White Privilege and Straw Man Arguments

white privilegeThis blog post is the first in a string of posts that I will try to post to the site daily from now on. The pieces may not always be very long but I am trying to commit to writing one article everyday from now on. The pieces I post on my Instagram-wmoviegrapevine- will probably serve as the inspiration for these longer pieces.

Today, I came across a post from a user on Instagram. Like my first Instagram account-moviegrapevine- this user’s content focuses on movies and comics. However, there is the odd post that will tackle a political or racial issue and this user demonstrated that his views are pretty liberal, just like mine.

 

Anyways, today he posted a piece discussing how he was growing increasingly frustrated with accusations of “white privilege” being levied at him. The way he sees it, that term means he was born with a silver spoon. I was able to discuss the post with him in a private message and we both cleared up each other’s confusion. However, the post did bring up some pretty prominent straw man arguments that get applied to the discussion of racism and white privilege. White privilege is a system of benefits that benefit white people and it is important to understand it is a complex issue.

 

  • White privilege does not mean that all white people are racist

 

The user I talked to mentioned that he hated getting lumped into the same group as racists since he was not racist himself. I have previously discussed how many racists will not admit to being racist in this supposedly “colour-blind” era. However, I believe that this user truly isn’t racist.

Realize that even if you are not racist, you benefit from white privilege. For example, cops are more likely to view you as innocent (Chaney and Robertson, 2015) and you are statistically less likely to get jail time ( as opposed to fines, probation etc.) for criminal charges, especially drug charges. Having a “white” or racially ambiguous name (like Jacob, David) can also help you get more callbacks for interviews if hiring managers are judging candidates only by resumes. Some people might want to argue that “ghetto names” might be a factor, but realize that the resumes in this study were manufactured to have the same level of skill. If merit is all that matters in this great colour-blind society, then who cares about a name? Also, many names are definitely not ghetto but are still not “white names”, like Jamal or Cadeem (my name)

 

  • White privilege does not imply that white people do not work hard or that minorities should not.

 

People love to say that anyone who discusses racism has a “victim complex” or is too busy whining to work hard. Acknowledging racism and working hard are not mutually exclusive. Successful black people, like Obama, have acknowledged the impact that a legacy of racism still has on black people nowadays. Many black scholars, athletes and entertainers have all discussed racism at one point or another. My mom never raised me to think that I should not bother working hard because of racism. She raised me to believe that I would have to work twice as hard as a white person to get the same level of success.

If you are a white person who works hard and never asks for any “handouts” then realize you probably still benefited from having a “white” name on your resume. If you don’t have a white name, fair enough, you don’t benefit from that privilege. How about the privilege of cops being more likely to see you as innocent (Chaney and Robertson, 2015). How about living in a nice neighborhood, without people wondering how you make your money or if you actually belong in the neighborhood. Benefitting from these privileges doesn’t mean you’re racist, or that you’re lazy. It is just a fact that there are many benefits you reap even if you are oblivious to them or openly oppose them.

 

Works Cited

 

Chaney, Cassandra and Ray V. Robertson. (2015). Armed and Dangerous? An Examination of Fatal Shootings of Unarmed Black People by Police. Journal of Pan-African Studies 8 (4), 45-78.

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