world.[/i]

The real world isn't just about income, or wealth. It's about status, the likelihood of being jailed randomly, the likelihood that one will receive respect, the way one is treated in the media, how much one feels like one belongs, whether or one feels that one's body is beautiful.

The fact that blacks and women keep telling you that, IN THEIR ESTIMATION, many of them find the above concerns actually more important than the macro-level income facts, and the fact that you keep ignoring them, is just another example of their disadvantage and your advantage.

But, again, we're just having a semantics discussion. You've conceded that ADVANTAGE exists. And clearly no one should have advantage based on race or gender, right? Then confront that.

" This tired refrain isnt an argument and doesnt address what I said. Do you, or do you not regard basic sanitation, living wages, health care and decent housing as human rights? Entitlements, and not "privileges"? Yes or no?"

I absolutely do.

I can also recognize that the REASON some of us have more of that has nothing to do with justice and everything to do with race and class power.

Tell me: Do you think a government welfare program that forced the capitalist to make sure all citizens had enough money to survive would be justice?

I'd imagine not. You'd probably think that it wasn't going to be sustainable, that other injustices besides just basic access to resources were being perpetuated, and that the WAY that the equity was achieved was wrong.

That's what I'm saying here.

Incidentally, taking the statement, "You don't know what you're talking about" out of the context and calling it not an argument is not only not an argument, but an abusive fallacy and a sign of how little you care about the opinions of people outside your intellectual circle.

"In other words, actual privilege. The first definition already covered "excess"."

Apparently not. Millions of people can use the phrase "privilege" to mean more than the ability to beggar nations. I've made meaningful distinctions, you've made no real reply. Your definition of "privilege" is different from ours. Fine. We can use absolute and relative privilege, or advantage and privilege, for the sake of discussion. Now do you think those things are important and real, yes or no?

"A fair trial is a right as you mention, and therefore an entitlement, and not a privilege. There is no coherent argument for regarding these things as "privileges". Why you or others feel the term "privilege" is appropriate here is completely mysterious. Those who are not having their rights respected, does not mean that your rights become "privileges".

It is unfair that they are not getting a fair trial, not that you are getting one. Everyone deserves to have their HUMAN RIGHTS respected, not their "reasonable privileges". Health Care is not a "reasonable privilege", Frederic, its a RIGHT.

It fundamentally misnames and misidentifies the problem. Far from making anything clearer about inequality, it obscures it. Worse still, it appears from the wording here that a fair trial would still be a "privilege" even if everyones right to it was equally respected, further rendering the term "privilege" meaningless."

Because the fact that OTHERS DON'T have it MAKES it a privilege.

If I know that I can get fair treatment, and I know others don't, and I don't speak out against that, then I am full of shit. Do you speak out?

"First, wealth, resources and goods are not "privileges". And others can have more even while you do not give up what you have. There is not a fixed quantity of food, medicine, housing, etc that never increases and cannot be increased and therefore necessitates "giving up" so that others have more of it.

Second, if there is sufficiently significant differences in wealth, goods and resources, then by definition there are unjust cicumstances. Thats a given Frederic. If all that is meant here is equitable distribution of wealth, resources, and goods, then you get no argument.

But privilege has to be measured in terms of human needs and human rights. Thats the only yardstick that gives you a coherent conception of "privilege". Under this, the US middle classes wouldnt have to give up anything and have no "excess" privileges. "

They're not? Find me any definition in the world that would not imply that.

Your first claim is absurd, and actually contrary to the actual socialist literature. There is $10,000,000,000,000 GDP approximately that the US produces. If someone has $1 trillion of it, someone else can't have that $1 trillion. Everyone else only has $9 trillion to work with. I don't know what world you live in where that is not the case.

What we mean is that some people don't get fair distribution DUE TO RACE, and other people get fair or excessive distribution DUE TO RACE. Nothing more, nothing less.

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"Because internal to those

"Because internal to those societies, they ARE privileged, and defending their rights can tell the poor in those countries that we're not especially concerned about them."

Internal to which society? Human needs and human rights apply everywhere to everyone, no matter the society. And defending and fighting for the rights of all humans is essential.

Fighting for the rights of black workers in the US, who are far, far better off than billions of humans, does not mean you dont care about those billions. We can fight within societies and globally for the full range of human rights for all humans. And in doing so you answer any argument that says you do not care about the issues or concerns of any one segment.

On the contrary To call white or black or latino workers in the US "privileged" for being far ahead of billions of others would serve to minimize the importance of their own struggles. Likewise with saying US whites are "privileged". If you are really that concerned over not giving the appearence of devaluing peoples struggles, then stop calling people privileged who arent privileged.

"It's also been understood that those in the richer areas have the RESPONSIBILITY not to sell out their comrades elsewhere. Which is exactly what we're talking about."

Not just to not sell them out, but to be in SOLIDARITY with them, which means alot more commitment than simply not selling them out. But there are two important things to remember. One is divisions within working classes and another is distance. There are many barriers, but these are two to notice at the outset.

On the first front, Marx himself pointed out the struggles of protestant and catholic proletarians in Britain. The mutual animosities between them, the competition, and the fear of job loss to the other group, etc. Frederick Douglass recounted the fears of black workers that the white ethnic immigrants could and would take jobs from them. These are not new concerns. Its been understood for a long time that this is a barrier to a larger class consciousness.

These are human problems and understandable fears. They are not entirely unfounded.

But there is another kind of distance, a more physical kind. Where the struggles of those in places you have never been to, and may never have even heard of, simply do not have the same import in your thinking as that which is in your immediate perception.

To put it bluntly, its the phenomenon of crying harder when your dog died then you did when you heard of the death of over 250,000 human beings in a tsunami. And its not just white people who do this Frederic. They dont even do it more than others. People prioritizing their own immediate problems and their own immediate interests and those of their families is a human reality. This is another powerful barrier.

Before you accuse anyone of selling anyone else out, try to see these and other barriers to developing a class and human consciousness, how understadnable they are, how very hard they are to overcome, and that everyone of every race, ethnicity and of all genders and sexes needs to achieve it.

"The socialists who defended Lenin, Trotsky and sometimes Stalin? The socialists who thought they should abandon sex before the revolution? Socialists who sold out the anarchists in Spain?Socialists who thought that talking about abstract art would help
free workers?"

I said "socialists of many varieties and others", and not everyone who ever called themselves "socialists". If I had said "socialists of EVERY variety and everyone who has ever used the term and others" youd have a good point.

The goals you articulated are not new, and have not been in any way aided by so-called "whiteness studies" nor by the absurd notion of a so-called "white privilege", which doesnt even exist.

"Let's be very clear here. If you're black, knowing that you are disadvantaged and that you are disadvantaged even by your white working-class neighbor is VERY important."
*
It is important. Just as there being billions who are severly disadvantagd in relation to *they themselves* is also important. But that is not "privilege" for them any more than its "privilege" for the white working-class neighbor.

"It's ironic that in denying white privilege's importance, you are erasing, imperially, the viewpoint of millions of blacks and Latina/os."

Answered above. Its not "privilege".

"Fact is, millions of people and tons of activists are going to be talking about race, gender and political equity and justice. You can either join the bandwagon or not."

And we should. You seem to think I said somewhere that we shouldnt be talking about it.

"It isn't if OTHER people working just as hard, often much harder, didn't win as much, won nothing or in fact backslid and were killed."

Thats true, but that doesnt make them "privileged". Its the worst possible abuse of the term "privilege".

"That's not the discussion we're having. We're having the discussion whether or not it is meaningful to say that whites have
advantages black don't. This semantics discussion is incredibly obscurantist, ironic given your concern about obscuring things."

Calling health care, for instance, a RIGHT and not a "privilege" is not mere semantics. It means its an entitlement. That as a society we are obligated to provide it to everyone. Thats no word-game, Frederic. Thats a powerful and meaningful difference. A substantial fraction of this country dont think it is a RIGHT. And that matters alot.

The only coherent conception of privilege is in relationship to human rights and human needs. Putting aside the issue of how hard white workers labored, not merely for generations but for millenia, and whether what they therefore have earned what they have(and they have), the issue is of rights. The sanitation, health care, homes and good wages that many of them have, they have a RIGHT to. Meaning that they dont even have to earn it, even though they have. Others being more deprived and thus being at a greater disadvantage is not a meaningful or coherent conception of "privilege".

"Why doesn't it? It's something I have that other people don't. It "privileges" me by giving me resources. Yes, I am not AS privileged as Bill Gates. But neither is the average millionaire, yet we don't feel sorry for the millionaire either."

The reason we dont feel sorry for the millionaire is exactly for the reason I stated. Indeed calling them "deprived" in relation
to billionaires is as nonsensical as calling whites "privileged" in relation to blacks. Thats because in relationship to human needs and human rights, the millionaire still has a huge overabundance; A vastly greater amount than what is needed to meet all needs or to which anyone has a basic human right. Yes, theres a right to housing, but not a mansion or yacht. That s/he has a smaller mansion or yacht than the billionaire is not a matter for needs or rights.

See how the needs/rights standard renders the privilege/deprivation divide alot more sensible and coherent?

"And what if more people who are black are below that middle zone and more people who are white are above that middle zone, even controlling for income, occupation, etc.? What will you do then?"

The goal is to make the "middle" zone be the bottom and not the middle. The desired number of persons being under the zone is zero. Everyone everywhere should have the fullest range of their human needs met and their human rights respected. Thats the goal.
And its achievable without you having to give up what you have.

"The real world isn't just about income, or wealth. It's about status, the likelihood of being jailed randomly, the likelihood that one will receive respect, the way one is treated in the media, how much one feels like one belongs, whether or one feels that one's body is beautiful."

Human rights and human needs. Thats included in that Frederic. I am not just talking about income or class, and never said that I
was. And someone elses discrimination doesnt make you meaningfully called "privileged" no matter how many times you repeat that canard. The astonishing rates of drug use and horrible body image that millions of U.S. whites experience means that we have deep social and cultural problems beyond class income or race and gender, so there is no denial that race and gender added in doesnt
involve serious and profound issues. Social reality is deeply complex and highly layered, and anyone arguing otherwise is simply
dead-wrong.

"The fact that blacks and women keep telling you that, IN THEIR ESTIMATION, many of them find the above concerns actually more
important than the macro-level income facts, and the fact that you keep ignoring them, is just another example of their disadvantage and your advantage."

I have never ignored them. But we all must acknowledge that those persons, problems, threats, concerns and interests that are more immediate to ones life and circumstances are going to be more immediate in ones mind. In THEIR circumstances, I have no doubt that those issues can seem more important to THEM. They arent in the situation of billions of others on this earth, and so their perspective is quite different. But remember that calling the US or other Western blacks and women "privileged" for that fact would be every bit as adsurd as talking about "white privilege".

"Because the fact that OTHERS DON'T have it MAKES it a privilege."

No it doesnt. Its still a RIGHT. And when others are not having their rights respected, then speak out about the fact that they arent having their rights respected. How does calling it your "privilege" (which is wrong) help anything at all or make the issue any clearer? They are still not having their rights respected through no fault of their own either way.

This is not a tomayto/tomahto distinction. When something is a RIGHT, its an entitlement. That matters.

"I don't know what world you live in where that is not the case."

I live on Earth. And no one said anything about everyone can be a trillionaire. This was addressed in previous posts. (Housing, wealth, medicine, sanitation, etc are not fixed quantities). And they arent. The US middle classes do not have any so-called "excess privileges". Others having tremendous deprivations doesnt make you "privileged" for not being as deprived, and they can be rasied up immensely without you giving up your medicine, health care, sanitation, etc.

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Distraction

"No it doesnt. Its still a RIGHT. And when others are not having their rights respected, then speak out about the fact that they arent having their rights respected. How does calling it your "privilege" (which is wrong) help anything at all or make the issue any clearer? They are still not having their rights respected through no fault of their own either way."

Because without that, we fail to see whose rights ARE respected.

Incidentally, no one has conceded here nor will ever concede here that the only thing white folks get as privileges are already rights. Many are not. The right to define the national terms of discussion by a mono-racial lens, for example, is no right anyone has ever had. So you're losing this argument just by making it.

Again, let's make this totally, undeniably clear, since you seem utterly determined to obfuscate the issue.

A) We're talking about RELATIVE status. The fact that whatever I might have relative to others is just doesn't mean that I have more than them, nor does it establish that the conditions under which that right is protected is just. QED.
B) The network of white privileges are an array that, while individually may not seem important, in sum add up to a belief about the world that is filled with notions of entitlement, power and domination. This is true EVEN of the white working class, who are able to do things, think things and get away with things that boggle the mind.
C) Were we talking about the rich, you would rightly note the excess advantage that they have in a wide variety of ways and arenas. The fact that they can afford food, for example, is a PRIVILEGE, even though everyone ideally would be able to, because in the REAL WORLD not everyone can. This somehow becomes foggy when we come to white folks.

You also didn't reply to the actual point.

"This is not a tomayto/tomahto distinction. When something is a RIGHT, its an entitlement. That matters."

But if some people get the entitlement and some don't, we have to ask why. And if that "why" is race, then race matters. QED.

Again, not a damn thing you're saying disproves my model. Which makes every moment you try to argue against the salience of white power and privilege so silly.

In a world where more than 90% of the top executives and most powerful and entitled people are white males (which has NOTHING to do with class, by the way, since class ONLY refers to how many of those people are and how much power they have, not their composition), denying sexism and racism just leaves a bad taste on the tongue. It makes someone who does it look like an idiot or an apologist.

"I have never ignored them. But we all must acknowledge that those persons, problems, threats, concerns and interests that are more immediate to ones life and circumstances are going to be more immediate in ones mind. In THEIR circumstances, I have no doubt that those issues can seem more important to THEM. They arent in the situation of billions of others on this earth, and so their perspective is quite different. But remember that calling the US or other Western blacks and women "privileged" for that fact would be every bit as adsurd as talking about "white privilege"."

No, it actually wouldn't be. Your worldview is so amazing monochrome I wonder if you actually see in black and white.

People get privilege and discrimination, or advantage and disadvantage, in any number of categories. Class, race, gender, political power, the nation to which one belongs and the governmental , status... all of these are relevant categories that we have to include in a multi-variable model.

You're asking us to just focus on class as the one variable, despite the fact that class alone doesn't explain why blacks of the same echelon do worse in any number of other indices than whites in the same echelon, or why women in the same echelon do worse than men in the same echelon, or why gays... So on, and so forth.

Your recipe for the world is not only stupid, it's bad social science. And not only is it bad social science, but it's the type of bad social science that covers up innumerable categories of inequity that the Left is rightly concerned about. And not only does it cover it up, but it makes sure that our movements are going to reify and incarnate those difficulties by denying them, and therefore mean that our movement is already hobbled at the get-go both in terms of accomplishing the goals YOU want (because it won't generate critical mass) and the goals I want (because you can't fix a problem you deny).

Let's take a simple example. If we just take class as the important focus, then we look at the differences between whites and blacks. Whoa, even blacks in the same job make less, have less wealth, etc. Now, since we can't talk about race or white privilege, we have to say that such is obviously their fault: They made stupid decisions.

It's funny how your models end up leading to racist, sexist, etc. conclusions...

"Human rights and human needs. Thats included in that Frederic. I am not just talking about income or class, and never said that I
was. And someone elses discrimination doesnt make you meaningfully called "privileged" no matter how many times you repeat that canard. The astonishing rates of drug use and horrible body image that millions of U.S. whites experience means that we have deep social and cultural problems beyond class income or race and gender, so there is no denial that race and gender added in doesnt
involve serious and profound issues. Social reality is deeply complex and highly layered, and anyone arguing otherwise is simply
dead-wrong."

Good.

Actually, it DOES make you privileged, no matter how often you repeat that canard.

Let's make this very clear. Everyone has the right to a fair assessment of their skills.

But if someone else DOESN'T get that fair assessment, then insofar as they don't, I am MORE likely to get the job or the college position.

The rights are irrelevant for figuring out what actually happens in society. The fact is that the white working class has it easier than blacks IN EXACT PROPORTION to how much more badly blacks have it. If we don't acknowledge that, then we either deny the reality of black suffering or deny its causes and therefore blame the victims. Both alternatives are repugnant.

Yes, in actual fact everyone, black AND white workers, should be doing better. But that doesn't tell us what's going on, nor does it tell us what we need to do to fix it. To address black poverty, both their racial and their class condition has to be dealt with. And for whites to form effective coalitions, they have to be willing to abandon the privileges that mislead them (no matter how underprivileged they may be in other social categories).

"The goal is to make the "middle" zone be the bottom and not the middle. The desired number of persons being under the zone is zero. Everyone everywhere should have the fullest range of their human needs met and their human rights respected. Thats the goal.
And its achievable without you having to give up what you have. "

Fair enough. Ideally, though, the distribution of people on or above that line ALSO needs to be based in justice, without racial, sexual, gender, etc. discrimination.

A society where everyone is fed yet a racial group made 20% less than another racial group is not a just society. This is staggeringly simple.

These aren't opposing viewpoints. Changing the distribution of the points above that baseline of human comfort and entitlement is in no way logically contradictory to creating the baseline. But if whites insist that their relative position be kept, they are demanding injustice. Understanding the privileges now is vital to prevent them in the future.

"The reason we dont feel sorry for the millionaire is exactly for the reason I stated. Indeed calling them "deprived" in relation
to billionaires is as nonsensical as calling whites "privileged" in relation to blacks."

And MY point is that we don't necessarily need to feel sorry for the white guy either. We need to have an understanding based both on relative and absolute conditions. This isn't a reply to my point.

"The only coherent conception of privilege is in relationship to human rights and human needs. Putting aside the issue of how hard white workers labored, not merely for generations but for millenia, and whether what they therefore have earned what they have(and they have), the issue is of rights. The sanitation, health care, homes and good wages that many of them have, they have a RIGHT to. Meaning that they dont even have to earn it, even though they have. Others being more deprived and thus being at a greater disadvantage is not a meaningful or coherent conception of "privilege"."

Actually, that's NOT the only issue. In any way.

Sure, we want a society where basic rights are respected. But we also want a society with harmony, solidarity, without arbitrary statuses, where people have equal access to opportunities...

The picture is so much larger than just whether or not people starve or live in their filth. You've admitted that, so we can move on.

No one is saying that the solution to white privilege is for poor whites to give up what little they have. You are correct that this would be ABSURD, precisely because ANOTHER factor, class, so skewed the distribution.

But American white males need to admit, and understand, that no matter how bad their lot, it is not as bad as Hondurans', or blacks', or womens'. You may not think this is RELEVANT, but it is TRUE. That's all we're talking about here. Once we admit that these are actually true statements, we can then start talking about their actual meaning for activism.

Again, White Like Me would answer so many of your misconceptions and erroneous arguments...

"Calling health care, for instance, a RIGHT and not a "privilege" is not mere semantics. It means its an entitlement. That as a society we are obligated to provide it to everyone. Thats no word-game, Frederic. Thats a powerful and meaningful difference. A substantial fraction of this country dont think it is a RIGHT. And that matters alot."

Which isn't my argument.

I'm not denying this claim. So clearly the argument has to be something else.

Rather, you object to the "concept", or the WORD, "white privilege".

Because you don't think it's sensible to call poor people who are advantaged vis-a-vis other poor people "privileged".

That IS an arbitrary semantics discussion. Frankly, given how long the word has been in vogue, it seems rather silly to change it. White privilege has a meaningful, non-trivial definition that leads to meaningful, non-trivial conclusions. You may not like the word "privilege", but that doesn't change the arguments.

"Thats true, but that doesnt make them "privileged". Its the worst possible abuse of the term "privilege". "

See? Semantics.

You don't care about the FACTS of the matter. You just care about the word privilege.

Whatever. Call it "white advantage" if you like. Now that you admit it exists, we can get past this distraction...

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"Because without that, we

"Because without that, we fail to see whose rights ARE respected."

No we dont. Racial inequality has been known to exist for a very, very long time, and nothing about the word "privilege" adds anything to our understanding of it. If you said "blacks have a higher chance of being denied a fair trial than whites" than you have said what the problem is. This simple straigtforward sentence has already done that. Adding in that this means "white privilege" doesnt make anything about it any clearer than it was already. Indeed, since a fair trial is a RIGHT and not a privilege it is, if anything, a less accurate way of wording it.

This choice to characterize the divide in this particular way is at best superfluous, and at worst, misnames and misidentifies the actual problem. Which is not that whites get too many fair trials, or too much healthcare, but that others do not get good enough.

"Incidentally, no one has conceded here nor will ever concede here that the only thing white folks get as privileges are already rights. Many are not."

If its a right, then its not a privilege. So all of those are off the table at the outset.

"The right to define the national terms of discussion by a mono-racial lens, for example, is no right anyone has ever had."

In actual practice, nearly all of the more *specific* examples of supposed white privilege (which the above is not) end up sounding like "not facing anti-black discrimination because your not black". But racial discrimination isnt being denied here. And everyone sees things from the lens of their own experiences.

"Again, let's make this totally, undeniably clear, since you seem utterly determined to obfuscate the issue.

A) We're talking about RELATIVE status. The fact that whatever I might have relative to others is just doesn't mean that I have more than them, nor does it establish that the conditions under which that right is protected is just. QED."

Relative to what? If its relative to human rights and human needs, then you are using a sensible and rational definintion of the term privilege, but not otherwise.

As I have said, American workers are not entitled to the *differential* in wages over a Russian worker, any more than the Russian worker is entitled to the differential over a Guatemalan worker. The differential is real and substantial, and it is unearned and undeserved.

But the Russian worker is not "privileged" simply by the RELATIVE advantage that they have over a Guatemalan. You in turn have no right to so much more than a Russian worker. But a living wage is not determined by how it compares with other wages, but how it compares with the cost of a fair standard of living. How it compares with human needs and human rights is how you determine it, and not how it compares to a Guatemalan, no matter how unjust the circumstances that each faces. And none of them are facing just circumstances.

The conditions and circumstances in the world are unjust at present. Very much so. But some segments of humanity achieving a greater attainment and respect of those rights are not rendered "privileged" by that fact.

"B) The network of white privileges are an array that, while individually may not seem important, in sum add up to a belief about the world that is filled with notions of entitlement, power and domination. This is true EVEN of the white working class, who are able to do things, think things and get away with things that boggle the mind."

This "array" has a tendency of evaporating in the face of analysis of *specific* examples.

"C) Were we talking about the rich, you would rightly note the excess advantage that they have in a wide variety of ways and arenas. The fact that they can afford food, for example, is a PRIVILEGE, even though everyone ideally would be able to, because in the REAL WORLD not everyone can. This somehow becomes foggy when we come to white folks."

Not at all. The problem with the rich (there are many, like like owning the means of production, exploiting labor, buying political influence and legislation, etc) is not they can afford food. Thats a Right. Its that they could afford enough food for 10,000 or 100,000 people when there is only 4 of them in the house. Being able to afford a dozen eggs is one thing but being able to afford 50,000 dozen eggs is something else altogether when that is massively beyond their consumptive power, right or need.

Needs/Rights is the bar here.

"But if some people get the entitlement and some don't, we have to ask why. And if that "why" is race, then race matters. QED."

Race does matter. Thats never been in dispute here. Its not white "privilege" though. Rights are still entitlements even when someone else is not having theirs respected.

"Again, not a damn thing you're saying disproves my model."

Whats the model that you think you ever proved in the first place?

"In a world where more than 90% of the top executives and most powerful and entitled people are white males (which has NOTHING to do with class, by the way, since class ONLY refers to how many of those people are and how much power they have, not their composition), denying sexism and racism just leaves a bad taste on the tongue. It makes someone who does it look like an idiot or an apologist."

Apparently someone must have come in here and denied that sexism and racism ever existed and/or that they dont exist now. I dont know who that was or why they said that, but that doesnt have the slightest bearing on anything I have said.

"Let's take a simple example. If we just take class as the important focus,"

Class is massively larger than race, but that is not a denial of race as a factor, as I expressly stated. I have no idea who you are arguing with. Yours and Tims own statement that people of different races can compete, but that people of different classes do not is an admission of that fact. I need only quote you and Tim on the subject and that will settle the argument as to which is the larger factor.

But lets be honest. You know perfectly well that the white working class is not "privileged". Nor are American workers (inc black workers) who make massively more than Mexican or Botswanan workers, privileged simply in having an undeserved and unearned differential. You dont really think the US minimum wage is a privilege. The *actual* reason you use the term privilege is stated right here in the next passage:

"Now, since we can't talk about race or white privilege, we have to say that such is obviously their fault: They made stupid decisions."

This false choice is exactly the root of the problem here. If we dont call whites "privileged" (even though you know what an unbelievable stretch and abuse of the word that that involves), then we have to say blacks *deserve* to have less.

That is complete nonsense. We do not have to say that blacks deserve the discrimination against them.

Just as your earning and deserving at LEAST $7.25 an hour does NOT mean that the Mexican minimum wage is all that Mexican wworkers "deserve". Or that we "have" to say that its "their fault". Discrimination AGAINST someone else is NOT "their" fault or that only stupid decisions by individuals explains the outcomes of individuals. It is transparently fallacious reasoning.

This fear of saying that "blacks deserve it", which is why you dont think saying "white privilege" is mere semantics, is not a good reason for calling whites "privileged" when they are not.

The David Horowitz' and Dinesh D'Souzas' of the world will go on saying that no matter if you say "white privilege" or not. In the meantime, its an outlandish abuse of the term. It meanwhile clarifies nothing, accomplishes nothing, nor adds anything to our knowledge of inequality, nor gives us any fresh insight into how to deal with it.

Let me repeat:

"Human rights and human needs. Thats included in that Frederic. I am not just talking about income or class, and never said that I
was. And someone elses discrimination doesnt make you meaningfully called "privileged" no matter how many times you repeat that canard. The astonishing rates of drug use and horrible body image that millions of U.S. whites experience means that we have deep social and cultural problems beyond class income or race and gender, so there is no denial that race and gender added in doesnt
involve serious and profound issues. Social reality is deeply complex and highly layered, and anyone arguing otherwise is simply
dead-wrong."

This stands as is.

"Yes, in actual fact everyone, black AND white workers, should be doing better."

They sure should. Hence, they are not "privileged" simply because Russian or Botswanan or Mexican or Haitian workers have it even worse. If you cant see what an abuse of the term "privilege" that that is, then I dont see what more there is to say on the matter. I think the absurdity of it is painfully obvious.

"Fair enough. Ideally, though, the distribution of people on or above that line ALSO needs to be based in justice, without racial, sexual, gender, etc. discrimination."

Whoa! Agreement!

"A society where everyone is fed yet a racial group made 20% less than another racial group is not a just society. This is staggeringly simple."

Two in a row! We are on a roll here Frederic!

"These aren't opposing viewpoints. Changing the distribution of the points above that baseline of human comfort and entitlement is in no way logically contradictory to creating the baseline. But if whites insist that their relative position be kept, they are demanding injustice. Understanding the privileges now is vital to prevent them in the future."

Human rights and human needs includes equality and fairness. I regard those as rights. I accept the argument from some conservatives that males might be statistically more violent than females to matter how fair things are. Maybe thats true. But its an hypothesis I would love to have the ability to test, since that would mean global attatinment of respect for fullest range of human rights and meeting of human needs. In other words, we are not, as some conservatives think, aiming at a shangri-La-La Land of cumbaya wonderfulness. I accept imperfection, if its the best we can do.

"And MY point is that we don't necessarily need to feel sorry for the white guy either. We need to have an understanding based both on relative and absolute conditions. This isn't a reply to my point."

So much for the agreement phase.

It did answer the point. The difference is that millionaires are not "deprived" for having less because they have far,far above the realm of human right and human need. Thats why we dont feel sorry for them. The "Relative" here is in relation to needs/rights.

Let me repeat:

"The only coherent conception of privilege is in relationship to human rights and human needs. Putting aside the issue of how hard white workers labored, not merely for generations but for millenia, and whether what they therefore have earned what they have(and they have), the issue is of rights. The sanitation, health care, homes and good wages that many of them have, they have a RIGHT to. Meaning that they dont even have to earn it, even though they have. Others being more deprived and thus being at a greater disadvantage is not a meaningful or coherent conception of "privilege".

"Sure, we want a society where basic rights are respected. But we also want a society with harmony, solidarity, without arbitrary statuses, where people have equal access to opportunities..."

Rights and needs being met includes equal access, no arbitrary ascribed statuses, etc. Its not just a matter of not starving, etc.
As for harmony, we may be limited to non-harm in some cases. Theres a limit to how far we can go in solidarity and harmony. The more the better.

"But American white males need to admit, and understand, that no matter how bad their lot, it is not as bad as Hondurans', or blacks', or womens'. You may not think this is RELEVANT, but it is TRUE. That's all we're talking about here. Once we admit that these are actually true statements, we can then start talking about their actual meaning for activism."

The problem Frederic is that all of that has already been said, and said for a long time, and you can say all of that and still say that the concept of "white privilege" is BS. And when did I say national and intenational inequality is not relevant? I think I have said exactly the opposite of that. But I do say that US black males having it not nearly as bad as billions of others doesnt make them "privileged" simply for that reason.

"Call it "white advantage" if you like. Now that you admit it exists, we can get past this distraction..."

Now? What did I say "now" thats different from what I said before? I said from the outset that inequality exists. I used to say it didnt? When was that?

You KNOW what BS the whole concept of "white privilege" is. You just say it because you have this bizarre fear that if we dont say it, then we all "have" to become Dinesh-ites, which is complete nonsense.

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Not Two Sets of Terminologies

"This false choice is exactly the root of the problem here. If we dont call whites "privileged" (even though you know what an unbelievable stretch and abuse of the word that that involves), then we have to say blacks *deserve* to have less. That is complete nonsense. We do not have to say that blacks deserve the discrimination against them. Just as your earning and deserving at LEAST $7.25 an hour does NOT mean that the Mexican minimum wage is all that Mexican wworkers "deserve". Or that we "have" to say that its "their fault". Discrimination AGAINST someone else is NOT "their" fault or that only stupid decisions by individuals explains the outcomes of individuals. It is transparently fallacious reasoning. "

You're missing the point. Our discussion is centering on one point: Is it meaningful to talk about white privilege? That has a semantic component (is the word "privilege" useful? What about advantage instead?) and a real-world component. I have identified, a fact you've conceded from the start, that blacks and other minorities face problems above and beyond their class position, such that even rich blacks have disadvantages and poor blacks are more disadvantaged that poor whites. This is obvious.

Further, whites, whether poor or not, have advantages as whites. This is also something you've conceded. This alone is the point: That whites have advantages that compensate for whatever class, gender, etc. disadvantages they have, and that these advantages are substantial.

Now, to explain why the term "white privilege" remains useful, I identify that if we can ONLY look at class status, we have no explanation for why blacks are doing so poorly. One would expect them, in a world without racism (past or present), to be spread out among both the working class and the rich at roughly their numerical representation: 13%. In other words, we'd expect blacks to make up 13% of the corporate class. They clearly don't. If we dispense with an explanation that identifies how whites are privileged and blacks discriminated against, class being controlled, then the only possible explanation is that blacks aren't doing well for other reasons. The only reason that makes any sense is that they're incompetent.

Let's make this quite clear. It's certainly true that, on average, lazier people are going to be poorer whether they start out rich or poor, just because they're going to work less, right? That class of "lazy" people, then, is poorer as a class in large part due to their own decisions. That's true no matter the class situation in the broader society, unless we are in a society where laziness is rewarded. Without an understanding of white privilege, this is exactly how people are going to think about blacks. You bring in Dinesh, but you don't acknowledge the rhetorical game he plays. If he can get you to say that blacks face no additional barriers beyond class issues, then he has made his point and you've admitted that racism is rational. There is no excuse for this.

Now, if you want to say that you believe in "white advantage", then yes, we won't run into this exact problem. We run into ANOTHER one I get into...

"No we dont. Racial inequality has been known to exist for a very, very long time, and nothing about the word "privilege" adds anything to our understanding of it. If you said "blacks have a higher chance of being denied a fair trial than whites" than you have said what the problem is. This simple straigtforward sentence has already done that. Adding in that this means "white privilege" doesnt make anything about it any clearer than it was already. Indeed, since a fair trial is a RIGHT and not a privilege it is, if anything, a less accurate way of wording it."

This is a "canard", to use your phraseology, and utterly meaningless.

Whether or not I have a "right" to decent treatment, the fact that I get it and you don't gives me advantages and you disadvantages. The family that doesn't have its father in jail gets ahead of the one that does. I call that privilege. You don't. That's semantic, nothing more.

Your trial example is a false one, for two reasons.

A) GUILTY whites get away with crimes they should not because of an unfair criminal justice system. Guilty people have no right to get away with crimes, yet they are given this privilege. There are many privileges we have (our language being treated as the dominant one, our racial viewpoint being the dominant one, being able to get away with hideous ignorance, being able to dismiss the racial viewpoints of others as irrelevant and even deny that there is an existence, white rioting college students getting sympathy when they riot because there wasn't enough beer) that no one should have, that accrue to us as WHITE and NOT as rich.
B) Whites are not given a fair trial because a fair trial system exists but because they are treated as special.

Whether or not you think parents should be feeding their children three full meals a day, the fact that one child is getting one and another is getting two is sociological evidence that one child is "privileged". Period. It is NOT just that the previous child is deprived. It's that the other is getting MORE. If they split the difference, each getting 1.5 meals, then neither WOULD be "privileged", but both would be deprived. You are arguing that there is no difference between 1.5/1.5 and 2/1, because it should be 3/3. Sorry, the world doesn't work like that, just because you ask it to, and you are making absurdities by attempting it.

And, of course, even this utopian insistence that the world be your way, other viewpoints be damned, is itself one deeply mired in white privilege. Blacks and racial minorities have learned the lesson that the world isn't going to change just because they insist otherwise.

"This choice to characterize the divide in this particular way is at best superfluous, and at worst, misnames and misidentifies the actual problem. Which is not that whites get too many fair trials, or too much healthcare, but that others do not get good enough."

If you say the one, you HAVE to say the other.

At the very least, identifying the fact that that extra "stuff" GOES somewhere is essential.

You might think that "white privilege" is nothing that impressive. Fine. But the fact that it EXISTS, the fact that it sociologically explains where the extra "stuff" goes, is alone its reason for existence.

"If its a right, then its not a privilege. So all of those are off the table at the outset."

Why? Because you declare it so? You are defining privilege in one way, like a parent saying a car is a privilege not a right is, and we're defining it another way, as any advantage whether or not that advantage is entitled or unentitled, earned or unearned, etc. This is why it's a semantic issue.

But, of course, you long ago conceded that whites get plenty of things that they have no meaningful right to, above and beyond their class status. So this point is moot.

"In actual practice, nearly all of the more *specific* examples of supposed white privilege (which the above is not) end up sounding like "not facing anti-black discrimination because your not black". But racial discrimination isnt being denied here. And everyone sees things from the lens of their own experiences."

This sounds like obscurantist garbage.

Me being able to define the national framework for discussion is not just defined by what blacks DON'T have. In an ideal community, everyone would be able to have an equal right to toss in their perspective. But whites get that MORE, and it plays out in terms of being able to have superior access to lawmakers and judicial systems because one knows the media will be more friendly to one's interpretations. It's the ability to sleep at night thinking that Katrina said nothing about race, precisely because most whites can say that Katrina says NOTHING about race even though that very FACT says something about race when bearing in mind that blacks DID think it says something about race.

But your claim also collapses to sheer absurdity. After all, all the advantages you list that the rich have end up boiling down to "not having enough money because you're not rich." Man, class advantage just went out the window! No real difference between Bill Gates and me.

You might say it's stupid, because it is, but it's the only way your model logically goes.

"Relative to what? If its relative to human rights and human needs, then you are using a sensible and rational definintion of the term privilege, but not otherwise."

Actually, no. I'm defining privilege sensibly and rationally. You don't like it, so pick a different word for your random Marxist-Leninist cult. Coming into a community that uses a word sensibly and talks about it internally with their own literature and demanding that they change is, again, an act filled with white privilege.

But it IS relative to human rights and needs, so, again, this is irrelevant.

"As I have said, American workers are not entitled to the *differential* in wages over a Russian worker, any more than the Russian worker is entitled to the differential over a Guatemalan worker. The differential is real and substantial, and it is unearned and undeserved."

Which is all that these "privileges" are meant to talk about. You can call it a differential if you want. We call it a privilege. All semantics, and unfortunately being immersed in the semantics has taken you away from any real KNOWLEDGE about civil rights or white privilege/advantage/differential.

"Not at all. The problem with the rich (there are many, like like owning the means of production, exploiting labor, buying political influence and legislation, etc) is not they can afford food. Thats a Right. Its that they could afford enough food for 10,000 or 100,000 people when there is only 4 of them in the house. Being able to afford a dozen eggs is one thing but being able to afford 50,000 dozen eggs is something else altogether when that is massively beyond their consumptive power, right or need.

Needs/Rights is the bar here."

Again, that's YOUR definition of the term. I sensibly, with no internal contradiction, used privilege in the same manner as you used other things like "rights". One could think about it, for example, as rights being abstracts that one might or might not get and privileges being whether or not one has less than the amount of those rights one needs, the amount one needs, or more than one needs.

Incidentally, you still have yet to talk about the idea of a condition of justice being achieved through injustice. That is, if someone who makes just enough money now to be at a just level is making that much ONLY because a comparable black is being paid less, then that's not fair.
 

"So much for the agreement phase. It did answer the point. The difference is that millionaires are not "deprived" for having less because they have far,far above the realm of human right and human need. Thats why we dont feel sorry for them. The "Relative" here is in relation to needs/rights. Let me repeat:"

But surely you feel less contempt for the millionaire than the billionaire, don't you?

If so, then you logically must feel less empathy for the white than the Guatemalan. By this I mean not an absolute sense of empathy, where I feel bad for someone in injustice no matter the amount of it, but rather a relative one, where I feel that less needs to be done to rectify their injustice, or that their injustice is qualitatively less severe, or that if I could distribute $1 billion I'd distribute it primarily to poor Guatemalans primarily and white American workers somewhat less.

Whites are NOT as desperate as blacks and Americans are not as desperate as those in the Third World, all else held equal. Period.

You keep on mentioning relative in relation to needs/rights, but that doesn't change the fact that looking at people in strata simply vis-a-vis each other is socially relevant. No sociologist on the planet is going to tell you that $1 and $2 are the same thing, socially, just because neither is enough from an absolute point of view.

"The problem Frederic is that all of that has already been said, and said for a long time, and you can say all of that and still say that the concept of "white privilege" is BS. And when did I say national and intenational inequality is not relevant? I think I have said exactly the opposite of that. But I do say that US black males having it not nearly as bad as billions of others doesnt make them "privileged" simply for that reason."

Why doesn't it? This is what leads me to say that this is merely a useless semantic debate. You have a problem with the word "privileged", in quotes. Whatever. Use "white advantage" or "white opportunity" or whatever you feel is more accurate. We agree on 90% of the substance.

"Rights and needs being met includes equal access, no arbitrary ascribed statuses, etc. Its not just a matter of not starving, etc. As for harmony, we may be limited to non-harm in some cases. Theres a limit to how far we can go in solidarity and harmony. The more the better."

Which alone makes my point: If one acknowledges more than income and pure economics matter, then race and gender become that much more important. From what I can see, we have two disagreements: That race and gender are as serious of social disadvantages as class, and that "white privilege" is a useful concept. I'm answering the first here: Privilege comes in many shapes and colors, and it is particularly in the intangibles where race and gender oppression shine.

"Human rights and human needs includes equality and fairness. I regard those as rights. I accept the argument from some conservatives that males might be statistically more violent than females to matter how fair things are. Maybe thats true. But its an hypothesis I would love to have the ability to test, since that would mean global attatinment of respect for fullest range of human rights and meeting of human needs."

No disagreement so far.

"In other words, we are not, as some conservatives think, aiming at a shangri-La-La Land of cumbaya [sic] wonderfulness. I accept imperfection, if its the best we can do.Human rights and human needs includes equality and fairness. I regard those as rights."

That's not a reply in any way, shape or form. My point is that even if we decreased the net inequity of the society, so that the whole distribution became more steep statistically (that is, less deviation from the median/mean, and less extreme of outliers), that wouldn't change the fact that blacks would be below the median more often than whites would. Changing the distribution of points so that whites and blacks are equally likely to be rich or poor, within whatever definition of "rich" and "poor" we have, is in no way, shape or form contradictory to lowering inequity. But it is ALSO separate.

So, if we redistributed wealth, and some white guy said, "But now I'm not making as much vis-a-vis my black neighbor as I used to", we would have to talk about how his previous income was affected not only by his class status but also his race status (and gender status, sexual orientation, etc.) This matters, and nothing you've said so far in any way obviates it. We're talking about totally separate issues, and getting riled up over what is ultimately a total lack of disagreement...

Further, you seem to imply here that seeking racial justice is "La-La Land". But if anything, CLASS injustice is far less likely to be rectified, given that race has been altered in the last 60 years but class really hasn't. Throughout history, rich and powerful people have used class and state power to dominate. It really beggars the imagination that you seem to think (I hope that you do not, in fact, but this is why it is important to know white privilege as a concept and be part of the movement so as to avoid bad implications like this) that making a racially harmonious and just society is "Shangri-La-La-Land" but making a society with revolutionary, utopian class forms is just rational good thinking.

"Two in a row! We are on a roll here Frederic!"

And THAT premise is why white privilege matters. Because if we want to explain who is the winner and the loser, we need AT THE LEAST the following taxonomies.

Class: Privileged - rich, underprivileged - poor

Status: Privileged - high status/famous, underprivileged - low status

Political power: Privileged - connected, underprivileged - not connected

Race: Privileged - white, underprivileged - everyone else

Gender: Privileged - men, underprivileged - women

Sexual orientation: Privileged - heterosexuals, underprivileged - GLBT individuals

Age: Privileged - adults, underprivileged - the elderly and the young

Able-bodied: Privileged - able-bodied, underprivileged - disabled

All of these categories are meaningful. All have to be controlled if we want to figure out what to do about injustice. And all have to be included as part of our liberatory framework for a just society. The reason we insist on the term "privilege", then, is that it puts theoretically the difference between blacks and whites on the same footing as the difference between rich and poor. If we don't do that, then we make a implicit judgment as to which one is QUALITATIVELY, not merely quantitatively, less important. Trust me: Black folks don't think, rightly, that being poor is to be underprivileged but to be black is merely "disadvantaged". It's just not.

Again, let's make this totally clear. It is JUST as meaningless to say that a poor white is not "privileged" as it is to say that a disabled or black rich man is not "privileged". They both have a mix of privilege and underprivilege, or advantage and disadvantage. You want us to concede that one of these categories, class, is not like the others, so that we should use different terminology for it. That's not happening.

So you have to determine for yourself: Is insisting so essential to our project that it's worth the loss of allies and the alienation of every other subordinated group? Let's just say that the Left has gambled repeatedly on "Yes", and they've lost every time. All I ask is that you be consistent. If you use "advantage" for whites, you use "advantage" for the rich. Or use privilege for both. The issue is when you want to say that whites aren't privileged but the rich are. That's just not going to fly. It denies that whites, as a group, are more powerful than blacks and other minorities, just like denying class privilege and power denies that the poor as a group are less powerful than the rich.

The contribution of white privilege studies, then, is to understand the way that racism plays out for the privileged group, and to understand that this privilege is just as meaningful (especially when we include intangibles and non-directly-monetary assets, as you admit we should) as the privilege of the rich over the poor. Using your central standard of justice model: It's true that many whites are below that center bar of justice, FAR below.

But...

A) They are NEVER as far below as comparable blacks

B) In other areas of the bar of justice, such as their ability to get away with breaking the law, they are far too high

So rectifying the bar means that whites, even who are poor, and men, even who are working-class, will have to give up some things they are used to. You might not think this matters, but plenty of labor groups have insisted that women be kept poorer than them, and indeed the whole premise of racism in this country was predicated on giving a "psychological wage of whiteness" to compensate for a real one. If you don't think whites will fight tooth and nail to keep that psychological wage, you need to brush up on your civil rights history...

Note, for absolute clarification, that I am not saying that class issues are NOT necessarily more severe forms of inequity in practice. Indeed, were one to make me pick, I would choose to undermine capitalist/economic oppression first, for a variety of reasons (most severe in the present stage of history, the least has been done to undermine it compared to gender/race/reducing the power of the state, amplifies the other forms of oppression most harshly, eliminates any possibility of democracym etc.) But I object to making a prima facia judgment about which one is more severe! If we refuse to talk about "white privilege", we refuse to recognize even its EXISTENCE. Once we admit it is real, we can talk about its scale, and find that the scale has declined quite a lot. But the problem most anti-racist activists, civil rights activists, feminists, GLBT activists, etc. have with some of the more extreme Marxist forms is that, instead of recognizing the importance that each has for both "superstructure" and "substructure" (to use Marxist terminology), Marxists and economic leftists often insist on viewing these matters as primarily economic.

"This "array" has a tendency of evaporating in the face of analysis of *specific* examples."

This is a stupid and, in fact, false argument. While you may subjectively feel that it "evaporates", that indicates only that you had a predisposition to ignore racial injustice, nothing more. In fact, every example I look at, from treatment in the criminal justice system to differential health outcomes even holding class equal to differential net worths even holding income and occupation equal to treatment in pre-college and college education to the treatment in the media, only EXACERBATES each previous example, not makes it go away. If even the "model minority", Asians, can earn as much as average with a college degree as whites can with a high school degree, there is nothing to "evaporate".

The worst part about this claim on your part is that you have not replied to a single point about racial injustice, except for your lame, obfuscatory, apologetic and just badly-argued point on the "Sorry for the Inconvenience" post.

"Now? What did I say "now" thats different from what I said before? I said from the outset that inequality exists. I used to say it didnt? When was that? You KNOW what BS the whole concept of "white privilege" is. You just say it because you have this bizarre fear that if we dont say it, then we all "have" to become Dinesh-ites, which is complete nonsense."

You've managed to evolve, yes, from saying the concept made no sense to conceding quite a few facts in retrospect. What I think you've managed to admit that you had not is that, in particular, RACIAL inequality exists and is above and beyond class inequality.

Actually, no, I don't. And while you say the argument is complete nonsense, you don't bother disproving it. Fact is, blacks face problems above and beyond their class status. So sociologically, class CANNOT and IS NOT the only issue, and therefore the only way one can be privileged. Denying white privilege's existence, then, is just special pleading, with no solid basis in sociology...

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Frederic, You mention a

Frederic,

You mention a semantic level and a substantial level and I want to address that. Lets start witht he first part. And lets start with something you say in your post:

"But surely you feel less contempt for the millionaire than the billionaire, don't you?"

No i dont. But whats interesting here is the implicit acceptance of the model I have put forward. Lets compare this with one of the next things you said:

"If so, then you logically must feel less empathy for the white than the Guatemalan."

Notice how you use "contempt" for those far above the human needs/rights bar, but "empathy" for those who are not.

We dont say "sympathy" or "empathy" for the millionaire. Why dont we Frederic? Surely if you went through enough dictionaries you would find definitions of the word "deprivation" that could literally, taken word-for-word, apply to millionaires. So why not call them that then? But why do you suppose than any attempt to frame it that way would result in roomfulls of groans, eye-rolls and a chorus of "oh give me a @#$#%^ break"?

Because in actual English language usage no one ever means that when they say "deprivation". Not only would "millionaire deprivation" be out of the context of normal usage, but it would strike people as utterly preposterous; A misuse and an abuse of the term. The proponent of the millionaire deprivation idea could stand up and say "oh call it what you like, its just semantics!"

But the point here is that you already know all this. You know that $2 an hour is not "privilege" in being higher than $1 an hour. And calling it that is not necessitated by any social science. Its a choice in framing and characterizing the divide. It doesnt explain it, it doesnt make it any clearer, and is an absurd abuse of the term. The research to determine the existence of differentials and the extent of the differential is social science, not the rhetorical choice in characterizing it.

But you have more to say on this choice and *actual* reasons you use it:

"The reason we insist on the term "privilege", then, is that it puts theoretically the difference between blacks and whites on the same footing as the difference between rich and poor. If we don't do that, then we make a implicit judgment as to which one is QUALITATIVELY, not merely quantitatively, less important. Trust me: Black folks don't think, rightly, that being poor is to be underprivileged but to be black is merely "disadvantaged". It's just not."

Now lets look at your statement on rich and poor:

"Class: Privileged - rich, underprivileged - poor"

The first problem is that everything is not either "privilege" or "underprivilege". The schema takes no account of any middle zone between the two. IS there another class in society? One between the two? A "Middle" class for instance?

The second problem is that the divide between rich and poor is not equivalent to the other examples. The class divide is enormously larger than the racial divide. Being white is not even close to being like the billionaire or the millionaire. The fact that you think of these as equivalent is absolutely mindboggling.

The difference between some one being worth 1 billion and someone worth 100k is 10,000x. And being worth 100k isnt poverty. Your talkign about income and net worth differentials ranging form 100's to literally 1,000,000's. Gates net worth is 1 million times larger than someone who as a net worth of $40,000.

Whites are 10,000 times more likely to get a job over a black applicant? A million times more likely to get a promotion? The comparison is utterly laughable. This is not equivalence. This means that far from making anything clearer about inequality, you obscure it. You create bogus equivalences between incomparable differentials in the society.

All poor are deprived. That the US min. wage worker is less so than a Mexican worker making the Mexican minimum is not a divide that is either quantitatively or qualitatively similar to the rich-poor divide. SO it would be nonsensical to say one was "privileged" and the other "deprived".

So where is the line, Frederic? Where do you place it? Millionaires are not "underprivileged" in having less privilege than billionaires are they? You dont call them "underprivileged" do you? Its not mere semantics to use the same term for millionaires that you use for Guatmalan peasants. It would be pure nonsense, and you KNOW it is.

"The contribution of white privilege studies, then, is to understand the way that racism plays out for the privileged group, and to understand that this privilege is just as meaningful (especially when we include intangibles and non-directly-monetary assets, as you admit we should) as the privilege of the rich over the poor. Using your central standard of justice model: It's true that many whites are below that center bar of justice, FAR below."

Creating a false equivalence between the two has contributed nothing whatsoever to our understanding of inequality. On the contrary, this obscures the issues. Not least was that the white working class, themselves being brutally exploited and grossly underpaid, was harmed by the racial divide, and by not uniting on common class and human interests. They werent being helped by this.

"So rectifying the bar means that whites, even who are poor, and men, even who are working-class, will have to give up some things they are used to. You might not think this matters, but plenty of labor groups have insisted that women be kept poorer than them, and indeed the whole premise of racism in this country was predicated on giving a "psychological wage of whiteness" to compensate for a real one. If you don't think whites will fight tooth and nail to keep that psychological wage, you need to brush up on your civil rights history..."

It will mean having MORE than they are used to! Racial inequality means poor whites will have less? They will have MORE. Intra-class conflict, which has been known to exist since long before whiteness studies came about, is to the net detriment of all elements of the working classes. The so-called "psychological wage" that DuBois hypothesized about never compensates for their lack of fairer wages. The whole struggle of labor was made more diffiuclt and not easier by not uniting. It left the Ruling class to continue ruling and the white working class to continue being exploited.

IN many cases the "advantages", like having your own fountain or park or lunch counters did not amount to meaningful advantages. Blacks drinking from the fountain would not prevent you from drinking from it also. Blacks eating at the same lunch counter doesnt prevent whites from also eating at that same coutner. Or from going to the park. Equality in education wouldnt deprive their children of an education, or a good wage. What they got from black disadvantage, and anti-black discrimination was a worse state than they would have without it.

"A) They are NEVER as far below as comparable blacks"

Since they dont have to face anti-black discrimination.

"B) In other areas of the bar of justice, such as their ability to get away with breaking the law, they are far too high"

Millions of whites go to prison, so I am not sure how many you think are really "getting away with breaking the law". When speaking about poor whites especially, the idea that their experience with criminal justice can be fairly characterized by how much they "get away with" is an extraordinary statement.

WOuld there be fewer whites in prison than there are now or more if we had an "ideal" legislative and criminal justice system? Probably alot less.

Now lets look at some more of what you say on Class:

"Note, for absolute clarification, that I am not saying that class issues are NOT necessarily more severe forms of inequity in practice. Indeed, were one to make me pick, I would choose to undermine capitalist/economic oppression first, for a variety of reasons (most severe in the present stage of history, the least has been done to undermine it compared to gender/race/reducing the power of the state, amplifies the other forms of oppression most harshly, eliminates any possibility of democracym etc.) But I object to making a prima facia judgment about which one is more severe!"

Well the severity is quite plain, and utterly incomparable. But lets now see another statement you made on this:

"Now, to explain why the term "white privilege" remains useful, I identify that if we can ONLY look at class status, we have no explanation for why blacks are doing so poorly. One would expect them, in a world without racism (past or present), to be spread out among both the working class and the rich at roughly their numerical representation: 13%. In other words, we'd expect blacks to make up 13% of the corporate class. They clearly don't. If we dispense with an explanation that identifies how whites are privileged and blacks discriminated against, class being controlled, then the only possible explanation is that blacks aren't doing well for other reasons. The only reason that makes any sense is that they're incompetent."

No one is suggesting that we look "ONLY" at class. Even someone from a very traditional classic Marxian approach would say that there are other factors. They might argue however that dividing the working class by race benefitted the ruling classes, and while this might result in differential outcomes between the workers of different races (indeed it might be very helpful if there were), the actual power stays with the ruling class.

They approach matters from the view that a societies prevailing ideas and ideology, its dominant narrative, represents the ideology of its ruling class. It is there, and among them, and in this class hierarchy that you would therefore have to ultimately seek to redress the issue. Their emphasis on class results from the fact that this is the group that actually RULES. White nurses and waitresses and truckers dont RULE the society.

I dont entirely agree with that framing either, but even in this narrative, class is not the "only" factor. And to say that we have no other explanation would be wrong in any case. Is the only reason that Paris Hilton is a multimillionairess because of how much more "competent" she is than nearly anyone else? Who in the world would make an argument like this?

The left certainly does not think that the class divide is based solely on competence. Even the Right acknowledges that inherited wealth is not the result of the competence of the child recipient. So the idea that upper class=competence and lower class=incompetence is an absurd framing of the issue. Even if someone did think Class was the only issue, it would not follow that competence is all that determines class.

Your fear of conceding the right wing argument is completely unreasonble. Even THEY dont say some of the things that you think "HAVE" to be said, if we dont buy this absurd notion of "white privilege".

In other examples you continue with the idea, that middle and poorer whites are allegedly "privileged":

"In an ideal community, everyone would be able to have an equal right to toss in their perspective."

Right, but in the real world access to power and those who can actually shape the policy agenda is the hands of the ruling class. The white butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, miners, nurses, waitresses and mechanics do not make any real contribution to the "national framework for discussion". They dont have more input than they have a right to, they have alot less. Thus, not "privileged".

"But whites get that MORE, and it plays out in terms of being able to have superior access to lawmakers and judicial systems because one knows the media will be more friendly to one's interpretations."

Who buys access and legislation? So all those midwest and southern GOP members of the Senate and House spent 12 years in the majority from 1994-2006 working for the interests of white waitresses and miners? What?!!?!?!?

That is utter nonsense. If anything, the reason we argue that the whites who voted GOP did so against their economic interests, is because in the real world, Frederic, things work the opposite to how you frame them here. They worked against the interests of the immense majority of whites. And they have no racial interests to begin with, let alone that Ruling classes couldnt care less about the "racial interests" of white truckers and janitors even if they had any such interests.

"It's the ability to sleep at night thinking that Katrina said nothing about race, precisely because most whites can say that Katrina says NOTHING about race even though that very FACT says something about race when bearing in mind that blacks DID think it says something about race."

Who defined the narrative on Katrina? The white carpenters and nurses did? Are you sure about that? They have surrogates in the media to relentless pound the same talking points on Katrina? THEY insisted that the narrative de-emphasize class and race? They insisted that fair wage laws be suspended? Who was moving the agenda here?

ANd how in the world do you think thats a net benefit for whites?

"You don't like it, so pick a different word for your random Marxist-Leninist cult. Coming into a community that uses a word sensibly and talks about it internally with their own literature and demanding that they change is, again, an act filled with white privilege."

Im not a Marxist-Leninist, or a member of any other "cults". And having your narrative challenged is something you ought to be able to deal with. You do think you are describing a larger world that consists of alot more than your tiny community and ITS literature. People from that larger world are allowed to challenge your framing of their world.

The problem is basic:

"Whites are NOT as desperate as blacks and Americans are not as desperate as those in the Third World, all else held equal. Period."

Right. But nor does it make any sense to call the african american privileged for that fact. Telling blacks in this country how privileged they are by the comparison accomplishes absolutely nothing. Its not more accurate than saying degrees of relative deprivation. The best you can say of this is that its superfluous.

"Whether or not you think parents should be feeding their children three full meals a day, the fact that one child is getting one and another is getting two is sociological evidence that one child is "privileged". Period."

No its not. Thats two different levels of deprivation. The Mexican minimum wage is not "privilege" because its higher than the Haitian minimum wage. And the US minimum is not "privilege" because its higher than the Mexican minimum. You could call it "privilege" if you like, but dont pretend that its "scientific". The only social science element to this is the demographic data that shows what the divides are, not how you choose to frame or characterize them.

I say thats 3 different levels of deprivation, and I think that this is incomparably the more sensible way of characterizing it.

"It is NOT just that the previous child is deprived. It's that the other is getting MORE. If they split the difference, each getting 1.5 meals, then neither WOULD be "privileged", but both would be deprived. You are arguing that there is no difference between 1.5/1.5 and 2/1, because it should be 3/3. Sorry, the world doesn't work like that, just because you ask it to, and you are making absurdities by attempting it."

I never said anything of the sort. One meal a day isnt a "privilege" because enormous numbers of the worlds children do not get even one full meal per day. You DO say it is, and that is incoherent. The same child is simultaneously privileged and deprived simply based on who you compare them to. But human rights and human needs is what the dividing line should be. We determine living wages, adaquate health care and proper nutrition based on human needs and human rights, not comparisons between Mexicans, Haitians, Germans and Americans.

"You keep on mentioning relative in relation to needs/rights, but that doesn't change the fact that looking at people in strata simply vis-a-vis each other is socially relevant. No sociologist on the planet is going to tell you that $1 and $2 are the same thing, socially, just because neither is enough from an absolute point of view."

Of course its relevant. But neither is privileged. No one means that when they say "privilege" and you are well aware than no one does. Its not the only word in the language that speaks to differentials between people. Deprivation for instance is a very good one.

What your not getting here is that the rich have more than they have a right to, and much more than they ever need, wheras whites do not have more than they have a right to and more than they need. In the main, they have less than what they are entitled to, or only as much, not more. It doesnt make sense to call that "privilege".

"Why doesn't it? This is what leads me to say that this is merely a useless semantic debate. You have a problem with the word "privileged", in quotes. Whatever. Use "white advantage" or "white opportunity" or whatever you feel is more accurate. We agree on 90% of the substance."

We agree that meeting the fullest range of human rights and human needs for all humans everywhere is the overall goal. Its not "utopian" for either of us or for anyone else to aim at that. Its not a "la laland" (thats a Right Wing statement, not mine) But when you frame something as "white advantage", you misname and misidentify the problem.

First, whites do not have more than they deserve or have earned or to which they are entitled, unlike the Rich. There is no equivalence in KIND, let alone in scale.

Second, Whites did not, and do not, experience a net benefit from racial inequality. They experience a net loss. Having no black medical researchers or doctors is a good for society as a whole? Whites "benefitted" from having fewer black doctors? How?

Having no black architects? The list goes on. The civil rights boycotts were in part successful because wages by blacks were a benefit for whites. They spent their money on job-creating industries that employed, among others, whites. SO how is paying them less making more jobs for whites? Its nonsense reasoning.

Global equality does not involve middle class whites having less than what they have now. On the contrary, the white middle class would get bigger, healthier and more prosperous, not smaller. Youd find that having millions of more better educated researchers 9among many other things) would have a dramatic effect on improving quality of life.

"This is a stupid and, in fact, false argument. While you may subjectively feel that it "evaporates", that indicates only that you had a predisposition to ignore racial injustice, nothing more. In fact, every example I look at, from treatment in the criminal justice system to differential health outcomes even holding class equal to differential net worths even holding income and occupation equal to treatment in pre-college and college education to the treatment in the media, only EXACERBATES each previous example, not makes it go away."

I do not ignore racial injustice, or inequality. But these are not examples of white "privilege". WHites are not getting better health care than they deserve or have a right to. They arent making better money than they deserve, have earned, or have a right to etc. And if everyone gets what they have a right to, and the meeting of the fullest range of their human needs, these same whites will go UP, not down in quality of life and standard of living.

"From what I can see, we have two disagreements: That race and gender are as serious of social disadvantages as class, and that "white privilege" is a useful concept. I'm answering the first here: Privilege comes in many shapes and colors, and it is particularly in the intangibles where race and gender oppression shine."

Race and gender are NOT as serious as "social disadvantages as class". So yes we are disagreeing on that. And white "privilege" is a nonsense concept.

White firefighters, nurses, teachers, miners, dockworkers, farmers, truckers and waitresses are not overpaid, they dont get more access to health care and medicine than they deserve or should have, they do not have too much say in the "national discussion", they dont have "too much" access to political power or too much say defining the legislative agenda. Very much Unlike the rich. So no, not equivalent and not meaningfully privileged.

"You've managed to evolve, yes, from saying the concept made no sense to conceding quite a few facts in retrospect. What I think you've managed to admit that you had not is that, in particular, RACIAL inequality exists and is above and beyond class inequality."

There is nothing I am saying differently now, than I did before. I never said racial inequality didnt exist, or that class is all that exists. Not one single time. You have beaten the dead horse of "its not ONLY class" over and over again, when no one here ever argued that. Its a straw man.

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"First, whites do not have more than they deserve or have earned or to which they are entitled, unlike the Rich. There is no equivalence in KIND, let alone in scale."

Again: If I steal $20 from you, the fact that I should have $2000 to moot. EVERY OUNCE of what they have that has been stolen from blacks is something they shouldn't. They should make it back by different means, sure, but it is infantile to say that injustice and racism is okay or not a serious problem just because the people doing it and benefiting from it are themselves poor.

"Second, Whites did not, and do not, experience a net benefit from racial inequality. They experience a net loss. Having no black medical researchers or doctors is a good for society as a whole? Whites "benefitted" from having fewer black doctors? How?"

This is below comment. Yes, we'd all "benefit" in the namby-pamby liberal way by having everyone's potential be maximized. Andrew Brimmer estimates the cost of employment discrimination at $20 billion yearly. Now, that's serious, but NOWHERE NEAR the $7-10 trillion whites got that blacks couldn't from the FHA loans.

In any respect, whether or not everyone would be better off if they got along is moot to who gets the benefit and who reaps the cost of people not getting along.

Having no black architects? The list goes on. The civil rights boycotts were in part successful because wages by blacks were a benefit for whites. They spent their money on job-creating industries that employed, among others, whites. SO how is paying them less making more jobs for whites? Its nonsense reasoning.

"Global equality does not involve middle class whites having less than what they have now. On the contrary, the white middle class would get bigger, healthier and more prosperous, not smaller. Youd find that having millions of more better educated researchers 9among many other things) would have a dramatic effect on improving quality of life."

Depends on what you mean by "the middle class". People making $150,000 a year, after world equality is achieved? I doubt it.

Bear in mind that we are dealing with two things: First of all, billions of people who make $1 a year; second, unsustainable economic growth that cannot continue and remain ecologically sound. Even now, the global market is something like $50 trillion annually. With a global population that will probably cop at 8 billion, that's something like $6250 yearly. FAR below even the median income in this country.

But then you add in that around 90-95% of that $50 trillion is speculative capital, which needs to shrink down an order of magnitude to 5% of the global economy. That leaves $5 trillion.

So, no, actually, almost all Americans, even very poor people, have at least aggregate wealth that is far higher than what the world can support.

"I do not ignore racial injustice, or inequality. But these are not examples of white "privilege". WHites are not getting better health care than they deserve or have a right to. They arent making better money than they deserve, have earned, or have a right to etc. And if everyone gets what they have a right to, and the meeting of the fullest range of their human needs, these same whites will go UP, not down in quality of life and standard of living."

But they're getting more than blacks. And in fact some ARE getting more than they should. Many middle-class whites by virtue of their privilege get more than they should, whereas if they did not have access to that $7-10 TRILLION DOLLARS (yes, $7-10 TRILLION, which single-handedly blows away your claim about race being a small issue even on the class perspective) they would be much closer to the ideal global norm. Similarly, many poor whites have ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more wealth than poor blacks.

Whites get to have a sense of entitlement, a belief that everything will go their way, a belief that they can get away with breaking laws (and this is true even for middle-class and poor whites), an unearned privilege of belonging. Many of the psychological advantages of whiteness are quite serious. Similarly, the "old boy's club" access shouldn't exist: People should not be hired by word of mouth and informal networks nearly as often as they are. And so on. Numerous privileges that whites get are things NO ONE should have.

Further, white folks agree, unlike your utopian Marxist world. The "psychological wage of whiteness" has historically been sufficient to keep innumerable whites from joining with blacks. The fact that they SHOULD be getting ten times as much as they should and could if they allied with blacks is irrelevant when those little benefits and privileges they do get are guaranteed, exist no matter what they do, and can be threatened by resisting the masters. THEY clearly think and have thought that that privilege was worth more than the benefits for resisting class. So at this point, you're surpassing even Marxists denialists as to the importance of race...

Again: Either your claim is that whites don't get benefits from being white, which is bizarre; or that you don't like the word "privilege". But those +200 units of advantage do exist, even if elsewhere -200,000 units of disadvantage overwhelm it.

"Race and gender are NOT as serious as "social disadvantages as class". So yes we are disagreeing on that. And white "privilege" is a nonsense concept."

But even if they're not, certainly they are serious, no?

You say that race exists and clearly privileges some over others, then say that "white privilege" (which means that white folks receive those privileges, which are unearned since they didn't do a damn thing to earn them besides being born white) is a nonsense concept. It makes no sense. You may think white privilege means a lot more than it does, but it simply doesn't.

"White firefighters, nurses, teachers, miners, dockworkers, farmers, truckers and waitresses are not overpaid, they dont get more access to health care and medicine than they deserve or should have, they do not have too much say in the "national discussion", they dont have "too much" access to political power or too much say defining the legislative agenda. Very much Unlike the rich. So no, not equivalent and not meaningfully privileged."

But they get access to MORE than black firefighters, nurses, teachers, miners, dockworkers, farmers, truckers and waitresses. Vis-a-vis blacks, they're overpaid or overprivileged.

Further, this discrepancy between black and white firefighters et al is UNEARNED because those white firefighters didn't work harder, or show more merit. They had more social power.

Similarly, if someone stole a billion dollars from Bill Gates, he'd still be the victim of theft, even if we agree that society should not have given him those billions of dollars.

That gap between white and black is stolen wealth and stolen power. That's true no matter how weak the white folks are.

Let's put this another way, mathematically, so there can be no confusion as to how absurd your position is. I am saying that white people, as a group, including all those underpaid firefighters, have +200 units and blacks, including Oprah, have -200 units of privilege. Your argument is that the rich have +200,000 and the poor have -200,000 units.

Your argument ISN'T RELEVANT. I can't say this any more stridently. Those +200 units ARE unearned, because those white people did nothing to get those units, and they are privilege, because it's positive rather than negative. That's all "white privilege means". Again, call it "white advantage" or if you want, or some other synonym. But what is clear is that it exists.

Of course, I continue to argue that it's not +200 and -200, but something much closer. I happen to think that class and state are more important than race IN OUR PRESENT SOCIETY, but that took some time, and I'm certainly not going to say that religiously. I prefer to simply note that gender, race, class and state all have to be dealt with. It's the kind of thing allies do.

And, in fact, many DO have powers, as you keep on refusing to engage with, that they don't deserve. Like the

"There is nothing I am saying differently now, than I did before. I never said racial inequality didnt exist, or that class is all that exists. Not one single time. You have beaten the dead horse of "its not ONLY class" over and over again, when no one here ever argued that. Its a straw man."

Except that you keep on implying that white privilege is unhelpful because it has less magnitude than class. I'm saying that they're different vectors, so the magnitude doesn't matter. Pointing out that they're conceptually separate is essential, and it defeats your argument.

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"Let's put this another way,

"Let's put this another way, mathematically, so there can be no confusion as to how absurd your position is. I am saying that white people, as a group, including all those underpaid firefighters, have +200 units and blacks, including Oprah, have -200 units of privilege. Your argument is that the rich have +200,000 and the poor have -200,000 units."

whether it is income, wealth, influence, media access or legislative infuence, people exist on a continuum from most to least. You can indeed make two continua, one for black and one for white, just as you can make two "averages", and then try to compare them. The averages are important and needed, but they dont trump the millions of particulars from which they are drawn.

By comparing the coninua we can see than many blacks have far more wealth, income and influence than you do. Their social network of family, friends, associates and collegues is far stronger than your own. Many blacks have far weaker ones. Millions of more range inbetween.

Oprah can make or break careers, books, products and even companies with a favorable or unfavorable review. Her astonishing wealth, media power and influence tower far, far above either the black or white "averages" for any and all of these.

The rich are privileged not because they have more than others (thats true of nearly every human on the planet), but because what they have is massively beyond human right and human need. It is true that the class divide is gigantically larger than the racial divide, and thus its laughable to compare them quantitatively. But they arent qualitatively comparable either.

Comparing continua has the advantage of counteracting any tendency to wildly exaggerate the racial divide. FOr instance, to even imply a comparability between whites/blacks and capitalists/workers is so outlandish and preposterous that it is literally self-discrediting. You have only to attempt it to immediately remove yourself as a serious person who is making a meaningful contribution.

"Those +200 units ARE unearned, because those white people did nothing to get those units, and they are privilege, because it's positive rather than negative. That's all "white privilege means". Again, call it "white advantage" or if you want, or some other synonym."

Lets note: "Because its positive rather than negative"....ON the "Rationalizing Racial Oppression" thread you try to claim how "sophisticated" the privilege narrative really is, but there as here, you demonstrate just how simplistic it is. You have more than someone else, so thats privilege.

In reality nearly every human on the entire planet has more "units" of advantage than at least some others, and fewer than at least some others. There are people both above and below virtually every single man, woman and child everywhere.

Even at the level of averages, you would have to include asian, latino, native american averages as well. If asian social networks are stronger than the "average" black social network but weaker than the "average" white social network, what then? Should they get weaker and stronger SIMULTANEOUSLY?!?

Should their networks get MORE valuable AND less valuable at the same time, Frederic?

Yes the differential between Mexican and Haitian workers is unfair. Mexican wages are considerably higher even when they dont work considerably harder. The differential is unearned, but not the actual wages they are making. Mexican workers if anything, are getting LESS than they have earned, they are just getting more than Haitians. ANd they arent "stealing" anything from them simply in making more.

FOr reasons unknown, you argue that because a differential is unearned, that therefore the amount they are receiving is unearned. That is false. Whites are NOT getting more than they have earned, deserve or are otherwise entitled to because it is more.

"But what is clear is that it exists."

It is clear that inequality exists. But that has been known to exist for a very long time now, and nothing about that is now made clearer by way of the nonsense concept of "white privilege".

"But they get access to MORE than black firefighters, nurses, teachers, miners, dockworkers, farmers, truckers and waitresses. Vis-a-vis blacks, they're overpaid or overprivileged."

US WHites and US blacks in these professions are ALL the recipents of the proceeds of theft according to the argument you make in this post. In the global context, they are all "overpaid" and "overprivileged", right Frederic?

Of course, the US whites in question are NOT overpaid, and have no meaningful "privilege", nor are the US blacks in these same professions. Both have fully earned and fully deserve every cent that they make. And they exist on a continuum from the highest to the lowest where ALL whites in these professions actually do NOT outearn ALL blacks in the same professions.

The US whites in question do NOT get more access to health care and medicine than they deserve or should have, they do not have too much say in the "national discussion", they dont have "too much" access to political power or too much say defining the legislative agenda. Very much Unlike the rich.

"second, unsustainable economic growth that cannot continue and remain ecologically sound."

It will continue whether you think its ecologically sound or not. You arent going to convince the Indian, Chinese, Brazilian and innumerable other nations that growth is not the answer. It will never happen. And its not clear that it is unsustainable. Renewable energy will be a big part of making it sustainable. But sustainable growth and green economics is big topic.

"Even now, the global market is something like $50 trillion annually. With a global population that will probably cop at 8 billion, that's something like $6250 yearly. FAR below even the median income in this country."

The global economy is going to continue to grow and grow immensely.

"But then you add in that around 90-95% of that $50 trillion is speculative capital, which needs to shrink down an order of magnitude to 5% of the global economy. That leaves $5 trillion."

I am not even going to speculate as to what body cavity you pulled these preposterous figures out of.

"So, no, actually, almost all Americans, even very poor people, have at least aggregate wealth that is far higher than what the world can support."

So lets fight for lower wages for all Americans! FAR lower wages! Demolish the entire Black Middle CLass, they are all thieves! The black poor arent poor enough! Lets push them down! Good luck with that Frederic.

(ANd do not say you ARENT saying that, you are! If you really think that US blacks are already getting too much for the world to sustain, do not then fight for even more to be taken from the hands and mouths of billions just to improve the lot of the US black population or to "even out" the stolen loot between US blacks and US whites.)

"And in fact some ARE getting more than they should. Many middle-class whites by virtue of their privilege get more than they should,"

You think that they are ALL getting more than they should including the entire black middle class. Remember? Lets divest the entire black middle class of their wealth and income. Right Frederic? Want Tim to make this argument at his next speech to largely middle and upper income blacks? I wonder how well that will go over?

"whereas if they did not have access to that $7-10 TRILLION DOLLARS (yes, $7-10 TRILLION, which single-handedly blows away your claim about race being a small issue even on the class perspective) they would be much closer to the ideal global norm. Similarly, many poor whites have ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE more wealth than poor blacks."

First, your comparing apples to oranges with the class to race divide. Obviously if you add up the total net worth of tens of millions of middle income persons, inc property, its an enormous sum, but its split among 10s of millions of people and the assets will be split among an even larger number of heirs. So no, the class divide remains immensely larger than the racial divide.

Second, its not actually clear how much most people will really be inheriting, if anything at all, let alone a large sum. The living expenses and health care costs of seniors is eating heavily into the money that might theoretically be passed on. The latter is especially significant because health care coss have absolutely exploded in the last decade plus. Earlier estimates on boomer inheritence didnt factor that in.

Third, since when is wealth evenly distributed among pre boomer and boomer whites in our society??! The wealthiest few percent of Baby Boomers and younger heirs will be inheriting a hugely disproportionate amount of it. That figure is not just for middle class whites.

I have seen some of the studies that several years ago were indeed predicting trillions in inheritence for the boomers, but in practice many will recieve nothing at all and some will even have a net loss. Some rooms in nursing homes, for instance, can run $10,000's per year, and that money could be gone in a short time. Obviously longer lifespans and the soaring costs of Health Care are playing a role.

Even if the whole of 10 trillion was available to be passed on and it was magically spread out evenly (which is laughable) to 50,000,000 people, thats 200,000 per person. A drop in the bucket for Warren BUffet or Bill Gates. There are people who drop twice that much per year on spa treatments and jewelry. But for middle class people, thats real money and its a big help. In practice however, it likely be split with Gen X and Gen Y grandkids, nieces, nephews, etc. But again, its NOT spread out evenly and alot of it will be spent before hand.

I am certain you got this figure from Tim, so lets look at a Tim quote on this issue:

"Indeed, the value of preferences to whites over the years is so enormous that the current baby-boomer generation of whites is currently in the process of inheriting between $7-10 trillion in assets from their parents and grandparents: property handed down by those who were able to accumulate assets at a time when people of color couldn't."

I think I understand what Tims driving at. Redlining and segregation (among many other factors) were crippling to the growth of a comparable black middle class during the same time period. These are hardly new observations, but they are certainly important points worth reiterating in an environment where the Right and many otherwise uninformed regular folks who think that work and sweat are the only real ingredients to success. The whole purpose of something like the FHA and government intervention should have been to act as a countervailing force against the racial and suburban bias instead of as facilitators of it.

Having said that, if these figures come from where I think they do, they have alot more involved than FHA loans which is the sense I would get from your posts, Frederic. First, people of all income and wealth levels are included, including billionaires and multimillionaires. The top few percent of whom will be inheriting a huge portion of this. While huge numbers will be inheriting nothing at all or much more modest sums.

Second, these Trillions were the projected intergeneratonal wealth transfers of the parents of the boomers to the boomers from about 1990 to 2044. This is not one big pot that comes down all at once. Its spread to tens of millions of recipients over more than 50 years. Much of this hasnt past yet, and will not for some time.

A later study which looked at all the wealth of all adults in 1998 (not just the parents of baby boomers, but the boomers themselves and post boomers) projected that at least 41 Trillion would be transferred from 1998 to 2052. Only 25 Trillion of this goes to heirs after estate taxes, fees and charities are taken out. Still a sizeable chunk. OF course two-thirds of this 41 Trillion will be concentrated among the wealthiest 7% of estates.

But look, no matter what most people end up getting it will be a welcome help. And yes, the black share of both figures is very low, and the FHA loans and redlining played their part in this.

"Except that you keep on implying that white privilege is unhelpful because it has less magnitude than class. I'm saying that they're different vectors, so the magnitude doesn't matter."

No, I point out that "white privilege" doesnt exist. Yes there are racial and global inequalities from top to bottom. But each ascending rung isnt "privileged" simply in being higher. That would make nearly every human on Earth "privileged". This makes your conception of privilege completely worthless.

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Wrong

"No, I point out that "white privilege" doesnt exist. Yes there are racial and global inequalities from top to bottom. But each ascending rung isnt "privileged" simply in being higher. That would make nearly every human, on Earth "privileged". This makes your conception of privilege completely worthless."

This is a straw man.

First of all: This also makes YOUR definition of privilege worthless. If being above another doesn't make you qualified for privilege, then Bill Gates can't be privileged either, because Rockefeller was richer. And so on down the line. At some point, you have to make a decision as to where a magnitude of difference amounts to privilege. I'd say that a history sans slavery, trillions in additional assets, etc., amounts to privilege. You'd never even bothered denying that.

Second: It isn't just because one white person, or two, or a thousand, are above black folks. It's because ALL white folks, as a category, are above ALL black folks, as a category, in numerous vectors. The sociologically defined GROUP of whites have massively more power than the sociologically defined GROUP of blacks. You've consistently and dishonestly tried to steer the conversation away from that conception...