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The Truth about 'White Privilege'

By Daren M. Williams

· National Politics

Unbeknownst to many, blacks in America are the major beneficiaries of the uniquely American phenomenon commonly known as "White Privilege". And they have enjoyed those privileges for decades, nay (dare I say it?), for over a century now.


It has been long and fiercely argued that there exists in America a supposed "White Privilege”, a level of privilege that is only bestowed upon and possessed by white people; that all non-whites are denied the benefits or access to this carte blanche system of advantage so blatantly wielded by whites in Western society. And that this injustice must be reversed: all whites in Western society, especially in America, need to denounce this soi-disant "White Privilege" and instead become servants, if not solidarity slaves, to the cause, the uprising of minorities -- particularly blacks. The rationale for this, of course, is that blacks, having been enslaved in America, now lag centuries behind whites and so it is only fitting that 21st century whites, who have never had slaves or enslaved any group of people, atone for the sins of those who may or may not have been their ancestors and give of their prosperity to blacks who have never been enslaved or suffered the immediate or residual effects of slavery. Such ideas run deep in current American culture, and if one does not wholeheartedly endorse them one is easily labeled a racist or bigot. I, being black, am labeled an Uncle Tom for not following this "cult of society".


But is this really true? Is there such a thing called “White Privilege" and are whites the only ones that enjoy this so-called "White Privilege"?


Do not blacks and other racial groups in America also enjoy the benefits of "White Privilege"?


What is "White Privilege," really, and who is the arbiter of this pronouncement?

These are the questions that need honest answers.


“White Privilege”, or "white skin privilege" as defined in Wikipedia (not a terribly authoritative source, I know, but sufficient for the moment) is a term for societal privileges that benefit people identified as white in Western countries, beyond what is commonly experienced by non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances. The pre-1970s concept of "White Privilege" is said to have been started by W.E.B. Du Bois in his 1935 book, Black Reconstruction in America, in which the use of the coined phrase "psychological wage" was an attempt to prove the distinct differences between the black and white labor classes and how whites were afforded more privilege than blacks. It is interesting to note that Du Bois took full advantage of white privilege when he attended two white universities for his advanced education -- Harvard University and the University of Berlin.


The buzz phrase "White Privilege" was given full unadulterated form in 1965 during the height of the civil rights movement by Theodore W. Allen, when he drafted a letter requesting a "John Brown Commemoration Committee" that in essence introduced the phrase into the lexicon for demonizing white people. This letter demanded that whites "begin by first repudiating their white skin privileges." In my opinion, such a task would be difficult if not impossible to do, unless one enjoys masochism. To repudiate a privilege that one has no control over, an individual would basically have to become a slave or just kill themselves to avoid ever mistakenly using that privilege.


It is easy to see that blacks are the most prevalent minority group beneficiaries of "White Privilege" in America as well as in other Western societies, and have been for decades. And though there are countless instances of blacks in America enjoying and reaping the benefits of this "White Privilege", for purposes of time I will expound on only two instances which are widely known and cannot be refuted.


On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation declared "that all persons held as slaves" within the rebellious states “are, and henceforward shall be free." Needless to say, it was a great day, a day of light in a dark part of America's history. Blacks had been subjugated in rigorous servitude in the South and in some parts of the North. Less than seven years after the proclamation, on November 6, 1869, the colleges of Rutgers and Princeton played what was then billed as the first collegiate football game. However, it wasn't until the 1880s that a great rugby player from Yale, Walter Camp, pioneered rule changes that slowly transformed rugby into the new game of American Football. And on November 12, 1892, America enjoyed its first professional football match. Walter Camp was a white male. Similarly, in December 1891, less than 30 years after the Emancipation Proclamation and 22 years after the creation of football, the game of basketball was invented by Dr. James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts. And in 1946, professional basketball was birthed. Dr. James Naismith was a white male.


Football and basketball were created by white men for "white enjoyment", and not a single black person or other ethnic group was considered for participation in these sports when they were first launched. Yet over time both sports became dominated (70+%) by black Americans. One can say that blacks have taken a "White Privilege" sport and have exercised majority control over it. Even the sport of track and field, which began in the Olympic Games near Elis, Greece in 776 B.C. and made its way to America around the 1860s, is now dominated by black Americans.


Now there will be many who attempt to argue as true the fallacious idea that blacks were bred to play sports -- which of course is total nonsense and blatantly false. Blacks were not bred to play sports nor were they bred for any particular physical attributes. But let's just say for the sake of argument that blacks were bred during a specific time in history to play sports. If that were the case, that slave owners actively managed the breeding of their slaves, then they surely were not bred to play -- they were bred to work. And bred to work without say or pay. Furthermore, if blacks were in fact bred to play sports, then in every inner-city and rural black community basketball courts and football fields would have been strategically located to ensure the development of young blacks into professional sports athletes: to play a childhood sport, to make millions of dollars, to be idols adored by millions of people (including and especially whites), and enjoy a life that only few could ever dream of possessing. One could only be so lucky to be bred for that purpose.


But blacks were not bred to play sports.


The only real reason why blacks now dominate in the fields of basketball, football, and other forms of entertainment, like music, is because they focus on it. Many young blacks have made it an overriding priority in their lives.... overriding even the opportunity of getting a proper education. To dribble a ball or run down a field toward a goal post or even sing and dance like Beyoncé is more valued than understanding math and science in many black communities. And in these black communities, being the next LeBron James or Cam Newton is held in much higher esteem than being the next Dr. Benjamin Carson (a choice that could cost you your life in many inner-city communities). But just like any endeavor, be it learning a musical instrument, the principles of science and math, reading and writing, or even the game of hockey, when someone starts at an early age and/or commits themselves to learning and perfecting their ability in a particular field, they will eventually come to master it. It's not that difficult to understand. One can readily say that the black pioneers of science and invention in America during the 19th and early 20th centuries who were committed to their fields of study were also beneficiaries of "White Privilege". For if they had not been in America they would likely never have had the tools and education needed to pioneer their great inventions.


I conclude with two points. First, there is no such thing as "White Privilege." If there is any privilege, it is the privilege of being born in or immigrating to an advanced, free, and open capitalist society. At most, there might be the appearance of a "majority privilege"; that is, any majority ethic group existing in an ethnically diverse country or society will appear to have greater privilege than its minority counterparts simply because of its sheer populousness, because of its longevity in the community, and so on. To wit, blacks enjoy a large degree of "Black Privilege" in all African countries under the Sub-Sahara. And Asians enjoy a disproportionately large degree of "Asian Privilege" in their countries of origin. And even Muslims enjoy an overriding degree of "Muslim Privilege" in comparison to other religious groups in predominantly Muslim countries.


And second, in an advanced, free, and open capitalist society, everyone, whether through birthright, citizenship, or legal immigrant status, has the ability to enjoy the "privileges" of that society’s accomplishments if they so choose -- be it in the field of sports, entertainment, science, business, medicine, etc., or one of their own creation.