“A question of privilege”

by on April 15, 2016 at 12:03 am in Education, Philosophy, Uncategorized | Permalink

An excellent short essay by Marti Leimbach.  Here is the opening:

My university-aged daughter is always tell me about the “privilege” that people like me have and how it makes it impossible for me to understand and empathise with those whose lives are without such privilege. I do see her point. I’ve never been black or gay or trans- or gender queer or mentally ill.  I don’t know what it would be like to grow up in a derelict building in a dangerous neighbourhood, to have drug addicts for parents, to fear for my safety while walking to school, to be openly despised for being female, denied education or refused employment based on  my skin colour or gender. And while I am have been poor enough not to be able to afford a car or health insurance, I have never been so poor I had to steal food. Clearly, I’ve not suffered the worst of what society can throw at a person.

Nonetheless, this whole notion of  “privilege” vexes me. We talk about it as though we can all recognise what it is. I am not always so sure. I can tell one narrative of my life and it seems to describe someone who grew up without privilege, and I can tell another narrative and it seems almost as though my life was one of ease and privilege from the time I was born.

The story continues…it is hard to excerpt with its various twists and turns, definitely recommended…

Here is her forthcoming novel,The Age of Consent.

1 too hot for MR April 15, 2016 at 12:18 am

I saw a friend at law school get called a “privileged white f–k” by a brown student in the middle of a class debate. The brown student knew nothing of my friend’s background, which included an impoverished mother and an abusive absentee father. The moment passed with no particular repercussions.

I view “white privilege” as an epithet as poisonous as all the rest. It’s a way to avoid thought and hate those who aren’t you.

2 anon April 15, 2016 at 12:40 am

I think the lesson of the piece is that we each have privileges and burdens. I don’t think the lesson is that everything cancels, neat and tidy. As if abuse points make up for an easier hiring process.

More like there are many tragedies that don’t cancel, instead accumulate.

3 Cliff April 15, 2016 at 1:14 am

Who said that everything cancels?

4 Jamie_NYC April 15, 2016 at 11:02 am

I think it’s worse than that. Almost everyone who reads this blog knows that IQ is correlated with income. For a black person and a white person with same IQ (let’s say on the high side, 120+), who do you expect will have higher income? Correct, the black person. Who do you think is ‘privileged’ here?

In other words, it’s not a sign of privilege to be designated as a whipping boy by the powers that be, while the data tell a different story…

5 anon April 15, 2016 at 11:19 am

IQ 120 is basically a 90th percentile rank, which means those two guys are a bit of a corner case. It gets worse the higher you go. IQ 130 is 97th percentile. I hope no one in that territory is hurt by the suggestion of privilege. At that point it’s just a question of what kind, how many aces you hold.

6 mr mcknuckles April 15, 2016 at 2:02 pm

You are far less likely to get a call for a job interview if you are black, or have a black sounding name. I am therefore not sure why you assume the black person will have a higher income – unless you pulled this assumption out of yer butt.

7 Pat April 15, 2016 at 2:23 pm

You are less likely to get that interview if you have a ghetto black name. Most blacks don’t have.

8 Pat April 15, 2016 at 2:24 pm
9 The Original D April 15, 2016 at 2:49 pm

Assuming you could trade places with a black person of the same IQ, would you do it? Since you seem to believe they have it better, would you pay to trade places? How much?

10 Crowley April 21, 2016 at 9:14 am

Interesting hypothetical. I mused over the same question in high school. That’s about the depth of it.

11 mulp April 15, 2016 at 3:05 pm

By that logic, women overwhelming have the higher incomes.

A woman is identical to men except for the omission of a small amount of genetic material normally on the Y chromosome, but with redundant X chromosome genes reducing the burden of random genetic mutation that harms males.

Further, XXY women and XX plus sry mutation have the genetic advantage of men and women.

Add preferences given to women by laws favoring women, and women will overwhelmingly earn higher incomes than men thanks to their double advantage over men.

12 prior_test2 April 15, 2016 at 12:40 am

‘I view “white privilege” as an epithet as poisonous as all the rest.’

Unlike American police, who are thoroughly aware what happens when they shoot an unarmed white person in the back, or when unarmed and without warning, with video showing the event.

Which is the police officer may get both wrists slapped, not none. For example, when was the last time an unarmed white person was killed in a Walmart holding a BB rifle?

Let’s ignore the self-serving fiction, and just roll video, so to speak – ‘The shooting was captured by the store’s security video camera. Crawford was talking on his cell phone while holding the BB/pellet air rifle, when he was killed. According to Crawford’s mother, the video shows the officers fired immediately without giving any verbal commands and without giving Crawford any time to drop the toy even if he had heard them.’

And how often are white people interrogated like this? – ‘The Guardian revealed in December that immediately after the shooting police aggressively questioned Crawford’s girlfriend, Tasha Thomas, threatening her with jail time. The interrogation caused her to sob uncontrollably, with hostile questions suggesting she was drunk or on drugs when she stated that Crawford did not enter the store with a gun. She was not yet aware of Crawford’s death at the time of the interrogation.’ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shooting_of_John_Crawford_III

When it comes to dealing with American police, the vast majority of white people expect the police to act towards them in a way that exemplifies white privilege, without considering it an epiphet at all. Whether a majority of white Americans support the shooting by police of unarmed black people without warning or cause is another question, of course.

13 Cliff April 15, 2016 at 1:13 am

You really don’t care about facts, do you? You are simply wrong. Unarmed white people are killed all the time, and nothing happens to the cops at all. Even in rich areas like NoVA.


14 Gene Callahan April 15, 2016 at 1:59 am

That’s just your white privilege talking, Cliff!

15 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 4:30 am

The only time I was every pulled over while white, I was actually speeding. Only once in my life have I ever had a cop confront me and start asking lots of questions (I’d been trying to use a payphone, was carrying lots of merchandise, and had jaywalked several times across a major intersection, none of which he bothered me about – I offered to show him receipts and he left me alone).

You hear from black people all the time about racial profiling. I assume they’re not making it all up.

16 Doug April 15, 2016 at 6:23 am

A lot of what constitutes racial profiling is in reality cultural profiling. I doubt the police really hassle Wayne Brady that much. If you insist on wearing baggie clothes, blaring sub-woofers, and projecting an attitude of “keepin’ it real”, police will tend to treat you as a hostile enemy rather than cooperative citizen.

On the subject of privilege, let’s consider “civilian privilege.” Try walking a mile in the shoes of the boys in blue. Every new interaction could potentially be lethal. You have to assess threats in less than a split-second. Let your guard down at the wrong time, just once and your kids’ father doesn’t come home. Given that extraordinary burden, the least a civilian can do is be deferential and polite.

17 Brian Donohue April 15, 2016 at 9:15 am

Between the age of 16 and 17, I was pulled over without reason more than a dozen times. Why? I was 4’10”.

I was profiled.

I’ve been pulled over and ticketed deservedly several times over the past 30 years, but never when I was driving our car-seat-laden minivan, which has invisibility powers.

More profiling.

There are lots of dimensions to profiling. Profiling is mostly common sense. Sometimes it creates civil rights issues. C’est la vie.

18 Brian Donohue April 15, 2016 at 9:24 am

Having said that, yeah of course, young males are profiled all the time, right? They commit most of the crimes, right? What would anyone think of a cop who was unaware of this simple fact?

Young minority males in dumpy cars or sketchy clothes have it worst of all of course.

But now I’m thinking maybe women need to check their privilege here. They have no idea how cops profiling young males affects all men. None. White women in particular probably don’t have a seat at the table here, any more than I do in a conversation about labor pains.

Is this how the victim game is played?

19 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 10:50 am

I was once hit on the chin with a big flashlight by a policeman.

I was once held for about an hour because I fit the description of a thief in the area.

I once saw a police purposefully hit a trouble maker teen with his car sending the teen sprawling.

I could go on.

Of course maybe is was because where I grew up, I saw a get stabbed in many times, hitting his liver. I saw a huge drug deal go down and police show up 10 minutes after everyone was gone. I could go on.

20 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 11:17 am

Oh BTW I have been hassled and extorted for not having an Italian Last name in the Italian neighborhood, Extorted from in a black neighborhood. I did not have the privilege of walking in either place. I was beat up by blacks in a mixed grammar school. I did not have privilege there.

I had a friend who grew up in a majority black neighborhood and he said that when he found a out there where more whites in the country than blacks he thought, “Why don’t we rise up against them?”. Not much white priviledge there. BTW he did grow up to a nice liberal person.

Don’t get me wrong though, I love blacks though most are great citizens. Many have courage and grace.

21 RustySynapses April 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm

This is a complicated issue, and you can’t just look at the demographics of the numbers (of arrests, stops or whatever) because there clearly is a difference in the underlying behavior (call it cultural or socio-economic or whatever), and, I have a lot of sympathies for the police, BUT with all of those caveats, there is definitely such a thing as “Driving While Black” – I had a black roommate in college, and got pulled over several times (for no apparent reason) when he was in the car (whether he was driving or a passenger).

22 Massimo Heitor April 15, 2016 at 3:58 pm

“You hear from black people all the time about racial profiling. I assume they’re not making it all up.”

You are quite literally saying the equivalent of, “I hear people telling me this politically charged narrative over and over so it must be true.”

That’s similar to, “I keep hearing these advertisements about how this is the new must-buy product, so it must be true.”

23 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:08 pm

All interesting observations and comments, except for M H, who suggests that I’m dumb to believe people who complain about profiling for the fact that they talk about it. Other people raise some legitimacy for profiling or other situations where people are hassled for being in the wrong group – M H suggests it’s dumb to believe that it occurs at all.

I take at face value the other descriptions of profiling within the types of circumstances described.

24 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 10:40 am

prior_test2 your comment seems incredibly naive. Police kill young whites males quite often. The stats for whites and blacks do not seem that far off.

I would guess that it would be prudent for blacks to be more careful around the police than whites but if that were a huge burden I would expect blacks to try to avoid whites all together. Separation is seldom proposed rather the pundits and politicians propose more integration. One would also expect blacks to more strongly avoid breaking the law but we are told that they use illegal drugs at the same rate as whites and commit other crimes equally or more.

Now, IMHO Our police do a very poor job at policing see here. They are Government employees after all and the feedback is very poor. My father used to work with a police quite a bit and said that Barney Miller was the only realistic police show.

25 mulp April 15, 2016 at 3:22 pm

Blacks are isolated from whites, except the white police enter the black areas more than they enter white areas with the same rate of criminal activity.

Chicago has long been divided into homogeneous neighborhoods, but the just released report on Chicago policing makes it clear blacks are stopped more often with nothing illegal found than whites are.

But what I find incredibly funny is that the policing to stop black crime have apparently increased black crime, and that inspires Ted Cruz to claim that we know how to stop crime by heavy patrolling of crime prone groups and he will apply this by having police focus on Muslims like the police have increased their focus on blacks over the past 50 years and that will erase Muslim crime just as black crime has been eliminated.

26 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:15 pm

Consider it also in relation to class. If a poor person gets robbed and loses the equivalent of a month’s salary, you’re lucky if the police will do more than just allow you to file the report. If a rich person gets robbed and loses the equivalent to a month’s salary, you can expect a lot of resources to be dedicated to the investigation.

27 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm

But what I find incredibly funny is that the policing to stop black crime have apparently increased black crime

If true that is a sign of government ineptness, and I can believe it, Government does a poor job at anything. Who would hire police by a test?

BTW We should legalize all drugs and medicine and allow them to be sold over the counter (perhaps with a requirement to pass a test to get antibiotics). People are dying from switching from prescription drugs to heroin!

28 Nathan W April 16, 2016 at 12:40 am

Floccina – forget about the stats for a minute. If you send more patrols into a given area, they will find more crimes. The correct statistic, which to my knowledge is never presented, would be something more like the number of arrests per amount of time spend in any area.

If you double the number of police cars on a highway to hand out tickets for speeding, the statistics will show that more people are speeding. Yet, we all know that fewer people speed when there are more cops on the highway.

29 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 2:46 pm

So why do police harass blacks more? Is it fear of blacks and if it is, is there any up side to being feared? I have heard blacks complain that whites show fear of them but that is not clearly a negative. Some people like being feared and accordingly.

30 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:21 pm

Most people prefer a smile and a handshake to being feared. However, if this extends into excessive cockiness, it may not make you safer. R-E-S-P-E-C-T. It goes a long way.

31 JC April 15, 2016 at 3:29 am

The excerpt shared by Tyler and your comment make me believe some people think that when black people mention “white privilege” they mean “every white person in America is rich”… it’s way off the mark.

32 Doug April 15, 2016 at 6:28 am

No, but “white privilege” does imply an intangible and undefinable burden that can never be criticized or even quantified by anyone other than a person of color. It’s introduction into a discussion nearly always creates an impasse to any and all rational debate. At least the implied disadvantage of growing up poor can be estimated in some concrete terms. “White privilege” just becomes an unknown variable that can be arbitrarily re-sized to tip the scales in favor of the affirmative.

33 JB April 15, 2016 at 7:57 am

Which is why his white daughter is the one using this rhetoric? It’s a class ideology not a racial one. the rote recantations of white privilege do contain pretty stupid implicit beliefs.

34 Mike W April 15, 2016 at 9:28 am

The epithet “white privilege” was not used anywhere in the essay.

35 Brian Donohue April 15, 2016 at 10:48 am

Yeah, the essay was pretty good actually.

36 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 12:24 am

Hmmm. About 90% of the population is not living in the slums; about 92% are not blacks living below the median income levels; about 99% have no history of schizophreniform disorders or manic-depressive episodes; about 97% of all adults (at any one time) are not given to sodomy; north of 98% of the young are not the issue of people currently addled by methamphetamine, cocaine, or narcotics; about 99% + do not take to cross-dressing, hormone treatments, and mutilating surgery; somewhere approaching 100% of women in this country are not ‘openly despised because they are female”; somewhere approaching 100% are not ‘denied education because of their skin color or gender’; people refused employment because of their skin color or ‘gender’ will get over it just like anyone else refused a job for some stupid reason; and malnutrition is as rare as ivory billed woodpeckers in a country where obesity is inversely correlated with social stratum.

So, to be ‘privileged’, you have be in the top 90%.

Why not tell princess she’s talking rot and should quit bothering you?

37 Heorogar April 15, 2016 at 7:52 am


No reasonable person (this eliminates 99% of progressives) believes that white privilege applies to the most whites. There are way too many variables other than race which determine individual status in contemporary America.

The purpose of this liberal garbage – white privilege – is to portray blacks as victims. This achieves two leftist strategic objectives one is political and one philosophical.

The political goal is to guaranty that blacks see America is racist. And, then the Left holds power by perpetuating the myth among blacks that the source of all their problems is the white devil. Ergo, blacks will ever see progressives and Demorats as saviors.

“The philosophical reason is that the Left denies — as it has since Marx — the primacy of moral and cultural values in determining the fate of the individual and of society. In the Left’s view, it is not poor values or a lack of moral self-control that causes crime, but poverty and, in the case of black criminals, racism. Therefore, the disproportionate amount of violent crime committed by black males is not attributable to the moral failure of the black criminal or to the likelihood of his not having been raised by a father, but to an external factor over which he has little or no power — white racism.” – Dennis Prager

38 mulp April 15, 2016 at 5:15 pm

So, it’s your view that the past four decades of steady leftward movement in politics, culture, and economics is responsible for the rising social unrest.

“Taking America back” refers to returning to the 30s, 40s, 50s, and 60s politics, culture, and economics?

Back to the culture forged in the sacrifice of the depression, high marginal tax rates, wealth built only by labor, and the military draft?

39 TR5749 April 15, 2016 at 12:34 am

Anyone who has traveled through Appalachia knows that the concept of a universal “white privilege” is absurd; it is a terrible phrase, used to stifle conversation, not to further debate. Hillary Clinton, defensive over the reaction to a two decade old crime bill that she neither wrote, voted for, nor signed, has recently begun trafficking in the phrase, which disturbs me more than a bunch of college sophomores doing so. HRC is likely our next president, and if she lacks the critical faculties and/or political courage to publicly disgrace the term, then I don’t have high expectations for her ability to stand up to Presidents Putin or Xi.

Bill Clinton had his Sister Souljah moment; Hillary has missed hers.

40 prior_test2 April 15, 2016 at 12:43 am

‘Anyone who has traveled through Appalachia knows that the concept of a universal “white privilege” is absurd’

Well, the police in West Virginia or southwestern Virginia will be surprised to hear that they treat white and black people the same way, at least from my experience.

41 Mc April 15, 2016 at 12:55 am

sad sak german in the wall of decline, watches as his Wiemar state waffles into the past, tail lights a’blinking, as his buddies fudge the pollution numbers, on their VW bug, and the last blinks of Tacitus’s compliments . . .

42 Cliff April 15, 2016 at 1:17 am

Well your experience counts for shit, so carry on

43 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 11:43 am

The population of West Virginia is 3.6% black. Outside of Roanoke, the population of the Shenandoah Valley and Southwest Virginia is 4.1% black. His experience is not worth s*** because it’s fictional.

44 Roy LC April 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

But they will also be surprised to hear they treat poor whites all that well either.

45 TR5749 April 15, 2016 at 2:03 am

Having grown up there, my experience was that cops hate poor people

46 Peter Akuleyev April 15, 2016 at 6:01 am

Cops know from experience that poor uneducated people are far more likely to disobey authority and turn violent when confronted. Sure, you will find your occasional wealthy confrontational assholes who will be condescending and threaten to talk to the officer’s superiors, or have their badge taken away, but most police officers know that the actual threat to their persons mostly comes from poor people, particularly poor people on drugs or alchohol. Of course police officers profile – they value their own lives and health.

47 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 11:48 am

Be courteous and do as you’re told and they cannot be bothered to treat you badly.

48 John Smith April 16, 2016 at 11:52 am

Everyone hates poor people. Being poor is the greatest sin of all. My experience is the vast majority of non poor feel perfectly comfortable discriminating against the poor and generally detest them.

49 Michael B Sullivan April 15, 2016 at 12:50 am

The concept of privilege which is useful is not one of a single continuum. “Oh, you’re a white woman so you’re more privileged than a black man but less than a white man.” It’s a collection of atoms. A person, like the author of the linked article, might be privileged in certain ways and unprivileged in other ways. A given attribute (being a woman, for example) might give you privilege in some circumstances and be a detriment in other circumstances.

That’s actually THE useful part of the concept, exactly that it’s not a continuum. The entire point is that we don’t have to balance whether being poor and white is better or worse overall than being rich and black — that sometimes, being black really fucks you over regardless of whether in other aspects of your life you are privileged, and sometimes being poor really fucks you over regardless of whether in other aspects of your life you are privileged. Indeed, sometimes (much less often, but sometimes) being white or being rich fucks you over.

But of course people are allergic to nuance, so for lots of people privilege is just an epithet and implicitly a continuum.

50 Cliff April 15, 2016 at 1:18 am

How is that useful exactly?

51 Alain April 15, 2016 at 4:13 am


52 mavery April 15, 2016 at 8:07 am

In general, we could all do with a bit more, “There but for the grace of God go I.” Occasional reminders that other people have different circumstances than you can encourage this.

53 Michael B Sullivan April 15, 2016 at 10:03 am

It’s useful because it allows us to address the ways in which our experiences and others differ in ways that are hard for one party to perceive, and which are important, without getting into a dick-measuring contest about whose life is worse overall.

54 JWatts April 15, 2016 at 10:26 am

I’ve never seen the phrase “white privilege” used that way. It’s used to shut down debate, not to facilitate it.

55 Alain April 15, 2016 at 11:24 am


56 gsha April 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm

Like many intellectual concepts, it often gets abused or applying poorly by many undergraduate students and internet commenters.

57 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 10:41 am

Then why is it that the word “privilege” is never, ever, used to discuss how the black person involved in the conversation should shut up and listen to what the white person has to say?

58 Ricardo April 15, 2016 at 1:38 am

Exactly right. The only thing to add is that poor people can sometimes escape being poor but black people can never escape being black.

59 JC April 15, 2016 at 3:32 am

Spot on.

60 TMC April 15, 2016 at 12:04 pm

Why would they want to?

Not being poor has value. Not being black does not.

61 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 1:14 pm

Some black people can escape being black. If they are light skinned enough they can “pass”.

62 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 1:40 pm

Very few. Someone as cafe-au-lait (but still visibly black) as Julian Bond is pretty unusual. I think S. Sailer has the numbers. IIRC, the share of blacks whose ancestry is even 50% caucasoid is in the single digits. The mean among American blacks is about 15%. I have a pair of shirttails who are 50-50, and they could never pass.

63 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 3:40 pm

Well, if more white people start passing as black, the blackness threshold could change.

64 Gene Callahan April 15, 2016 at 2:24 am

And if people used it in a nuanced way, far fewer people would find it problematic! But for every reference we hear to “privilege” along some other dimension, there are 100 references to “white privilege.”

65 The Original D April 15, 2016 at 3:00 pm

Privilege is a useful vector for looking at society, but like most sociopolitical concepts it gets reduced to us vs. them and becomes more divisive than insightful.

66 S April 15, 2016 at 12:53 am

The logic of “You cant understand because you have never been” works both ways, assuming it works at all.

67 j r April 15, 2016 at 1:09 am

Privilege is a useful concept. If your name is John, you have a couple-few less things to worry about when submitting a resume than if your name is Jane or Jamal or Juanita. When you do social science, you are essentially trying to uncover and quantify privilege. There is no reason that we ought to reject the idea out of hand. The problem is in the way that certain folks try to deploy it.

And there are two big problems with how some on the left try to use the idea of privilege. One is in trying to construct some universal hierarchy of privilege. The median black person likely has to face all sorts of hurdles that the median white doesn’t, but a black kid born into an upper middle class family has all sorts of advantages that a poor white kid born in Appalachia does not. Likewise, talking about male privilege when comparing the social capital of the most popular girl in school to the nerdy boy with whom almost no one wants to be friends is… imprecise to say the least. The second problem is that privilege is best approached as a question open to evaluation. And lots of folks want to use it to shut down conversations instead.

The best way to respond the strained use of the idea of privilege is to ask people to be precise. Stop letting people just make up narratives. Ask them to quantify, show empirical proof. But also be willing to accept it when people meet that bar and can demonstrate privilege. In other words, do social science, not culture war.

68 Steve Sailer April 15, 2016 at 6:25 am

“f your name is John, you have a couple-few less things to worry about when submitting a resume than if your name is Jane or Jamal or Juanita.”

What if your name is Barack Obama?

69 anon April 15, 2016 at 7:16 am

That was a long shot, especially at time of birth.

And it still confuses folks “Republicans alone — 43 percent thought Obama is Muslim, compared with 15 percent of Democrats and 29 percent of independents.”

70 Heorogar April 15, 2016 at 8:01 am

The numerous Muslim Americans of my acquaintance are better assimilated Americans and far more intelligent than BO.

71 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 11:45 am

You hang around with honors graduates of Harvard Law School?

The President hasn’t a non-derivative thought in his head, but his general intelligence is more than adequate. The curio of his biography is that his intelligence has always been pointless.

72 schrodinger's cat April 15, 2016 at 7:25 am


73 y81 April 15, 2016 at 8:56 am

If you’re submitting a college application, being named Juanita or Jamal would be a big advantage. Being named Jane, not so much, and being named Mei-Ling would be a big disadvantage. So let’s quantify that privilege. (I note that it is easier to get gold out of Fort Knox than to get universities to release these kinds of statistics.)

74 ad*m April 15, 2016 at 1:41 pm
75 TMC April 15, 2016 at 12:16 pm

How old are you? I’m coming up on 50 and never in my life was being a ‘John’ helpful.

Being Jane or Jamal or Juanita gets you to the short like employment-wise. I worked for a recruiting firm 20+ years ago and employer would have a preference for minority candidates, some will to pay a couple more thousand dollars on the fee.

76 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:31 pm

There are many studies which show that identical CVs with “white names” get much higher interview requests than “black names” or “Muslim names”.

In China, it goes even further. Employers want a photo with your application. I assume that, for foreign applicants, they mostly want to know if you’re white. In many countries, it is illegal to ask for photos, but they might ask for your LinkedIn profile or something.

77 Thor April 15, 2016 at 1:51 pm

But empirical proof is part of the oppression, man.

It conflicts with the shibboleth of “standpoint epistemology”, which says that unless you lack (requisite) privilege, you cannot truly know the pain, hardship, etc., in question.

78 Ricardo April 15, 2016 at 1:13 am

Privilege is multi-faceted. People raise the fact that some whites are poor and come from disadvantaged backgrounds as if that is a new observation. Here is LBJ not only acknowledging that fact but explaining how it can lead to persistent white racism: “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

79 Cliff April 15, 2016 at 1:20 am

Well LBJ is the expert, I’m sure that conclusion is well-founded on experimental data

80 Ricardo April 15, 2016 at 1:53 am

Do you have a substantive, mature contribution to make here or are you just going to throw off one-liners?

81 R. Jones April 15, 2016 at 2:18 am

You quoted LBJ. That’s not an argument. Expecting the libertarian crowd here to respond warmly to the man to oversaw the destruction of right of free association might be a bit naive.

82 j r April 15, 2016 at 3:19 am

So, you look at the 1960s and you see the “destruction of right of free association?” Interesting.

83 Ricardo April 15, 2016 at 3:23 am

I offered it as an example of how people were perfectly aware even decades ago that there were poor whites and well-off blacks and that fact itself does not refute the existence of privilege along certain dimensions. Or consider well-off Jews who were denied admission to certain social clubs or not allowed to rent apartments in certain parts of New York City. Or consider the travel guides that were published for black people advising them of which restaurants and hotels wouldn’t kick them out the door right up until the time your villain LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act — these guides assumed the existence of a class of people who were well-off enough to afford to travel but were considered of such low social status that they couldn’t expect basic civility and hospitality while on the road.

Finally, I can assure you that not all libertarians view the Civil Rights Act of 1964 as a bad thing. I doubt Tyler Cowen does.

84 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 3:40 am

You offered it as an announcement of your intent to ignore nuanced privilege in favor of black/white, male/female, cis/other naive privilege that is used by black PhDs and white female trust fund bloggers as a weapon against all white men.

85 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 4:39 am

j r – No one is forcing white people to be friends with black people or straight people to be friends with LGBT people. So, “free association” is upheld.

But when it comes to the workplace, flagrant discrimination is not tolerated.

86 Josh April 15, 2016 at 6:02 am

The naivety of some of these comments is alarming.

87 John April 15, 2016 at 7:41 am

“No one is forcing white people to be friends with black people or straight people to be friends with LGBT people. So, “free association” is upheld.
But when it comes to the workplace, flagrant discrimination is not tolerated.”

“Choosing who you employ is not free association.”
The moronic nathan scum strikes again, with his last 2 working brain cells.

88 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 10:53 am

Well, the original article doesn’t compare poor whites to rich blacks. It points towards other dimensions of privilege, like not being sexually abused.
It also mainly is aimed at refuting the idea that a “privileged” person cannot possibly understand or relate to the unprivileged. Because all of use are privileged and unprivileged in different ways, so we should ALL be able to relate to and understand eachother.

Unfortunately, however, the word “privilege” is mainly used to imply the opposite, that conversation is impossible so the person who is tarred with the label “privilege” should just bow out and acquiesce to whatever the “unprivileged” person says and wants.

89 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 11:58 am

So, you look at the 1960s and you see the “destruction of right of free association?” Interesting.

It’s in more intense relief today. The salient problem at the time was state law which required various sorts of segregation and systemic noncompliance with federal law which debarred it in select circumstances (inter-state bus service, &c.). Very few private businesses are monopolistic common carriers and properly compelled to do business with people. Simply allowing private businesses to have the custom they preferred (as well as hiring the people they preferred) was hardly considered (and may not have been possible within the legal architecture available).

Lots else going on at that time: rapid increases in crime (after about 1963), hundreds of urban riots, rapid increases in the frequency of divorce (after 1967), strange innovations in pedagogy (the New Math, open classrooms, grade inflation in higher education), destructive urban renewal programs, the detritus of the 2d Vatican Council, &c. All in all, an unhappy time from which we’ve not yet recovered.

90 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 12:09 pm

But when it comes to the workplace, flagrant discrimination is not tolerated.

Why not start your own business and set your own hiring policies, and leave the rest of humanity in peace?

91 TMC April 15, 2016 at 12:19 pm

“But when it comes to the workplace, flagrant discrimination is not tolerated.”

Often it is encouraged. Ever heard of affirmative action?

92 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:40 pm

Art – because it is plain and simply not fair (whiiiiiine) that people are judged on the basis of their skin colour and not their individual merits.

TMC – Yes, affirmative action is a form of discrimination. Actually, I do not support it. I think there are better ways to address the situation of discrimination. However, any hiring policy which can be construed as intentionally discriminating against already-disadvantaged groups is clearly wrong. But, to the point, there’s a big difference between “discrimination” which tries to have roughly similar numbers from each group to their share of the population and discrimination which would flat out ban certain groups from employment.

John – when you find a way to break out of your largely identical insults in response to anything I say which offends your white supremacist sensibilities, perhaps it will be time to discuss what anyone does with their more than 2 brain cells. I suggest that you find some independent thought among more than 2 brain cells at a time. 3? How about all of them? Think for yourself.

93 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 8:12 pm

Art – because it is plain and simply not fair (whiiiiiine) that people are judged on the basis of their skin colour and not their individual merits. –

Lots of things are unfair. The frictional cost of attempting to ascertain whether or not some sequence of events was ‘unfair’ makes it not worth the effort much of the time, most especially when the whole fandango makes businessmen (who have an interest in hiring and retaining capable employees) the bitch of lawyers.

94 Nathan W April 16, 2016 at 12:43 am

Art – “The frictional cost of attempting to ascertain whether or not some sequence of events was ‘unfair’ makes it not worth the effort much of the time”

Maybe sometimes. Something about squeaky wheels might be relevant? If you don’t think it’s worthwhile ascertaining the fairness of the situation, then clearly a lot more noise, and probably civil disobedience, is very much needed.

Question: How come the people who hate blacks advocating for their interests and complaining about racism seem to be basically the same people who think it perfectly OK to, for practical purposes, ban any discussion of Jews or Israel other than that which frames it/them in an unambiguously positive light at the same time as being the eternal victims?

95 Art Deco April 16, 2016 at 8:58 am

Quit whining, Nathan. You know nothing about the Near East, insist on commenting about it anyway, say the same fallacious things over and over, and are slapped down by people at least marginally better informed.

Any individual who hires, promotes, demotes, and fires discriminates according to some criteria. You can either allow employers (who have an interest in keeping their shops well-running) to do this or manufacture ‘impermissible’ criteria wherein their decisions receive the ‘strict scrutiny’ of lawyers who have a certain menu of client groups. As early as 1966, employment discrimination law began to decay into a racial patronage system and as early as 1971 came to be absolutely madcap – functionally prohibiting written screening tests while legitimating systemic discrimination against those outside the client groups. The lawyers did that against the express intentions of elected officials who enacted the original law. In higher education, state referenda prohibiting racial patronage schemes has been met with try-every-door noncompliance by administrators. The culture of the professional-managerial class does not permit ‘anti-discrimination’ law to work in the only ways which would be defensible to the broad mass of the public.

Ergo, get rid of it, and restore entrance exams to the civil service and the state colleges.

96 Ethan Bernard April 15, 2016 at 11:56 am

LBJ is the last president to have substantial contact with serious poverty. And in a racially mixed context. He has that much credibility.

97 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 12:08 pm

What does ‘substantial contact’ mean? Or ‘serious poverty’? Johnson’s family was by the end of the Depression declasse, but not poor by the standards of that time. Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan both came from impecunious families, and Pat Nixon’s upbringing was hardscrabble in ways you never see anymore.

98 Ethan Bernard April 15, 2016 at 7:05 pm

I was thinking of Johnson’s teaching Mexican-American kids for a year near the border. Most of whom were way below Johnson, Nixon, or Reagan socioeconomically. But after reading about Pat Nixon in Ely, I think Nixon has it. Withdrawn.

99 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 10:47 am

If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

He’ll notice if you’re giving the money your picking form his pocket to black people.

100 MC April 15, 2016 at 1:03 pm

As if that observation is new or interesting either. That’s the theory that historians like to use to help explain the widespread support for slavery in the antebellum South despite the fact that the benefits of their peculiar institution flowed mainly to large plantation owners. The prattle about white privilege comes just as the supposed benefits of the privilege have mostly evaporated.

101 MattW April 15, 2016 at 1:32 am

To me it seems like if you push the privilege narrative too far and you end up with a different version of separate but equal. My understanding of it at least is that you can never understand the other person who isn’t like you, and the over privileged person will always treat the under privileged person poorly whether they mean to or not. Therefore you need complete separation between them in order for the under privileged group to be treated fairly and to determine their own direction in life collectively.

Or something like that.

102 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 12:40 pm


103 Dude April 15, 2016 at 1:53 am

*look up book*
*decide price is too high*
*see that ‘we’ publish it*


104 R. Jones April 15, 2016 at 2:00 am

The modern concept of privilege along with the common parlance of “checking it” is a nasty concept if you peel back the onion just a bit.

Rather than asking us to simply “count our blessings” (encouraging another to develop a feeling of gratitude) the notion of privilege asks us to compare ourselves to others to elevate the loser and the victim. Look at me, look at how much I suffered! As if being the long suffering underdog are good things in and of themselves.

It preys upon our instinct of fairness, disguises itself as a plea for gratitude and ends up as emotional blackmail. It is the slur of an envious wretch directed towards the gullible. Oh you think you’re superior? Well I’m morally superior. Check your privilege buddy. And you owe me.

So the next time someone as you to “check your privilege” you can reply, “Yes I will count my blessings, thank you very much, and God bless your heart.”

105 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 12:34 pm

Excellent point in noting that it implicitly requires the individual to compare himself to others, and thus encourages people to want to think of themselves as victims.
Instead of encouraging people to value themselves as individuals for their objective talents, it teaches them that their moral value is based on their standing relative to others. It thus promotes and reinforces status competition, instead of doing away with it. In a truly egalitarian society, you would want to eliminate the need for status competition between individuals and groups. But this really pushes people in the opposite direction.

106 Brian Donohue April 15, 2016 at 12:55 pm


107 Joan April 15, 2016 at 2:29 am

White privilege as commonly used does not mean if you are white nothing bad will happen to you. It only means you will find easier to get a cab, a home mortgage, or a job, you probably went to a better school, and are more likely to be stopped by the cops than if your skin color were dark.

108 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 3:44 am

And it’s pushed by wealthy, influential, attractive, urban, white, female writers from wealthy, intact families, who conveniently ignore all of their own privilege. These feminists could be the 95th percentile of privilege but they punch mostly down at low status white men because white men occupy the 99th and they resent that.

109 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 4:44 am

That’s a pretty small subset of the people pushing privilege narratives, but that type really bothers me.

110 Millian April 15, 2016 at 5:41 am

Females in particular really bother you?

111 too hot for MR April 15, 2016 at 11:37 am

Dollars to doughnuts it’s mutual.

112 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:54 am

See: if you aren’t a feminist, it’s because you aren’t man enough to get laid.

The SJW crowd is among the least intelligent of all interest groups. Using toxic masculinity, objectification of women, and women as something to conquer, to bash men who disagree with them. Not even perceiving the irony.

113 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:43 pm

I quote: “wealthy, influential, attractive, urban, white, female writers from wealthy, intact families, who conveniently ignore all of their own privilege.”

Those people bother me. Well, if they acknowledge their own privileged situation to a degree, perhaps so little as “I know that I’ve had an easier road than many …” , but proceed to discuss issues where others do NOT have privilege, this doesn’t bother me at all.

114 Thor April 15, 2016 at 2:26 pm

Yes, that’s a tiny subset.

FWIW, in my Dept. (History), it is pushed by all kinds of people: undergrads, grad students, faculty, etc. What they have in common — obviously this is anecdotal — as far as I can tell is: They are on the far left. They are clever/smart but not “wise”. They are somewhat angry.

115 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:48 pm

I run into these types online sometimes. If you stray from anything but the victim narrative, perhaps suggesting some ways that disadvantaged groups might like to address their individual situation other than as a part of group advocacy, then you are deemed complicit in all the evils of history.

Unfortunately, the presence of such types tend to make it difficult for more reasoned argumentation to get a good hearing. When racists, homophobes and mysogynists are attacking you from the one side, and SJWs from the other, well, I guess that’s the reality we face if you want to discuss such issues rationally …

116 anon April 15, 2016 at 7:40 am

+1 Joan

117 JWatts April 15, 2016 at 11:18 am

“White privilege as commonly used does not mean if you are white nothing bad will happen to you. It only means you will find easier to get a cab, a home mortgage, or a job, you probably went to a better school, and are more likely to be stopped by the cops than if your skin color were dark. ”

Ok, but what’s the point of bringing it up, if we’re not going to discuss all of the reasons. Shouldn’t we just talk about racism, poverty and black cultural disfunctionality that leads to the above. Lumping it all together as “white privilege” is a useless endeavor.

118 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:51 pm

I don’t think “privilege” is a very useful way of putting it. I think “some people face more uphill battles than others” can be constructively used for discussing issues of race, gender, etc.

People who talk of “privilege” aren’t usually talking about the billionaire elite class, and often aren’t even speaking of the privileges of the upper class. Often, it’s something along the lines of “you’re white/male” so shut up. That does not incline people to rational discussion.

119 mpowell April 15, 2016 at 11:54 am

But this is just statistical. It hardly means anything. There are plenty of white people who will find it harder to get a mortgage than a certain set of black people. What does it mean? Some people have it worse than others. There is a greater percentage of those having it worse who are black. If there is a specific unfairness you wish to address, this is a meaningful fact. But if you don’t have anything specific to address, making this the most important fact when talking about people’s experience is just making a person’s skin color the most important thing about them – this does not make sense.

120 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 1:19 pm

Exactly. You can’t tell when looking at any given white person whether he or she has had it easier. And yet the most common way the term is used is when a person is speaking ot a white person about which the speaker knows literally nothing about them other than their skin color.

121 prior_test2 April 15, 2016 at 1:55 pm

‘You can’t tell when looking at any given white person whether he or she has had it easier. ‘

And yet, the police seem to have an almost infallible sense of whether any given white person is white, and thus not treated the same as any given black person. It really isn’t hard to find out how the police work in the U.S. to grasp this point, though many white people seem to have no interest in grasping it – after all, they don’t have to.

122 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 3:41 pm

There are other things that can disadvantage your life besides being racially profiled.

123 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:55 pm

You often sort of can (what they wear, how they walk, etc.). But especially just a couple sentences into a conversation, it’s pretty easy to tell which side of the tracks they come from, metaphorically speaking. Maybe not everyone, but a lot of the time. In England, a few words may be enough, because this is baked in in the form of accents, whether justifiably so or not.

Working class people usually speak differently, especially those who do not come from a religious family.

124 msgkings April 15, 2016 at 2:00 pm

‘White privilege’ is really just a too-cute way to say that in this country it’s better to be white than black, ceteris paribus. This is mostly true (but not entirely). Like any other idea, it can be abused and twisted into an ugly epithet or SJW crusade, but the essence of it is hard to argue.

Or as Chris Rock put it: “Ain’t none of you white people out there that would ever want to trade places with me and be black. And I’m rich!”

125 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

You really think there are poor whites would wouldn’t trade places with Chris Rock in a heart beat?

I’m a middle-class white woman with a professional degree and I find it tempting. If I was a poor white guy who dropped out of college I would do it in a second. Having a shit ton of money makes up for a lot. I’d be totally willing to put up with all sorts of racist bullshit if I got compensated for it with fame and fortune. I was the lowest of the nerds in high school. I know what it’s like to be at the lowest social strata of society, to not have any friends, and to be harassed and excluded. What black people have to deal with isn’t even that bad. They have their own clique, their own community. Being a nerd is *worse* than being black.

126 msgkings April 15, 2016 at 4:10 pm

Fair enough, I was just using the joke to illustrate the idea, that ‘white privilege’ isn’t just some fictional thing, it really is generally better to be white than black. But that’s when most else is equal. Your ceteris growing up wasn’t very paribus.

In other words, it would take a significant amount of status increase (money, fame, etc) to make most white people want to be black, just as you say (“money makes up for a lot” (i.e. having to be black)). Unless you are Rachel Dolezal.

127 Careless April 15, 2016 at 10:34 pm

Well, why? I might have really enjoyed getting a free ride to Harvard, a school I did not earn my way into in real life.

128 David Wright April 15, 2016 at 4:05 am

Maybe I’m missing something, but I don’t find her essay very convincing as a critique of the privilege concept.

For one, the traditionally unprivileged classes are presumably subject to the same problems that she enumerates (suicidal and neglectful parents, sexual abuse, substandard early education, etc.) but at even greater rates than members of her class.

But mostly, because it doesn’t address the intellectual bankruptcy of the whole privilege concept. Invoking privilege is supposed to win an argument about ethics: to convince your interlocutor that he should give you the money or vote for the law that you want. But instead of having to actually show how what he wants follows from commonly accepted axioms of ethics, or to convince you of the superiority of an alternative set of axioms of ethics from which it does follow, he just gets to invoke your privilege and then he automatically wins. Does he win even if what he’s demanding is that you grab the nearest gun and commit suicide? If not, then there must actually be some deeper ethical axioms governing what is owed to others, and perhaps we should get to work arguing about those rather than arguing over the irrelevant question of who’s more privileged.

129 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 4:48 am

Also, some people use it to basically say that anyone in the “privileged” groups is not allowed to say anything whatsoever about the disadvantaged groups which strays from the victim narrative.

I prefer to be able to openly discuss the reality of their very uphill battles without being banned from discussing things they might themselves do to improve individual situations in the meantime.

130 Thor April 15, 2016 at 2:35 pm

+1 We should all prefer to openly discuss things like this, of course, but the victim narratives fits the political bill better.

131 Joan April 15, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Unless have some original insight about the problems faced by minorties there is nothing to be gained when you discus how they can improve their situation. The list of things people should do to succeed is not a secret , but it is harder for minorities to do them, certes paribus

132 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 4:05 pm

It’s entirely possible that some white people might actually have some original insights about the problems faced by minorities, and might have something worth saying about how they can improve their situation.

133 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 7:57 pm

Well, I spent most of my life working primarily with minorities as colleagues, so yes, I think I have some insight on the matter. However, a lot of the time it is really just ignorant lectures like “buck up and work harder, stop complaining”. That’s not useful.

134 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 12:29 pm

the traditionally unprivileged classes are presumably subject to the same problems that she enumerates (suicidal and neglectful parents, sexual abuse, substandard early education, etc.) but at even greater rates than members of her class. –

Yes, but the point is that one cannot know what experiences a person has had just by looking at the color of their skin. You can’t see white skin and assume that person only has advantages, has it easier than any given black person, or cannot relate to a black person’s experience.

The calls to “check you privilege” implicitly make those kind of assumptions because they are almost always uttered by people who have no know idea who they are talking to or what their experiences actually are.

135 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 4:53 am

Privilege isn’t binary. It ranges from every card in the deck being stacked against you to being delivered a royal flush to do with as you please (including fold or burn the hand if you want). People who are in the first situation can hardly be expected to play by the rules or even play the game at all, but people in the second situation think they have the right to try to rewrite the rules as they see fit, no matter they were handed a royal flush from the outset.

Personally, I know that my background was not “privileged” at all. But I also know that many other people had far more uphill battles than me.

When you get dealt a pair of twos and there’s an ace in your hand, do you go for gold or play it safe? It’s hard to go for gold if you will not be able to pay rent if you lose the hand. It’s easier to bluff your way to the top when everyone knows someone already stacked the deck in your favour.

136 gtfo April 15, 2016 at 11:43 am

Classic. White male leftist academic type defends the validity of privilege, also insists he never had any.

137 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:03 pm

“I also know that many other people had far more uphill battles than me”. .

In which sense do you perceive me as “leftist”?

138 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 12:44 pm

That’s great, as far as it goes. It just doesn’t address the issue that the claims of privilege generally aren’t that nuanced. There’s almost always an implicit assumption being made that the white person in the conversation has a better “hand” than the black person. But we don’t know that. You don’t know if the white person’s hand contains a royal flush or a pair of twos, or if the black person’s hand is worse or better or not. On average, the white person’s hand may be better, but you can’t make that assumption when speaking to any given white person, even a Harvard grad. You don’t know what cards anyone holds.

139 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:12 pm

A lot of my clients in academic editing/translating grew up as the children of elites in their respective countries. The simple fact that I grew up speaking English and French is an immediate advantage, but those are easily quantified and understood – many of them were virtually guaranteed to go SOMEWHERE unless they intentionally trashed what advantages they had. Well, things are relative. In the international system, it’s not clear who’s more advantaged. But they are virtually guaranteed to achieve high status in their respective countries, whereas in the West some would consider me as a lowly translator, no matter the calibre of projects I may work on.

Anyways, I think what you say is essentially correct. I’ve got a bunch of face cards up my sleeve, but it seems my deck doesn’t have more than a couple face cards to pair them with. Well, perhaps better just to play a different game.

140 derek April 15, 2016 at 5:07 am

Let’s give it a few years and see whether it makes any difference. I doubt it.

It reminds me of a personal story. I grew up in northern Quebec, French Canadian area. My family is English speaking, working class. When I finished school it was hard to get a job, I managed to get some part time work. One day I was conversing with a fellow who was working at the local industrial mill. He owned his house, had a well paying job with benefits, pension, his kids were off to college, etc. He said to me you English have it so easy and are so wealthy.

It is a waste of time arguing with a stupid idea. If he wanted so bad to be a victim who was I to disabuse him off that notion.

There are lots of examples of ethnic or racial groups that have borne the brunt of prejudice. Some have been successful, some not. What is the difference? What defines Jewish privilege, or Chinese privilege, or Japanese privilege, or more local, doukhobour privilege (who have been in the recent past target of outright persecution but generally do very well, every generation better off than the last, tight families, etc.)? Or even French Canadian Privilege who in a generation went from the economic and social backwater of Canada to a thriving and proud nation within a nation?

It isn’t just the glorification of victimhood, but the glorification of failure. If you can through a guilt trip get a professor to give you better marks than you deserve does that help you in the long run?

141 JWatts April 15, 2016 at 11:21 am

“Let’s give it a few years and see whether it makes any difference. I doubt it.”

The entire concept of “White privilege” is useless, because it lumps disparate issues under the same umbrella and is used to hinder debate rather than facilitate it. It’s a fad concept and will probably mostly disappear out of the lexicon in 10 years.

142 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:24 pm

Reminds me of one of my first interviews when I was a student in Quebec City looking for a job. The interviewer asked me “If you’re an anglophone, how are you going to communicate with your colleagues”? I said (in French) “pretty much just like we are right now. I can understand you. You can understand me. It will proceed very much like this conversation”. Well, she made some other excuses for why I would have difficulties. I’m not sure why she even bothered with the interview.

When looking for an apartment, I just walked around looking for “for rent” signs in neighbourhoods I thought would be decent to live in and called up the phone number to ask about the rental details. The MAJORITY of landlords hung up within 5-10 seconds after hearing my accent. The two times I rented there, the first time it was an ex-army guy who had a lot of good experiences with anglophones in the army, and the second time the landlord was an anglophone.

Francophones are racist as fuck against anglophones, on average, in Quebec. It’s even baked into the legal system (somewhat forgiveable for the fact that that they are the “francophone island in the anglophone sea”, so to speak. Well, at least in economics people aren’t usually like that, so in the contexts which were most relevant to me it was not a problem, with some very few exceptions.

143 chrisare April 15, 2016 at 5:51 am

I’m not following this:

I’ve never been black or gay or trans- or gender queer or mentally ill. I don’t know what it would be like to grow up in a derelict building in a dangerous neighbourhood, to have drug addicts for parents, to fear for my safety while walking to school…

Why is she conflating being black with growing up in the ghetto? Surely the point is that there’s disadvantages associated with skin color that aren’t related to socioeconomics.

144 Axa April 15, 2016 at 6:01 am

I was born in a generation where parents made lots of effort to make children forget how dirt poor our the grandparents were. My parents made something different, they always talked about how grandparents were subsistence farmers. People around said my parents were wrong, there was no need to “traumatize” children with those realities. That people around said life was better now for everyone and no need to remember problems of the past.

The couple years I lived in the US I found the same approach to child rearing. Even middle class and poor parents lie to the children, everyone pretends to live like the rich. Children born in this environment think poverty is an alien thing even in their grandparents couldn’t afford enough food or shoes. They are sure life has always been a fridge plenty of food, everyone has a car, etc………..then we act surprised when those children start talking about “white privilege”. Parents made great effort to lie to children, to ignore the “shameful” reality of a poor background and then wonder why children believe crazy things.

Perhaps if we tell stories about how grandma & grandpa were dirt poor, how they worked all their life to make sure you had a better life…..young people would think a bit more before jumping into the privilege wagon.

145 A Definite Beta Guy April 15, 2016 at 8:25 am

Right, explain how ridiculously poor we were just a few generations ago and concepts like modern “privilege” apply to all of us. My great-grandmother primarily used a chamber pot for expelling waste. Please prattle on about your “oppression” at Generic Private Liberal Arts U.

146 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 12:57 pm

Forget the grandparents. There are also plenty of white people today who grew up dirt poor and try to hide it.
And the better they are at hiding it, the more likely they are to be tarred as “privileged”.
A poor white kid today who busts their ass to graduate, pays their way through college, starts their own business and becomes modestly wealthy is rewarded by being spat on and told how privileged they are.

147 Steve Sailer April 15, 2016 at 6:27 am

Approximately 33% to 35% of the Forbes 400 is Jewish, despite Jews making up about 2% of the American population. Unlike “white privilege,” however, “Jewish privilege” is not a thing in Sapir-Whorf” terms, so don’t bother thinking about it. It’s not a thing.

148 JWatts April 15, 2016 at 11:25 am

Steve that’s disingenuous. Unfairly blaming Jews for their hard won prosperity has been a thing for centuries. It’s an emotional argument.

“White privilege” is the same kind of argument. It just has a much larger target.

149 too hot for MR April 15, 2016 at 1:58 pm

The resentment against Wall Street and Silicon Valley is largely antipathy toward the success of Asians and Jews, but that doesn’t sell well. So instead we get white privilege.

150 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:33 pm

If any other group practiced such barely veiled preferences in ethnic-based networking and business situations, they would be highly vilified for it.

While researching some variety of business ventures, I happened to run into a lot of Jews. If the conversation went in a remotely promising direction, it would conclude with something to the effect of something like “hey, I have a JEWISH friend who knows something about that. I should contact him and make him aware of this opportunity, because he also has contacts which can make it happen [and of course you, thank you for the idea, will have nothing at all to do with anything whatsoever related to the venture]”.

Which leads me to conclude that one should never speak of business ideas with Jews unless in a situation of legally entrenched secrecy (which will primarily benefit professions where Jews are highly over-represented, as a simple matter of fact…).

Oh, and you’re not allowed to talk about these realities, or you will be smeared as “anti-Semitic”. Unless you’re Jewish, of course, in which case you can speak approvingly about how this is really good for Jews, who must stick together.

151 a Fred April 16, 2016 at 5:29 am

So you read jewwatch.com and it all makes sense.

152 Rich Berger April 15, 2016 at 6:40 am

The correct response to her “university-aged” daughter? If you don’t like the “privilege” around here, why don’t you GTFO?

153 Tarrou April 15, 2016 at 6:43 am

I think I’m on pretty solid footing saying that “white privilege” isn’t a thing.

There is a lot of privilege in the world, but skin color isn’t one of them, at least not in the West. There is wealth privilege, class privilege, there is talent privilege, there is height privilege, hell, and this is a big one, there is attractiveness privilege (and let me tell you, it is sweet!). There is definitely culture privilege. But no racial privilege. All the cherry-picking examples and denying counterexamples just makes people intellectually dishonest.

Here’s your facts: Blacks are not disproportionately victimized by the criminal justice system (the system is pretty bad, but it seems to be fairly bad). Certain groups of black african immigrants outperform even native whites in terms of education and income (so it’s clearly a cultural thing, not a racial one). The most powerful man in the world is black.

One might as well pull up some very true but irrelevant data on how there aren’t many whites in the NBA and start whinging about black privilege. It’s a dishonest dodge to advance a dishonest and usually racist narrative.

154 ChrisA April 15, 2016 at 6:45 am

It’s another mind hacking attempt – basically the people accusing you of being privileged are (knowingly or unknowingly) trying to activate a module in your brain, which evolved for another purpose (to regulate social interactions so that a small group of hunter gathers could do better than individual hunter gathers). The moral modules activated is typically the empathy one, but also the sociability one, the one that makes you conform to others social expectations in order that the group be cohesive. The purpose of the hack is to get something, perhaps more social status, perhaps alter terms of a exchange in their favor or so on. Mind hacking attempts are common – that’s why beggars display their sores, or women wear revealing clothing in a nightclub or men use expensive watches or cars. When you use your analytical brain, the logic of their approach does not stand up. For instance claiming that you have excessive privilege is not really a reason to feel sorry for someone, and if you ranked humans by need and targeted any surplus charity most of the people claiming lack of privilege would be nowhere near the top of the list.

People are always evolving new mind hacks as the old ones stop working. For instance few people give money to beggars on the street anymore. I call it evolution as successful mind hacks get copied and then improved.

A good response to mind hacking is to try to engage your analytical reasoning processes on the claim being made rather than taking an emotional response. An especially powerful deterrent is the realization of the power of the spotlight effect bias, actually most people are not observing your behavior and don’t really give a damm about what you do, so you can quite easily turn down mind hackers without any bad consequences (as long as you do this is a quiet way and not a noisy one).

155 anon April 15, 2016 at 7:28 am

What happens when the analytical brain does a one-resume two-names experiment and discovers that yes, white people and men more easily find jobs?

To me, the rational response is to accept that bias exists, and with my WASP name, I probably benefited. I don’t have to wear that on my sleeve, but I think I have to acknowledge it as a privilege.

Maybe next time I review a resume I can give a brother a break.

156 ChrisA April 15, 2016 at 9:48 am

Sounds like the mind hack is working on you.

But more seriously, the situation you describe of a person selecting someone for a job from a CV is not really relevant because all you are doing is selecting a name from a list. There is no mind hack going on because you are not talking to anyone. If you prefer the “black” name over the “white name” for no reason related to qualification then all you are doing is just being racist (favoring one race over another). A more relevant situation might be where you are interviewing someone, and you indicate that they are not properly qualified. But then she asks for you to hire her anyway because you have had a privileged life so far and they have not. This is bad logic because your privilege was not obtained from them (so you don’t owe them any debt) and likely they are not the most deserving person of your charity. If you looked around the world, are they really the most disadvantaged person you can find, and is the best way to help them to hire them for a job that they are not the best qualified for? They are basically trying to mind hack you.

157 anon April 15, 2016 at 9:57 am

This could be a stage of life thing. I was raised in one of the least racist ways possible. My parents worked in minority schools and came home every day with “kids are kids, they just need to know what’s possible.” It was a little bit shocking for me, as I got out there in my 20s and 30s to be told that I benefited from racism. It was far from my experience. Life was hard at that point, and it was impossible to feel privileged. But life went on. I saw more. Not just sociology experiments, but real life, repeated. By the time I got to be a rich old retired white dude, I’d seen a lot.

I’m ready, as Brian says below, to count my blessings.

158 ChrisA April 15, 2016 at 1:08 pm

What you are talking about is good old fashioned charity by the wealthy. A laudable conservative idea. What the kids mean is by privilege is something different, perhaps you need to read the essay that Tyler posted. Its more about demonisation and bullying of people who are perceived to be privileged. The kids would be horrified to think that actually what they were arguing for was a rich elderly gent sprinkling his money on local good causes.

159 anon April 15, 2016 at 4:30 pm

It am surprised by the injury people feel from statements as obvious as the sky is blue, water is wet. I imagine it must come from some insecurity, but since I don’t have it, I can only guess.

I can hear “white privilege,” know it’s a thing, but not the only thing, or the deciding factor in every human interaction.

Maybe it’s just maturity.

160 A Definite Beta Guy April 15, 2016 at 10:02 am

The analytical brain says we should look at more detail than that. Several universities use affirmative action for men: does that mean we should now consider women the privileged gender?

The problem is that “privilege,” used politically, is short-hand justifications for Warren’s monstrous “you didn’t build that” philosophy.

161 anon April 15, 2016 at 10:04 am

See Michael B Sullivan, above.

162 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:12 am

This often cited study doesn’t prove what the people citing it seem to think it does. What it proves is that people are wary of hiring the children of parents who go out of their way to express their differences with conformist culture via naming their children. Names are an imperfect proxy for race and I suspect that if any social scientists had the desire to actually examine this idea past a naive political hack job they might test names like Cletus, Jethro, Bubba, Festus, Diamond, and Candy.

I’ve also read that, as a demographic, the parents of children who name their children in such anti-social ways have worse outcomes in almost every way – criminality, income, children out of wedlock, teenage pregnancy, etc. My criticism of the way this study is used parallels my criticism of the way privilege or intersectionality is used: naive, motivated reasoning.

Just the other day I had someone assert to me that, because white people stopped by the NYPD were more likely to be carrying contraband than Black or Hispanic people stopped by the NYPD, that white people in general were more likely to be carrying contraband than Black Or Hispanic people. I’ve had people assert to me that the gender pay gap is evidence of discrimination. I’ve had people say to me that the children of President Obama are not privileged. This is the level of reasoning proponents of privilege discourse tend to have.

Just consider that in all likelihood, the distribution of cumulative privilege is such that there is significant black population at >median white cumulative privilege and at >+1sd white cumulative privilege and at >+2nd white cumulative privilege. Then consider which social groups are pushing naive white privilege discourse. It becomes quite apparent that high privilege white folks are selling a narrative in which the least privileged white folks bear some responsibility for the privilege of multimillionaires, powerful politicians, tenured professors, female socialites, and trust fund bloggers.

If a poor white child with a meth addicted mother from Appalachia is at the 5th percentile of privilege but his particular privilege is the primary focus of the cpnversation, then the conversation is a farce.

163 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:38 pm

Consider it as an opportunity to hire people for a lower wage at the same or even higher quality. Haha, unfair, but true.

When I’ve had to do some hiring for some small projects, I absolutely give a closer look to “non-white” names. Usually the CV is full of scads of volunteer and internship experience whereby they try to forge their way through the unfair reality and demonstrate their abilities. Actually, I’ve never hired a white person for any sub-contracts. They want more money for lower skills.

164 Different kinds of privilege April 15, 2016 at 7:09 am

There are many kinds of privilege:

– wealth, where your money allows you to do things other cannot do,
– gender, where your sex allows you to do things other cannot do,
– race, where your color allows you to do things other cannot do,

this is obviously not a complete list. The author apparently starts out as a poor, white woman; her narrative explains mostly how she overcame the lack of the ‘wealth privilege’ in her life, with implication that she also overcame the lack of ‘gender privilege’. The fact that she was born with ‘white privilege’ is not emphasized.

This is an extremely common narrative for white people to have: I overcame this, I overcame that. But in fact the ‘whiteness’ was likely the most important factor in her success!

At this point the white people in the audience say: no… no… no… I worked really hard… no… no… no… there are poor whites in Appalachia… no… no… no… Oprah is a billionaire… None of these perspectives account for the fact that there is a institutionalized system in place that benefits one particular race, and it is this system which needs to be demolished.

Finally, an example. White privilege allows sentences such as this to be written:

“the brainpower of China and India in the 20th century was essentially “offline”. Instead of contributing to the world technological frontier the people of China and India were just barely feeding themselves. China and India are now coming online and I see the increase in natural intelligence as one of the most hopeful facts for the future.”

Did the author just call 2 billion people, with a race other than their own, stupid? Why did the author think they could get away with that?

165 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:28 am

The argument that whiteness is the primary determinant of life outcomes is so laughable that it is hard to take you and your ilk seriously. All it takes to disprove your charade of an argument is to look at income distribution. If whiteness was the primary determinant than there would be a bimodal distribution with whites in one cluster and minorities in another. I’ll save you the trouble of looking up this up: such a distribution does not exist, there is enormous variance among white people and minorities.

Your comment presents a good opportunity for me to illustrate my earlier points about naive reasoning. Your argument takes intersectionality and turns it on its face. Logically, there are many vectors of privilege. It is possible (even though you don’t seem to have reasoning ability to determine it) that white privilege exists and is significant but that all minorities have greater cumulative privilege than all white people. I’m not saying this is true, I’m just giving you a free lesson in logic. I am privileged to have been born with this ability whereas you seem needful. Back in reality there are so many vectors of privilege that it may be impossible to quantify them. No matter for people like you, because there are only a few that interest you: black/white, male/female, hetero/homo, cis/whatever.
So while white privilege certainly exists (and is likely nothing more than in group preferences, of which, whites are the minority in the US; see if ‘Blake’ gets any call backs from black barbershops) it is a small part of the entirety of privilege but essentially the only part you care about.

166 A Standard Response April 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm

Your response with its obvious hatred and smugness is a common first response for an individual exposed to the concept of white privilege. Like many, you seem to find it difficult to accept that whites, particularly white males, are born into a world that systemically and institutionally rewards them, for no other reason that were were born with the most advantageous race and gender. It can be shocking to learn that instead of hitting a triple you were born on third base. So you lash out.

In your short post, one can see your struggle. You bring up income distribution: ok, white men have most of the wealth. Use any statistics you prefer, but please try to avoid mentioning Michael Jordan, Appalachia, Oprah, other outliers if you can. You then mention your innate ability to perform certain functions, in this case reasoning: again, very very common. It’s not your sex and race that got you where you are, but your natural reasoning ability. In the end you ironically come around – two sentences before you say ‘it is possible… white privilege exists’ then at the end you acknowledge it ‘certainly exists’. Of course it does.

Yes, there are many vectors of privilege, but there are only a few that systematically institutionalized. Of these, race and gender are probably the biggest.

167 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 1:33 pm

Like many, you seem to find it difficult to accept that whites, particularly white males, are born into a world that systemically and institutionally rewards them, for no other reason that were were born with the most advantageous race and gender.

Like many people, he knows cock-and-bull when he reads it.

168 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:44 pm

And if Asia or Middle East, both of which were more politically and technologically more advanced than Europe through most of history, had been less inwards-focused and had conquered the West instead of the other way around (in fact, this almost happened under the Mongols and also under the Arabs) …well, which sorts of conclusions would you draw?

169 M April 16, 2016 at 11:42 am

“White Privilege” you can argue to exist. It would be surprising if Whites didn’t at all build their societies in ways that advanced their own people.

It’s just that it’s pretty clearly of so much smaller effect than individual skills and ability, and of skills and ability being consistently high in kin networks (which helps you to inherit more wealth, rather than your family being a leech on your wealth) and of the White ethnicity just having a better understanding of good laws, customs and institutions.

That’s just very clear if you use control measures that take account for skills and ability, and family skills and ability, and knowledge of the law and culture, and look at non-White ethnic groups with high levels of these factors. Just very obvious.

And that all exists pretty much because they (White Europeans) built their culture pretty well. Not really because of any kind of dispossession or expropriation. They had a good understanding of what it really matters to be good at, what good looks like and got good at it, and stay good at whatever it matters to be good at, when the market shifts.

“White Privilege”, though no doubt not a myth, is of such relatively small effect in explaining the gaps between ethnic groups, that you could totally remove it (with whatever mass cultural destruction goes with that), and the world wouldn’t look much different.

“White Privilege” also just part of a wider phenomenon of dominant ethnicity privilege, which is less of a direct effect in the West than almost any other part of the world.

170 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 1:05 pm

This is an extremely common narrative for white people to have: I overcame this, I overcame that. But in fact the ‘whiteness’ was likely the most important factor in her success!

If this was the case then it would by typical for poor white people who *didn’t* work particularly hard to become successful. If whiteness is the most important factor then all one has to do it be white, and shit automatically falls in your lap, right?

171 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:55 pm

“one has to do it be white, and shit automatically falls in your lap”

Sort of sometimes. But the narrative is so overplayed as to render it generally offensive.

172 Josh M April 15, 2016 at 9:46 pm

“Did the author just call 2 billion people, with a race other than their own, stupid?”

Clearly not, so I guess you might as well add “literacy privilege” to your list.

173 rayward April 15, 2016 at 7:24 am

It is different now, but that doesn’t mean I am privileged because I grew up in an earlier age; after all, there are challenges in every age. The Great Depression and World War II for my parent’s age, the Vietnam War and social and racial conflict in mine, globalization and terrorism today. What’s more stark today is the separation of America by class, by income and wealth, by education. The acceptance and rejection notices from elite colleges went out two weeks ago, a stressful time for parents and students alike, the chance of becoming one of the elite riding in the balance. Rejection means settling for a second-tier college or university and a lifetime of second-tier. Or so it seems to today’s young men and women. My world as a child in a small Southern town may as well have been Mars, my view of the world, of America, of where I might fit in both limited by the world in which I grew up. It didn’t occur to me that attending the state university would be second-tier, that my entire life would be second-tier because I did. And I am from a family of privilege, at least in education, my grandmother and her siblings graduates of elite colleges, not by virtue of wealth (their father was a minister) but expectations and ambition and an America with opportunities for young men and women like them vastly different from today. Were my grandmother and her siblings privileged because they attended elite colleges, and as a result enjoyed a lifetime of achievement and reward. Oh woe is me! Not really. My grandfather, who, like my grandmother was a physician, died when my mother was a small child from a staph infection he got while serving as an army surgeon in the Philippines during the Spanish American War and the Philippine American War that followed. Was my grandmother privileged because she attended an elite women’s college, only to be denied admission to an elite medical school in America because only males were admitted, forcing her to train in Europe where attitudes about women evolved earlier. It is different now. Young men and women of every age face different challenges and, yes, enjoy different privileges.

174 RJB April 15, 2016 at 7:25 am

Hard to believe we’re this far into the thread without anyone linking to Scalzi’s Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is. (Maybe I missed it above.)

The author seems to be confusing privilege in its general sense with ‘white male privilege’ and other privileges based on immediately apparent surface features that make life easier to navigate than it otherwise would be. As Scalzi emphasizes, this need not make life “easy” in any absolute sense, just easier.

Sure, calling someone privileged can be a thoughtless insult, and/or misguided. But just as often, responses reflect the truth that successful people never want to hear about the role of good luck in success.

175 anon April 15, 2016 at 7:33 am

I had never heard of that, but it is good framing. Or even worse, consider straight white men with reasonably high IQ denying the “easy” setting.

Life is a birth lottery, and a winning ticket makes life easier. Privilege is a fair word for that.

176 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:34 am

What about straight, white men with high IQ but unattractive features, poor home life, low income family, and awkward personality? Such people live life with a social capital of essentially zero until they can acquire a reasonably high income. Yet, if we were to believe the naive reasoning of privilege advocates, that loser has more privilege than a beautiful multiracial girl who grows up surrounded by sycophants to have her choice of high earning mate and to take up a career blogging hatred for low social status white men in the name of social justice.

Come on. The three or four iteration privilege dichotomy calculation is so useless that it is inaccurate more often than accurate – but the preferred method of privilege calculation by the type of people who believe the gender pay gap is proof of sexism.

177 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 1:32 pm

What about straight, white men with high IQ but unattractive features, poor home life, low income family, and awkward personality?

You could ask Nathan directly.

178 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 8:57 pm

Which of those features/bugs would you attribute to me? And which of them do you not attribute to yourself?

179 M April 15, 2016 at 2:04 pm

IME there are a few, non-mutually exclusive, solutions that these women have for this:

1) Men with awkward personalities are never “nice guys”. There’s always something wrong with them and some kind of internal misogyny and nastiness that they have, which sometimes only women can see. The only genuine nice guys are the charismatic, confident, successful and ambitious men, even if these guys might actually seem to be rather hostile, competitive and status conscious among themselves. The “awkward nice guy” is a myth, and if he does exist, he’s only an “awkward nice guy” until he doesn’t express that women should treat regard him as more attractive (then he’s an entitled bad guy).

2) If men with awkward personalities are low on social privilege, that’s natural law, and not to be corrected. Privilege is only defined as an aberration from the natural law.

3) If men with awkward personalities are low on social privilege, that’s actually just a kooky side effect of women being oppressed by a patriarchal system that doesn’t give women enough status and gives men too much privilege. Onwards sisters, the battle to defeat patriarchy must be fought against men… to save them as well. Or something.

4) If men are ever awkward, it’s actually because they’ve been “undersocialised” because they’ve been so privileged that they’ve never had to learn ordinary socially fluent ways of socialising, blithely coasting through life on their privilege. Thus, male awkwardness is simply another sign that a man is privileged, and deserves even less social status than the marginal social status he may have.

5) Being low on social privilege and lacking normal human relationships due to awkwardness isn’t what important; what’s important is being marginally safer from low probabilities of rape and “creepy” behaviour, loosely defined. If someone doesn’t have an intimate relationship due to being judged as a poor mate by women, that’s fair enough and not something anyone has a “right” or even deserves to have discussed or sympathy for. (This option 5) is usually liked least, because it is sort of hard to then turn around and whine about how society’s unfair standards are limiting the woman’s chances for a relationship).

These are the typical dismissals, true or not. Those are the kind of arguments that are in play at the moment, during the current attempt at cleansing from “nerd” communities of socially marginal males for whom it is their only socialisation in favor of slightly less socially marginal women.

180 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 4:27 pm

I think the problem is more than men with awkward personalities tend to shoot above their station in the dating market. They ask out the 10s instead of 7s. There are plenty of 6s and 7s who are perfectly content with a socially awkward nice guy.

Also, It occurs to be that a good measure of racial privilege would be to determine the likelihood that a 10 black woman is willing to date a social awkward white guy. If the black female 10s are only dating white male 10s, then there is no racial privilege. If the black 10s are willing to date a 7 white male then the priviledge index is +3, if the 10 white males can only date at best a 7 black female, then the privilege index is -3. Call this the ‘Hazel Meade White Privilege Estimator’

181 M April 16, 2016 at 7:10 am

Agree and disagree. If both male and female physical attractiveness followed a normal distribution, then to an extent yeah…


On the other hand…

“More than a quarter of men are 0’s, and it appears a majority rate 1 or below. “Women rate an incredible 80% of guys as worse-looking than medium,” Rudder notes. “Very harsh.””

I think what is closer to happening in reality is that young men tend to believe, fairly reasonably, that they can pair up with women who are at the same place in the physical attractiveness normal distribution. The male physical 5s are going for the female physical 5s, and expecting tolerance and acceptance, not harshness. towards their personality.

Not true, because women probably don’t judge male attractiveness on a normal distribution, and give much more focus on confidence, ambition and power. The male physical 5 doesn’t realize that the women are seeing him as a physical 1 or 2, and that he has to a be a confidence 5 or 6 to make it happen, with that girl who’s only a physical 5. Women tend to be harsher on looks, and harsher on personality.

182 Art Deco April 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm

There are plenty of 6s and 7s who are perfectly content with a socially awkward nice guy.


Women settle, eventually, and commonly conceive of themselves as having settled.

183 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 4:16 pm

What about straight, white men with high IQ but unattractive features, poor home life, low income family, and awkward personality?

Yes. Nobody talks about “beauty privilege”, and yet there is demonstrable evidence that attractive people earn more and have more friends.
Nobody talks about “height privilege”, same issue – taller people earn more and are selected for leadership positions more frequently.
Nobody talks about “neuro-typical privilege”. Asperger’s sufferers have it at least as hard as the average black guy.

Straight-white-male might be a good combination, but straight-ugly-short-autistic-white-male pretty much negates it and more.

184 anon April 15, 2016 at 5:05 pm

There have been interesting studies on beauty and height as well. We know for instance that both men and women give more to a charity canvasser who is a beautiful woman.

So sure, an acknowledged kind of privilege.

185 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 6:44 pm

Voters voters voters

186 Ethan Bernard April 15, 2016 at 7:25 pm

Yes. And beauty privilege has a steeper gradient for women. Our society really shits on physically unattractive women, but you don’t hear much about this.

187 Cyrus April 15, 2016 at 6:33 pm

Another perspective is that one’s birth is less a lottery than the intended result of one’s parents’ choices, and a proper response to a favorable outcome in those choices is gratitude.

188 Douglas Levene April 15, 2016 at 7:34 am

“White privilege” is just shorthand for “shut up.” It may work on guilty white liberals but if you want to persuade me to support some policy, you better be prepared to make a reasoned argument, focused on costs and benefits, that doesn’t include ad hominem attacks on me.

189 anon April 15, 2016 at 8:04 am

If white privilege is an objective fact, documented by many sociology experiments, how is it an attack on you?

It might be injurious to your self-image, but only if you have fashioned something disconnected from objective reality.

Your problem.

190 A Definite Beta Guy April 15, 2016 at 8:30 am

Because it’s a short-hand for “shut up.”

191 anon April 15, 2016 at 8:41 am

Generally there are a range of voices, with a range of arguments, for any position. If you only take on the weakest among them, you are shooting low.

If anyone says “privilege” to mean “shut up” that is the weakest line. Aim higher, to someone with a more realistic view of what privilege means. There are several such above, and I hope it is what Cowen and Leimbach were trying for.

192 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:44 am

The nuanced view of privilege is not held on the left because it is my view: intersectionality is valid, there are at least thousands or millions of vectors of privilege, and it is impossible to calculate an individual’s privilege level through 3 or 4 true/false questions. You cant assign race or gender debt to individuals simply because people who match broad demographics dominate the society. All white men dont share the privilege of Bill Gates or tenured social science professors.

Where is the retribution in that? Where is the redistribution in that? Where are the voters in that? The left is the holder of the lowest form of privilege discourse because you have to be stupid to claim that whitey in the trailer parks owes reparations or must give special deference to minorities because of Donald Trump and Bill Clinton massive privilege.

193 Bob from Ohio April 15, 2016 at 10:14 am

“If white privilege is an objective fact”

Its not. Its a subjective opinion.

194 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:38 am

White privilege, which I believe in, is ‘settled science’ in the same way that it is settled science that the NBA is racist against white people. It’s correlation = causation science.

195 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:07 pm

NBA decisions are basically the furthest you can get from “privilege”.

You’ve got people who will simultaneously argue 1) racism doesn’t affect work opportunities of black people and 2) but of course I wouldn’t hire a black man because their stupid and also thugs. That’s causation=causation.

On a trip of the local youth orchestra (which paid my way because I couldn’t afford it, subsidized by the upper middle class families who paid fees and bought tickets to our events) to perform in Alabama, the hosts apologized profusely that they’d hired a black driver, because they weren’t able to find anyone else. If the black driver is not hired until every white driver in the city is otherwise occupied, does this not suggest that white drivers are privileged relative to black drivers?

196 Bob April 18, 2016 at 4:16 pm

“sociology experiments”

You mean the group that overtly calls itself “not a science” now because science is a white male dominated normative perspective? And post-modernly state there are “other” ways of knowing? They are the unfunny-version of “The Dude” essentially saying science is “just your opinion, man”.

197 jon April 15, 2016 at 9:01 am

Is it manipulation of language or a genuine case of sloppy language / sloppy thought?

When they say ‘privilege’ they clearly mean ‘advantage’.

But privilege implies the advantaged should feel guilty about it. I think the college educated SJWs know what words mean so this is their point.

I am white, tall, and male. I cannot be ‘guilty’ of this, but a movement cannot have victims without oppressors so the rhetoric must vilify someone, reason be damned.

198 Dave Smith April 15, 2016 at 9:24 am

I’m sure this has been said. Normal people are not supposed to be able to identify privilege. It takes a SJW to do it for us.

199 anon April 15, 2016 at 9:30 am
200 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 11:49 am

Substitute anti-social with ‘black-sounding names’ and you get your conclusion. Naming signals something about the parents. In the case of unique names it signals that the parents are nuts. Substitute non-conforming white names and the result will likely be the same. Substitute high class names for prestigious positions versus low class names and the result will likely be same. The lack of reasoning among the $0.73 = sexism crowd is well documented and is illustrated here.

201 anon April 15, 2016 at 5:02 pm

You know that is just one of many examples. Another is where a person (black, white, male, casual, formal, or military atire) says to a cabbie “I’m $3 short, can I still ride?” The range of results aren’t that surprising. Rent experiments, charitable giving, they go on and on.

You should probably introspect on why us knowing that bothers you. It isn’t the objective reality that gets you in a twist, it is our knowledge of it.

202 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:09 pm

Much easier to claim that objective reality is a fabrication of serial whiners, because this upholds the view that I’m plain and simply better, them inferior.

203 Brian Donohue April 15, 2016 at 9:32 am

We used to say “count your blessings”, before everyone became an asshole.

204 Rock Lobster April 15, 2016 at 9:55 am

I think most commenters here want to talk about the white privilege thing because that’s a hot-button issue, but what I found interesting here was that very likely this woman would not be able to get into Harvard today, which is a real shame. Unless you’re some kind of diversity knock-out, working a series of odd jobs to make ends meet as a teenager, despite being very bookish and smart, carries little weight. You got a perfect score on your SATs? That’s nice. Why weren’t you also captain of the softball team and founder of some club to help starving children in Africa?

205 derek April 15, 2016 at 11:02 am

I’m not sure… she has a really good background story to tell and seems very smart (I assume very high standardized test scores, grades and writing ability), and it sounds like there are a lot of non-traditional extracurriculars that would make jaded admissions officers happy, as well as multiple possible essay narratives that would do a lot to persuade that she would go on from Harvard to be successful, as seemingly she has. Harvard gets lots of candidates like this, too, probably, but I think that she’s as well off today in admissions as any non-legacy.

206 Malcolm Square Root of X April 15, 2016 at 10:11 am


It keeps coming back. It fails, it produces endless horrors, it fails some more, and liberals keep bringing it back. What is “white privilege” but Marx’s old “class struggle” with a dash of anti-white racism?

Is there any way this can end well?

207 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:13 pm

Marxism has never been practiced. Leninism? For a very short time. Stalinism? Horror! Maoism? Way too much of that (although land redistribution in a feudal economy quite plausibly has desirable effects if left at that).

But Marxism? No one has ever tried … in no small part due to the fact that Marx never actually had very explicit things to say about how various principles he espoused would function in practice. Among other things, he never espoused perfect redistribution, he never argued for a command economy, he never argued for price controls … basically, he never argued for much of any of the things commonly associated with communism. He did, however, argue for an inheritance tax, perhaps to the tune of 100%. 100% would definitely be too high, because people are motivated to work harder when they can leave something behind for the children.

208 Bob April 18, 2016 at 4:21 pm

You are a real nutjob. When is your next trotskyite book club?

209 Bob from Ohio April 15, 2016 at 10:13 am

“Privilege” is just a new word for

guilt trip
n. Informal
A usually prolonged feeling of guilt or culpability.
lay a guilt trip on
To make or try to make (someone) feel guilty.
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.
guilt′ trip`
Informal. a feeling of guilt or responsibility, esp. one not justified by reality.
v.t. -tripped, -trip•ping.
Informal. to attempt to instill a guilt trip in; play upon the guilt feelings of.
Random House Kernerman Webster’s College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.

210 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 11:28 am

We white people should know if white privilege exists because we would be privy to it, in fact we would the ones bestowing it.

211 prior_test2 April 15, 2016 at 12:03 pm

‘in fact we would the ones bestowing it’

The police are fully aware of that reality.

For one example that was fairly well publicized – ‘The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights. The Department’s own reports on its stop-and-frisk activity confirm what many people in communities of color across the city have long known: The police are stopping hundreds of thousands of law abiding New Yorkers every year, and the vast majority are black and Latino.

An analysis by the NYCLU revealed that innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 4 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent, according to the NYPD’s own reports.’ http://www.nyclu.org/issues/racial-justice/stop-and-frisk-practices

212 Bob April 18, 2016 at 4:23 pm

How many murders in NY have been carried out by blacks and Hispanics again? Answer: nearly 100% of them.

If anything, compared to their relative murder and gun violence rates, whites and asians have been over-profiled by the police.

213 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:15 pm

Is Donald Trump aware of his privileges?

214 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 12:17 pm

The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk practices raise serious concerns over racial profiling, illegal stops and privacy rights.

They raise no questions at all. That’s a hook for destructive people who resent the success of NYC police – most of them sociology faculty, social work faculty, and the usual lawfare artists.

We need to quit with the pretense that the left cares about quality of life.

215 Anon April 15, 2016 at 12:58 pm

By far the greatest beneficiaries of NYC police tactics have been low income minorities. The stop and frisk is a bit disproportionate to the criminality of the the underlying populations, but not all that bad. And its pretty likely that the police are better at identifying likely criminals than we can do from stats.

Backing off policing in the name of social justice is a complete disaster for minorities. Go look at the cities that have done it-like Baltimore.

216 prior_test2 April 15, 2016 at 1:45 pm

‘We need to quit with the pretense that the left cares about quality of life.’

This is alway so strange – post data from an actual police department actually devoting major resources to a policy from which white people are almost completely exempt (really, when was the last time was any commenter here stopped and frisked in NYC?), and the comments concern the ‘left?’

There is plenty of data showing how the police work, but somehow, this becomes a partisan question. Almost as if not a single commenter here has ever known a single American cop.

217 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 8:19 pm

from which white people are almost completely exempt –

That you consult your worthless imagination when you don’t know something is not the fault of the police.

218 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:20 pm

The question of whether racial profiling may have whatever effects on criminality is an altogether different question from the FACT that it unfairly targets vast numbers of innocent people, and also the FACT that it therefore implies that a vast number of not-that-bad people get punished for things at substantially higher rates than other people.

Like, white dealers who sell to upper middle class high school students basically never get stopped and frisked.

I wouldn’t suggest that your opinions are driven by imagination. Rather, obstinate resistance against facts that you find inconvenient.

219 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 1:10 pm

If there is one thing this thread teaches me, it is that black people cannot relate to what it means to be white. There seems to be this bizarre perception that being white means that good things just automatically happen to you without even trying. Money and rewards and success just flow in your direction because of your whiteness. I don’t think most black people “get it” that being white isn’t a magical shield against bad things happening to you in life, nor is it a magical success magnet wherein you can get whatever you want because people will just throw opportunities at you.

220 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Eddie Murphy lampooned that mentality in his sketches a generation ago. The thing is, I doubt rank-and-file blacks think that way at all. It’s a subset of blacks in the education and human services apparat who believe that, who have adjacent to them a crew of white enablers who are at least as disoriented. (Perhaps also some highly alienated lower working class or lumpenproletarian blacks also think that way). Anyone with an MEd or MSW degree is likely to be an enemy of good sense.

221 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Actually, I suspect it’s probably the poorer blacks who think that way, whereas the ones in education and human services (who obviously have jobs and therefore are more well off) know better because they are more likely to have more actual social contact with white people. Poor blacks get their ideas of what being white means from television, where “whiteness” is portrayed as an idealized romantic comedy in which the people are all beautiful and upper middle class and have clothing and furniture that is carefully designed product placement.

222 Art Deco April 15, 2016 at 8:21 pm

know better because they are more likely to have more actual social contact with white people.

Doesn’t matter. The white enablers have plenty of social contact with white people and still talk rot.

223 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:23 pm

And here you are knocking other people for their use of imagination. You could at least be explicit about it. If and when so, I am always explicit, for example starting off by saying “I imagine that …” and try to explain what leads me to imagine such things.

224 prior_test2 April 15, 2016 at 1:51 pm

‘it is that black people cannot relate to what it means to be white’

Well, you mean black Americans, to the extent you are not talking about a caricature. In my experience, Africans have little problem acting the same as anyone else used to being treated as equals within their own society – white, yellow, brown, etc.

225 The Original D April 15, 2016 at 3:09 pm

“most black people”

I don’t think most black people care about any of this. They may vaguely feel like whites have it better, but that’s no different than liberals vaguely feeling like conservatives are all gun nuts and conservatives thinking liberals are all marxists.

226 mark April 15, 2016 at 2:14 pm

White people are so dumb. You take everything so damn literal. You have no imaginative power, no spiritual understanding of your environment.


White privelage is a belief system, an attitude. Its a personality trait, a worldview. Get it now you literal fucks?????

You are privelaged if u think that by me starting my post with “White people are so dumb” i was referring to all white people indiscriminately. So that you literal fucks understand, when i say white people are dumb, i am referring to the white ‘brand-name. I am referring to the philosophy of whiteness which uplifts values that dehumanize and subjugate people in order to make a dollar, or just in the name of domination. If u agree with that philosphy in whole or in part, YOU ARE PRIVELAGED. Damn. Now stop discussing this shit and worry about your own damn lives. Stay out of our spaces and lives.



227 Hazel Meade April 15, 2016 at 3:37 pm

Translation: If you believe in free markets you’re a privileged white person. Stop trying to convince me of your free markety philosophy.

Ok, don’t let the door hit you in the ass on you’re way out, mark.

228 mark April 15, 2016 at 9:52 pm

Ahhh…hazel. now you are getting in. I know you were being sarcastic but you came across a truth!

If you believe in free markets you are privelaged.


Because the “free” market is rigged. It is set up to ensure the wealth accumulates to those at the top of the social order….which thru military dominance happens to be WHITE PEOPLE. White privelage is to believe in and study free markets yet deny/claim ignorance to this very OBVIOUS connection.

The free market is a white supremacist concept in this society because the free market is what strips blacks and other minorities of their land, lives and opportunity for the express benefit of whites. So yes, supporting free markets is white privelage.

229 Thomas April 15, 2016 at 6:47 pm

Privilege, just like environmentalism, has always been about marxism.

230 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:26 pm

Well, basically everything you disagree with or don’t like just boils down to Marxism, doesn’t it? But THEY are the ones who simplify things to much and lack in nuance.

Not only is there not privilege, we must not speak about it even if there is.

Not only is there not such a thing as environmental damage or widely shared enjoyment of nature, we must not speak about it even if there is.

To do otherwise would be Marxist.

231 CMOT April 15, 2016 at 2:44 pm

The only white male privilege is one the activists don’t want to see: if you are a white man, you can’t blame anyone else for your failures and mistakes. You have to own them, deal with them, and move on.

Sounds like a burden, but it’s really a huge advantage, and is why in fields of endeavor where measurable results matter white men, are over represented.

232 Floccina April 15, 2016 at 2:48 pm

Sounds like a burden, but it’s really a huge advantage, and is why in fields of endeavor where measurable results matter white men, are over represented.

Like in college grad rates, football and basketball.

233 Jay April 15, 2016 at 3:39 pm

“Let me tell y’all what it’s like
Being male, middle-class and white
It’s a b*tch, if you don’t believe
Listen up to my new CD
(Sha-mon) “

234 jorod April 15, 2016 at 6:58 pm

Wait till she has the privilege of paying taxes.

235 Paul April 15, 2016 at 8:22 pm

If you haven’t been in a high school lately check out how each generation is progressively more multiracial, or multi-ethnic, or whatever you want to call it.

Then what?

236 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:32 pm

Back to class issues. But elites will try to inform us of the evils of “class war”, wherein they seek to assert the right to stack the deck in their favour at the same time as denying the rights of others to unstack the deck.

This whole thing of pitting poor blacks and poor whites against each other is a fantastic divide and conquer sort of thing. The peons are busy fighting each other over who gets more crumbs, completely oblivious to the situation that others are making off with truckloads of cake.

In a market system, the possibility to make off with a truckload of cake can have fantastic effects on innovation, effort, etc., but those who do so like to tell themselves that they created 100% of the value, ignoring the vast diversity of institutions and people that make it possible to a) make that cake and b) get it out of the loading dock with 2/3 of it still intact.

237 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 9:39 pm

The main concern I’m bringing up here is that elites engage in “class war” on the sly, while trying to convince us that is we try to do anything about it, that WE are the ones engaging in “class war”. And that race issues, as legitimate as they may be, may serve to distract too much from this situation. However, the rise of Trump and Sanders suggests that people are not so naive about this any more (although the Trumpers seem to want to fight on both fronts, against both elites and non-whites, ironically led by a strongman who, despite a narrative which suggests otherwise, doesn’t actually propose anything whatsoever to change the basic nature of the situation).

238 Nathan W April 15, 2016 at 10:31 pm

How about the privilege of being immediately quoted double prices in many tourist destinations? Or being mobbed by people trying to sell you crap you don’t want when on holidays? Not everyone can afford the exclusive locations where such types are driven away so you can be marketed to by people who would sell at your leisure at 5-10 times the price, not just double.

Or the assumption, in some developing countries, that white people come to give stuff away, making it virtually impossible to do business if you’re white and don’t have an inexhaustible expense account?

239 Art Deco April 16, 2016 at 8:48 am

I see Nathan left another 30 comments overnight.

240 a Fred April 16, 2016 at 12:06 pm

He has claimed that he does work that commonly pays per word, with the payers in no position to evaluate the quality of the product. That explains a lot.

241 Maximus Cunctator April 17, 2016 at 9:25 pm

OK, so I’m privileged — I mean, really really privileged. Well, maybe I feel really really guilty about that. Or not. What difference does it make? Whether I feel guilty or not does not change a thing. Can someone please tell me what I’m supposed to do about all my innate, inherited, and acquired privileges? It’s not like I can give them up. Change my hue? Change my sexual orientation? Change sex? Send my kids to jail? Go on the dole? Become homeless? As a privileged dude, I am full of empathy, as befits my elevated station in life, but what else can I really do? Please someone? HELP ME! It’s like I’m suffering from an incurable disease or something.

242 a fred April 18, 2016 at 2:00 pm

You’re supposed to be at least passive, and preferably supportive, regarding any level of preference, affirmative action, reparations and other benefits and special consideration bestowed on the not-privileged.

243 Maximus Cunctator April 18, 2016 at 11:49 pm

Thanks, a fred, that’s very helpful. Unfortunately, however, it’s only palliative and not really curative or restorative. I can shut up and hide in a corner, while applauding my accusers, but that does not change my privileged position one bit. I yam what I yam. Guilty, guilty, guilty, with neither mercy nor reprieve available. Oh, sigh, whence this heavy burden? Oh, merciful gods, where may I find even a small measure of reprieve from my intolerable privileges?

244 Mark Dietzler April 21, 2016 at 1:33 am

The concept of white privilege is just an extension of group identity politics. It makes no allowances for individual circumstances, or individual decisions.
It, like the concept of group identity that it depends and is based upon, is utter bullshit, and is antithetical to the idea of individual liberty the United States was founded upon.
I have nothing but contempt for anyone espousing the theory of white privilege, and all I have to say to anyone who spouts that nonsense at me is:
What you call privilege is just me being better than you.

245 jack burton April 21, 2016 at 10:21 pm

“Privilege” does not exist ex nihilo. It had to start somewhere with some people. I have no problem with others admitting to the world that my ancestors were more apt, more intelligent, more able, more sophisticated, and much more likely to come out on the winning side of any conflict with their ancestors. If they want to take it back 50 years, 500 years or 5,000 years I am up for that. The better team apparently won the game and took home the trophy. The 2nd place team took home — well — 2nd place.

If they say the game was rigged, then my ancestors were smarter than theirs and figured out how to rig the game and theirs didn’t. If they say my ancestors were more savage than theirs then that means theirs were more weak than mine. If they say there were more of mine, then that means that mine were simply better at understanding how to use the environment to sustain a greater population. If they say my ancestors had bigger, badder, and more destructive weapons that means than their ancestors were probably stuck in a stone-age existence for 10,000 years past their time.

No matter how you slice it… they are making the claim for me that their ancestors could not quite hack it when it came to competition for the “privilege” of being on top. They were weaker, ineffective, and overall a fine example of Darwinism in action.

Now understand that ~this~ is how ~they~ see the world. This is what ~they~ are admitting happened. Unless, of course, they want to somehow claim that “privilege” just happened along one day from out of nowhere and someone picked it up off the ground and has been using it ever since. Should be an interesting and amusing read.

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