White privilege and class. A reply to Chris Bertram by Kenan Malik

by Chris Bertram on August 30, 2020

This is a guest post by Kenan Malik replying to two posts by Chris Bertram last week

Chris Bertram published two posts on Crooked Timber last week, the first1 challenging critiques of the concept of “white privilege”, the second2 arguing that certain claims about race and class are irrational. As one of the targets of these articles (Chris linked to one of my posts as exemplifying the problem, and we had previously debated the issue on Twitter), this is a response. Chris’ two posts are not directly linked, but they clearly deal with linked issues, and it is worth looking at them in tandem.

In the first post, Chris argues that “the ‘white privilege’ claim sits best with a certain sort of metaphysics of the person, such that individuals have a range of characteristics, some of which are more natural and others more social, that confer a competitive advantage or disadvantage in a given environment, where that environment is constituted by a range of elements, including demographics, institutions, cultural practices, individual attitudes, and so forth.”

But he also acknowledges that “I’m not establishing that, as a matter of fact, “white privilege” in the form I describe is a real thing, although I believe that it is”. It is difficult to see, though, how one can have a debate about whether “white privilege” is a meaningful category without have first established whether it is “a real thing”. It is possible to have an abstract debate about whether such a phenomenon could exist, but not to critique those who challenge the concept as inchoate in reality. Chris, in common with many proponents of the “white privilege” thesis, takes as given that which has to be demonstrated.

Underlying the “white privilege” thesis are two basic claims. First, that being “white” is a useful category in which to put everyone from the CEOs of multinational corporations to the cleaners in an Amazon warehouse. And, second, that being in such a category imbues people with privileges denied to those not in that category. Are either of these claims true?

The idea of whiteness as a “certain sort of metaphysics of the person” derives, of course, from racial thinking. In recent years it has found an important expression in the notion of “white identity” – the idea that all those deemed white have a common identity and set of interests which may conflict with those of non-whites. Most anti-racists (and, I assume, Chris, too) reject such a claim. We recognize that all whites do not have a common identity, that the interests of white factory workers or shelf-stackers are not the same as those of white bankers or business owners, but are far more similar to those of black factory workers or Asian shelf-stackers.

Why, then, do we ignore this when it comes to the question of “white privilege”? Because, proponents of the white privilege thesis argue, white people do not suffer the kinds of discrimination suffered by non-whites by virtue of their skin colour. At one level this is true. “Racism” refers to the practice of discrimination against, and bigotry towards, certain social groups; there may be many reasons for such discrimination and bigotry, but one is clearly that those who are non-white are often treated unequally. Viewing the issue in terms of “white privilege” is, however, deeply flawed for a number of reasons.

First, it is not a “privilege” not to have to face discrimination or bigotry; it should be the norm. I doubt if Chris, or, indeed, most proponents of the white privilege thesis, would disagree. Framing the absence of oppression or discrimination or bigotry as a “privilege” is to turn the struggle for justice on its head.

Second, the concept of white privilege fails to distinguish between “not being discriminated against or facing bigotry because of one’s skin colour” and “having immunity from discrimination or bigotry because one is white”. The distinction is important. Many whites, because of privileges afforded by wealth and class, do have immunity against discrimination. But many others, who are poor or working class, do not. Their experiences of state authority or of policing is often similar to that of non-whites.3

Consider, for instance, police killings in America. African Americans are disproportionately killed by police.4 But more than half of those killed by US police are white. Some analyses suggest that the best predictor of police killings is not race but income level5 – the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be killed. The data here is relatively sparse, largely because it is easier to break the figures down by race and ethnicity than by class. So, by default, the question of class often disappears. Note that I am not saying that racism does not shape the policing of black communities – it clearly does. What I am saying is that for working class whites, being white does not provide an immunity from the kinds of militarised policing that black communities face, nor provides them with a privilege to avoid it.

Or take the question of mass incarceration. Some studies have shown that the startlingly high prison numbers in America are better explained by class than by race and that “mass incarceration is primarily about the systematic management of the lower classes, regardless of race”.6 There is data, too, that suggests that while the ratio of blacks to whites being incarcerated has remained broadly flat over the past century, the proportion of high school drop outs compared to graduates has exponentially increased in the past 50 years (see fig. 1 here7). What this suggests is that the extraordinary rise in prison numbers in recent decades has been fuelled by a vast increase in the imprisonment of those without higher education and of the poor and the working class. There is an ongoing debate about these figures and about the causes of both police brutality and mass imprisonment. But as someone who has long accepted that mass imprisonment is primarily the result of racism – the “new Jim Crow” in Michelle Alexander’s phrase – I am beginning to change my mind, having seen some of this data. It is certainly the case that African Americans are disproportionately poor and working class. It is also the case that racism plays a major part in ensuring they are so. But it makes littles sense to view police killings and mass imprisonment in terms of “white privilege” when poor and working class whites do not enjoy such privilege.

Or take school exclusions in Britain. Black pupils are disproportionately excluded from school, and there has long been evidence of racism being an important reason as to why. But look more closely at the figures8 and you see that the problem is primarily faced by those of Caribbean descent. Pupils of black African descent are less likely to be excluded than their white peers. This difference can be seen in many aspects of education9, not just exclusion, and class probably plays an explanatory role – those of Caribbean descent being more working class, while those of African descent being traditionally more middle class (though that has changed in recent years). Figures also show that pupils claiming free school meals (FSM) – a proxy for poverty – are almost four times as likely to be excluded as those not receiving FSM.10 In other words, the differences between both pupils of African and of Caribbean descent, and between pupils claiming FSM and those who do not, suggest that class as well as race plays an important role. Again, none of this is to say that there is no racism in the education system. It is saying, however, that it cannot be viewed simply in terms of “white privilege”.

Chris derides such arguments in his second post with an analogy between rich and poor people sleeping under a bridge. The fact that rich people sleeping under a bridge may suffer the same harms as poor people doing so (“exposure to the cold, or being beaten up by gangs of strangers”) does not mean, he points out, that economic inequality does not exist, nor that we should not concentrate resources on poor people sleeping rough. The same, he suggests, applies to arguments about race and class. White people may face police brutality or imprisonment, but that’s essentially equivalent to rich people sleeping rough.

Except that it’s not. The odd rich person may find themselves sleeping under a bridge because of particular circumstances, such as being “inebriated after a night at their club”. But it is not just a “few” working class whites who face police brutality or imprisonment or school exclusion. Nor is it simply the case, as Chris dismissively suggests in his first post, “of noticing that some groups of white people suffer outcomes that are as bad or worse than non-white people on average or some non-white groups in particular”. These are, rather, features woven into the fabric of social life. They may happen because of one’s skin colour. Or because of being working class and poor. Or because of both. But only by ignoring the facts could one suggest that there is any meaningful analogy between white working class people facing police brutality or imprisonment or exclusion and rich people sleeping under a bridge. The degree to which race and class may be causally important in any specific issue at any particular time is an empirical question. It is, however, not a question that we should ignore in the way we can ignore the problem of rich people sleeping rough.

There is a danger, too, in much of this debate of diminishing the importance of class to black people and imaging that their lives are shaped primarily, or only, by race. Class reductionism is a problem that we should avoid. So, too, is race reductionism.

Chris also makes this point in his second post:

“There are harms reliably associated with low socio-economic status and those harms fall on people regardless of their race. Kerching! – it is claimed – race doesn’t matter in the explanation of those harms! But obviously, if being black increases your relative propensity of being sorted into a poor working-class group that is exposed to such harms, and if being white reduces your relative propensity of being so sorted, then race is actually a big part of the picture. Showing that, of those who are in a category that is strongly pre-selected for by race, harms were not associated with race, does not lead to the valid conclusion that those harms are not associated with race.”

It’s a claim that conflates the critique of the white privilege thesis with a denial of racism. I have not at any point denied the existence of racism, nor do I know of any leftwing critic of the white privilege thesis who does so. It is precisely because I am concerned with challenging racism that I am critical of the claims about white privilege. Yes, African Americans (and other minority groups) are disproportionately working class and poor, and, yes, racism plays a significant part in explaining why this is so. But that, as I have already pointed out, is not the same as demonstrating the existence of “white privilege”.

A key phrase in Chris’s quote is “if being white reduces your relative propensity of being so sorted…”. This, again, is to conflate two issues. First, a higher proportion of whites than blacks are middle class and wealthy. Second, a large proportion of whites are working class and poor. The problem lies is in the belief that we can “sort” all white people into a single category and assume that such a category is meaningful in discussing social injustice. Just as there is no category “white” that is meaningful in discussing the identities and interests of all people deemed white, so there is no single category “white” that makes sense in discussion of social injustice or privilege.

Racism is an important issue that needs urgently to be tackled. So is class inequality. Looking at social problems through the lens of “white privilege” helps us do neither.


  1. https://crookedtimber.org/2020/08/27/on-an-objection-to-the-idea-of-white-privilege/

  2. https://crookedtimber.org/2020/08/28/on-a-piece-of-bad-reasoning-about-race-and-class/

  3. https://www.runnymedetrust.org/uploads/publications/We%20Are%20Ghosts.pdf

  4. https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/investigations/police-shootings-database/

  5. https://www.alternet.org/2015/07/95-police-killings-2015-occurred-neighborhoods-incomes-under-100000/?sc=fb

  6. https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/MassIncarcerationPaper.pdf

  7. https://catalyst-journal.com/vol3/no3/the-economic-origins-of-mass-incarceration

  8. https://www.ethnicity-facts-figures.service.gov.uk/education-skills-and-training/absence-and-exclusions/pupil-exclusions/latest

  9. https://archive.voice-online.co.uk/article/why-are-british-africans-better-school-caribbeans

  10. https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/726741/text_exc1617.pdf

{ 213 comments }

1

DocAmazing 08.30.20 at 7:10 pm

To a large extent, this is like a midget proclaiming that he is not short, he is just not tall. When one sees economically stable Black people receiving more harassment from police than economically marginal White people, it really does begin to look like one group is being favored over the other for strictly racial reasons. You might not like the word “privilege” to describe that; I’s love to hear a different but equally useful word.

2

nastywoman 08.30.20 at 7:20 pm

@
”Racism is an important issue that needs urgently to be tackled. So is class inequality. Looking at social problems through the lens of “white privilege” helps us do neither”.

But it helps us – ”Whites” who enjoy ”White Privilege” to use these words to challenge racism.

3

Omega Centauri 08.30.20 at 10:23 pm

nastywoman @2 “But it helps us – ”Whites” who enjoy ”White Privilege” to use these words to challenge racism.”
But does it work, or does it boomerang by turning off the substantial portion of whites who don’t accept the message and are insulted by it, and then become Trumpists? I suspect we may be planting red pills that will grow up to make maters worse.

4

J-D 08.30.20 at 11:03 pm

First, that being “white” is a useful category in which to put everyone from the CEOs of multinational corporations to the cleaners in an Amazon warehouse. … Are either of these claims true?

It is systematically self-refuting to use a term (such as ‘white’) repeatedly at the same time as insisting that it is not useful. If the term is not useful, you can express whatever it is that you want to express as well or better without using it; if your best way of expressing yourself uses the term, then the term is useful to you.

5

Richard Melvin 08.31.20 at 12:05 am

When one sees economically stable Black people receiving more harassment from police than economically marginal White people, it really does begin to look like one group is being favored over the other for strictly racial reasons.

If and when you see that, then the correct word to describe that is not anything subtle like privilege, but racism. That would be the symptom of a significant number of cops being members of organised m0vements that held the harassment of minorities to be a positive goal to be actively worked towards. Some of those that work forces are the same that burn crosses, and so forth.

Other things you could see would be symptoms of different causes, which should be described differently.

Supposedly Inuits have 50 words for snow. By which measure americans should have at least 75 words for racism. It does seem at least 50% more dominant of the US environment than frozen water is of the sub-Arctic one.

Unfortunately it does not seem collectively able to have two and use them both appropriately.

6

M Caswell 08.31.20 at 12:05 am

“I’d love to hear a different but equally useful word”

Freedom?

7

CHETAN R MURTHY 08.31.20 at 12:20 am

What unmitigated bullshit. Please do find us the armies of white parents who teach their parents that if they’re not 100% respectful and never, ever, ever lose their temper, they’ll get killed by po-po. And then there’s the difference in the black children are treated in school vs. white children. And on and on and on.

And where is the unending stream of videos of white people being brutalized by the po-po? The few incidents we learn of, like the one of that Black cop who shot that White Australian lady, go to prove the rule: he was convicted, ffs.

Jesus. What bullshit. You should be ashamed of yourself.

8

Anarcissie 08.31.20 at 1:42 am

nastywoman 08.30.20 at 7:20 pm @ 2 — I think that depends on who you use the words to. I doubt if they could be counted on to convey the right concept to a group of White proles who you were attempting to enlighten. I think there is a good chance they would get stuck on the words, even if they agreed that other kinds of people were relatively disadvantaged and that something ought to be done about it. After all, they too are put upon.

9

faustusnotes 08.31.20 at 2:45 am

An actual conversation I witnessed at a needle/syringe program where I worked, 20 years ago. At the counter, a white client who was a person who injects drugs (PWID) with very chaotic lifestyle, chatting with the staff after collecting her clean needles.

An Asian street-based sex worker walks in and asks for some condoms. The staff give her a pack, and ask her if she would like some clean needles too. They have to show her because her English is poor. She shakes her head no and leaves.

The white PWID says to the staff “I don’t know how they can do that job without drugs. Fucking sluts!”

When you’re white, there’s always a way you can find other people in the same circumstances as you, and make them less than you. And that’s almost always done by race, gender and sexuality, usually a mixture of all of them. White Privilege can be a very useful tool for understanding those cultural processes. It doesn’t have to replace class, but it is a very useful way of understanding how things work within classes.

10

ph 08.31.20 at 3:04 am

Excellent. (thanks Chris for providing space for a reply post)

Kenan Malik last month linked to a Unherd article critiquing bubble bias at Harvard and the New Yorker on the topic of race and policing. https://twitter.com/kenanmalik/status/1286304915904770051

In the New Yorker article, Harvard historian Jill Lepore asserted that 2/3 of Americans aged 15-34 who visited US emergency rooms did so because of injuries inflicted by police or security guards. Peter Moskas, a criminologist at John Jay critiquing the same article, pointed out that the actual figure is something like 0.016 percent.
https://bloggingheads.tv/videos/59781?in=33:40

Moskas and Kenan’s-linked article both note that it takes a particularly disoriented mind to accept the 2/3 figure at face value. As Moskas notes, even a claim of 1/3 should strike most of us as obviously wrong. In the resulting correction, the New Yorker simply appends a footnote referring to a ‘misrepresentation’ in the original numbers, but makes no mention of the original claim 66 percent claim, carefully avoiding any mention of the scale of the error. Both actions tells us quite a lot about the need to preserve a particular narrative, and the surrounding bubble.

As Kenan notes in his reply to Chris, the problems African-Americans face have less to do with white privilege than problems within the community, education being among them. Horrific literacy rates among African-Americans will leave this community,which so many corporations and brand names claim to care so much about these days, particularly vulnerable in 2020-21. https://www.thecrisismagazine.com/single-post/2020/04/26/With-COVID-19-The-African-American-Literacy-Crisis-Will-Get-Much-Worse

Which leads to the connection with class, social mobility, and crime.

https://www.libraryjournal.com/?detailStory=How-Serious-Is-Americas-Literacy-Problem
“The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has data showing that 75 percent of state prison inmates are either classified as low literate or did not complete high school. The Literacy Project Foundation reported that three out of five people in prison can’t read, and 85 percent of youth offenders struggle to read. A study by the Washington State Institute for Public Policy found that providing general education to people in prisons reduced recidivism by 7 percent.

Many of these statistics are related, says Sharon Darling, president and founder of the National Center for Families Learning (NCFL). “There have been all kinds of initiatives to deal with literacy, by governors, foundations, school boards, and we’ve seen some progress. But these things are the petals of a flower, and literacy is the stem.”Darling founded NCFL 30 years ago to work for literacy not only with children but also the adults in the family. The ideas that parents could help children and that generational literacy was a problem weren’t necessarily novel, but there were unexpected findings. “In the first year, we found 50 percent of parents in our programs got better jobs. We weren’t aiming to improve employment, but quickly realized we needed to look at this.” She points to a 2010 National Institutes of Health study that found that improving a parent’s—specifically a mother’s—literacy outweighed any other method of improving literacy.

Parents who are struggling with literacy are also more likely to struggle with employment and income and, in turn, pass those struggles down to their children. Darling says that working with the parents helps both them and their children. “These are parents who feel so defeated. Their children start having problems in school, and the parents think, ‘That’s what happened to me, too.’ They thought they were stupid.”

Far from it. Darling tells the story of a mother who lived with her children in a car who enrolled in an NCFL program and eventually went on to earn two master’s degrees. Each of her children also hold master’s degrees. Another family lived in a garage, but the parents were able to earn GEDs and go on to community college. Climbing out of illiteracy and poverty allowed them to help their children, who then both received full rides to UCLA. One is working on a PhD.”

Despite decades of evidence confirming that public schools fail African-Americans, and the direct links between literacy rates, social mobility, and incarceration – Democratic leaders and many of their supporters continue to oppose charter schools, vouchers, and school choice.

Such intransigence is troubling to say the least, especially given the fact that the overwhelming majority of minority-voters now favor such programs. https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2020/02/24/voters-strongly-support-school-choice-educators-should-listen-column/4831964002/

White privilege does exist, and exists most clearly and emphatically in social mobility, access to education, and incarceration. Depriving African-Americans, and other minorities, of the freedom to choose how and where their children are educated isn’t just an expression of white privilege, it’s akin to something far worse.

Kenan Malik’s post confirms that we need to step outside our bubbles of privilege now, and accept that African-Americans and other minorities want and need school choice now, far more than any egregiously sloppy sop in the New Yorker, or lectures on structural racism from white people.

11

Fake Dave 08.31.20 at 4:57 am

@1 What’s wrong with good old “white supremacy?” It seems to fit your example much better than “privilege.” The distinction, such as it is, is that “supremacy” implies an active process of marginalization while “privilege” refers to the passive accrual of benefits by people who may or may be contributing to white supremacy. When people favor the “privilege”‘ frame to refer to actively racist things (like calling the cops on random black people) that are not merely passive free-riding on the coattails of previous white supremacist projects, it becomes a PC euphemism that conceals something much uglier. That’s my biggest issue with it, anyway.

12

Hidari 08.31.20 at 5:27 am

The links on this website would seem to be relevant to this argument (caveat lector: this dude claims to be a statistician/political scientist at an elite university, but that’s just what he says: I have no idea as to the veracity of his facts or ideas).

https://policytensor.com

This essay:

https://policytensor.com/2020/07/09/the-origins-of-the-great-awokening/

And this essay

https://policytensor.com/2019/11/05/when-did-democrats-lose-the-south/

would seem to be particularly relevant. (follow the links in that last one).

Perhaps someone more familiar with the raw data and political arguments than me can confirm whether or not this sounds plausible or not.

Also, cf Picketty on education and propensity to vote for ‘left wing’ political parties:

http://bostonreview.net/class-inequality/marshall-steinbaum-thomas-piketty-takes-ideology-inequality#:~:text=Piketty%20attaches%20a%20great%20deal%20of%20significance%20to,party%20to%20the%20party%20of%20the%20highly%20educated.

This might seem to be going off-topic but if one looks carefully at their arguments (which are of course contested) it’s obviously not.

FWIT I think WP actually is quite a useful phrase, but I think it lends itself to certain political discourses which are highly problematic.

13

john v burke 08.31.20 at 5:52 am

“Some analyses suggest that the best predictor of police killings is not race but income level5 – the poorer you are, the more likely you are to be killed. The data here is relatively sparse, largely because it is easier to break the figures down by race and ethnicity than by class. ”
Here, as in many other places, “class” and “income” seem to be used interchangeably. Do these categories really coincide? Do we find the same political outcomes regardless of which metric we use? I think the analysis of how “race” functions in US political life is difficult enough without additional complication from (what strikes me as) unexamined sorting.

14

J-D 08.31.20 at 8:31 am

Supposedly Inuits have 50 words for snow.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_words_for_snow

(For anybody who cares.)

15

nastywoman 08.31.20 at 8:56 am

@3
”But does it work, or does it boomerang by turning off the substantial portion of whites who don’t accept the message and are insulted by it, and then become Trumpists”?
AND
@8
”I think that depends on who you use the words to. I doubt if they could be counted on to convey the right concept to a group of White proles who you were attempting to enlighten”.
AND
@10
”What’s wrong with good old “white supremacy?”

WE have found out – that ”White Privilege” works a lot better – than “white supremacy?” – for – as Anarcissie wrote: ”White proles” – as there is only a very limited
amount of words in order to challenge racism.

AND! – Again! – it has a lot to do with ”trending” and ”memes” – and as I’m – anywhoo – according to QAnonTrumpists – ” a member of a global ring of elite, cannibalistic, satanic pedophiles – who drinks the blood of children in order to stay young – I just can’t tell the ”Trumpists”:

STOP BEING SUCH A F… RACIST!

Sooo – there very polite: ”White Privilege” suits ME very well…

16

Gorgonzola Petrovna 08.31.20 at 9:01 am

“When one sees economically stable Black people receiving more harassment from police than economically marginal White people, it really does begin to look like one group is being favored over the other for strictly racial reasons. ”

One could be economically stable, and nevertheless fit the profile of someone who robbed a gas station nearby a half-hour ago. And not by the skin color alone: gender, age, height, weight, the style of clothing.

He is likely to be approached by a cop, which is perfectly legitimate: the cop is simply doing his job. The cop will be nervous, apprehensive, because people robbing gas stations are likely to be armed, and they don’t want to be arrested. What follows is likely to be perceived as harassment.

Yes: a different skin color would prevent the incident, but so would the different gender, or a significant difference in ages.

I don’t have statistics for the relevant characteristics of street-crime suspects and economically stable Black people receiving harassment, but it seems plausible that the correlation would provide a better explanation than “strictly racial reasons”.

17

nastywoman 08.31.20 at 9:05 am

”Sooo – there very polite: ”White Privilege” suits ME very well…”

and the… weird thing – as I hinted before – if one looks 100 percent like ”white privilege” – but loves to bond with ”the Proles” -(as Anarcissie called them)
AND you can repair a Harley –

”The Proles” -(and even some Trumpists) understand that ”Whites” -(like ME) always were and always will be much more ”privileged” – than my -(very, very good looking ”brown” friend) –

https://youtu.be/vGg0myZ7B9g

18

Τεύκρος 08.31.20 at 9:08 am

Doesn’t it follow that there is no class privilege by this reasoning?

After all, people born middle class who end up working class are working class. Once working class, they’re subject to the same problems people born working class are. So, by the reasoning of the main argument in the piece, it follows that the class from which they were selected has no privilege over the class into which they were selected: no middle class person, for example, escapes unjustified police suspicion because they look and sound middle class. Quite a result.

19

rjk 08.31.20 at 9:21 am

How much of this whole exchange (comment threads included) consists of British people not quite getting what things are like in America, and Americans not quite understanding why the former group don’t get it?

20

nastywoman 08.31.20 at 9:39 am

AND guys – it’s not only the ”police killings” –
it’s the every day… ”drag” –
As haven’t I told this story before – that if ”a Black friend of mine” speaking English with a German accent -(because he mainly grew up in Germany) – and a ”German looking” ME – talking with a Californian accent – get’s asked at the Empire State by a
WhiteHomelandDude:
”So where are you from”?

And my Black friend says: ”From Germany”.

And the WhiteHomelandDude says:
”N0 – where are you REALLY from”?
AND
I have the White Privilege to tell the HomelandDude – that we are ALL from Africa -(Bonga-Bonga) – and my Black friend just looks a little bit browner than – ME!

21

Thomas Beale 08.31.20 at 9:46 am

‘White privilege’ seems to me a useless phrase for many reasons mentioned by Malik. If there were to be anything at all there, it is surely that it is a (very) lazy proxy for something like ‘western (?culture) privilege’, which is to say that the possible privilege that might inhere in certain individuals is that which corresponds to Western traditions, such as the built-in assumption of (Western-style) education, language, institutions, arts, family life, civic norms, respect for the law and so on.

In the Europe and Western-culture dominated New World countries (all of North & South America, Australia …) those who are directly descend from the European culture get all these things for free, and are automatically part of that culture. These people are arguably all approximately ‘white’ as well, but only in some purist genetic sense (i.e. that Europe was originally Caucasian) rather than any other interesting sense I can think of (I see no ‘a certain metaphysics’).

Those who come to Western countries from elsewhere have 3 choices: maintain their original culture (e.g. Chinese, Lebanese, Indian etc), adopt the extant culture in the adopted country, or create something entirely new (or, obviously, bits of all three).

If the historical trajectory that got your people (say, slaves from Africa) to Western countries (say, US or Brazil), your people were forcibly deracinated. But being second class citizens, there was little access to the mainstream culture; in some cases they created a bit of something new (e.g. various forms of music, synthetic religious practices visible in southern US and Brazil). If in recent times (1960s and later) your people (finally) achieved the same citizen rights as others, then those who by luck or sheer hard work managed to properly adopt the Western culture tended to make it, while those who got stuck in urban ghettos with poor education and opportunity didn’t. They might live inside a Western country but they’re effectively marooned outside of its culture.

It’s not hard to see that immigrant populations such as the millions of Japanese, Syrian and Lebanese workers who came to Brazil, Chinese and more recently Koreans, who went everywhere, etc, none of whom are ‘white’, nevertheless adopted the extant Western culture very quickly, in terms of creating businesses, families, working hard at school etc. Not only that, but the successful people in most countries in Africa and the middle east, even those that claim to despise Western culture, are all nevertheless educated in the Western model, and work within Western style administrations, institutions and do Western-style business. Hardly any of these people are ‘white’, but in those societies, they have the ‘white privilege’.

Why are they never mentioned in the ‘white privilege’ debate? Why are successful blacks in the US ignored? It’s because in reality, they have effective ‘white privilege’ (which is really ‘Western culture privilege’), but don’t fit the race-based WP narrative. Similarly, the oft-mentioned white underclass or the Appalachian hillbilly counter-example to WP fits better with a ‘Western privilege’ concept (i.e. they don’t have good education or opportunities, just like other poor people in rich countries).

Conclusion: what matters far more than innate qualities such as race for any group of people is trajectory of their history – by what means and under what conditions did they arrive at their current situation? The obsession with race (as with other innate qualities) only serves to obscure a clear reading of history.

My question would be: is there such a thing as Western privilege, i.e. now questioning the ‘privilege’ bit? I would say that there is certainly something we could call ‘Western advantage’. If you were born straight into its upper echelons of Western culture (primarily good family and education) – which can happen in any country in the world, and has little to do with skin colour – yes, I think ‘privilege’ could be argued for. That may be unfair (the whole world is unfair, as every type I diabetic will remind you) but unlike ‘white privilege’, one can work one’s way into ‘Western privilege’. Under this argument, societal redress reverts to the usual boring goals of improving education, civic values, and opportunity, for the populations that lack them, i.e. the long-term poor and other culturally deprived groups.

22

Tm 08.31.20 at 11:14 am

Hidari 11, as to the question “when did democrats lose the south”, I can offer this data point: in 2008, Arkansas was so Democratic dominated that they won all state-wide elections including both US Senators, they dominated both houses of the legislature and won three of four US House seats. At the same time, Arkansans voted against Obama at a far higher margin than they had voted against Kerry and Gore (and Dukakis, only Mondale in 1984 had done worse).

By 2014, the state had completely flipped: all state wide offices, all US Congress seats and majorities of both state houses are now held by Republicans. The phenomenon was hard to understand for me, I was watching it with confusion, but it is hard to argue that it can be explained without taking into account the first African American president.

The whole South had already twice supported GWB but while the trend in the presidential election of 2008 in the whole country was towards Obama’s Democrats, across the South Whites doubled down in their support of the GOP, and continued doing so in the following years. Again it seems hard to explain this without taking into account Obama and the racist campaign against him.

23

Zamfir 08.31.20 at 12:42 pm

Rjk, these British people might be mostly discussing Britain?

24

kinnikinick 08.31.20 at 12:52 pm

Cast your mind back to your days in the schoolyard, that jolly land of negative-sum outcomes. There are kids who are notably good at games; most are not. The average kid has vague aspirations to be first, but mostly has a desperate hope not to be last. Being last marks you for unwelcome attention of the monkey politics sort – it implies humiliation, isolation, social poison.
I think most children would choose a guarantee that they would never be last at anything over a guarantee that they would always be first at one thing. The former guarantee is the essence of white privilege, the white person’s “card”, as others have put it: if you are white, there will always be a rung on the ladder that is lower than yours.
If you are lucky enough not to need that assurance because you can get it in other ways, it’s easy to mock. If you do need it, you will cling to it like life itself.

25

Hidari 08.31.20 at 1:09 pm

Is anyone going to talk about male privilege?

Even more of a longstanding issue, I would have thought.

26

Corax 08.31.20 at 1:42 pm

@7 For starters, and for anyone else who may be interested: https://twitter.com/leonydusjohnson/status/1299153542473809926?s=21

The existence of police brutality against “white” people in no way excuses police brutality against “blacks,” or any other grouping of humans, and the inverse is also true. But the fact of this brutality, and the suffering it inflicts, whatever you may know or believe about it, is unchanged by your spasm of disbelief.

27

CP Norris 08.31.20 at 1:57 pm

It’s a claim that conflates the critique of the white privilege thesis with a denial of racism. I have not at any point denied the existence of racism, nor do I know of any leftwing critic of the white privilege thesis who does so.

This is technically true, in that none of them outright say “racism doesn’t exist”. But in practice, you can follow class reductionists on Twitter and find them denying that each individual instance of racism is racism.

28

Al 08.31.20 at 2:30 pm

“Racism” is keeping black people from getting to where white people are.

“Privilege” acknowledges that keeping black people behind has helped get white people where they are.

Maybe there’s a better word than “privilege”, but just reverting to “racism” elides the entire lesson.

29

nastywoman 08.31.20 at 2:41 pm

@23 Hidari
Is anyone going to talk about male privilege?

I would love to – but so – would I love to talk about something completely different –
like… Monty… Monty Python?

30

engels 08.31.20 at 2:50 pm

Another excellent piece from Malik, another awful set of comments.

31

Donald 08.31.20 at 3:11 pm

Arguments about class and race reductionism generally cut both ways. So to me it is obvious ( despite the OP’s arguments) that there is such a thing as white privilege, but I also think it is obvious that upper middle class educated whites use this term as a stick to bash poorer less educated whites. I have always known people who would never use a racist term who will use the term “ white trash” unironically.

32

sean samis 08.31.20 at 3:36 pm

That poor Whites experience some of the injustices of non-Whites overlooks the salient point: even the richest Black American experiences those injustices occasionally, most Black Americans experience them regularly.

To escape those injustices, a White person needs merely appear “middle class”. To escape those injustices, a Black person needs to hide at home.

White Privilege is a real thing, and important thing. Poor White Americans might have few rational shared interests with Rich White Americans, but merely “being White” observably creates some shared “racial” interests for many Whites, however irrational those interests may be.

sean s.

33

Robo Friend 08.31.20 at 3:43 pm

One could be economically stable, and nevertheless fit the profile of someone who robbed a gas station nearby a half-hour ago. And not by the skin color alone: gender, age, height, weight, the style of clothing.

Not sure if this is intended sincerely or not (the eternal dilemma of internet discussions), but I’d like to reply assuming Gorgonzola is genuinely open-minded about this point…

The main issue with this line of thinking is the underlying assumption that “black male” is a significant category for identifying individuals (especially for criminal dragnet purposes), when “white male” generally is not. If someone robs a corner store in Boston and is described as “white male, medium build, teens to early 20s, wearing a t-shirt and jeans”, you don’t fond cops suddenly pulling over every MIT and Boston College frat kid to frisk them on the sidewalks or search their cars. Even if they do approach white kids on the street, it’s more likely to be with an attitude of “we both know you didn’t do it, but humor me here” and not with a hand on their pistol.

You may counter that a suspect being black, as a minority with 1/4 the population of whites (on avg in America), contains slightly more informational content than a suspect being white. But it’s still nowhere near enough information to have a meaningful percentage chance of randomly identifying the correct suspect on the street, which would require orders of magnitude greater information (say a license plate number, or very specific car make/mode). This discrepancy in treatment for blacks versus whites in the interest of a tiny tiny possibility of finding “the right guy” can only be excused if you consider the buttonholing and questioning of dozens to hundreds of black citizens trying to go about their day a tiny price to pay for a chance at identifying any given criminal.

I certainly would not want to pay that price in civil liberties because police had nothing better to go off than “White guy in his thirties, between 5’8” and 6 ft” every time such a person committed any crime in a several mile vicinity.

34

bianca steele 08.31.20 at 4:35 pm

There’s plenty of evidence of differential, racist policing in the US. The stats provided in the OP appear to address the UK only. (It’s unclear to me what definition of “racism” is incompatible with lack of differential policing, such that only in such a situation could “white privilege” make sense.) We know how this goes. The narrative is “equal protection of the law + education” and year after year, accounts that support the narrative for one reason or another (in this case, maybe because, as @21 suggests, “white privilege” is something that describes America but not England*) are “privileged” and stand forever as putative “proof” that evidence to the contrary has not (all evidence to the contrary) been provided. Pretending this helps leads to more and more doubling down, wasted time, wasted effort, and wasted good will.

a favorite among CT commenters, who love to complain that Americans bring in their own problems when other people are trying to discuss things

35

MisterMr 08.31.20 at 4:40 pm

@Τεύκρος 17

In another thread, Tm asked me about class privilege, and I said that I didn’t like the term but didn’t elaborate. I will elaborate here why I think that ‘class privilege’ is a wrong concept.

Let’s simplify class and let’s say that class is about rich and poor.

Now rich people can, for example, pay for better schools to their kids, that will likely get a better job and higer income for their kids.
But the whole point of being rich means having more money for buying stuff, including capital goods that increase income. A rich guy who pays for a good school for his son is not different from a rich guy who buys an apartment for his son, or buys some bonds and leaves them to the son.

So ‘class privilege’ would consist in buyng varius forms of capital goods. But being rich also generally means owning capital goods. In pratice there is no difference between the concept of ‘being rich’ and the concept of ‘class privilege’.

The idea of class privilege make no sense in a capitalist society, because the whole point of it is the ownership of capital goods; it just obfuscates the way a capitalist society works by implying that capital goods are not supposed to give the owner some social advantage, but this is obviously a nonsense.

The concept of white privilege is less a nonsense because, when we look at the economic part of it, it goes against the ideal functioning of a capitalist society as this kind of identities are not supposed to give you an advantage. But this works only if you assume a zero sum economy, that is problematic. In other words I’m not convinced that whites as such get an economic advantage from racism against blacks, but this depends on my opinion about how the economy works.

36

L2P 08.31.20 at 4:41 pm

This seems like epic hair-splitting more than any sort of substantive argument. The OP isn’t drying racism exists, or that being white confers advantages over not being white. He’s saying only that the idea of “white privilege” adds nothing to the idea of “racism” except confusion.

And I think he has a point. There doesn’t seem to be anyplace where “white privilege” means nothing more than than “not suffering from racism.” It’s rephrasing a negative idea (non-white people suffer from racism) to a positive idea (white people benefit from not suffering from racism). That seems to be the sum total of white privilege. White people are wealthier because, historically, they haven’t suffered from racism. White people are safer because they don’t suffer racism attacks from the police. White people are healthier because they don’t suffer from racist health policies.

Rephrasing racism as white privilege causes some problems. If wealth is caused by white privilege, we can stop that by giving non-white people money. Problem solved! Everybody’s equally wealthy, and that aspect of white privilege is gone! But there’s still racism lurking everywhere. I’m pretty sure we’d end up with racist disparities soon (maybe not as stark).

OTOH, talking about white privilege lets white people deal with stuff without being called racist all the time. There’s something to be said for that. Nobody with a good heart wants to be called racist. When it’s the inevitable results of you doing what you do without any bad intent that causes racist outcomes, and you’re being called racist for (say) putting your kids in fancy private schools, that makes people dig in their heels. Saying it’s “white privilege” instead of racism makes it easier to address.

37

engels 08.31.20 at 4:49 pm

“We’re gonna fight racism not with racism we’re gonna fight it with solidarity. We’re not gonna fight capitalism with Black capitalism but we’re gonna fight it with socialism”
https://mobile.twitter.com/broseph_stalin/status/1267438742396116994

38

nastywoman 08.31.20 at 5:14 pm

@30 Angel
– ”another awful set of comments”.

with the exception of my comments – Right?

39

bianca steele 08.31.20 at 5:34 pm

@33 lblack, as a minority with 1/4 the population of whites (on avg in America)”

Your stat is incorrect; let me take the opportunity to provide the correct one. Non-whites, according to Wiki, make up just over 1/4 of the population of the US, but only half of that group are black.

40

Robo Friend 08.31.20 at 5:39 pm

Rephrasing racism as white privilege causes some problems. If wealth is caused by white privilege, we can stop that by giving non-white people money. Problem solved!

Agreed that this would not solve the problem entirely – other forms of discrimination would have to be actively addressed – but it still strikes me as a pretty damn good start. Much of anti-black and anti-Hispanic racism in America is abetted by exploiting the pre-existing wealth differentials and ability to access capital (e.g. education quality, housing access and peer networks, entrepreneurship rates, reliance on poorer groups not being able to kick up sufficient fuss about civil liberties violations without money for good lawyers and lobbyists, etc.). This has been well-addressed in summary by essays like this and this.

Apologies for not commenting more directly on the OP, but my thoughts are very well addressed by comments such as DocAmazing’s 1, faustusnote’s 9, kinnikinick’s 24, Al’s 28, and L2P’s 36 above.

“Racism” strikes me as a very general term, best applied to either institutional characteristics and widespread beliefs that enforce differential outcomes or experiences by race (often with very different outcomes dependent on the race and other perceived identities of individuals), or to specific racist acts by individuals. “White privilege” is a useful term for the more passive benefit derived by white individuals in a racist society/system whether or not they actively contribute to those racist structures or acts.

41

Robo Friend 08.31.20 at 5:45 pm

Whoops, not sure what went wrong in my hyperlinks in the previous comment, but they were meant to refer to Nikole Hannah-Jones’s “It Is Time for Reparations” and Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “The Case for Reparations”, respectively.

42

Dave Heasman 08.31.20 at 5:58 pm

“First, a higher proportion of whites than blacks are middle class and wealthy. ”

and therefore it’s harder for authorities (police) to determine at a glance who they can treat (kill) with impunity,

43

Peter Rosen 08.31.20 at 6:21 pm

“Speaking in 1848, Senator John C. Calhoun saw slavery as the explicit foundation for a democratic union among whites, working and not:

With us the two great divisions of society are not the rich and poor, but white and black; and all the former, the poor as well as the rich, belong to the upper class, and are respected and treated as equals.

On the eve of secession, Jefferson Davis, the eventual president of the Confederacy, pushed the idea further, arguing that such equality between the white working class and white oligarchs could not exist at all without black slavery:

I say that the lower race of human beings that constitute the substratum of what is termed the slave population of the South, elevates every white man in our community … It is the presence of a lower caste, those lower by their mental and physical organization, controlled by the higher intellect of the white man, that gives this superiority to the white laborer. Menial services are not there performed by the white man. We have none of our brethren sunk to the degradation of being menials. That belongs to the lower race—the descendants of Ham.”

Here is a piece of a Ta-Nehisi Coates essay with, two historical quotes, that seems apposite

44

Cian 08.31.20 at 7:09 pm

A lot of these comments don’t seem to have engaged with what he actually said.

First of all privilege is a terrible word to use. The way cops treat certain groups is a disgrace. The way bourgeoise white people get treated should be the default. It’s not a privilege, it’s a human right.

Secondly, the cops kill more white people every year than black people. Yes, they’re racist. Yes everything else being equal you’re more likely to be killed if you’re black. But a black upper-middle class professional has more ‘privilege’ than a poor white person.

Thirdly, if you want to change things you need to build coalitions. In my state the police killings of black people have received national attention and the cops have been (mostly) sent to jail/prosecuted. The killings of white people have been ignored, the cops have not been touched (and yes some of these killings were every bit as bad). Instead of building a multi-racial coalition, what instead seems to have happened is that it’s strengthened existing racial resentments.

At the end of the day the problem here is the police. They include many extremists, they’re poorly trained, are unaccountable to political norms, are typically corrupt, are very resentful of the communities they work in and are extremely dangerous. Everyone benefits if policing in the US is reformed except maybe the fascists.

45

Peter Dorman 08.31.20 at 7:20 pm

If a random Black guy is killed or permanently paralyzed by a cop, and racism is clearly implicated, who is at fault, the cop who did it (and the rest of the force that stood by) or all White people who are not victims of police violence?

It’s not either/or, but if your answer is predominantly #1, the issue is racism, both on the individual level (the cop/s directly involved) and the structural (lack of monitoring and accountability). If your answer is #2, white people across the board have to be divested of their privilege.

I’m obviously loading the example against privilege, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a useful term; it depends on the situation. If there’s competition for the job of being a cop and one of the criteria is not having an arrest record, then White applicants are privileged: simply by virtue of being White and not being subject to discriminatory arrests they have a better chance of making the cut. And yes, I think a solution to that problem does involve Whites giving up something, since dropping this criterion will lower their chances of getting accepted.

The reason the blanket use of the word “privilege” bothers me is that I think this distinction matters.

46

Andres 08.31.20 at 7:57 pm

Oh boy. While I disagree with Kenan’s OP as described below, I find it telling that he presents a nuanced and thought-out argument while at least one commenter reacts with something like “What unmitigated bullshit.” It makes me despair of the CT commentariat, and also think that moderating here isn’t sufficiently restrictive.

Ok, as to the substance, I think part of the problem is not only that the words “white privilege” have inaccurate connotations (e.g., the connotation that white people are free of economic problems, addiction and violence, which they definitely are not), but also because we are not sufficiently breaking down the various forms of “white privilege”. Here is a tentative taxonomy.

First, statistical white privilege. That is, the children of white parents will likely be born into families that have higher average levels of financial, real estate, and educational wealth compared to children of black, Native American, or mixed race Hispanic families; plus also be more likely to be part of a social network of wealthy or otherwise influential individuals. So white children statistically will have more economic opportunity than black children (or Native American or mixed race Hispanic children, for that matter). Even if the “racism dial” could be set to zero, there will still be statistical white privilege caused by the failure to redistribute wealth by race as reparations for past slavery and discrimination.

Second, passive white privilege, which is simply the privilege of not being on the receiving end of racism. Passive white privilege depends on location: in a non-racist society, passive white privilege vanishes. And for a white person in India, East Asia, or Africa, passive white privilege can even turn negative, so to speak. Where I start to diverge from Kenan Malik is that while he correctly argues that a person might still be on the lower half of the social pyramid in many ways, despite being a beneficiary of passive white privilege, he seems to imply that passive white privilege does not exist as a result. Freedom from racism is most definitely a social good, even when it is passive and unearned. Kenan Malik conflates racism with arbitrary violence or arbitrary mistreatment. White people can still be victims of the latter two, but racism makes both more likely to happen to black people, or to Native Americans or mixed race Hispanic.

Third, active white privilege: when a white individual believes in and deliberately seeks to perpetuate either or both of statistical or passive white privilege. Racism may or may not be a motivating factor in active white privilege. Any white person who argues that affirmative action is reverse discrimination and should be illegal is, regardless of motivation, engaged in active white privilege. The denial that racist policing is a common fact of life and that police should have almost unlimited authority to impose “law and order” is another example. Kenan seems to argue that active white privilege is pure racism and should be called as such, but any number of psychological factors including a proto-fascist fetish for law and order or a rigid, unrealistic free market mindset might also be the main motivating factors.

So Kenan seems to argue that only statistical white privilege exists and that the effects of passive white privilege and symptoms of active white privilege are purely the effects of conscious racism. I beg to differ, but I can at least see why he would make a case for this argument, given that class bias, sexism, LGBT discrimination and violence fetishism are also rampant social problems in the U.S.

47

sean samis 08.31.20 at 8:11 pm

MisterMr;

I don’t think anyone can rightly say what the “whole point of Capitalism is” but we can say that rich have access to opportunities over and above mere enhanced purchasing power. Capitalism is as much about social power and privilege as anything else.

sean s.

48

Tzimiskes 08.31.20 at 8:31 pm

While in many cases I do agree that much of what is called white privilege is simply the absence of racism, I do think there are a few areas in which it remains distinguishable. In particular, we see this in how the police, and other authority figures, often identify with and show favoritism towards people who engage what I’ll call performative whiteness, for lack of a better word. In particular I am thinking of groups like the protestors in Michigan who took firearms into government buildings in protest or some of the anti-lockdown protestors who engaged in some minor property damage (broken windows). These groups are perceived as allies of police and law enforcement, we see it generally that whites who engage in explicitly racist acts are often treated favorably than authorities. This requires that the individuals engage in explicit performance of their white identity to receive its benefits, left wing protestors certainly aren’t treated with the kind of respect given to gun toting militias, but I think this reinforces rather than detracts from this being evidence of white privilege. The privilege increases the more the person in question acts white and is explicit about this identity, those that attack the privilege weaken their own privilege.

Arguably, this form of privilege could be distinguished from the more general use of the term white privilege which includes white people merely being treated how everyone should be, but I find it very hard to look at how armed whites are being treated during protests and concluding that this should not be treated as some form of privilege. I don’t think everyone should be able to walk around with assault rifles in highly emotionally charged situations, and cops are correct in trying to prevent some protestors from openly carrying and using weapons, the problem is that they are extending privilege to white protestors who openly identify as racist whites protecting their privileged status.

49

Gorgonzola Petrovna 08.31.20 at 8:52 pm

@Robo Friend
thank you for the reply. Yes, I would like to think of myself as open-minded. I just don’t like to follow the mob.

You make good points, but I feel you’re caricaturing my argument a bit. I didn’t suggest “a several mile vicinity” or pulling over every car. I’m not an expert in police procedures, but if someone described as “white male, medium build, teens to early 20s, wearing a t-shirt and jeans” robs a corner store in Boston, then, I assume, within the next 20 minutes or so some white male, medium build, teens to early 20s, wearing a t-shirt and jeans persons will be stopped and checked. Perhaps they will be less inclined to perceive it as harassment, though, because it doesn’t fit the standard narrative.

50

J-D 08.31.20 at 10:58 pm

How much of this whole exchange (comment threads included) consists of British people not quite getting what things are like in America, and Americans not quite understanding why the former group don’t get it?

I don’t know, but it seems worth pointing out that there are participants in this exchange who are neither British nor American.

51

LFC 08.31.20 at 10:58 pm

Take this passage from the OP:

…the concept of white privilege fails to distinguish between “not being discriminated against or facing bigotry because of one’s skin colour” and “having immunity from discrimination or bigotry because one is white”. The distinction is important. Many whites, because of privileges afforded by wealth and class, do have immunity against discrimination. But many others, who are poor or working class, do not. Their experiences of state authority or of policing is [sic] often similar to that of non-whites.

This is not put as clearly as it might be, but what the passage appears to be saying is that no one is “immune” from, or less likely to be faced with, discrimination simply because they are white. The passage says that those whites who are immune from discrimination are immune “because of privileges afforded by wealth and class,” not whiteness.

The situation in the UK may be different, but in the US there is reasonably abundant evidence, some statistical but probably more that is convincingly anecdotal, that, to take one example, blacks are stopped by police while driving for minor infractions (or for no real reason) more often than whites. I heard (on the radio) Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), hardly a leftist, referring to being stopped by police more than once while driving in the vicinity of the Capitol building. How many white Senators would say the same? Probably none. Wouldn’t you think the local police by now would know and recognize the African-American sitting Senators? Anyway, putting that aside, this is one concrete case where being white, irrespective of wealth and class, does seem to confer an advantage in terms of how one is viewed and treated by police (on average; obviously this is not an indictment of every police officer). I don’t know whether “white privilege” is a good phrase for this phenomenon or not, but some phrase is probably required. (In this case it may be more a matter of implicit bias on the part of some police rather than conscious racism.)

Malik may well be correct that poor (and/or working class) whites are not especially “privileged” when it comes to the issues of police violence and mass incarceration. Class may be the more, or at least an equally, salient variable when it comes to these issues, though he does acknowledge that African-Americans are disproportionately killed by police. Where I strongly suspect “white privilege” does come into play, though, is in the more quotidian aspects of experience: being stopped while driving, being asked to explain one’s presence in a particular setting/neighborhood/etc. These may seem somewhat trivial, but there is (again, at least anecdotal) evidence that they can take a strong psychological toll.

52

Faustusnotes 08.31.20 at 11:00 pm

Mistermr, have you heard the expression “free to those who can afford it, very expensive to those who cannot?” Class privilege is absolutely a thing.

53

Kiwanda 09.01.20 at 2:49 am

Chetan Murthy:

And where is the unending stream of videos of white people being brutalized by the po-po? The few incidents we learn of, like the one of that Black cop who shot that White Australian lady, go to prove the rule: he was convicted, ffs.

Daniel Shaver was killed while crawling toward officers and trying to obey their confused shouted commands; the officer involved was charged with second-degree murder, but acquitted, and was reimbursed for the PTSD he suffered due to his own actions, and received a pension. Here’s the video of his violent death.

Joseph Hutcheson was killed in custody: “Witnesses said Hutcheson ran into the Dallas County jail pleading for help. Police restrained Hutcheson and at one point a deputy’s knee was allegedly placed on his neck. Police handcuffed Hutcheson and authorities said he became unresponsive shortly after. His death was ruled a homicide by the medical examiner’s office.” But, his killing was ruled justified. His brother prays for justice for George Floyd. Here’s the video of his death by suffocation.

Dylan Noble, shot while lying on the ground. Apparently no consequences for cops.

See also Troy Goode, dead after being left hogtied for ninety minutes. Apparently no consequences for cops. Sorry, no video.

Matthew Russo, tased four times and probably suffocated. Sorry, no video.

Again: in the U.S., police kill half as many white people as black, per capita. (NB: 1/2 is not zero.) The whites living in the poorest 20% of census tracts are killed by police at the same rate as black people as a whole. So, yeah, race matters a lot, and poverty matters as well. But everyone would be helped by reducing qualified immunity and increasing accountability.

54

J-D 09.01.20 at 2:51 am

‘White privilege’ seems to me a useless phrase for many reasons mentioned by Malik.

When commenters here report that it has been useful to them, does that prompt you to review your position? If not, would more reports of the same kind prompt you to review your position?

Those reports are good enough for me. People say they’ve found the term useful, so I accept that.

55

Kiwanda 09.01.20 at 2:51 am

(Sorry: the first video linked is of Daniel Shaver‘s violent death, the second video of Joseph Hutcheson’s death.)

56

J-D 09.01.20 at 5:25 am

… I also think it is obvious that upper middle class educated whites use this term as a stick to bash poorer less educated whites. …

It’s not obvious to me, because I have observed no such instances. If you can direct my attention to some instances, perhaps it will become obvious to me. If you can’t direct my attention to any instances, how is it obvious?

57

J-D 09.01.20 at 8:05 am

It makes me despair of the CT commentariat

Quick, the smelling salts!

58

J-D 09.01.20 at 8:08 am

I’m not an expert in police procedures, but if someone described as “white male, medium build, teens to early 20s, wearing a t-shirt and jeans” robs a corner store in Boston, then, I assume, within the next 20 minutes or so some white male, medium build, teens to early 20s, wearing a t-shirt and jeans persons will be stopped and checked.

Nobody can stop you assuming, but the question for the rest of us is whether your assumption is supported by evidence.

59

Thomas Beale 09.01.20 at 9:03 am

@45
When commenters here report that it has been useful to them, does that prompt you to review your position? If not, would more reports of the same kind prompt you to review your position?

Is it useful at all? Maybe, a bit. For example in the sense of reminding white people that black people are stopped more often by the police or are on the receiving end of casual racism in shops or wherever. But we’ve known that forever, decades before the invention of this simplistic term.

The interaction of the police with the black population in the US is better explained by a) serious problems in police recruitment and training and b) the objectively true reality of high criminality in areas in which the police operate (i.e. the assumption of weapons or violence being reasonable). This is a bad state of affairs, and the term ‘white privilege’ just fails to capture any of it.

It would be better if half the energy of arguments around WP were expended on addressing (say) the education crisis of the excluded.

60

nastywoman 09.01.20 at 9:40 am

and about:

”the concept of white privilege fails to distinguish between “not being discriminated against or facing bigotry because of one’s skin colour” and “having immunity from discrimination or bigotry because one is white”.

But that’s what I always liked about the words: White Privilege –

Like ”the White Privilege” in a Zürich HandbagStore – “not being discriminated against or facing bigotry because of one’s skin colour” and “having immunity from discrimination or bigotry because I’m ”white” – while Oprah – when she went there – and wanted to buy a very very, VERY expensive bag – somehow? – the Saleswoman thought – that somebody who looks -(as black?) as Oprah – can’t afford such a very expensive bag – which proves – that not only ”Many whites” – but also (a few) Blacks – because of privileges afforded by wealth and class, do have no immunity against discrimination either. But many others, who are poor or working class, but at least look – ”white” – and thusly are considered by the Saleswoman in the Zürich Handbagstore – as somebody – who might be able to afford a very expensive handbag.
So their experiences of HandbagStore authority is very rarely ”similar to that of non-whites”.

Right?

And isn’t/wasn’t that a very confused comment about class too?

61

Emma 09.01.20 at 11:23 am

While I appreciate how well-researched and written this response is, it doesn’t actually address the issue. If poor white people didn’t think there was some value to their whiteness — some privilege conferred by it, if I might suggest a term of description — they wouldn’t be racists in the first place. It is certainly true that poor white people experience state violence and economic oppression. It is also true that they live in a world constructed by and for people who look like them, and that seems (based on outcomes) to have a palliative psychological effect for even the most victimized whites; many of them end up blaming their oppression on, for example, Spanish-speaking immigrants, rather than on the predatory corporations whose civil rights they proudly value more than those of their fellow citizens. You can’t argue with that, no matter how many footnotes you painstakingly construct. Racism isn’t rational.

It may be objectively true that poor whites lack white privilege (they do not lack white privilege, lol). But they think they have it. They are willing to fight — to kill — in order to maintain it. It is one of the greatest fantasies of the economically-struggling, stupid white man that there will be a great race war, which he can finally and decisively win. Again, I hate to be a squeaky wheel about it, but it isn’t black and brown people sowing these political divisions; it’s racist white people who value their whiteness more than their survival, economic or otherwise.

I understand that this concept is difficult for non-Americans to understand & accept, but that doesn’t affect how real it is. A semi-toothless Walmart shelf-stacking white female Trump supporter has privileges Michelle Obama can only dream of. She votes for Trump (and whatever racist deluge manifests post-Trump) in an effort to keep it that way. She will let her remaining teeth rot out of her head and stack shelves until she dies rather than vote for a Democrat, because Democrats pander to n-words. Fact. I know that many class-reductionist (new vocabulary word!) leftists want to look away from this phenomenon, but that won’t make it vote for Bernie (or even Biden).

Another weird thing I noticed about this essay is the way it treats racism as a concept. Like, who is doing the racism, for example? We all know it exists, but from whence does it emerge? Malik makes it seem as if racism is an unfortunate by-product of non-human environmental factors. I wonder why that is? Has racism become an entirely structural problem, now? Have I been hallucinating all these pro-Confederate monument rallies, and Blue Lives Matter protestors, and armed white supremacists running random innocent people over with cars? Do I need to go to the doctor?

@10: Charter schools and a “literacy”-based theory of economic mobility. Is this 1997?

@13: “Here, as in many other places, “class” and “income” seem to be used interchangeably. Do these categories really coincide?” This is probably the biggest takeaway I got from the 2016 election. There were enough uneducated, racist white people making decent livings in the suburbs to support Trump. That’s his “base,” insofar as he has one outside of “racists.” These are people who operate in the middle-class practically, but see themselves as outraged, struggling working-class schmoes who can’t get no respect (from black people, apparently). It’s bizarre.

@16: “He is likely to be approached by a cop, which is perfectly legitimate: the cop is simply doing his job. The cop will be nervous, apprehensive, because people robbing gas stations are likely to be armed, and they don’t want to be arrested. What follows is likely to be perceived as harassment.

Yes: a different skin color would prevent the incident, but so would the different gender, or a significant difference in ages.” This doesn’t happen, though. Cops love the KKK. Cops are the KKK. They only do this to black and brown people. Google “Kyle Rittenhouse” & tell me cops are rational actors subjecting random citizens to mistaken acts of overzealous community protection.

@21: “Why are successful blacks in the US ignored? It’s because in reality, they have effective ‘white privilege’ (which is really ‘Western culture privilege’), but don’t fit the race-based WP narrative.” They aren’t ignored. They don’t have white privilege. Breonna Taylor was an EMT. Sandra Bland was a middle-management food-vendor administrator. No black American is safe. Also, “race” is not an essential characteristic. Despite all my beautiful African DNA, no white person knows I’m black until I tell them. Race is a construct, and an arbitrary one at that.

@26: Just because racist cops who openly support white supremacists occasionally also kill white people for little/no reason, that doesn’t mitigate their racism. It just means that cop subculture is even more trigger-happy than its white defenders know. & if BLM is “based on lies,” what is the entirely-white “Blue Lives Matter” movement based on, lol? Hiding the data in as much statistical noise as possible doesn’t make the data disappear. Cops murder people for no reason. Some of those murders are targeted. Some are “accidents.” This thread may not be the exculpatory evidence you and Twitter OP were looking for.

I was really happy to see the content and tone of most of these replies. It was a big surprise, tbh. I’m just one person, & I represent nothing but myself. But I still want to say “thank you.” It’s a conversation worth having, no matter what.

62

faustusnotes 09.01.20 at 11:39 am

Kiwanda is exaggerating the findings of the paper he/she links to. While it’s true that police killings increase with poverty, poverty is highly racialized. Figure 2 shows that 37% of the black population lives in the poorest areas, vs. 10% of the white population, so the population in the poorest census areas is blacker than in the richest areas, which confounds the statistics and reduces the impact of poverty in reducing racial disparities.

The author doesn’t have individual census tract populations by race for some reason, so cannot properly estimate the rates of police killing properly within these districts. The author adjusts for the confounding relationship between race and class by constructing a counterfactual where race is evenly distributed. In this counterfactual mortality rates for whites don’t change at all, and mortality rates for blacks drop by all of 28%.

It’s not class, it’s race, and the study you linked to makes that painfully clear. The author’s conclusions:

For white people, the rate of police killings among the poorest fifth of census tracts (7.9 per million) is similar to the rate among black people in census tracts with the second-lowest poverty (i.e. the second quintile; 7.7 per million). Higher poverty among the black population accounts for a meaningful, but relatively modest, portion of the black-white gap in police killing rates.

So if poverty could be magically eliminated in the US tomorrow, black people would still be killed by police at twice the rate of white people.

Stop trying to deny that race matters in the US!

63

Cian O'Connor 09.01.20 at 12:03 pm

Problems with the term white privilege:
1) It distracts from the actual problem (cops) and the solution (reform/defunding of police forces).
2) It pushes guilt onto people for something they shouldn’t really feel guilty about. Nobody should be hassled by the police in this way. It’s not a privilege – it’s a goddam human right.
3) It ignores that poor whites also experience an extraordinary amount of police brutality.

There is no solution to the problem of ‘white privilege’ except white guilt. There are solutions to the problem of policing. And when you make it about policing you can build broad coalitions. When you make it about ‘white privilege’ you can build resentment, particularly in communities who also are oppressed by the cops.

64

Richard Melvin 09.01.20 at 12:16 pm

How much of this whole exchange (comment threads included) consists of British people not quite getting what things are like in America, and Americans not quite understanding why the former group don’t get it?

[David Attenborough voice-over]: as the Arctic ice melts, the ecosystem start to adjust…

[Will Smith, as cartoon animal] stop with that hippy shit, we are being eaten by bears.

The outside perspective doesn’t even need to be particularly wrong for it to not be appreciated by those inside the system.

65

MisterMr 09.01.20 at 12:44 pm

@sean samis 38 & Faustusnotes 43
I think the opportunities above direct purchasing power exist, but are a really small part of the total.

More generally about the use of the term “privilege” (white or otherwise), it seems to me it presupposes some form of meritocratic equality of opportunity, so that deviations from this equality of opportunity are “privilege” (if positive).

But this supposed meritocratic equality of opportunity doesn’t really exist, so the term “privilege” muddles the waters my implying it does exist.

It might make sense to use the term “privilege” for specific infractions to this supposed meritocratic system, but then one should first specify what exactly this meritocratic system is.
For example: someone white gets a degree in engeneering and then gets a job as an engeneer. Is this privilege? What if someone else (black, or perhaps white but from a poor family) also gets a degree in engeneering but can’t land an equivalent job, does this make the first guy’s job retroactively a privilege?
What if the first guy’s parents also had a degree so they could give to their son some good piece of advice on how to find a job, can we call this privilege? Well maybe we can, but it becomes a somewhat useless term IMO: in what sense doesn’t the first guy merit his job?

It’s the implicit reference to this supposed meritocraticy as if it existed or at least as if there was a clear idea of how this meritocratic system should work (so that we can identify deviations from it) that irks me.

This is a bit weird because on the one hand, the ideology of capitalism is meritocratic, but on the other hand, it is also obvious that a capitalist society cannot work with equality of opportunity (it implies the non existence of privately owned capital assets), and furthermore many of the big decisions that one face in his or her life, like choosing what school to follow or whare to live, are about securing this or that competitive advantage, that if we use a large definition of capital goods (which includes for example education) simply means securing some capital goods.

So in my view in essence it is a contradictory concept, let’s call it a contradiction of capitalism, ha ha.

66

Kiwanda 09.01.20 at 1:58 pm

me:

Again: in the U.S., police kill half as many white people as black, per capita. (NB: 1/2 is not zero.) The whites living in the poorest 20% of census tracts are killed by police at the same rate as black people as a whole. So, yeah, race matters a lot, and poverty matters as well. But everyone would be helped by reducing qualified immunity and increasing accountability.

faustusnotes, responding to me:

So if poverty could be magically eliminated in the US tomorrow, black people would still be killed by police at twice the rate of white people.

Stop trying to deny that race matters in the US!

Huh?

67

john burke 09.01.20 at 2:19 pm

@61: W.E.B. duBois developed the notion of the “psychic wage,” the impalpable but very real advantage that white people get simply by virtue of not being Black people. I think access to it is a major driver behind the process of “whitening” that we know has happened with successive groups of ethnic immigrants–Irish, Italians et al. Will it turn out that whiteness-as-social-category–Isabel Wilkerson is applying the model of caste–really does have a physical component, i.e. skin tone? I don’t know. But thank you for your “plainly and without euphemizing” question, which as far as I can tell no one here has actually tried to answer.

68

Trader Joe 09.01.20 at 3:12 pm

As a reasonably wealthy white male I think I can reliably report on White Privilege and I’m quite certain I have it and I’m quite certain it’s a thing. It goes far beyond an “absence of racism” its being able to go about your business (whatever that might be) without a second thought.

I walk into a country club, a Porsche dealership a nice restaurant and whether my shirt collar is frayed or my jeans have holes in them there is a presumption that I belong and I’ll not be asked to explain myself. Indeed, many of the ilk would tacitly take offense if they were.

It means products are designed to appeal to me. Adverts are targeted to get my attention. Credit scores facilitate my purchases.

I can run at night. I can show up late. I can talk loud when I’m drunk. I can walk up to any woman and presume she’ll have an interest.

I get to Mansplain. No one rolls their eyes or looks away when I speak.

I have at least the potential to talk my way out of a ticket (or not get pulled in the first place). When a cop calls my house it’s to ask for a donation. I’ll be “sir-ed” if I’m spoken to by anyone with any sort of authority.

My illnesses will be treated. The extra test will be ordered. Its presumed I can pay.

I’m afforded all the above privilege (and more) and I know it. I can choose to spend not one minute of any day thinking about what might happen in any interpersonal interaction as a result of my race or sex.

In exchange for that – in theory at least – I’m meant to behave like a proper human, treat all genders, races, religions, sexual orientations etc. with respect. Abide the laws. Tolerate the occasional injustice. Vote for those who will represent my interests.

Whether I do or have done any of the above is beside the point.

Whether it pays to throw that privilege in my face or not is only valuable in so far as it a) makes me aware if I’m not and b) encourages change where warranted (and trust me, its warranted in 100% of all instances even among the most pious of the self proclaimed non-racists).

That’s it. Thanks for affording me the privilege of sharing this with you. Its real, quit fooling yourself.

69

sean samis 09.01.20 at 3:18 pm

MisterMr;

‘Privilege’ means a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group; so in this instance the term ‘privilege’ muddles nothing, it is quite apt.

Nor does the term ‘privilege’ presuppose any kind of meritocracy. It implies some advantage or immunity, not merit.

White privilege does not really refer to what Whites receive as much as to what Whites are spared from. The White engineering student you hypothesis about getting an engineering degree and an engineering job almost certainly did all that without having to overcome racial prejudices. Black student engineers are not usually so lucky, even if their parents had college degrees and they were gifted intellectually.

Capitalism pretends to be meritocratic, but that is mere pretense. The only “merits” capitalism rewards are wealth, social connections, or dumb luck. White privilege exists in America because most of the rich are White, and they use race to divide and control those the do not want competing with them.

sean s.

70

sean samis 09.01.20 at 3:22 pm

Cian;

The problem of White privilege is much larger that police violence; the solution to which is far more complex than defunding.

White privilege does not push guilt at all, unless you’re a person who lives in denial about the truth of the world.

That poor Whites experience some of the injustices of non-Whites overlooks the salient point: even the richest Black American experiences those injustices occasionally, most Black Americans experience them regularly.

To escape those injustices, a White person needs merely appear “middle class”. To escape those injustices, a Black person needs to hide at home.

sean s.

71

Hidari 09.01.20 at 3:32 pm

I know that John Halasz pointed this out (I can’t be bothered looking to see whether it was on this thread or another) but it’s extremely weird the assumption shared by almost everyone on this thread (apparently!) that African Americans are the people most likely to be murdered by the police.

Of course (of course) it’s Native Americans.

‘Mike Males, senior researcher at the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, looked at data the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) collected from medical examiners in 47 states between 1999 and 2011. When compared to their percentage of the U.S. population, Natives were more likely to be killed by police than any other group, including African American’.

And this is what of course one would expect. The United States, at least with its current borders is, so to speak, predicated on genocide and ethnical cleansing, crimes against humanity that no American President has ever made the slightest effort to apologise for (let alone offer some form of meaningful recompense, e.g. financial). So….yeah. https://search.proquest.com/docview/1823388680

CF also here.

https://www.lakotalaw.org/resources/native-lives-matter

It also seems strange to me that everyone seems to think (or at least acts as if it is reasonable) that the police are wandering round with guns all the time. If the police are murdering lots of people, white and black, with guns, it would seem to be obvious that perhaps if we took away their guns, they would stop murdering people with guns (of course they might murder people with other things too. Who know? Let’s find out!!).

Reforming the United States’ insane gun laws does not seem to me to be obviously more Utopian than ‘defund the police’.

72

reason 09.01.20 at 3:42 pm

You know I really like Cian O’Connor’s @63 take on this.

You might say it is the “yes you are probably right, but so what! Is this a useful approach?”

I think I used something of the same approach when somebody wanted to attack capital as against labour, and I said “I don’t think that is a useful approach” when you have a society full of people who own homes and have accumulated superannuation funds. You are making a whole lot of potential supporters into enemies. Make it about concentrated wealth and you will do much better.

It seems to me like the old chestnut about “how do get to so-and-so”, “well I wouldn’t start from here”. It is much more important to make progress than to look for the ideal spot on the far horizon.

73

MisterMr 09.01.20 at 3:43 pm

Disclosure: I’m neither American nor British (I’m Italian).

@ Emma 61
” It is also true that they live in a world constructed by and for people who look like them, and that seems (based on outcomes) to have a palliative psychological effect for even the most victimized whites; many of them end up blaming their oppression on, for example, Spanish-speaking immigrants, rather than on the predatory corporations whose civil rights they proudly value more than those of their fellow citizens. You can’t argue with that, no matter how many footnotes you painstakingly construct. Racism isn’t rational.”

I 100% agree with this, but then this for me is a reason for not using the term “white privilege”, whereas you seem to think that this is a good reason to use the term.
Wouldn’t it better to say: “hey bro, this system is fucking you too”?

74

Cian O'Connor 09.01.20 at 6:30 pm

Emma @61: While I appreciate how well-researched and written this response is, it doesn’t actually address the issue. If poor white people didn’t think there was some value to their whiteness — some privilege conferred by it, if I might suggest a term of description — they wouldn’t be racists in the first place.

That’s not how either racism or humans work. Are you arguing that black anti-semites hold those beliefs because it gives them privilege?

They are willing to fight — to kill — in order to maintain it. It is one of the greatest fantasies of the economically-struggling, stupid white man that there will be a great race war, which he can finally and decisively win.

Fantasies of all economically-struggling white men, or 30% of them? What was your methodology for coming up with this damning bit of data?

A semi-toothless Walmart shelf-stacking white female Trump supporter has privileges Michelle Obama can only dream of. She votes for Trump (and whatever racist deluge manifests post-Trump) in an effort to keep it that way.

You might want to list out those privileges, because so far I’m seeing that Michelle has the following privileges: education, money, healthcare, dentistry, education, sufficient sleep, decent housing, a career and respect.

Also, I love how you’re shaming this woman for not having access to dental care. Nice touch.

She will let her remaining teeth rot out of her head and stack shelves until she dies rather than vote for a Democrat, because Democrats pander to n-words.

But the Democrats aren’t offering free dentistry, or really very much that would materially help her. So what exactly would be the point of her voting Democrat?

Also I can point to several poor working class women locally who voted for Trump because they’re evangelicals. It’s possible that they’re racist as well I guess, but it doesn’t seem to be the reason that they voted for him. And from conversations with my office’s cleaner, it was as much about the fact that Democrats would give stuff to her sister “who’s never worked a damn day in her life”. People are more complicated than your simplistic caricature allows for.

75

politicalfootball 09.01.20 at 7:25 pm

Some analyses suggest that the best predictor of police killings is not race but income level

If race has no power to predict discrimination independently of class, then white privilege doesn’t exist. The problem is, pretty much nobody with any sense believes this.

Anyway, that all seems irrelevant because it’s based on a plain misreading of the research cited.

The quote refers to footnote 5. The article cited in that footnote makes no effort whatsoever to compare the predictive nature of race vs. the predictive nature of income. It is only talking about income. The relevant bit from the article:

For the 441 police killings I researched, the average neighborhood family income where a killing occurred was $57,764. The median family income was $52,907.

This is imprecise writing. Do the $57,764 figure and the $52,907 refer to different types of averages of income with the same set of neighborhoods? I guess it must, but I can’t see why you need two averages. If it isn’t two different types of averages, then it would appear to be that police killings tended to be in neighborhoods somewhat richer than the median. Anyway, the census says that the median household income overall in the US was $56,516 — so still not hugely above the $52,907 median of these neighborhoods.

The author does cite a fairly dramatic decrease in such killings in neighborhoods where median income is in the top 20%, but makes not effort to discuss the race of those neighborhoods. So again, this statement is completely unsupported by the footnoted article:

Some analyses suggest that the best predictor of police killings is not race but income level

76

John Quiggin 09.01.20 at 7:32 pm

@74 “But the Democrats aren’t offering free dentistry, or really very much that would materially help her.”

In fact, the Democrats are offering free dentistry. A bill to that effect passed the House last year. And higher minimum wages, which would be of significant material help.

77

Cian 09.01.20 at 8:27 pm

Sean Samis @70:

I don’t think the problem of police violence is that complex. All developed nations that I can think of have police forces vastly more competent and less violent than the US police. Politically difficult – sure. But less difficult than making all white people non-racist which seems to be the only seriously suggested alternative.

I don’t think that ‘privilege’ is the right word to use for the fact that as a white middle class person I’m at far lower risk of police violence than a black person. The word suggests I’m getting more than I deserve.

Secondly it changes the focus of the problem from the police to me. I’m not the problem here. Sure I’m a dick, but I’m not the one causing police violence against minorities and I’m not the one requesting it. The problem are the cops – maybe keep the focus on them.

And all of the other things that people apply the term ‘white privilege’ to are very different phenomenon and it flatterns far more than it illuminates. As a sociological category it doesn’t work, as a campaigning strategy it transforms action into passivity.

That poor Whites experience some of the injustices of non-Whites overlooks the salient point: even the richest Black American experiences those injustices occasionally, most Black Americans experience them regularly.

I mean everyone in the US can potentially experience those injustices. But again, I’m not sure why we need to minimise the very real injustices that poor whites experience, or suggest (wrongly) that wealthy blacks are more likely to experience them. Poverty is a significant factor, along with race, that determines how your interactions with the cops will go. That seems like a relevant thing that we might want to focus on if we want to change things.

To escape those injustices, a White person needs merely appear “middle class”. To escape those injustices, a Black person needs to hide at home.

Right, because for poor whites nothing could be easier than appearing middle class. Just move to a wealthier neighborhood, get a nice car, fix your teeth, wear more expensive clothes. What could be simpler…

White privilege lets the cops of the hook for their crimes. Which as we’ve seen in Portland can apply to white middle class people if the cops decide that they’re not ‘good people’.

78

Cian 09.01.20 at 8:38 pm

John Quiggin:
In fact, the Democrats are offering free dentistry. A bill to that effect passed the House last year. And higher minimum wages, which would be of significant material help.

Possibly, but if they are it’s because they’ve been pushed by the left of the party (the so called race reductionists) and this is only being offered to people on medicare (which in my state would not include the lady at Walmart). Biden doesn’t seem to support this bill (or at least hasn’t mentioned it). And it seems a bit much to expect this woman to follow which bills are being passed/brought to the floor by Democrats and work out how they’d apply to her life.

Higher minimum wage was of course something resisted by the right of the party, and even there they’ve tried to slow it’s delivery. I wouldn’t credit Biden’s wing of the party for this, but rather those that have pushed them (including Bernie Sanders campaign, which helped bring it much greater prominance).

But if this lady lives in my state she will have seen many Democrats campaign on platforms that discuss how business friendly they are. On economic issues there’s not usually a lot to separate them, and that’s true in many other races across the US. Helping the worker is rarely a focus – and often it’s hard really to work out what their focus is. Maybe this lady should do more research – or maybe if the centerist Democrats truly value this stuff (not convinced personally) they should campaign on it.

79

nastywoman 09.01.20 at 9:18 pm

@68Trader Joe:
”As a reasonably wealthy white male I think I can reliably report on White Privilege and I’m quite certain I have it and I’m quite certain it’s a thing. It goes far beyond an “absence of racism” its being able to go about your business (whatever that might be) without a second thought.

I walk into a country club, a Porsche dealership a nice restaurant and whether my shirt collar is frayed or my jeans have holes in them there is a presumption that I belong and I’ll not be asked to explain myself. Indeed, many of the ilk would tacitly take offense if they were”.

Hey – Joe – brother!

And do you mind if I call you ”brother”? – as you added so much more to my ZürichOprahStory –
(even if I still believe that it is Emma – who got ”the point” FIRST)

But do you think – these… these… these?… ”WhiteMen” –
here –
will finally… understand?

And:
GEH IN DICH?

80

faustusnotes 09.02.20 at 1:24 am

Mistermr, that quote is about much more than the benefits of capital.

Perhaps it would help the “racism doesn’t exist, class first!” leftists if we explained a little about how class privilege works. I know most of the “class only” leftists never grew up poor, so don’t understand how it works, but perhaps some explanation will help.

If you grow up poor in a country like Australia, there are no significant financial barriers to going to university. You aren’t prevented by wealth inequality. But if you grow up rich you will be raised to believe you will and should go to university, while those of us who grew up poor are told from the beginning its not for us or (like me) not told it even exists.

If you grow up poor in the UK you will be raised on Tom Sharpe and musicals, while if you grow up rich it’s Shakespeare and classical music. You speak the language of other rich people and understand their jokes and in-games, which enables you to pass the many cultural hurdles that are put up to prevent poor people entering your world – university interviews, judgement by accent, exclusion from events and networking. You also enjoy these things, so that you don’t constantly have to turn down social and cultural events where these things happen. See e.g. golf, or cricket in the UK. If you grow up poor you can’t play them and can’t participate in the associated networks.

If you are a poor man who became rich through football in the UK, the press will tear you down at the first chance they get, and speak about you negatively, even though you are rich; but they won’t do this to a middle class man who became rich through football.

If you’re a rich white woman you can make jokes about sex and talk about your own sex life and people will think you’re funny and open and breaking down barriers. You may even get to make a show (Fleabag) about it that is seen as insightful and important commentary. If you’re a poor white woman and you make jokes about your own sex life people will think you’re a filthy slut and your desires will be labeled as wrong or “inappropriate”. As a result poor women have to be more conservative about, and more careful with, sex. Poor women are more likely to be judged as “deserving it” than rich women, even though the circumstances are exactly the same. If you’re a poor girl groomed by gangs in the north of England the police will ignore your repeated cries for help, and then your pain will be used by racists to attack Muslims. Jimmy Savile prayed on poor girls because he knew no one listens to them.

If you are a poor boy who goes to university you will be constantly, daily, reminded you don’t belong there. You will be constantly doubting yourself because your peers will be reminding you all the time you shouldn’t be there. Your “class only” leftist comrades will regularly mistake you for a kid from the technical college next door and talk down to you. On the other hand, if you’re a rich kid larping as a socialist for a few years before you walk away to a job at daddy’s investment bank, people will take you seriously. You may even be elevated to a position of national prominence as a spokesperson for Bernie Sanders! Something that would never happen to a better qualified poor person, who instead will be sneered at as a member of the PMC because she works at a much less financially rewarding job in an NGO (or indeed as a school teacher!)

If you are a rich kid you can start a left wing podcast with a racist name and make sneering jokes about other leftists, and people will defend it as ironic. If you’re a rich white man it’s okay to be gay, it’s seen as a bit of an eccentricity, but if you’re poor and gay you’ll be excluded from work. Football is a poor man’s world, and there are no out footballers; Rugby, a rich man’s world, has at least one out player.

If you are a poor kid you will be raised with sports like boxing and kickboxing, and you will have to keep your hobbies secret from your colleagues because they will judge you as dangerous or unstable, while your rich friends (who coincidentally paid less to go to university than you because they got a discount on upfront fees) can happily talk about their sports, which are respected. People will sneer at you, and when you’re on a date and a girl asks you how you stay in such good shape you’ll make vague comments about going to the gym so you don’t scare her off. Of course that won’t really matter: rich girls’ parents hate poor men and will work to separate you anyway, but no poor girl’s parents would ever stop her dating a rich man.

If you’re rich you can get a tattoo and people will think it’s a bit reckless but basically cute and a bit “different”. If you’re poor with tattoos you have to hide them from your colleagues. Rich girls with tatts are cute and cool; poor girls with tatts are dirty sluts. If you don’t hide your tattoos, people will think you look “dangerous”; even if you do hide them you will have to be careful about the tone you take when you disagree with people in case they think you are “threatening”. Meanwhile your colleagues from wealthy backgrounds can be loud and aggressive and domineering and people will say they are “go getters” who “say what they think”.

If you’re a rich man you can say horribly racist things on national tv and people will vote for you because you “tell it like it is” but if you’re poor, those things will get you canceled.

If you’re poor and you go to university, each year you return home you will be further culturally from your parents and community, and they won’t understand you, and sometimes won’t trust you. If you’re rich and go to university, each year your return home you will be growing closer to what your parents and community want you to be. You will feel welcomed for changing and growing, instead of confused and uncertain.

These are all forms of privilege, the cultural baggage that hangs off of wealth inequality. Rich people don’t even notice them, but they’re always there, even years after you leave your class behind. They form the comfortable cocoon that enables rich people to walk into any situation and act like they belong there, while poor people have to ask permission even when they should be the boss of the circumstance.

Perhaps if you pay attention to class privilege – since you think class is so important – you can get a small insight into how frustrating it must be for people like Chetan Murthy to have to constantly explain to you basic facts about how the world works, because your own racial privilege is so strong it has blinded you to what’s going on around you.

I doubt it though, because most of the socialist larpers on here grew up rich, and don’t know anything about what it is to be poor, and the gap that separates us.

81

Corax 09.02.20 at 2:24 am

Emma @61: A semi-toothless Walmart shelf-stacking white female Trump supporter has privileges Michelle Obama can only dream of.

Assuming this is not the quiet punchline embedded within an extremely subtle joke, I suppose we can say that our shelf-stacker’s privileges include—and must include—only and precisely what, as sean samis @69 puts it, she and other “Whites are spared from.” That Michelle Obama can only be spared other sorts of indignities (or dignities, as the case may be) than those imagined for her by her (mostly) white “allies” perhaps grants the former First Lady certain privileges of her own.

Plainly, Michelle O was a bad example, but the choice betrays an assumption on the part of those in favor of the “white privilege” thesis/discourse/cudgel: namely, that the psychic wound, even more than the obviously remediable statistical material disadvantage, of being “black” in America, is so profound, and so irredeemable, that it can only, maybe, begin to be healed by inflicting (mostly self-inflicting) a symmetrical, but necessarily incommensurate, psychic wound upon “white” people. Echoing reason @72, “I don’t think this is a useful approach.” Unless, of course, the goal is something other than the oft-claimed one of arriving at justice, which I suspect it may well be.

In the meantime, no one is spared. Not whites, not blacks, not even right-minded ideologues. The idea of “white privilege” neither clarifies the problem of race and racial “disparities,” in America or anywhere else, nor does it motivate anyone to solve it, and IMO most of the work it does in academic discourse is to turn attention away from reality and onto individual neurosis, whether consciously or not. Within the academy, and by osmosis in much of professional journalism, the accusation—and again it is primarily a self-accusation—acts as a kind of dowsing rod to sniff out sin, and at the same time or even before the fact imposes a mild but sustained penance upon its faithful, middle- and upper-middle class white academics, who perform various prayers and exercises to reinforce to themselves and to their colleagues how, yes, sad and unacceptable the histories of oppression, but really, really, the purpose—and I believe it is much more a metaphysical purpose than a social-material one—is to atone for being haves in a world of have-nots and, above all, for preferring this state of affairs to any alternative they are capable of imagining. They believe, truly, their own personal miseries notwithstanding (first-world problems!), that what they have and who they are must be the envy of the whole rest of the sleepwalking world. Outside the academy, its effect, which many admittedly seem to relish, is to confuse and confound, to provoke resentment, to signal virtue and/or vice and/or tribal allegiance, to hijack the good intentions of well-meaning people and distract them from the spiritual-material-technological crisis they might otherwise have a chance of responding to, and, for good measure, to undermine any hope for solidarity among people who, for all their good will and educational achievement and, indeed, merit, just can’t manage to look or talk or think or act enough like one another.

82

John Quiggin 09.02.20 at 4:38 am

@Cian I agree that working class people would be better off supporting leftwing Democrats than rightwing Democrats. That doesn’t change the fact that they would be better off supporting any Democrat than any Republican.

The fact that people don’t always vote in line with their class interests isn’t new – Disraeli won British elections on the votes of newly enfranchised “working class Tories” in the 19th century. There are a variety of reasons for this kind of voting (including the division between workers and the undeserving poor, which you mention), but, particularly in the US, race has usually been among the most important. That includes “evangelical” voters (meaning white evangelical voters) since the evangelical churches are segregated by race – the Southern Baptists being the most extreme example.

83

Sebastian H 09.02.20 at 5:07 am

The utility of “white privilege” depends on what it is being used for.

To describe a condition in which poor white people have some baseline, poor black people get screwed more than that, poor Hispanic people get screwed in between, rich white people/rich Hispanic people do MUCH better, rich black people do somewhat better than baseline it isn’t awful–though ‘baseline’ isn’t usually ‘privilege’ but whatever. And it is highly contextual. In the case of “trying to successfully pressure your employer into doing something for you” a rich, Asian, trans, woman in San Francisco is far better off than a poor, white, cis, man in Detroit. Even though every privilege checklist other than class goes his way.

But if your goal is to change that state of the nation, “white privilege” seems unhelpful because the diagnosis doesn’t tie in well with the policy fix. Whatever the policy fix for the policing problem, it definitely isn’t “people who are treated better by the police should change their interactions with the police somehow”. The solution is much more in the direction of “we need to change the police” or “we need to change the incentives of the police” or “we need to massively overhaul the system of policing”.

And if your goal is to have a broad coalition, it is fine to notice that the police treat black people SUPER poorly. But there aren’t that many black people compared to noticing that the police treat non-rich people PRETTY DARN badly. Non-rich people are an enormous majority, that also includes almost all black people. “White privilege” talk (to the exclusion of class talk, which is how it appears to function right now) works against harnessing that enormous super-majority. Which is exactly what rich people want of course.

84

Richard Melvin 09.02.20 at 8:44 am

That doesn’t change the fact that they would be better off supporting any Democrat than any Republican.

Socioeconomic classes are not metaphysical entities; they do not persist in the face of counterfactuals. They need institutions and infrastructure to operate.

Consider the counterfactual where unionised middle class seen in the 50s still existed, modernised and deracialised. The crooked-toothed woman would log onto Unionbook and read accounts from her friends that had attended the meeting where the dental plan was voted for. As it had passed, those accounts would mostly be positive, and so she would have a favourable impression of it.

In the real world where those things do not exist, she instead consumes broadcast media. As she is no longer middle class, has little spare money. Media actually serving her interests would not be profitable. So she has a choice of two options; media targeted at the educated middle class, and that produced on behalf of the rich. The latter serves the interest of its sponsors by praising and valorising her, the former serves the interests of its customers by mocking and degrading her.

So if she hears of the dental plan at all, it will be in the form of a distorted rumor of a stupid and extravagant waste of tax-payers money. Having a job, she probably doesn’t vote. But when she retires, she will no doubt back whatever variant of Trump is around then.

85

engels 09.02.20 at 8:49 am

As a reasonably wealthy white male I think I can reliably report on White Privilege and I’m quite certain I have it and I’m quite certain it’s a thing.

Funny how indestructible this assumption is. As a reasonably wealthy white man you’re the last person qualified to opine about any of this.

86

Tm 09.02.20 at 9:49 am

Emma 62, Cian 74, 78, JQ 76, 80
So are we now debating whether poor white people vote rightwing because of racism or because Democrats haven’t done anything to materially help them?

First, as Hidary already pointed out, the trope about poor white people voting right-wing is misleading at best. Most poor people don’t vote, and those who do favor the Democrats (e. g. https://edition.cnn.com/election/2016/results/exit-polls; note there is no breakdown by race and income). It is however true that many poor whites do vote right wing and that the trend has been pointing rightward. One remarkable fact about the 2016 election is that income wasn’t a meaningful predictor of voting behavior any more. The strongest predictors are now: race, religion, urban/rural divide, age, education, gender

Since many analysts conflate education and class (*), Trump’s success among rural whites of low education has been interpreted in terms of class (more precisely, SES). But education is highly correlated with age, which I suspect explains much of the discrepancy. There are also widespread misconceptions about Trump-supporting white rural areas being predominantly poor, which is not the case. Rural poverty exists but generally less pronounced than urban proverty, furthermore many rural poor (e. g. in the Mississippi delta) are African American. It is misleading to compare urban and rural average incomes without controlling for cost of living, nevertheless this is often done.

87

nastywoman 09.02.20 at 11:17 am

@85 Angel
”As a reasonably wealthy white man you’re the last person qualified to opine about any of this”.

BUT I –
ME! –
as a reasonable wealthy American Indian –
I am THE FIRST person qualified to opine about everything – of this.
And as agree –
100 percent –
with the ”reasonably wealthy white male –
who thinks he can reliably report on White Privilege
and he is quite certain –
that he has it –
and he is quite certain it’s a thing.
AND
YOU –
WhiteMan!

GEH IN DICH!

88

nastywoman 09.02.20 at 11:22 am

@86 TM
One remarkable fact about the 2016 election is that income wasn’t a meaningful predictor of voting behavior any more. The strongest predictors are now: race, religion, urban/rural divide, age, education, gender –
and:

”TRUMP” -(as Germans like to call ”Idiots”)

89

Tm 09.02.20 at 11:23 am

So are we now debating whether poor white people vote rightwing because of racism or because Democrats haven’t done anything to materially help them?

Sh*t I just wrote a long, elaborately researched continuation of my former post and Windows froze when I submitted it… I hope it still was sent but if not, here’s a summary.

White voters poor and rich have been trending rightward but the claim that this is due to the Democrats not doing enough for the poor is unsubstantiated. I quote the particular example of Arkansas, where access to health care has increased dramatically due to Obamacare and still, white Arkansans voted Trump in record numbers (see also my comment 22 above). I further point to Medicaid expansion ballot measures in several right-leaning states as evidence that while progressive policies can be winning issues, the margins are smaller than you’d expect (e. g. Missoure 53%, Oklahoma 50.5%, Montana 47% (failed)). After all, these measures cost the states little and bring great benefit and still roughly half the voters were opposed. Progressives must not underestimate the fact that many Americans, not least evangelicals, actively oppose progressive economic policies. I doubt that Biden misjudges the politics when he hesitates to run on “free dental care for all”. It probably isn’t a winning issue, just another opportunity for the Right to rant against “socialism”. Progressives run the risk of taking their own views for granted. Who could disagree with redistribution and helping the poor? Sorry folks, most Americans do (*). Progressives need to work hard to change that state of affairs.

(*) I once read in the local Arkansas newspaper that government policies to help the poor are “against the Bible”. Boy was that a revelation!

90

nastywoman 09.02.20 at 11:31 am

””TRUMP” -(as Germans like to call ”Idiots”)

AND that’s ”the thing”! –
why ”the racism doesn’t exist, class first!” -(as Faust called it)
only -(kind of) – works in Academical Arguments AND NOT in reality.

BE-cause it has become so much more difficult to identify ”class” – compared to ”race”.
BE-cause I suspect – that most of the commenters here – who write about ”class” – actually write about ”the Haves” – or ”Haves NOT -(of money) – and even Engels just can’t see -(that I have the dough) – when I have my ”Homeless T-Shirt on”

91

sean samis 09.02.20 at 12:18 pm

Cian;

Regarding, ‘privilege’ “suggests I’m getting more than I deserve.

That is a superficial understanding of the word, which is defined to include immunities from something. Privilege includes the idea of escaping something others do not.

Regarding, “it changes the focus of the problem from the police to me. I’m not the problem here.

That’s how you hear it (that you’re the problem); that’s not what I or others mean when we refer to privilege. Limiting it to police violence overlooks a vast array of advantages that constitute White privilege.

Regarding, “ everyone in the US can potentially experience those injustices.

That statement is only POTENTIALLY true. For Black Americans (even the richest Blacks) it’s ROUTINELY true. That is no small distinction.

Regarding, “White privilege lets the cops of the hook for their crimes.

Quite the opposite: restricting White privilege to Police Violence lets all other whites off the hook; it lets you off the hook.

It doesn’t work that way. All of us—all Whites—we are on the hook to respond to Police Violence and to acknowledge the systemic racism of our culture and our White privileges.

sean s.

92

Thomas Beale 09.02.20 at 12:37 pm

faustusnotes @ 80
A worthwhile rant that well articulates what many people forget – the invisible force of (various kinds of) class / cultural divide. This more concretely gets at what I was thinking of with the notion of ‘western culture privilege’.

Corex @ 81
In the meantime, no one is spared. Not whites, not blacks, not even right-minded ideologues. The idea of “white privilege” neither clarifies the problem of race and racial “disparities,” in America or anywhere else, nor does it motivate anyone to solve it, and IMO most of the work it does in academic discourse is to turn attention away from reality and onto individual neurosis, whether consciously or not.

Also well put.

Richard Melvin @84
So if she hears of the dental plan at all, it will be in the form of a distorted rumor of a stupid and extravagant waste of tax-payers money. Having a job, she probably doesn’t vote. But when she retires, she will no doubt back whatever variant of Trump is around then.

This as well.

The above (probably not intended to agree with each other), along with the very fact of the tortured nature of this and the other 100,000 such debates on the term ‘white privilege’ just go to prove that such a simplistic term that a) maps very poorly to complex social reality and b) is really intended not as a good faith analytic term but a purely political one … doesn’t serve any serious or deep purpose. If some people derive some superficial satisfaction from using it, fine, but don’t try to pass it off as some kind of profound truth.

93

engels 09.02.20 at 12:38 pm

A semi-toothless Walmart shelf-stacking white female Trump supporter has privileges Michelle Obama can only dream of.

I can’t really get my head around anyone writing this, let alone in a left-liberal forum. It makes me think Americans really do live in a dream.

94

engels 09.02.20 at 12:58 pm

If you grow up poor in the UK you will be raised on Tom Sharpe and musicals, while if you grow up rich it’s Shakespeare and classical music.

Lol

95

Donald 09.02.20 at 1:33 pm

96

LFC 09.02.20 at 1:46 pm

Corax, Sebastian H and others have pointed out, reasonably enough, that the phrase “white privilege” is not likely to help build or cement political coalitions to support necessary reforms. That may be one of the reasons the phrase does not appear all that much in political discourse. I doubt it was uttered once during the Democratic convention and the Dem nominee does not use it.

So the debate over the phrase may be largely confined to places where many or most voters will not be aware of it. Which is probably just as well if the overriding immediate goal is seen as defeating Trump and (if possible) switching control of the Senate.

The political utility or disutility of the phrase is a separate question from whether it hooks onto anything in the world, i.e. whether it points to a real set of occurrences or experiences. Even if it does, there may be better phrases from a descriptive standpoint. I do not think however, contrary to what Corax implies, that it is possible or even necessarily desirable to draw a firm barrier or a firm line between individual “neurosis” and collective action. The trick is to harness individual neuroses to the goal of realizing a world where everyone will be able to attend to, or be made miserable by, his or her or their neuroses rather than by the problem of, e.g., how to afford the next meal or pay the water bill or the next month’s rent.

97

Dave Heasman 09.02.20 at 2:59 pm

faustus –
“If you grow up poor in the UK you will be raised on Tom Sharpe and musicals”

What? Paging Stormzy..

“they won’t do this to a middle class man who became rich through football”

Frank Lampard? Peter Crouch? Are there any others?

“Rugby, a rich man’s world, has at least one out player”
ex-player.

Golf?Squash? Eton Fives? Any? Posh enough?

98

bianca steele 09.02.20 at 3:27 pm

I’ve noticed that libertarians have been especially annoyed by BLM because they won’t agree to a color-blind and class-blind anti-incarceration and anti-policing movement. They tried to use the moment to remind everybody that they were anti-police FIRST, but got no takers. I think I see one or two of them in this thread.

99

Tm 09.02.20 at 4:02 pm

We have now heard many times that White Privilege is “simplistic” and whatnot. Well duh, what isn’t? You can turn every complex concept, certainly concepts like “class” or “racism”, into something simplistic if you insist on simplifying it. But when you simplify, at least you shouldn’t make up something from whole cloth. I cannot follow why talking about WP can be construed as an accusation of whites let alone an appeal to their “guilt” or “neurosis” when it is obvious and has now been pointed out many times that privilege does not involve any individual wrongdoing and therefore one cannot be “guilty” of being privileged (whereas one can certainly be guilty of racism).

I think we have reached the stage of “let’s just put out whatever” of the debate.

100

MisterMr 09.02.20 at 4:20 pm

@faustusnotes 80

My parents both had a degree, so I certainly grew up on the expectation to have a degree (actually I wanted to go to a vocationmal high school but I was pushed on another path by my parents).

On the other hand, I did various martial arts in may teen-ages (and I’m still doing it), and my brother did some boxe and is now a boxe instructor, your division of respectable VS non respectable hobbies strikes me as silly, at least here in Italy.

Your example of the rich woman who has her own show is more than a bit beside the point, since most rich women do not have shows you can’t take celebrities lifes as examples of normal (even if rich) people.

That said, yes it’s obvious that there are perks in being rich, these perks come with an higer income lifestyle, so in pratice that high income lifestyle is a form of investiment, even if we don’t think about it in these terms.
My point is that passing down these “advantages” isn’t logically different from passing down “wealth”, so I don’t understand why one would call the first “privilege” but the second (I assume) not.

By the way the only ones who grow their kids on a diet of Shakespeare and Mozart are midcult parvenues, heh. [elitist laughter]

101

sean samis 09.02.20 at 5:05 pm

Thomas;

Regarding, “…along with the very fact of the tortured nature of this and the other 100,000 such debates on the term ‘white privilege’ just go to prove that such a simplistic term that a) maps very poorly to complex social reality and b) is really intended not as a good faith analytic term but a purely political one … doesn’t serve any serious or deep purpose.

The tortured nature of this debate (if it is so) go to prove that people will dispute anything—even the most legitimate things—in order to avoid uncomfortable ideas. The tortured nature of this debate shows that the idea of “White privilege” is frightening to those who cannot accept that some of their personal experiences do not match what others experience daily.

LFC;

Regarding, “… the phrase ‘white privilege’ is not likely to help build or cement political coalitions to support necessary reforms.

The term is not intended to do that; it’s rare for any term to be so powerful. “White privilege” is intended to identify a fact: that there are advantages and immunities that nearly all White Americans enjoy which Black Americans and other Persons of Color simply do not have access to. If stating that fact gets in the way of political coalition or support, then the problem of race is truly intractable. I hope it is not so.

TM is correct. One can demand more of a term than is reasonable; and then reject it for failing to meet unreasonable requirements. This is a classic strategy for protecting thin skin.

sean s.

102

engels 09.02.20 at 5:08 pm

You can turn every complex concept, certainly concepts like “class” or “racism”, into something simplistic if you insist on simplifying it.

Class and racism have been elaborated by brilliant sociologists, socialists, black radicals, … over centuries whereas “white privilege” (as widely understood today) was invented by a handful of privileged know-nothings at Harvard and similar intellectual centres of the world’s most privileged and idiotic country, from whence it was rolled out to the rest of the internet and bien pensant academic and managerial mediocracy.

103

Tm 09.02.20 at 5:09 pm

Faustus 80: „most of the socialist larpers on here grew up rich“

Another useless and probably unjustified generalization that adds nothing of value to the debate…

104

dbk 09.02.20 at 11:27 pm

At the risk of injecting a little too much reality in this thread – which, while instructive, has been disheartening for me personally – about the Democrats passing dental care. Well, not yet. That bill (HR 4650, “Medicare Dental Coverage Act”) is in committee, and that means it has a long way to go before passage and signing. A comparable bill (S.22) has been introduced in the Senate (with a single sponsor, not a good sign), and that means it has an even longer way to go. Given the current composition of the U.S. Senate, I’d estimate its chances of ultimate passage as falling midway between zero and nil.

Note: for non-Americans on this thread, Medicare is the government-sponsored healthcare program for retirees and the disabled, who receive disability payments through Social Security and are therefore covered by Social Security’s healthcare program for all retirees, viz. Medicare. “Medicaid” is a separate program administered by the individual states, and does cover dental; the problem, however, is that so few American dentists will accept Medicaid patients. Those in extremely rural areas of the country often have no dentist that accepts Medicaid within reasonable driving time (1-2 hours).

Those genuinely interested in this topic (it’s not clear to me how many commenters this includes) may find Sarah Smarsh’s magnificent “Poor Teeth” (Aeon, 2014) worth reading.

Also of interest: multiple articles on RAM (Remote Area Medical) and their work in rural Virginia/Tennessee/Kentucky, in particular Wise County. They have just recently pulled out of Virginia due to Medicaid expansion.

More generally:
1) I’d agree that WP exists, but cannot conceive how it is useful for addressing the concrete socioeconomic structures that keep it in place. Many structures were once explicitly sanctioned by the state in a multitude of ways, and even though they’ve been abolished by law, their after-effects have proven nearly impossible to overcome.
2) It seems to me people are talking about a form of WP which is primarily implicit (and sometimes referred to as “implicit bias”). Implicit bias favoring whites is insidious and frankly, profoundly embedded in American society. [Note: it’s extremely difficult for non-Americans to understand this embedding.]
3) For those on this thread who have admitted that they enjoy WP, I’m curious about what specific movements they have allied themselves with, or what concrete actions they’ve engaged in, that would counteract this privilege – or rather, which would go towards Blacks enjoying the same privileges (rights?) that they themselves benefit from.

105

faustusnotes 09.02.20 at 11:31 pm

engels, “white privilege” was originally developed by WEB Dubois and activists in the 1960s civil rights movement. It became famous after a white woman linked it to feminism. The fact that you think it was invented by “privileged know-nothings at Harvard” is a classic example of white privilege in action – a white woman getting the credit for the unmarked labour of black people. It’s also a sign of your complete ignorance on the topic, but that’s never stopped you before.

Dave Heasman, Peter Crouch has a regular advice column in the Daily Mail, and Frank Lampard has an OBE. Meanwhile Gazza is the constant whipping boy of the Mail’s gossip pages, even during lockdown.

It’s no surprise to me that the socialist larpers are willing to throw the concept of class privilege out in order to make sure their own race-based privileges aren’t acknowledged. This kind of “loyalty” to the cause is exactly the reason so many working class people gave up on socialism.

106

Corax 09.03.20 at 12:47 am

LFC @96: “I do not think however, contrary to what Corax implies, that it is possible or even necessarily desirable to draw a firm barrier or a firm line between individual “neurosis” and collective action.”

Agreed. I didn’t mean to imply this. Rather that the creation/evolution of a neurosis or neurotic response (which is what I am explictly saying the “white privilege” discourse/trope/phenomenon largely is) should not be confused with or substituted for action (or, really, pragmatic activist thought), whether individual or collective, against injustice, poverty, and other manifestations of social misery.

Tm @99: “I cannot follow why talking about WP can be construed as an accusation of whites let alone an appeal to their “guilt” or “neurosis”…”

In that case, I suggest you set aside the abstraction of WP for a moment and consider it as a reality.

As an abstraction, WP just means that the “whites”—as broadly defined as you like, and which anyone who uses the word is free to redefine or have his or her own parameters for—have a statistically slight or not-so-slight or however you please leg up over the “blacks” and whomever you put in this other “non-white” bucket, and that this advantage applies broadly, materially, and morally from the word go. Conclusions range from: therefore we must redistribute the goods based on racial eyeballing and suchlike, to “Take my job, please,” all the way to Michelle Obama’s unrealizable dreams referenced above @61.

But as a reality, WP means that people whose phenotypic traits identify them as “white” but who may or may not identify as such themselves, or who have yet to get the memo about how they are supposed to think about things or other people, or who don’t quite grasp the meanings or implications you intend for them to grasp, are made to feel incriminated, as an accessory at least, for a series of historical and ongoing injustices in which the vast majority of them have played no personal part but for which they will now be asked to pay—socially and psychologically, at a minimum, hence “neurosis,” but perhaps in other, as yet undefined, ways as well—which feeling, I submit, is unlikely to motivate any typical actor of whatever color toward “doing the right thing,” and which is much more likely to produce a) confusion, guilt, animosity, etc., and/or b) resentment (racial, political, and/or private). It is not an “unreasonable requirement” of the tools at one’s disposal, pace sean samis @101, that they serve a well-defined and deliberate purpose.

And yet. Despite the obvious “privileges” conferred on men who are tall and handsome, or who have deep voices, or those extended to women with symmetrical faces and shapely (of a certain shape) figures; despite the unfair advantages possessed by anyone with above-average intelligence or charisma, whether worked-for or simply inherited, or enjoyed by those with good memories; despite the extra edge and esteem given to those with natural and altogether unearned musical abilities, or the clear benefits devolving to anyone with anything that might possibly be construed as desirable or in some way to their advantage, and which some or most other people might not have and cannot or will not, for whatever reason, acquire; despite the vast proliferation of privileges of all kinds among all peoples, whose concrete value depends on where they sit, and on what, exactly, they value, we in the early 21st Century Global Village have settled on “whiteness,” unvariegated whiteness, which brush might paint anywhere from 60-75% or more of Americans, as the chief heinous quality, the root of all inequity, against which all noble energies must be deployed—but also, somehow, the symbol of everything that should be coveted by the poor “non-whites”—and this, as far as I can tell, with very little nuance in the general discourse (and not much more in academia), all to very little real and certainly to no clearly articulated, or positive, end.

No, I do not like it.

107

LFC 09.03.20 at 2:19 am

@engels

Class and racism have been elaborated by brilliant sociologists, socialists, black radicals, … over centuries whereas “white privilege” (as widely understood today) was invented by a handful of privileged know-nothings at Harvard and similar intellectual centres of the world’s most privileged and idiotic country, from whence it was rolled out to the rest of the internet and bien pensant academic and managerial mediocracy.

As my comments above indicate, I am ambivalent, at best, about the usefulness etc. of the phrase “white privilege.”

But I googled for the nonce “origins of the phrase ‘white privilege'” and one of the first hits was an article from The Scotsman, which states in its opening paragraphs that Kehinde Andrews, a professor of black studies at Birmingham City University, “believes the term was coined” by W.E.B. DuBois in the 1930s. If DuBois did coin it (and it should be possible, w more time than I currently have, to determine that, but he apparently did use it), then the term was certainly not coined by a “know-nothing,” since DuBois was one of the most knowledgeable and eminent intellectuals of the 20th century. The Scotsman article then goes on to mention a 1988 essay by activist and writer Peggy McIntosh.

In any case it would be interesting to know whether engels has specific names in mind w his reference to “privileged know-nothings at Harvard and similar intellectual centres,” or whether he simply assumes that because he views the phrase as idiotic it must have originated in a contemporary Ivy League school or other “elite” university.

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faustusnotes 09.03.20 at 3:57 am

Another aspect of class privilege well on display here is the assumption that your own experience will get heard and acknowledged, which is only available to higher classes: for the working class our experience is either preposterous or inappropriate or, if amongst socialist larpers, is intrepreted as scorn and derided as patronizing and condescending. We see the former with engels laughing at my Tom Sharpe reference, as if he/she is the ultimate arbiter of what a working class upbringing contains; and the latter in the outraged reaction to the gap-toothed kmart worker.

I could come on here and talk about a “tattooed former borstall boy who beats his mail-order Czech bride while he complains about the EU” and the likes of engels and Cian would complain I was stereotyping working class people, sneering at them, patronizing them like another privileged know-nothing. In fact I would be describing my own brother. But I’m not allowed to describe my experience honestly, because either it’s too violent and sexualized; or it’s too wild to believe (like the time my brother found a dead body and was accused of murder, but it was actually an epilepsy death that an ignorant flatmate tried to cover up); or it casts working class people in a bad light. Amongst the class-only activists this is unacceptable: working class people can only be pure and innocent victims, and we are only allowed to talk about economic anxiety. This is why so many of Trump’s defenders on the Putin-friendly left can’t acknowledge the racism behind his support, and can’t comprehend why working class people would reject Bernie Sanders – they don’t allow real stories of the working class into their bubble, and are sure their own completely false notions of what it is to be poor are right.

We see this online all the time in the different treatment of Sady Doyle and Briahna Joy Grey, the rent-to-own heiress who represents the working class’s interests to Bernie (haha). How well did that work out?

We can also see this in the way Jimmy Savile was allowed to run wild through the children of working class Britons for 40 years. I wrote about my own experience of the sexualization of working class children in 1980s Britain, and linked it to the reasons Savile was able to get away with it. But it was class privilege which made it so easy for everyone who could have protected those children to just ignore them. Our stories aren’t allowed to be told, and when we try we get laughed at or scolded for causing trouble.

Perhaps reflecting on this, the class-only class warriors on here might consider whether their response to black complaints about police violence is the best they can do.

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Tm 09.03.20 at 9:36 am

Corax 106: “But as a reality, WP means that people whose phenotypic traits identify them as “white” but who may or may not identify as such themselves, or who have yet to get the memo about how they are supposed to think about things or other people, or who don’t quite grasp the meanings or implications you intend for them to grasp, are made to feel incriminated”

This is quite a bit convoluted. Why would a hypothetical person who doesn’t identify as white would feel incriminated? And how likely do you imagine it to be that a “phenotypically white” American does not identify as White? (To be sure, racial categories are social constructs but I don’t think that is your point or is it?)

And most importantly, what is your evidence for your claims? Isn’t it all in your fantasy? Perhaps it is you who feels incriminated? It is clear from this very thread that many white people consider WP as a useful concept and don’t feel “incriminated” or such by it. There may be others who react differently, sure, but you are making unwarranted. The very concept of “privilege” points to a structural inequality and specifically does not imply an individual fault. I cannot exclude that some people will misinterpret the term but why is that the fault of those who use the term correctly, rather than those who insist on misinterpreting it?

I think when white people respond defensively when WP is mentioned (supposing they are not actually racist), they either have never thought about racial issues (which is hard to imagine, certainly in the US), or they have managed to convince themselves that racism has nothing to do with them personally. They don’t want to hear about it, not be reminded of it. It doesn’t matter whether you use WP or some other terminology, they would react in the same way. And I don’t think it’s a good idea to not talk about an important aspect of reality just because some people don’t like to hear about it.

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lurker 09.03.20 at 9:45 am

‘Progressives must not underestimate the fact that many Americans, not least evangelicals, actively oppose progressive economic policies.’ (Tm, 89)
Many Americans, not least evangelicals, actively oppose abortion. I’ve yet to see an American liberal suggest that women’s rights should be abandoned because they are opposed. But poor people do not matter. Is it because poor is not an identity but a material reality? One which can be solved by giving people money?

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nastywoman 09.03.20 at 10:00 am

AND in order to relate White Privilege to the ”unmarked idea” AND to prove –
(not only for our ”Angle”) that it is ”race” before ”class’# which get’s noticed FIRST in the current world – I brought up – my ”HOMELESS T-SHIRT” now a few times.

BUT did anybody here notice IT –
Or listen?

Okay – you guys obviously liked the OprahHandbagStory – but even then –
one of you guys tried to deny – that it was ”a demonstration of how no amount of money will buy you white privilege – and tried to weasel out of it by writing: ”it shows how non-central such concerns can sound to someone who lacks the money required to exercise any such privileges they might have, if they did”.

Okay – so it ALL about the money – guys?
THEN why do nearly ALL doormen of Luxury Hotels in the World complain that they can’t identify ”the (moneyed) class of their guests anymore – as even Billionaires might like to wear a ”Homeless-Shirt” – from time to time.

And so the shirt ”marks” them to be ”unmarked” – as Billie Eilish once said – if I just wear a BLACK (Beanie) NOBODY – (thanks god) notices me at THE hotel – airport or ”THE Store” –

BUT – EVERBODY NOTICEs that BLACK Man in the Homeless-T-Shirt.

Right?
Guys?
(Angel?)

112

engels 09.03.20 at 10:45 am

FN and LFC: I don’t think so. Dubois’s “psychological wage” became “white skin privilege” for Theodore Allen but both are very different from the amateur sociology propagated by McIntosh and other American 1%ers, not least because they stressed its function for capital and disutility for “white” workers.

113

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.03.20 at 12:08 pm

@106 “…and this, as far as I can tell, with very little nuance in the general discourse (and not much more in academia), all to very little real and certainly to no clearly articulated, or positive, end.”

I don’t know if it’s a positive (though definitely real) end, but it seems obvious to me that the whole purpose of this absurd sloganeering is to increase voter turnout for the political party favored by the hedge-fund industry.

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Richard A Melvin 09.03.20 at 12:41 pm

The phrase used, and probably coined, by DuBois corresponds pretty exactly to what the horrible-bad-wrong class reductionists say:

Specifically, Du Bois conceptualizes whiteness as a privileged position of social standing that has 1) afforded white workers a public and psychological wage compensating them for their low economic wages; and 2) formed the basis of a cross-class, political alliance uniting white workers and capitalists against black workers (black slaves included). More generally, he maintains that whiteness has historically functioned as a mechanism of power for recruiting white workers to police and reinforce the economic exploitation of black workers. On Olson’s account, Du Bois explains the “splendid failure” of Reconstruction and the genesis of the American racial order through his analysis of the cross-class political alliance of white workers and capitalists (Olson, 16, 30).

This is more or less the exact opposite of the common abuse of the term by the white middle class to justify their social position in relation to those with less money spent on their teeth.

115

Cian O'Connor 09.03.20 at 7:39 pm

One of the groups who have politically supported over policing and incarcertation in black neighborhoods are black people. Middle class black people have historically always kinds of despised ‘ghetto’ blacks (and judging by the Howard U educated that I encounter, this hasn’t changed), while many older people who lived in these neighborhoods were terrified by the young hoodlums and the drug/crime epidemic they saw rising among them. Among black people who vote, support for law and order has always been very high.

How does white privilege fit into this? How does it help, or does it disguise and flatten a much more complex phenomenon, while ignoring a very difficult political problem (social conservatism among many black voters). How do we think about the wealthy black real estate developer who benefits from over zealous policing in a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood? Or the black mayor who presides over a racist police force with many black officers (and often black police chiefs)?

Is it white privilege when white people generally inherit more money than white people? That would seem to be a very peculiar war to think of it.

Is it white privilege when banks financially exploit black borrowers, given very few white people gain any benefit from this (other than I guess the negative privilege of not being fleeced)? Again, it just feels very odd and not useful. The issue here is a predatory banking system that affects most of us to some degree.

Sean Samis: That statement is only POTENTIALLY true. For Black Americans (even the richest Blacks) it’s ROUTINELY true [that they are mistreated by the police].

It’s not routine. It happens too much, but it’s also an occasional inconvenience. It’s a vicious fact of life for poor black people because they live in neighborhoods in which the police are told to spend most of their time. And one of the reasons why the police see black people as criminals is because most of their time is spent around black people who they are arresting/harrassing. The stereotyping in part comes from the job (which is why black cops are rarely very different from white cops in this regard).

And the reasons for this are various, but a lot of them relate to the interests of the real estate industry and gentrification (and also as I pointed out above pressure from black groups who live in these neighborhoods.

Regarding, “White privilege lets the cops of the hook for their crimes. ”
Quite the opposite: restricting White privilege to Police Violence lets all other whites off the hook; it lets you off the hook.

Let’s me off the hook for what?

It doesn’t work that way. All of us—all Whites—we are on the hook to respond to Police Violence and to acknowledge the systemic racism of our culture and our White privileges.

I mean I’d like to think it’s everyone’s responsibility regardless of race, or creed. Maybe the white kid who got killed up the road for being the subject of a failed police sting could be included.

And who gives a damn if I acknowledge that the US is racist. That changes nothing. That’s just liberal piety.

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Cian 09.03.20 at 7:49 pm

TM: We have now heard many times that White Privilege is “simplistic” and whatnot. Well duh, what isn’t? You can turn every complex concept, certainly concepts like “class” or “racism”, into something simplistic if you insist on simplifying it.

So give an example of something unique, or useful, that can only be explained/understood using the term white privilege. There may be some, but so far all that’s really been provided is freedom from coercive policing (which honestly as a Brit – let me tell you, I don’t feel that privileged here in the US).

Sean Samis: “White privilege” is intended to identify a fact: that there are advantages and immunities that nearly all White Americans enjoy which Black Americans and other Persons of Color simply do not have access to.

It would really help your case if you actually defined some of these.

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Cian 09.03.20 at 8:19 pm

Faustus: for the working class our experience is either preposterous or inappropriate or, if amongst socialist larpers, is intrepreted as scorn and derided as patronizing and condescending. We see the former with engels laughing at my Tom Sharpe reference, as if he/she is the ultimate arbiter of what a working class upbringing contains

I suspect he was laughing at the idea that the middle classes look down on Tom Sharpe, or musicals. The former is very popular with bourgeoise men of a certain age, while I’d guess more middle class people go to musicals than the opera. Maybe it’s different among the upper classes, I wouldn’t know.

and the latter in the outraged reaction to the gap-toothed kmart worker.

The outrage was that this person was somehow being presented as representative, and I see no evidence that Emma is working class, or was talking from experience. It was a stereotype, and a rather ugly one at that. There’s a word for this when people do it with racial stereotypes.

I could come on here and talk about a “tattooed former borstall boy who beats his mail-order Czech bride while he complains about the EU” and the likes of engels and Cian would complain I was stereotyping working class people

Well I would if you help him up as representative of all working class people and I’d be right to. I could also talk about a local black guy who voted Trump. He’s a real guy, but he’s hardly typical, but by your argument I guess he’s as good as anyone else.

Amongst the class-only activists this is unacceptable: working class people can only be pure and innocent victims, and we are only allowed to talk about economic anxiety.

I mean that’s certainly one way of putting it. The way I would put it is that I would prefer if people actually looked at working class people as a class, instead of focusing on individual examples that support their prejudices. Or making ludicrous generalizations based upon newspaper articles written by middle class journalists with a fetish for racist authenticity. Are there white working class racists? Of course? Are all white working class people racist? Well no. Is racism the only thing white racists care about – I mean it kind of depends upon the individual. Can people ignore their racism when there are other things they want more such as better jobs/housing? History tells us that some of them can, and some of them just do double shifts at the racism factory.

I guess my tolerance for complexity and nuance is why I’m always on here defending Trump and (checks notes) Putin apparently.

118

MisterMr 09.03.20 at 10:18 pm

@faustusnotes 105

“It’s no surprise to me that the socialist larpers are willing to throw the concept of class privilege out in order to make sure their own race-based privileges aren’t acknowledged.”

As I assume I’m the socialist larper[1], I’ll point out that the idea that the “superstructure” (that includes what you mean by class privileges and also arguably racial prejudices) comes from Marx, so it’s not like I’m inventing new things here.
I see we have different opinion, I’ll just point out that we have different opinions because we start from different view about how the world work, mine being approximately marxist and yours approximately liberal. This doesn’t make me automatically some sort of class traitor or hypocrite.

“This kind of “loyalty” to the cause is exactly the reason so many working class people gave up on socialism.”

In case you missed it, in the early 90s the USSR collapsed, and what we call now neoliberal policies were very popular including in large parts of the working class (due to the fact that the whole set of statist leftish policies appeared not working at the time), so that for example the Italian Communist Party (PCI) split and the largest part of it rejected the name communist, becoming essentially what we now see as a neoliberal left party. This is the reason al lot of people, many of whom “working class”, gave up on socialism (and many of them went to the populist right, at least here, blaming first “southern italians” and later “immigrants” for their economic problems).
This is likely not related to my opinions on class privilege or race privilege.

[1]: actually true since in my 20s I did play live action RPGs, but not in the sense you mean.

119

hix 09.04.20 at 1:00 am

Guess about half my annoyance with this kind of topics comes from the predictable copy paste way without any adaption for a very different context. But black Americans more often than not speak the same motherlanguage as anybody else involved to point out the most obvious difference. Only half however.

Which brings me back to my rather cryptic example about tutoring a foreign student with lets say distinctive non caucausian skin features in Germany in response to another example suggesting one should take into account the crudest form of racism – the skin colour based one* when giving career advice in the US.

The Zeit really ran an opinion peace in the college category where an immigrant from some arabic nation was argueing that Germans can´t speak arabic and were getting all those jobs arabic immigrants should get. They were doing so by lying on their CVS which could not be revealed because everyone doing the hireing spoke no Arabic. We then learn that some female personal deparment head agreed at least half. It were only the men of course that were inflating lingual skills. Next there was a complaint about how people getting arabic degrees would not be able to speak arabic either, which was supposed to be fixed by a new standardiced test. And on it went. The sad part is the clearly rather young and confused guy would have had one or two good points that could have been made corrected in a more nuanced piece. Those were lost among acculaturation strugles and the cultural missunderstandings that come with it. A good editor would have made that possible. Too bad confused trolling is cheaper and gets more clicks.
https://www.zeit.de/campus/2020-07/sprachkenntnisse-arabisch-bewerbung-job-muttersprachler

Another peace https://taz.de/Gaslighting-und-Rassismus/!5693141/ somewhere arguees that if someone sees the the crudest racism or sexim he is right even if everyone disagrees with him. Theres a scientific paper linked about the us and canadian situation with all the right culture warrior vocabulary, that proofs it! The piece then goes on to explain gaslighting, quite literarily including the word in its original language to the audience, enlightening us about the newest trends in adopting things that were not even helpfull in their original cultural context.

Thing is: You can have conversations with white Germans and they will quite often aknowledge that some result like not getting a job is based on illegtimate discrimination, even using that R word to describe it. Complaints about the racism in getting harsh words from strangers that have to do a sharp break for driving on the wrong side of the bicylce lane or non specific complaints about the taxi driveres lack of niceness while one was vomiting drunk on his seat are a different story. Those two are not hypotheticals. In particular during struggles with cultural adaption to the new environment, it is very common for immigrants to see racism in many places where that just is not true at all. Or maybe it really is racism, just a more subtile one than the skin colour kind and they have been primed by stupid stereotypical literature possibly in English that its all about skin colour.

*Also predictable: Someone will tell for example the poor Italian upmarket store salesperson trashed by Operah that there is only the skin colour based one

120

J-D 09.04.20 at 4:12 am

At the risk of injecting a little too much reality in this thread – which, while instructive, has been disheartening for me personally – about the Democrats passing dental care. Well, not yet. That bill (HR 4650, “Medicare Dental Coverage Act”) is in committee, and that means it has a long way to go before passage and signing. A comparable bill (S.22) has been introduced in the Senate (with a single sponsor, not a good sign), and that means it has an even longer way to go. Given the current composition of the U.S. Senate, I’d estimate its chances of ultimate passage as falling midway between zero and nil.

I’m sure you’re right that the Republican-controlled Senate is not going to pass this Democratic legislation. The Republican-controlled Senate is not going to pass any Democratic legislation, but that is not the fault of the Democrats!

121

sean samis 09.04.20 at 1:12 pm

Corax;

Regarding “But as a reality, WP means that people whose phenotypic traits identify them as “white” but who may or may not identify as such themselves, or who have yet to get the memo about how they are supposed to think about things or other people, or who don’t quite grasp the meanings or implications you intend for them to grasp, are made to feel incriminated, as an accessory at least, for a series of historical and ongoing injustices in which the vast majority of them have played no personal part but for which they will now be asked to pay—socially and psychologically, at a minimum, hence “neurosis,” but perhaps in other, as yet undefined, ways as well—which feeling, I submit, is unlikely to motivate any typical actor of whatever color toward “doing the right thing,” and which is much more likely to produce a) confusion, guilt, animosity, etc., and/or b) resentment (racial, political, and/or private). It is not an “unreasonable requirement” of the tools at one’s disposal, pace sean samis @101, that they serve a well-defined and deliberate purpose.

At first I thought there was a lot to unpack in this, but as I started that unpacking I realized there’s very little here.

To summarize your argument above: there are some Whites who were unaware of “White privilege” in the past and who are unable or unwilling to try to understand what the rest of us are saying about it, so instead of listening to our comments, they get hurt feelings. And therefore, the term “White privilege” serves no well-defined or deliberate purpose.

Umm: with all due respect, Corax, that is [CENSORED] nonsense.

sean s.

122

sean samis 09.04.20 at 3:30 pm

faustusnotes;

You wrote about “Trump’s defenders on the Putin-friendly left

That is a magnificently strange reference. Putin is a right-wing authoritarian (“fascist”) so I find the idea of “Putin-friendly leftist” oxymoronic. Likewise for leftists who “defend Trump”.

Can you name one? These sound like mythological beasts to me.

sean s.

123

roger gathmann 09.04.20 at 4:07 pm

I’m not sure why the People’s project is Malik Kenan’s reference for arguing that race has naught to do with mass incarceration, but the people’s project stats showing that poor black people have a materially greater chance of being shot and killed by the cops than poor white people is, uh, overlooked. That”s a high school debaters move. I”m not sure how the people’s policy project reconciles its own figures, which would seem to indicate more extreme policing in poor black neighborhoods, but certainly Kenan should not pick and choose his references. https://www.peoplespolicyproject.org/2020/06/23/class-and-racial-inequalities-in-police-killings/

124

engels 09.04.20 at 9:34 pm

I posted a reply but it never appeared. Tl;dr McIntosh’s “white privilege” isn’t much like Du Bois’s (useful) concept of the “psychological wage” (apologies for insulting Harvard, LFC, she evidently came up with it when she was teaching at Brearley).

125

LFC 09.05.20 at 12:07 am

@engels

That’s probably a fair point (i.e. the difference between what DuBois meant and what McIntosh meant). Lacking time to go into all this further, I won’t say anything more.

126

john halasz 09.05.20 at 1:05 am

In the last thread commenter Tm denounced America journalist Matt Taibbi as ” an antiliberal apologist for the Trumpist movement.” Well, here’s Taibbi’s latest rant:

https://taibbi.substack.com/p/the-trump-era-sucks-and-needs-to

Among other points he makes is how thoroughly reactive anti-Trumpers have been and still are, without presenting any plausible alternative agenda, certainly not by the Dembots nominating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.

You be the judge.

127

nastywoman 09.05.20 at 1:45 am

@
”You be the judge”.

He writes:
”Trump has made us all crazy”

Not all of US just him.

128

Tm 09.05.20 at 7:19 am

lurker 110: you know where you can stuff your strawman?

Cian 116: I think your request has already been answered many times over. Your objections have been addressed and I think they are without substance.

129

Tm 09.05.20 at 7:48 am

Hix 119: I read your Zeit article and I don’t think it is confused at all (tbh it is your comments that I find confusing; must be my fault). To the contrary it is very clear and the tone seems entirely appropriate. I cannot judge the factual content of course – I assume the editors verified it. So perhaps you want to explain your objections?

Here’s an article from the WOZ (another left newspaper but Swiss) about racism in schools that I recommend (paywalled). Perhaps you’ll like that one better. Percy Uszleber is a black German, a teacher, talking about his experience. Interestingly, he recommends the book by Robin DiAngelo.
https://www.woz.ch/2035/rassismus-im-bildungswesen/uszleber-haelt-dagegen

130

Tm 09.05.20 at 7:58 am

nastywoman 127: +1
What is Taibbi’s intellectual bankruptcy supposed to prove?

131

faustusnotes 09.05.20 at 9:00 am

As others have noted, the OP’s statements about poverty, policing and incarceration are wrong, and misrepresent the references that are provided. I don’t think CT should be promoting this kind of stuff when it’s flat out wrong. It is factually incorrect to say that black people suffer greater rates of incarceration and police violence simply or even largely because they’re poor.

Engels, the psychological wage identified by DuBois is exactly white privilege. To cite someone above it gives white people “a public and psychological wage compensating them for their low economic wages”. More modern writing identifies how that wage is expressed, and describes it as privilege.

Cian, I note the desultory way you refuse to accept simple facts about policy – when JQ points out dental care is Democratic policy and gives you a link you huff “possibly”. What kind of response is “possibly” to a statement of fact? Are you so invested in denying these concepts that you won’t even agree to a fact? Is this your famed ” tolerance for complexity and nuance”?

MisterMr you say

I see we have different opinion, I’ll just point out that we have different opinions because we start from different view about how the world work, mine being approximately marxist and yours approximately liberal.

No, my worldview is not “approximately liberal”. I know how class privilege works because I grew up poor, and have had to come to terms with working among professionals from wealthy backgrounds when, well, when I’m not like them. It’s not “approximately liberal” to think that if a poor person suddenly has their income quintupled they will not, in fact, be exactly the same in personality, expectations, lifestyle or culture as a person who grew up five times richer than them. The neoliberal view would be that we will in fact become the same.

When a person who grew up black tells someone who grew up white that their experiences are not the same, that is not an “approximately liberal” view. It is not “idpol”. It is not a bullshit term invented by “know-nothings at Harvard”. It is lived experience that you are obstinately refusing to get. Using class privilege as an analogy I am trying to get you to see this, but it appears that the “approximately marxist” response is to deny that class inequality builds a culture of difference between classes.

If you think that there is no difference at all between poor people and rich people that can’t be fixed by simply giving poor people more money, you’re a liberal, not a Marxist. And if you deny the experience of poor people, you’re not a friend of their class. This is why I call people doing this socialist larpers.

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Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.05.20 at 9:19 am

“Given the current composition of the U.S. Senate, I’d estimate its [Medicare Dental Coverage Act’s] chances of ultimate passage as falling midway between zero and nil.”

Perhaps. However, the so-called ‘Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act’ was passed in 2003 by R-majority House, R-majority Senate, signed by R-president.

Of course it was an utterly corrupt bill, written by the industry, but I’m reasonably certain that the ‘Medicare Dental Coverage Act’ wouldn’t be any different in that respect.

And, nevertheless, the republican prescription drugs bill does pay (in part) for the horrible R-voting Walmart lady’s prescription drugs. And perhaps she’s aware of that. And thus the claim that she’s voting against her economic interests is questionable.

133

Callum 09.05.20 at 9:56 am

Sean @121

I think it’s not really correct to interpret wariness of white privilege talk as it will make poor whites “get hurt feelings”. The emotional reaction is not the point, it’s more about what that emotion will mean for political objectives more or less everyone on this thread supports, namely a more equal fairer society.

The thinking goes something like: class inequality is the most important injustice in US society. Addressing racial inequality (which is real) would not do very much to address this first injustice. In fact the current level of focus on racial inequity as a political priority is a strategic bad move because it will hamper our ability to address the primary injustice (class inequality). I think there are supposed to be a bunch of reasons for this:

class accounts for a lot more of the negative outcomes experienced by African Americans than racial prejudice, and it is in some sense, simpler to fix
focus on race makes it harder to form the broad coalition needed to address class inequality because it reinforces racial distinctions which get weaponised by the upper class (the hurt feelings )
Its important to have just one headline political priority or message or strategy or something

On the other hand, addressing class inequality actually does go a long way to addressing racial inequalities because racial inequalities are too a large extent driven by the fact that non-whites tend to be more highly represented in the lower classes.

I’m not sure the points 1,2 and 3 are entirely independent. I think that of the 3 reasons point 1 is true, I think point 2 is probably true, and to be honest I’m not sure about point 3. But I guess the thinking is that race talk crowds our class talk, I’m not sure about this at all.

134

nastywoman 09.05.20 at 1:22 pm

”Not all of US just him”.

and if I may add: Taibbi is even more confused as Mr. Malik – when he wrote how thoroughly reactive anti-Trumpers have been and still are, without presenting any plausible alternative agenda, certainly not by the Dembots nominating Joe Biden and Kamala Harris”.

You don’t need any ”plausible alternative agenda” – in trying to get rid of a Nasty Racist Science Denying Idiot –
YOU JUST FOCUS on trying to get rid of a Nasty Racist Science Denying Idiot –
AS –
in order trying to get rid of racism – the use of the words “white privilege” told ”white people” – really HELPS!

135

MisterMr 09.05.20 at 6:42 pm

@faustusnotes 132

I’m not denying that people who grew up in a certain rich social background have cultural differences with people who grew up in a poorer background, I’m saying that this should not be conceptualised as a ‘privilege’, but as one of the various form of capital (in a broad sense) that wealthy people have.

Also by liberal I don’t mean neoliberal, these are two very different things in my book.
When I wrote about a liberal point of view, I meant this:
Up to some time ago, some conservatives said that they were for ‘equality of opportunity’, whereas lefties were about ‘equalty of outcome’.
In reality the difference between these two are quite fuzzy because, obviously, if there is a big difference in outcomes, people who end up rich will find various ways to pass these advantages to their prole, directly through inheritance, or sending their child to better schools, or through social connections etc.

While the term was coined by conservatives (iirc), in my view conservatives are neither for equality of opportunity nor of outcomes, liberals tend to think in terms of equality of opportunity imho, while at least my interpretation of marxism elides the difference between the two and therefore is closer to the equality of outcomes (in a very broad sense).

It seems to me that what you mean by class privilege is about equality of opportunity as opposed to equality of outcomes, so I class it as a ‘liberal’ approach (liberal not being a smear word in the context, in fact I see myself both as a liberal and as a marxist).

136

nastywoman 09.05.20 at 7:39 pm

AND so in conclusion –
the use of the words “white privilege” told ”white people” – really HELPS –
because some of these ”white people” get such a bad conscious – that they discuss
on a blog like CT – ”IF the use of the words ”white privilege” really helps to challenge racism –

Sooo – ”all good guys” – ALL

GOOD!!

137

dbk 09.05.20 at 8:35 pm

JD@120, Gorgonzola Petrovna@132

Just to clarify: I wasn’t trying to make any partisan political point w/r/t the fact that Medicare doesn’t have coverage for even prophylactic dental work. (For that matter, it doesn’t include ophthalmology coverage, or audiology coverage.)

Medicare passed under Johnson in 1965. Fifty-five years later, it still doesn’t cover costly specialist services the elderly often require, but cannot pay for. That’s on both parties.

With respect to dental care in particular (the cost of which in the U.S. is just, well, phenomenal), much of this has to do with the power of the American Dental Association (ADA) lobby – dentists don’t want to serve patients who can’t pay full fees, and Medicare fees would be substantially lower than what they are accustomed to.

In the Senate currently, the bill has a single Democratic sponsor (Ben Cardin, D-MD0). As I noted earlier, this isn’t a good omen, and it reflects on members of both parties.

138

Corax 09.05.20 at 8:47 pm

Some questions for those who like this term and the discourse it generates: What are or should be the policy implications of “white privilege”? Related: can you imagine a policy addressing “white privilege” that does not invoke race? Also related: is “white” just nebulous enough of a racial concept, and do “whites” just have it so good (let’s say in the USA), that discrimination against “whites” on the basis of race shouldn’t be a disqualifying factor in whatever “anti-white-privilege” policies we might consider crafting? Or are we not really against “white privilege” after all (in the sense of wanting to do anything about it, just identifying it as a phenomenon? Also: are we concerned about any other loosely affiliated tribes qua tribes having more than their fair share of the privilege pie? If so, who? If not, why not? Finally: “Whites” in the US are a majority for now, but we can imagine a near future where this isn’t the case; what will “white-privilege” policies/laws look like then?

139

J-D 09.06.20 at 1:23 am

In fact the current level of focus on racial inequity as a political priority is a strategic bad move because it will hamper our ability to address the primary injustice (class inequality).

I understand how this could be an important question: ‘Does the current level of focus on racial inequity as a political priority hamper efforts to redress the injustice of class inequality?’

But so far I have not observed anybody producing empirical evidence to support the conclusion that the answer is ‘Yes’.

140

J-D 09.06.20 at 1:26 am

I’m not denying that people who grew up in a certain rich social background have cultural differences with people who grew up in a poorer background, I’m saying that this should not be conceptualised as a ‘privilege’, but as one of the various form of capital (in a broad sense) that wealthy people have.

I understand how you find value in conceptualising it as a form of capital, but it is not the case that conceptualising it as a form of privilege (and using that terminology) precludes conceptualising it as a form of capital (and using that terminology). It is possible to do both.

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nastywoman 09.06.20 at 3:55 am

@138
”Some questions for those who like this term and the discourse it generates”
Oh – good!

”What are or should be the policy implications of “white privilege”?
Laws which don’t ”privilege” – ”whites”

”Related: can you imagine a policy addressing “white privilege” that does not invoke race?”
No.

”Also related: is “white” just nebulous enough of a racial concept”,
No – as ”white” is not ”nebulous”

”and do “whites” just have it so good (let’s say in the USA), that discrimination against “whites” on the basis of race shouldn’t be a disqualifying factor in whatever “anti-white-privilege” policies we might consider crafting”?
What?

”Or are we not really against “white privilege” after all (in the sense of wanting to do anything about it, just identifying it as a phenomenon”?
W… what?

”Also: are we concerned about any other loosely affiliated tribes qua tribes having more than their fair share of the privilege pie”?
No – as the issue is ”WHITE” privilege.

”If so, who”?
Nobody?

”If not, why not”?
as the issue is ”WHITE” privilege.

”Finally: “Whites” in the US are a majority for now, but we can imagine a near future where this isn’t the case;”
Yes!

”what will “white-privilege” policies/laws look like then”?
Hopefully… a lot better – Right?

142

faustusnotes 09.06.20 at 4:33 am

MisterMr, the ideas I described above aren’t the result of some form of capital difference. Examples: Working class men are scary or intimidating; working class girls who talk about sex are dirty sluts while rich girls who do so are liberated; children growing away from their family rather than towards them; the different attitude towards tattoos on wealthy vs. poor people. These aren’t forms of capital, they’re cultural attitudes. How does the amount of capital people have directly relate to their attitudes towards tattoos?

I’m really surprised that you can look at this kind of thing and think it reflects a policy of equality of opportunity. it’s obviously about outcomes not opportunity. How can you think like this? In fact I’m opposed to opportunity as a solution to inequality, I’m not sure how you have got to this idea.

The reason that class-only leftists can’t comprehend privilege as a concept is that they won’t look beyond economic explanations for cultural phenomena. Chetan Murthy makes this point in the other thread where he points out that no matter how rich society gets men will still rape women, unless something is done about a culture of rape. The same is true with class privilege and race privilege. You need to engage the culture, and class-only leftists refuse to do this. So instead we have a situation where I describe multiple cultural attitudes that rich people deploy against poor people, and you somehow infer i want equality of opportunity rather than outcomes, or some such other economic waffle that is not only wrong but also irrelevant.

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faustusnotes 09.06.20 at 4:46 am

Corax asks what policies might derive from this concept of privilege. I don’t know about race privilege in the USA but for example in the UK people have lobbied for years to remove the entrance interview for Oxford and Cambridge because it is used to identify social signifiers of class that can be used to exclude working class people even though they are, on paper, eligible for admission. Similarly, for job applications a document review in which names and addresses are removed would ensure that black, Jewish and working class candidates were more likely to at least get to the interview stage of job applications. Ensuring diversity in interview panels also ensures that some interviewers’ privileged perspectives can be balanced by other voices.

Of course people like MisterMr will argue for equality of outcomes and say we don’t need kids to go to oxbridge but the reality is that the leadership of the UK is drawn from a very narrow educational background, and if only rich white kids can get into those institutions then in future only rich white kids will rule the country. And of course, every working class kid who fails to get into the top university is a working class kid who is failing to achieve their dreams, and that is wrong.

(I guess engels is going to say “great, so now poor kids can bomb the middle east too!” but if we follow that defeatist attitude we would never reform any institutions in favour of poor people, because those institutions are corrupt, and in the end Britain would never change).

I agree with others that privilege is not an especially useful framework for social justice but it is still part of the whole thing, and you can’t just ignore the demands from poor and black people to be taken seriously as human beings by those who consider themselves our “betters”. It might not mean much in the long run that once when I was at a demonstration for reduced university fees I was told by one of the left wing activists to “go to my technical college and advertise this protest” (when I was doing a master’s in public health!) just on the basis of my flanelette shirt and tattoos, but it’s offensive nonetheless and it doesn’t encourage a cross-class alliance for change. The same applies for race. If you don’t want black activists advocating for separatism, don’t treat them so badly that that’s all they think they can do.

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MisterMr 09.06.20 at 8:37 am

@ J-D & faustusnote
Essentially my opinion is that these differences are actually the result of the ownership of capital, only delayed temporally by one generation or two, so thinking in terms of the cultural identities of the rich and the poor (which is what the word privilege points to) is a way to put the cart in front of the oxes.

@faustusnote
I largely agree with the blog post you linked, although perhaps there is some misunderstanding between us because I think Italy where I live is closer to Germany and Japan as a social structure so maybe we have different references.
The point where I disagree is when you say that this model in the 50s was based on the exclusion of women and blacks: it’s true that they were in a worse position at the time but I would argue that the, let’s call it, new deal model was what reduced that situation.

Also it’s not that we don’t need people to go to Oxbridge, it is the economic model that creates Oxbridge.

145

MisterMr 09.06.20 at 8:46 am

Also, another quip:
I see that my position is referred to class reductionism or class only position, but I’d rather call it “economic structure first” position, since class sometimes is used to refer to social identities, whereas I’m arguing also against focusing on class as a social identity.

146

J-D 09.06.20 at 10:23 am

@ J-D & faustusnote
Essentially my opinion is that these differences are actually the result of the ownership of capital, only delayed temporally by one generation or two, so thinking in terms of the cultural identities of the rich and the poor (which is what the word privilege points to) is a way to put the cart in front of the oxes.

Even if the first half of sentence of that is true (as it might be), the meaning of the second half is obscure. The metaphor, in this case, is not helpful.

I wrote before that using the terminology of privilege does not preclude using the terminology of capital, and this remains true if privilege is a product of capital.

147

Richard A Melvin 09.06.20 at 11:03 am

The reason that class-only leftists can’t comprehend privilege as a concept is that they won’t look beyond economic explanations for cultural phenomena. Chetan Murthy makes this point in the other thread where he points out that no matter how rich society gets men will still rape women, unless something is done about a culture of rape.

‘Society getting richer’ is not the limit of the changes that leftists hope to be possible, merely an enabler.

There is a side issue here, that I want to avoid diverting into; rape presumably has at least something to do with biology. Which to anyone less Stalinist than Lysenko obviously can be the same kind of underlying factor to culture that economics can, either as a real constraint or as a justification. But we can sidestep that by talking about an all-male environment, like prisons or boarding schools.

Imagine such an institution with a lower level of rape than typical. One theory would predict that such an institution would turn out to have policies, procedures and infrastructure in place that caused it to be so. This probably requires a higher budget, but is not a simple consequence of that budget in itself, but of the way it was spent.

The other that someone succeeds in persuading the inmates to rape less. Rape culture disappears without anything material needing to change, or any money needing to be spent.

Class-reductionists are those who would find the former made up example more plausible.

148

notGoodenough 09.06.20 at 12:42 pm

Richard A Melvin @ 147

Respecting your wish not to divert too much, I would still nevertheless offer a minor point of disagreement.

“Class-reductionists are those who would find the former made up example more plausible.

To run with this analagy, my experience on this thread would seem to indicate that class-reductionists would actually argue that rape is only a manifestation of a class problem, and that any policies or discussion of rape is at best a diversion by unwitting stooges or ignorant fools – and at worst an actively malicious attempt to direct attention away from the real issues.

The most positive comments would include a brief acknowledgement that “of course, this is bad when it happens”, before launching into a discussion about how actually all sytematic problems are the result of class warfare which they believe is a far more important topic.

If discussed at all, they would perhaps argue that it doesn’t matter if there are policies and procedures because these are irrelevant to real issues (a Band-Aid at best) and indeed may actually be overall a negative because the time and resources invested in addressing this could have been better spent addressing the “real issue”. There might well be statements that this is the result of “residual rape culture”, and only occurs due to the existance of institutions in the first place. There might well be accusations that anyone who discusses the problems of rape are ignorant or misguided in their priorities, there would likely be contemptuous dismissal of anyone discussing their personal experience of being raped, and assertions that only rich people who’ve never encountered rape are discussing the issue. There would likely be statements like “talking about rape would hurt the feelings of people who are inclined to rape” and “talking about rape implies everyone is a rapist” and so on.

There would probably be gatekeeping over who has the “real” understanding of the problems, there could be angry denouncements of people for saying things they have not actually said, and there might well be assertions that the people instituting the policies in the first place are misguided or actively harming the more important actual cause for which we should all be fighting.

By contrast the people assessing the proposals and policies would say “hmm, maybe the existance of institutions is a problem, and it is an important topic certainly, but perhaps we can learn from these successful actions” and then be told they don’t understand the real topic, and told that they “think problems can be magically solved without changing anything” when of course the argument has repeatedly have said that a) change is needed and b) it will require a lot of time, effort, and potentially money (or resources, at least). Then this would be followed by a remark along the lines of “well you just don’t want to work together to solve the real problems”.

Perhaps you may disagree with this assessment (I’ll admit to being slightly biased now I’ve been repeatedly attacked and condescended to by people I ostensibly agree with), but certainly I have no confidence that class reductionists as embodied by some on these threads would even consider anything other than class a matter worth much discussion at all.

149

Anarcissie 09.06.20 at 4:20 pm

J-D 09.06.20 at 1:23 am @ 139:
“… I understand how this could be an important question: ‘Does the current level of focus on racial inequity as a political priority hamper efforts to redress the injustice of class inequality?’ But so far I have not observed anybody producing empirical evidence to support the conclusion that the answer is ‘Yes’.”

I thought that was exactly the leftist complaint about the leadership of the Democratic Party — that focusing primarily on racial inequity enables it to protect its donor class from the just wrath of the (economically defined) proletarians. But maybe you don’t regard their (the leftists’) perceptions as sufficiently empirical?

150

Callum 09.06.20 at 4:49 pm

Richard @147 I think you are definitely on to something with your thought experiment, although this again might be a bit of a tangent.

It seems like the class first people (I think I am one) have different underlying assumptions about how people work, how rational and how good the are. I think it’s likely we have a tendency to de-emphasise the explanatory role of hate and cruel urges when accounting things like racism or sexism. This maybe connected to Faustusnotes assertion that class first people believe everyone from a certain class must be a saint.

Likewise I think we might put more emphasis on the view that racism and misogyny(?) are social pathologies that are significantly exacerbated and even caused by underlying economic inequality. Hence the belief that it is always important to return to and focus on this underlying inequality. There’s actually quite a lot of research on gini coefficients and things like racism and IPV. So I shall go educate myself.

151

Dwight L. Cramer 09.06.20 at 5:06 pm

Is individuality an artifact of class, race, citizenship or something else? As I read over these comments I’m stuck by how uniformly they adhere to a focus on the individual as actor (miscreant/victim/beneficiary/whatever) within a variety of disputed constructs. Perhaps it would be fruitful to abandon that focus (obsession?).

152

MisterMr 09.06.20 at 6:32 pm

@J-D 146
“I wrote before that using the terminology of privilege does not preclude using the terminology of capital, and this remains true if privilege is a product of capital”

It does because it focuses on the cultural effects of the economic structure instead than on the economic structure itself.

For example, suppose that it turns out that people with an Oxford accent have better chances to find a job than people with London accent, a great brouhaha happens, Oxford accent becomes marked as snobbish, but the only ones who lose from it are the middle class scrubs who were trying to pass as high class (this would be a definition of midcult) whereas people who are actually high class are not affected because they do not need to pass.

Changing the subject, I do not think that rape depends on class, but I think that most existing cultures are rape cultures, so what would be an example of a non rape culture?

I ask this because the official trademarked marxist position about gender relations is that posed by Engels in “The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State”, where the idea is that in the absence of private property in the means of production inheritance disappears, the family disappears and the power of men over women also is at least greatly reduced. While Engels wrote this in the 19th century there is today probably more data so I think that it would be interesting to know if there is some correlation of rape culture with economic structures or not. But this is something I have really small knowledge.

153

J-D 09.06.20 at 10:35 pm

J-D 09.06.20 at 1:23 am @ 139:
“… I understand how this could be an important question: ‘Does the current level of focus on racial inequity as a political priority hamper efforts to redress the injustice of class inequality?’ But so far I have not observed anybody producing empirical evidence to support the conclusion that the answer is ‘Yes’.”

I thought that was exactly the leftist complaint about the leadership of the Democratic Party — that focusing primarily on racial inequity enables it to protect its donor class from the just wrath of the (economically defined) proletarians. But maybe you don’t regard their (the leftists’) perceptions as sufficiently empirical?

There’s no good reason why anybody should. I don’t. Do you?

I have observed repeatedly that people say this is happening but produce no evidence of its happening. All you’re doing is telling me about people saying this is happening, something which I obviously already know about. You’re still not telling me about any evidence on which the complaints you cite are based.

154

J-D 09.06.20 at 10:37 pm

@J-D 146
“I wrote before that using the terminology of privilege does not preclude using the terminology of capital, and this remains true if privilege is a product of capital”

It does because it focuses on the cultural effects of the economic structure instead than on the economic structure itself.

A focus on one thing does not preclude a focus on another, and repetition of the assertion does not make it any better supported than it was before.

155

Tm 09.07.20 at 7:24 am

Callum 150: “Likewise I think we might put more emphasis on the view that racism and misogyny(?) are social pathologies that are significantly exacerbated and even caused by underlying economic inequality.”

Wow, that statement does sound class reductionist! Which is it, exacerbated or caused? And what is the “underlying economimc inequality”, the one between rich and poor, the one between white and black, between men and women? Or is that all the same? Do you mean to suggest that racism and sexism mostly affect the lower class? Are mostly perpetrated by lower class people? That they shouldn’t distract from class struggle and will go away on their own after the revolution?

156

J-D 09.07.20 at 12:37 pm

Is individuality an artifact of class, race, citizenship or something else?

No, it isn’t.

As I read over these comments I’m stuck by how uniformly they adhere to a focus on the individual as actor (miscreant/victim/beneficiary/whatever) within a variety of disputed constructs. Perhaps it would be fruitful to abandon that focus (obsession?).

Perhaps it would. Then again, perhaps it would be the opposite of fruitful. Don’t feel obligated to commit yourself.

157

Kiwanda 09.07.20 at 4:07 pm

Chetan R Murthy:

we would have piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people. We would know their names.

Again, <href=”https://crookedtimber.org/2020/08/30/white-privilege-and-class-a-reply-to-chris-bertram-by-kenan-malik/#comment-804333″>again, it’s not hard to find Daniel Shaver, Joseph Hutcheson, Dylan Noble. It’s not a contest.

158

Kiwanda 09.07.20 at 4:10 pm

Sorry, another try.

Chetan R Murthy:

we would have piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people. We would know their names.

Again, again, it’s not hard to find Daniel Shaver, Joseph Hutcheson, Dylan Noble.

159

MisterMr 09.07.20 at 6:03 pm

@J-D 154
I don’t understand. Certainly if I’m focusing on A I’m not contemporaneously focusing on B, no?

Or are you referring to a crowding out argument? Unfortunately I don’t think there is a crowding out, I think many people who make a ‘privilege’ argument would not accept a ‘capital’ argument.

160

Tm 09.07.20 at 8:13 pm

MisterMr 159 are you serious? Your eyes change focus all the time, within fractions of seconds, thereby allowing you to perceive different aspects of your viewfield almost simultaneously. What makes you think that any useful political theory must be restricted to „focusing“ on only a single aspect of society or a single mechanism of oppression?

161

engels 09.07.20 at 9:09 pm

Your eyes change focus all the time, within fractions of seconds, thereby allowing you to perceive different aspects of your viewfield almost simultaneously.

My camera doesn’t.

162

engels 09.07.20 at 9:11 pm

Wow, that statement does sound class reductionist!

Is this supposed to be an argument?

163

MisterMr 09.07.20 at 9:13 pm

@Tm 160

I’m not speaking of changing focus from one mechanism of oppression to another, I’m speaking of focusing on the same mechanism in one way or another.

164

J-D 09.07.20 at 10:08 pm

I think many people who make a ‘privilege’ argument would not accept a ‘capital’ argument.

Even if this is true, so what? It provides no justification for rejecting arguments made in terms of privilege. Making a ‘privilege’ argument does not preclude accepting a ‘capital’ argument.

165

nastywoman 09.08.20 at 7:33 am

@
”It’s not a contest”.

Especially by proving – that there are ”NO piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people” –
by just posting ”NO piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people” –
as response to:
”we would have piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people. We would know their names”.

So we now know a few names?

166

Richard A Melvin 09.08.20 at 8:39 am

I suspect your optic nerves and brain parts are probably far more sophisticated and capable information processing systems than the media and political systems of anglo democracies.

Even so, they work on a single coherent conceptual model; that the world consists of persistent 3D objects under varying illumination. Without that kind of model, you would literally not be able to see what is in front of your face.

Locking a working version of such a model is why some cut-rate autonomous cars drive into people.

Class is not a different area of focus; a problem that could be solved before or after another. It is the thing that binds together solutions and problems, explains why it is that if you want see a pedestrian, you should swerve.

167

J-D 09.08.20 at 10:29 am

I’m not speaking of changing focus from one mechanism of oppression to another, I’m speaking of focusing on the same mechanism in one way or another.

Focussing on it in one way does not preclude focussing on it in another way.

Class is not a different area of focus; a problem that could be solved before or after another. It is the thing that binds together solutions and problems, explains why it is that if you want see a pedestrian, you should swerve.

Literally, it is not the case that class explains why you should swerve to avoid a pedestrian. The metaphorical meaning, if any, is opaque.

168

sean samis 09.08.20 at 1:33 pm

Cian O’Connor;

You claim that oppressive racial acts are “not routine” against Black Americans.

And you know this how???

I know that they are routine because Black Americans report them to be. I know because nearly every Black American I’ve ever heard talk on the topic have their stories. Plural.

You asked, “Let’s me off the hook for what?

For acknowledging that White Americans are privileged in numerous ways. Limiting WP to police violence allows one to pretend that every thing WP gave them or spared them from was actually earned. Which is only a short step to blaming Blacks for the oppression they must endure.

You asked, “… who gives a damn if I acknowledge that the US is racist.

It matters. No problem can be fixed as long as it’s denied.

Cian;

Regarding, “It would really help your case if you actually defined some of these [advantages and immunities that nearly all White Americans enjoy].”

Really? After all this time and all these comments, you still don’t know what advantages and immunities White privilege refers to? Restating the obvious and common knowledge would be pointless now. If you still don’t know then me restating it would be a waste of time.

sean s.

169

sean samis 09.08.20 at 1:35 pm

Callum;

Regarding, “ I think it’s not really correct to interpret wariness of white privilege talk as it will make poor whites “get hurt feelings”.

I agree; but that is the argument Corax made and to which I was responding.

The emotional reaction is not the point, it’s more about what that emotion will mean for political objectives more or less everyone on this thread supports, namely a more equal fairer society.

Ok, now you contradict yourself; you’re saying that the emotional response to the idea of WP IS what matters. If stating the truth interferes with political objectives, then we are all doomed.

The problem is that WP refers to something real and significant but NOT to something culpable. Denying WP obstructs truthful discourse between Blacks and Whites; and enables some Whites (if they are so inclined) to blame Blacks for their situation by asserting they earned what WP gave them UNEARNED.

If it is true that “ more or less everyone on this thread supports … a more equal, fairer society” then how can it be that stating what makes our society in need of fixing will hurt the cause? Why does our society need to be more equal and fairer if it’s already equal and fair?

sean s.

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Richard A Melvin 09.08.20 at 1:43 pm

class explains why you should swerve

Not ‘why’, that is a matter for morality; maybe you actually want to hit the pedestrian. More likely, you don’t care much so long as you don’t get caught. Instead, it answers the question ‘how’.

When your visual system observes a particular pattern of fluctuating signals, it syntheses from them a model of what is going on. It decides that there is a woman on the road ahead of you, and the poor lighting is making her sometimes visible, sometimes not. When a computer does that badly, you get (from wiki):

The recorded telemetry showed the system had detected Herzberg six seconds before the crash, and classified her first as an unknown object, then as a vehicle, and finally as a bicycle, each of which had a different predicted path according to the autonomy logic.

In the real world. pedestrians do not spontaneously become cars for a few seconds, and then transform into a bicycle; objects persist. That fact is built into the human visual system, and most successful machine ones too.

Once you have used that model to decide that there is a person at a particular position in 3D space that you want to avoid colliding with, you can some up with a plan to avoid doing so. If your model is correct, this will work.

The analogy here is that an understanding of the class system, what Marxists call ‘ideology’, is necessary to synthesize from media reports and personal experience a model of what is going on, and hence what must be changed in order to avoid an undesired outcome.

Historically, those with sophisticated and accurate personal models of the class system, e.g Du Bois and MLK, are those who have been successful at positive social reform. Those lacking such high quality models commonly end up confused as to why their efforts did nothing, or made them worse.

In that respect, Donald Trump is the President of the USA, and within a few percentage points of winning a second term. Given that is an undesired outcome, those taking political action with that goal are going to need accurate models in order to find a path to avoid it.

171

Kiwanda 09.08.20 at 2:48 pm

nasty woman:

[quoting me]: “It’s not a contest”

Especially by proving – that there are ”NO piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people” –
by just posting ”NO piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people” –
as response to:
”we would have piles and piles of videos of police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people. We would know their names”.

So we now know a few names?

Sorry, my time is limited. (Translated to wokespeak: I can’t enact the labor to educate you.) Also, I would consider overall data more important (for at least the third time: according to one study, whites are killed by police at about half (40%) per capita of blacks, poorest one-fifth of whites comparable to blacks overall).

Working from a list by Radley Balko of cases of at-best-dubious police killings that “barely made the news at all”, here’s some cases, one with a video. Almost all articles I came across do not mention the victim’s race in the text (I guess their races were “unmarked”), I can only guess from photos. If you’re genuinely interested, Balko lists maybe a hundred more, I haven’t guessed the races of those.

Kelly Thomas. Homeless, schizophrenic, tased / beaten to death by police. His race is not generally mentioned, photo suggests white. Video here.

John Wrana, age 95; had a knife, surrounded by five cops. Most news stories I came across mention neither his race nor the officers’; linked article has a photo, I’m guessing he’s white.

John Winkler.
His race is not mentioned that linked article, but is here.

Jason Wescott, botched drug raid. His race is not mentioned in the article, but there’s a photo, so, guessing he’s white.

Allan DeVillena II, unnecessary police escalation of a traffic stop. Race not mentioned in article; judging from photo, maybe east Asian.

Eugene Mallory, age 80. Race not mentioned in artcle, maybe white, judging from photo. Botched drug raid.

…all I have time for. But perhaps, like Brienne of Snarth, you’re “so finished with white entitlement that you’re really not sad about a 2yo eaten by a gator because his daddy ignored the signs”. Sorry, no video for that one.

172

Kiwanda 09.09.20 at 12:02 am

Since there’s a demand to see videos of cops murdering white people, e.g. from nastywoman, here’s a few more. Race is not mentioned in the articles, either of victims or cops, that I could find, but all victims light-skinned (some I would guess Hispanic), since that’s the question here.

(See also here, in response to Chetan R Murthy’s mention of “that white Australian lady” as a rare known example of “police unjustly murdering otherwise completely unremarkable and law-abiding white people”, the same “Australian lady” he mentioned here.)

Deven Guilford, age 17, a traffic stop. Tased and shot.

Gilbert Flores, shot to death with hands up.

Paul Castaway.

James Boyd, homeless, schizophrenic.

Caroline Small, in her car, after a brief chase; she’s boxed in.

Jeremy Mardis, age six. (But maybe this doesn’t count: one cop served two years, the other is serving 40.)

173

nastywoman 09.09.20 at 6:45 am

@172
”here’s a few more”.

Could we leave them as proof – that ”piles and piles” can be seen quite differently –
and in order to get back to ”White Privilege” I really would like to repeat the following comment from the ”Unmarked categories”:

”The massive demonstrations of this summer didn’t start because of some economic injustice; they didn’t start because of some class-consciousness. They started because Americans are fed up with police brutality towards Black Americans and people of color.

There’s only one class of Americans who agree with you: Trumpists. Think on that.

I’m done here”.

Please – NOT!
as there is this really Nasty Racist and Science Denier running for President – and at the last elections he managed to fool so many of the… am I allowed to say: ”Confused Types who post here” into NOT voting against him – that we need your help!

And as there is a bottle of Champagne waiting – for every ”Trump” -(the German Word for ”STUPID”) – WE can get on CT to vote against ”Trump” – let’s keep on rapping!

You want to win a bottle of Champagne – Kiwanda?

174

lurker 09.09.20 at 8:59 am

175

J-D 09.09.20 at 9:03 am

Historically, those with sophisticated and accurate personal models of the class system, e.g Du Bois and MLK, are those who have been successful at positive social reform. Those lacking such high quality models commonly end up confused as to why their efforts did nothing, or made them worse.

If
you have devised and implemented an intersubjectively verifiable method of systematically listing examples of people who have attempted positive social reform
and if
you have devised and implemented an intersubjectively verifiable method of systematically distinguishing between those who have sophisticated and accurate personal models of the class system and those who do not
and if
you have devised and implemented an intersubjectively verifiable method of systematically distinguishing between those who have been successful in their efforts for positive social reform and those who have not
then
you could describe all the above and other people could check your work to find out whether there is adequate basis for accepting your conclusion.

As things stand, you’ve supplied no good reason why anybody else should accept your conclusion.

Mind you, even if that conclusion were established, it would remain the case that talking in terms of white privilege does not preclude a sophisticated and accurate personal model of the class system.

In that respect, Donald Trump is the President of the USA, and within a few percentage points of winning a second term. Given that is an undesired outcome, those taking political action with that goal are going to need accurate models in order to find a path to avoid it.

If you are in possession of good reason for supposing that talking about white privilege will obstruct the goal of avoiding Donald’s re-election, you have cunningly concealed it.

176

MisterMr 09.09.20 at 9:32 am

@J-D 164
“It provides no justification for rejecting arguments made in terms of privilege.”
I think I’ve lost you. What agument made on privilege did I reject (assuming we are still speaking of “class privilege”)?

@J-D 167
“Focussing on it in one way does not preclude focussing on it in another way.”
It totally does, it’s called “estabilishing a narrative”. If you are estabilishing narrative A, you are not estabilishing narrative B, so if I think narrative B is better I will push for narrative B at the expense of narrative A.
I don’t understand this, really. I mean “focussing” mean to lend attention to one thing at the expense of others, how can “focussing” not be mutually exclusive?

But if you don’t like the term focussing, let’s call it framing.
If I think that framing a situation as A is better than framing it as B, then I will push for A at the expense of B.
Now it is well possible that someone else will frame it as K, and that K from my point of view is well worse, so I will be on the side of those who say B against those who say K.
But if the argument is between people who say A and people who say B, I will be with A and against B.

177

MisterMr 09.09.20 at 9:47 am

Further to my previous comment.
@J-D
It seems to me your point is that I’m arificially restricting the argument only to my point of interest, and rejecting other points of interests.
But it is not so, I’m not restricting anything, I’m speaking of the same things but from a different perspective.
What changes is the perspective, not what I’m intersted in: I don’t become a fan of “class privilege” because I call it “social capital”, nor of “white privilege” if I call it “racism due to false consciousness”.
It is actually the opposite from my point of view, that at least some people like the framing in terms of “privilege” because it isn’t systemic.

178

Trader Joe 09.09.20 at 11:41 am

In the topic of killings of white citizens…I’ve found it surprising the linked case didn’t get more attention. A few key words:

Justine Diamond
Unarmed. Non-threatening actions
Minneapolis (same city as George Floyd)
White woman – black cop
Black cop admitted guilt
Cop sentenced to 12.5 years….police force pays $20m
These would seem to be benchmarks that Floyd’s attorneys should seek.

https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2019/06/07/ex-minneapolis-cop-sentenced-12-5-years-murder-unarmed-woman/1382798001/

179

J-D 09.09.20 at 11:45 am

“It provides no justification for rejecting arguments made in terms of privilege.”
I think I’ve lost you. What agument made on privilege did I reject (assuming we are still speaking of “class privilege”)?

I was picking up a very strong impression that more than one commenter was taking the stance that talking about ‘white privilege’ is a bad thing because it’s counter-productive, or something very like that. Maybe I was right about that but you weren’t one of those commenters. Or maybe I was wrong entirely and nobody’s taking any stance like that. If nobody has any objections to people talking about white privilege, what do you think this discussion is about?

“Focussing on it in one way does not preclude focussing on it in another way.”
It totally does, it’s called “estabilishing a narrative”. If you are estabilishing narrative A, you are not estabilishing narrative B, so if I think narrative B is better I will push for narrative B at the expense of narrative A.
I don’t understand this, really. I mean “focussing” mean to lend attention to one thing at the expense of others, how can “focussing” not be mutually exclusive?

Even if it’s not possible to focus on two different things at the exact same instant, it’s still possible to focus on two different things in the same year, the same month, the same week, the same day, the same hour, the same minute. Nor is there any good reason to conclude that it’s impossible for two different narratives to be established.

But if you don’t like the term focussing, let’s call it framing.
If I think that framing a situation as A is better than framing it as B, then I will push for A at the expense of B.

if the same situation can be framed in two different ways, it doesn’t have to be case that one framing is better than the other.

180

sean samis 09.09.20 at 12:13 pm

A number of people (Kiwanda, lurker, Trader Joe) have listed references to stories about the police shooting of White people.

Some things need to be noticed.

The 20 or so stories mentioned span about 6 years.
Many of the victims had mental health issues; they represent a group against whom prejudices may be as bad or worse than POC.
Since March 13, 2020 (about 6 months), more than 80 Black people have been killed by police. Some sources find the number to be closer to 100..

sean s.

https://www.vox.com/2020/9/5/21423349/the-black-lives-that-dont-make-headlines-still-matter-dijon-kizzee-breonna-taylor

181

J-D 09.09.20 at 12:23 pm

Justine Diamond

Curiously, it turns out that while Justine Damond migrated from Australia (to the United States), Justine Diamond migrated to Australia (from the UK). (I suppose there might be more than one Justine Diamond, but that’s the one I found. For that matter, I suppose there might also be more than one Justine Damond.)

182

Tm 09.09.20 at 2:23 pm

MisterMr 176: It seems to me that when you refer to “focusing”, you really are artificially restricting your view field so as to see only A but not B (or whatever), and then insisting that anybody who sees B must be wrong. Let’s forget the “A” and “B” and “K”. There is racism, there is sexism, there is capitalism. All these exist, they are part of the world, part of our society. What do you think prevents us from acknowledging that fact, that all of them are real?

183

lurker 09.09.20 at 4:44 pm

@sean samis, 180
I see no necessary contradiction between ‘police are violent and out of control, and in a majority-white society, there will be many white people among the victims’ and ‘Black people are disproportionately the victims of police violence’.
This site has more than 100 Black people killed since 13.3.: https://mappingpoliceviolence.org/
The data seems incomplete; I can’t find Daniel Prude there, for example. He was Black and having a mental health crisis. Intersectionality.

184

MisterMr 09.09.20 at 5:45 pm

@Tm 182
Sexism exists. It is evident that there is less sexism today than there was in, say, 1600, so I would say that capitalism is actually good vs sexism. Furthermore, sexism can’t be reflected in class as generally class is an attribute of a whole household. I do not dispute this.

There is racism, but while one can argue that racism is perhaps rooted in some archaic psychological human trait, racism as we know it today is strongly intermixed with economic problems, e.g. racism against immigrants (the most evident form of racism in Italy where I live) is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative. I believe this is true for most forms of racism. Therefore speaking of racism as if it was a distinct thing from economics IMHO is wrong and less productive, although it is certainly better than not speaking of racism at all.

@J-D

I dislike the term “white privilege” for the reason that, as Malik says in the OP, ”Framing the absence of oppression or discrimination or bigotry as a “privilege” is to turn the struggle for justice on its head”.
Then Tm asked why wouldn’t “class privilege” pose the same problem, and I answered that I don’t like the term “class privilege” either, but for other reasons, which started a long thread derail.

On whether it is possible to frame (better word IMHO) the same thing in more than one way, it is possible only to the degree that a framing isn’t in contradiction with the other, which in this case in my view happens because class privilege (please note that I’m not speaking of racism) cannott IMHO be distinguished from “class”, although faustusnote gave some examples of the opposite.

185

Kiwanda 09.09.20 at 6:27 pm

sean s.

The 20 or so stories mentioned span about 6 years.
Many of the victims had mental health issues; they represent a group against whom prejudices may be as bad or worse than POC.
Since March 13, 2020 (about 6 months), more than 80 Black people have been killed by police. Some sources find the number to be closer to 100..

You’re comparing apples and oranges: one is individual stories and videos, where the killing was clearly dubious; the other is total number killed for whatever reason. I’ve given both: examples, and also statistics (from one study).

Putting the numbers for 2020 from here with a U.S. population that’s 13% black, 73% white, I get that in 2020, the number of whites killed by police per capita is 35% that the number of blacks, a bit less than the 40% I’ve been quoting (and quoting, and quoting, and quoting) from that study. What do your sources say?

186

Kiwanda 09.09.20 at 7:11 pm

nastywoman:

Could we leave them as proof – that ”piles and piles” can be seen quite differently – and in order to get back to ”White Privilege”….

The selective rigor here is a bit much. On the one hand, something that you just know to be true, and for which you needn’t be bothered to show any evidence at all; on the other hand, a demand for more and more and more evidence. To use that common point of comparison: do you think that Daniel Shaver’s white privilege makes him less dead than he would be if he were black?

I couldn’t quite make out of the rest of that comment; it seemed to have something to do with Trump. If so: I think liberal humanism is not just morally superior to left-identitarism, it’s also more helpful in defeating Trump and the Republicans.

187

Gorgonzola Petrovna 09.09.20 at 7:56 pm

@184
“…is to turn the struggle for justice on its head”

Here’s another one: “pay gap”. Nothing in the narrative would indicate that the wronged identity is underpaid. No, it’s just the “pay gap” that is the problem. Eliminate the “gap” by paying less to the other identity, and voila: problem solved.

188

nastywoman 09.09.20 at 8:37 pm

@
”The selective rigor here is a bit much. On the one hand, something that you just know to be true, and for which you needn’t be bothered to show any evidence at all”

But if YOU dispute some ”piles and piles” – it’s YOU – who had/has to show the evidence – and about ”the rest of that comment – you couldn’t quite make out”
YES!
It had/has something to with Trump –
and the issue of this thread – that looking through the lens of “white privilege” –
helps US to get rid of him.

AND there would be STILL a bottle of Champagne waiting – for every ”Trump” -(the German Word for ”STUPID”) – WE can get on CT to vote against ”Trump”.

So – do you want to win a bottle?

it seemed to have something to do with Trump. If so: I think liberal humanism is not just morally superior to left-identitarism, it’s also more helpful in defeating Trump and the Republicans.

So is class inequality.

189

nastywoman 09.09.20 at 9:35 pm

AND –

”When Mr. Woodward pointed out that both he and Mr. Trump were “white, privileged,” and asked if Mr. Trump could see that they both have to “work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain, particularly, Black people feel in this country,” Mr. Trump replied, “No,” and added, “You really drank the Kool-Aid, didn’t you? Just listen to you. Wow. No, I don’t feel that at all.”

190

hix 09.09.20 at 10:24 pm

Well Tm let me help you then:
-He is mixing up language propensity norms in CV’s

-He suggests employers are too stupid to figure out the applicants do inflate their abilities, when there is only one example where that might be true – the journalist that called for translation help. Regarding one example, he even explicitly undermines his own claim when the researcher is allowed to hire a native speaker to transcribe the source material.

The others example sounded more like the kind of cases where Arabic lingual skills were not considered all that important if not irrelevant, which he was unable to read between the lines of the job posting or in the party stipend comity.

Now in the cases in which they were not considered particular important despite lots of contact to the Arabic world, that sounds like the kind of thing one would like to take a closer look at, one could even reasonably use big r words in the explanation.

But that is not his claim, and he would also have a hard time to back that very reasonable hypothesis with anecdotes about political party stipendiary commissions or jobs in political parties foreign foundations which are utterly non-representative for society at large.

His thesis is rather that (native) German Job applicants are successful scam artists, which should controlled by a standardiced tests according to the EU letter soup system.
This is ridiculous because
A) Germans are rather less than more likely to inflate their abilities compared to most nations
B) Job interviews and CVS are exceptions to rather strict honesty norms, where inflated claims are expected. In international comparison the inflation is still not particular extensive and reality checks are rather strict.
C) He is suggesting an utterly German solution to an issue that would cause outrage in Germany and only in Germany if it were true.

There was a guy running Yahoo that invented an entire god-damn degree in his CV for example, and he only had to step down because the hedge funds didn’t like him for unrelated reasons.

The obvious conclusion is that the person is caught in an acculturation dilemma. He learns Germans are not always good Germans telling the outright literal truth with no second layers! Outrage! A guy with an Arab background, that complaints about the non Arabs inability to understand the nuances of spoken Arabic, you do understand the irony in that? Now he is disillusioned, finding conspiracies or huge incompetence where there is just nuance, imperfection and subculture. There are also indications he might drift back into some kind of Arab superiority view when he is wildly exaggerating the very special status of Arabic and the inability of foreigners to learn that language.

191

J-D 09.09.20 at 11:00 pm

There is racism, but while one can argue that racism is perhaps rooted in some archaic psychological human trait, racism as we know it today is strongly intermixed with economic problems, e.g. racism against immigrants (the most evident form of racism in Italy where I live) is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative. I believe this is true for most forms of racism.

What is your justification for favouring the conclusion ‘racism against immigrants is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative’ over the conclusion ‘the “they are stealing our jobs” narrative is largely rooted in racism against immigrants’?

I dislike the term “white privilege” for the reason that, as Malik says in the OP, ”Framing the absence of oppression or discrimination or bigotry as a “privilege” is to turn the struggle for justice on its head”.

Despite drawing on my previous experience with the metaphor ‘turn on its head’ (and I do have previous experience of it), in this instance I am unable to grasp the intended literal meaning; as a result, you have not made clear to me your reasons for disliking the term ‘white privilege’. They might become clear to me if you explained without metaphor.

On whether it is possible to frame (better word IMHO) the same thing in more than one way, it is possible only to the degree that a framing isn’t in contradiction with the other, which in this case in my view happens because class privilege (please note that I’m not speaking of racism) cannott IMHO be distinguished from “class”, although faustusnote gave some examples of the opposite.

No logical connection between the first half of this sentence and the second half is apparent to me, so you have not made clear to me how it is that you understand two framings to be contradicting each other.

192

J-D 09.10.20 at 12:19 am

If so: I think liberal humanism is not just morally superior to left-identitarism, it’s also more helpful in defeating Trump and the Republicans.

It’s not clear whether you also think that talking about white privilege is no help in defeating Donald and the Republicans or, worse, actually counter-productive. If you do think so, you haven’t provided any justification for anybody else to accept that conclusion, just as you haven’t provided any justification for the conclusion quoted. (I am not sure I understand correctly what you mean by ‘liberal humanism’ and ‘left-identitarism’, but you have not provided the justification for your conclusion about them no matter what you mean by them.)

193

hix 09.10.20 at 1:15 am

It is so easy to look at others who are all racist and sexist in contrast to a proper educated person in ones own bubble that knows all the right complicated passive aggressive words and the proper allowed ways to be aggressive as opposed to those that are ugly mansplaining or whatever. To me the entire discourse just looks like class slang and reinforcement of stereotypes.

Hurray to the toothless Walmart employees and their ability to look down on someone based on skin color. Everyone can use those kinds of more or less realistic concepts about his in group to feel superior. In all kind of marginalized low status groups, including minority ethnicities a nontrivial number of members regularly ascribe some kind of superiority to that group. It’s not a privilege to do so, it is a sign how bad one is doing if one has to resort to that kind of stuff. The number of occasions where that view is shared by society at large should be rather limited for toothless Walmart employees. That kind of stuff, those are just toxic distractions:
https://www.wsj.com/articles/netflix-ceo-fires-top-executive-after-use-of-the-n-word-1529709156
https://cosmicbook.news/brie-larson-netflix-bully-fan-unicorn-store

Some rich old white dudes, including but not limited to current presidents of the US and some poor saps being more wrong does not make oneself right.

194

Tm 09.10.20 at 7:57 am

hix 188 thanks for explaining yourself in more detail. I cannot follow you why you so easily dismiss the suggestion that for Arabic like for many other languages there should be uniform standards of certification. Why is that unrealistic or impossible if apparently it’s possible for Turkish or Hebrew?

In any case, I have another question for you. You criticize the article for being mostly anecdotal, which is fair enough. But you have quoted this article to make a point and I’m still not clear what your point is. There are some newspaper columns that are based on anecdotal evidence? Yeah, I guess so. Why is this particularly noteworthy? I assume you quote this article as – obviously anecdotal – evidence for some broader trend. Am I right about that? Something like, immigrants make up unfounded allegations of racism against Germans and liberal newspapers give them a forum? Is that what you are telling us?

195

Tm 09.10.20 at 8:05 am

Gorgo 187: “Nothing in the narrative would indicate that the wronged identity is underpaid.”

Great of you to tell feminists how they are doing the struggle against workplace discrimination all wrong. I can really imagine that it has never occurred to them that women are underpaid and should demand higher wages. It must be a true revelation to them.

196

nastywoman 09.10.20 at 8:08 am

@
”What is your justification for favouring the conclusion ‘racism against immigrants is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative’ over the conclusion ‘the “they are stealing our jobs” narrative is largely rooted in racism against immigrants’?

Now – I liked that question –
So what is anybody’s justification here for favouring the conclusion ‘racism against BLACK or BROWN immigrants is largely rooted in a “White Privilege” narrative’ over the conclusion ‘the “White Privilege” narrative is largely rooted in racism against BLACK and BROWN immigrants’?

As all the blond and blue-eyed immigrants from Norway and Sweden are WELCOMED
– according to ”Trump” –
(the German word for: ”STUPID”!)

197

MisterMr 09.10.20 at 12:49 pm

@J-D 189
“What is your justification for favouring the conclusion ‘racism against immigrants is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative’ over the conclusion ‘the “they are stealing our jobs” narrative is largely rooted in racism against immigrants’?”

It is a circular causation, one causes the other, however both depend on a system where good jobs are disappearing for different reasons, so that even without migration some other form of racist claim would pop up for the same result (e.g. northern italians being nasty against southern italians).
But to stop this circle one has to point out that the job situation actually depends on stuff like austerity or various aspects of neoliberalism.
If you instead point to “white privilege” as the root cause, you are describing a situation where there is some sort of zero sum competition between identities, at which point poor white (or other relevant identity) worker will logically conclude that as they are already quite screwed with WP, if they lose it they are totally toast, so they’ll just vote one who they perceive as “their guy”, who will actually screw them big time, but they think it’s a good idea because of “white privilege”.
Which is the whole reason racism is being weaponized by a variety of right leaning “populist” government across the world.

On the “turn on his head”: basically if you think that everyone should have rights 10, but ethnicity A actually has rights 10 while ethnicity B only has rights 8, you can’t say that ethnicity A is privileged, because you are undermining the idea that everyone should have rights 10 by badmouthing A for being exactly in the place where they are supposed to be.

Logical connection: if you distinguish “class privilege” (as used by e.g. faustusnotes, meaning things like cultural differences among people that can act as barriers to entry for people of poorer background) from other form of capital, you are implicitly saying that differences in capital ownership are a-ok, but this evidently negates the whole idea of marxism, where the logic is the opposite (differences in the relation to capitals shape society so that this kind of cultural differences are just the superstructural projection of differences in capital).
So one conception IMO negates the other.
Now if we compare both to an idea like, “the rich are rich because they had been selected in a dawinian way so everything is ok”, certainly both the class privilege idea and the capital idea are closer to each other and the differences tend to disappear, however it seems to me that if we are speaking of intra-left debate the two conceptions are quite contradictory.

198

engels 09.10.20 at 2:17 pm

As all the blond and blue-eyed immigrants from Norway and Sweden are WELCOMED – a according to ”Trump”

I guess I must have imagined all the crap Polish people in UK were getting in the run up to the Brexit vote.

199

Kiwanda 09.10.20 at 2:38 pm

J-D:

It’s not clear whether you also think that talking about white privilege is no help in defeating Donald and the Republicans or, worse, actually counter-productive. If you do think so, you haven’t provided any justification for anybody else to accept that conclusion, just as you haven’t provided any justification for the conclusion quoted. (I am not sure I understand correctly what you mean by ‘liberal humanism’ and ‘left-identitarism’, but you have not provided the justification for your conclusion about them no matter what you mean by them.)

As far as I can tell, your contributions here consist of pointing out, for a selection of views expressed, that you think those views need more clarification, or evidence, or justification. Eventually, maybe, I hope, you will make a claim, and provide arguments and evidence in support of it. Or, dispute a claim someone else has made, and supply arguments and evidence against it. When you do that, I’ll try to respond substantively.

200

nastywoman 09.10.20 at 2:52 pm

Next up on “White People Problems”, Ashley was just some ordinary mom taking her kids to Arby’s. But when she started to ask questions, she found herself staring down the barrel of a Caucasian crisis.
[ dissolve to re-enactment footage of Ashley at an Arby’s counter ]
Ashley: Now… does this chicken come from green organic farms?

[ the Black cashier stares at the camera ] [ return to Barkley, now standing with the cashier ]
Charles Barkley: Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington was on the scene. Now, “Dice” — what was going on with this lady?

Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington: [ shrugging ] She wanted to know about the chicken.

Charles Barkley: Like was it delicious?

Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington: No. She was like, “Is the chicken free-range?” Like, “Was it cooped up with other chickens, or did it have the freedom to come and go as it pleased?”

Charles Barkley: Are you serious?! She was worrying about that?! Has this woman ever heard of slavery?!

Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington: I don’t think so.

Charles Barkley: Well, then, what did she say?

Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington: She said, uhhh… uhhhh…

Charles Barkley: Oh, you weren’t listening?

Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington: I wasn’t listening.

Charles Barkley: I know. Hey, that’s what they call — they call that White Noise.

Michael “Baby Dice” Ellington: Oh, right, right!

[ they smack hands and laugh, as title graphics swoosh across the screen and lead to Barkley alone once again, with “BREAKING CRISIS” graphics ]
Charles Barkley: Hey — we just received word from the crisis center that there’s a white emergency in progress. Let’s talk live with Trevor and Cayla Vandercronk.

[ reveal Trevor and Cayla live via satellite ]
Cayla Vandercronk: Hello? Is someone there?

Charles Barkley: Yes! Thank you for joining us with some very important problems. What’s the situation?

Trevor Vandercronk: Well… this whole thing is a bit awkward.

Charles Barkley: For those of you at home, “awkward” is a white people word that can be applied to every situation.” Trevor, what’s happening?

Trevor Vandercronk: Well, we told our friends they could stay at our summer house this weekend, but… now our plans have changed and… we want to stay there.

Cayla Vandercronk: [ smiling ] It’s the worst!

Charles Barkley: Yes, that is the worst. Why don’t you just stay there with them — you stay in your room, and they sleep in the bath tub?

Cayla Vandercronk: Well, it’s not a problem of room — we have five spare bedrooms.

Charles Barkley: [ outraged ] Why do you have FIVE spare bedrooms?!
Do you have FIVE grandmas?!

Trevor Vandercronk: No. Look — the whole thing is really delicate, because this is a couple we used to do the holidays with, and we don’t any more, and there’s hurt feelings all around… so…

Charles Barkley: Man, that problem is so WHITE it should go SNOWBOARDING!

Cayla Vandercronk: Can you help us?

Charles Barkley: No, I’m on break!

[ Barkley leaves ]
Trevor Vandercronk: [ confused ] Hello?

Cayla Vandercronk: He was just talking to us…

Trevor Vandercronk: Is it…? Did we…?

[ cut to Barkley approaching Michael and Rashad with a black girl

Cayla Vandercronk: Can you help us?

Charles Barkley: No, I’m on break!

[ Barkley leaves ]
Trevor Vandercronk: [ confused ] Hello?

Cayla Vandercronk: He was just talking to us…

Trevor Vandercronk: Is it…? Did we…?

[ cut to Barkley approaching Michael and Rashad with a black girl backstage ]
Charles Barkley: What up, darling?

[ cut to title graphics ] [ fade ]

201

sean samis 09.10.20 at 3:19 pm

lurker;

I see no contradiction between the items you list, and no reason for you to think I might.

MisterMr;

White privilege turns the struggle for justice on its head only if you see it as culpable. I and others have repeatedly reminded all that WP is NOT culpable.

Kiwanda;

Based on the source linked below, in 2020 Black Americans are about 2.9 times more likely to be shot to death by police than White Americans.

… .statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

The link you provided was data from 2015 to August 2020, but the conclusion is not much different.

sean s.

202

Kiwanda 09.11.20 at 12:10 am

sean s.:

Based on the source linked below, in 2020 Black Americans are about 2.9 times more likely to be shot to death by police than White Americans.

… .statista.com/statistics/585152/people-shot-to-death-by-us-police-by-race/

The link you provided was data from 2015 to August 2020, but the conclusion is not much different.

Sorry, indeed I meant that link. I said 35%, while you said 34.48%, so we agree. From WaPo, the relative rate per capita for white vs. black in 2020 is 13/32=40%, consistent with what I’ve been quoting from this study. The WaPo database allows looking at subcategories; for example, looking at fatal police shootings in 2020 of people who did not themselves have guns, it’s 1033/2555=40.4% for whites, 540/1329=40.6% for blacks. So, about the same.

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Kiwanda 09.11.20 at 12:17 am

Sorry, my last claim (about 40% for both) was nonsense. From those numbers, and using the same .13 black vs .73 white population proportions, the ratio of white without gun killed vs black without gun per capita is 34%, consistent with the other data.

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J-D 09.11.20 at 12:44 am

It is a circular causation, one causes the other, however both depend on a system where good jobs are disappearing for different reasons, so that even without migration some other form of racist claim would pop up for the same result (e.g. northern italians being nasty against southern italians).

Racism existed long before there was a system where good jobs were disappearing.

But to stop this circle one has to point out that the job situation actually depends on stuff like austerity or various aspects of neoliberalism.
If you instead point to “white privilege” as the root cause …

I haven’t pointed to white privilege as the root cause, and as far as I can tell neither has anybody else.

On the “turn on his head”: basically if you think that everyone should have rights 10, but ethnicity A actually has rights 10 while ethnicity B only has rights 8, you can’t say that ethnicity A is privileged, because you are undermining the idea that everyone should have rights 10 by badmouthing A for being exactly in the place where they are supposed to be.

Describing people as privileged is not badmouthing them.

Logical connection: if you distinguish “class privilege” (as used by e.g. faustusnotes, meaning things like cultural differences among people that can act as barriers to entry for people of poorer background) from other form of capital, you are implicitly saying that differences in capital ownership are a-ok …

It is possible to distinguish between two things both of which are okay; it is also possible to distinguish between two things both of which are not okay. Distinguishing between two things does not, by itself, say anything about what’s okay. For example …

… but this evidently negates the whole idea of marxism, where the logic is the opposite (differences in the relation to capitals shape society so that this kind of cultural differences are just the superstructural projection of differences in capital).

… anybody who says that class privilege is a superstructural projection of differences in relation to capital is distinguishing between differences in relation to capital and their superstructural projections, without necessarily saying anything about what is (or what is not) okay.

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J-D 09.11.20 at 1:28 am

As far as I can tell, your contributions here consist of pointing out, for a selection of views expressed, that you think those views need more clarification, or evidence, or justification.

If you don’t like it when I point out that your expression of your views is unclearly, you can avoid this outcome by expressing your views clearly. If you don’t like it when I point out that your conclusions have not been justified by evidence, you can avoid this outcome by justifying your conclusions with evidence.

When you do that, I’ll try to respond substantively.

You’re under no obligation to respond to me in any way. If you want to make your responses contingent on my satisfying your stipulations, there’s not much I can do about that.

That’s if you care about my reactions; I don’t know of any reason why you should.

Eventually, maybe, I hope, you will make a claim, and provide arguments and evidence in support of it. Or, dispute a claim someone else has made, and supply arguments and evidence against it.

It seems to me that I did something like that in my earliest comments to this thread, but if that’s not clear to you or if you’d like me to make a restatement, please let me know and I’m happy to oblige.

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lurker 09.11.20 at 8:45 am

@198, engels
There is a funny (for a non-Pole) German conspiracy theory that Poles and Poland are complete fabrications, the land and its population is really Eastern Germanic and has been artificially slavicized by the Catholic Church. At least the Brits do not deny the Poles exist.
Brexiteers will be disappointed when Eastern Europeans get replaced by immigrants from outside the EU and they find that most of those immigrants are not white Australians.

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novakant 09.11.20 at 9:26 am

I guess I must have imagined all the crap Polish people in UK were getting in the run up to the Brexit vote.

You might want to brush up on the history of anti-slavic racism, e.g. Hitler.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Slavic_sentiment

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MisterMr 09.11.20 at 11:05 am

@sean seamis 201
“White privilege turns the struggle for justice on its head only if you see it as culpable. I and others have repeatedly reminded all that WP is NOT culpable.”
Well, since my understanding of the word “privilege” is culpable, I will just not use the word. If you use a word, you don’t have the faculty to force other people to interpret it the way you mean, so if there is a common use where “privilege” implies culpability a lot of people will read it into your words, even if you didn’t mean it in the first place. Even more so if the people who are reading it have an agenda and can make use of that.

@J-D 204
“Racism existed long before there was a system where good jobs were disappearing.”
No, unless by “racism” you mean “any situation where one ingroup hates an outgroup” (which is an extreme extension of the concept) it didn’t really exist (for example antisemitism in the Middle Ages should be regarded as religious persecution and not as racism).
I think you are reifying a modern cultural thing too much and projecting it into the past.
But anyway, even before capitalism existed economic problem existed and economic classes also did, so for example slavery certainly is an economic thingie and it is the main cause of anti-black racism, and antisemitism is rooted in cultural prejudices that were religious, but still placed Jews in a very specific socio economic position.
So while “before there was a system where good jobs were disappearing” is more or less true, it still is the case that in these two pretty iportant instances the root of racism is economics, not some sort of mystical instinct to racism. If you have an example of a form of racism that patently didn’t have economic causes please tell me.

“I haven’t pointed to white privilege as the root cause, and as far as I can tell neither has anybody else.”
You asked in 191: “What is your justification for favouring the conclusion ‘racism against immigrants is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative’ over the conclusion ‘the “they are stealing our jobs” narrative is largely rooted in racism against immigrants’?”
So you pitted an hipothesis where economics is the root cause against one where racism is the root cause. I was answering to this.

“Describing people as privileged is not badmouthing them.”
See my answer to sean seamis above. It is not automatically badmouthing but it can be construed as such.

“It is possible to distinguish between…”
It is possible to distinguish between a lot of things, but normal discourse is based on implications due to the “maxim of relevance” (hy Paul Grice!).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative_principle
So if you distinguish between “class privilege” and “capital”, presumably you have a reason to distinguish between the two (maxim of relevance).
Therefore if you are distinguishing between the two but, in context, there is no clear reason to distinguish by the two, the normal inference is that you are interested in one but not in the other.
Now this is not automatically true, however the inference is quite natural.

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sean samis 09.11.20 at 2:22 pm

MisterMr and J-D

White privilege is certainly not the cause of racism; racism creates it.

Describing people as privileged is not badmouthing them.

That’s quite correct; WP is not culpable. Saying someone is “privileged” in any way is not badmouthing them except for those privileged fools who think they somehow earned it. Like the joke about GW Bush: he was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple.

I have nothing to say about all the Marxist stuff; it’s irrelevant.

sean s.

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Tm 09.11.20 at 7:35 pm

Kiwanda 199: I for one appreciate J-Ds close reading and questioning. 204 is an excellent example. Regarding your 186, I too must say that the terms you are using are unclear. I have absolutely no idea what “left identitarism” might refer to, and “liberal humanism”, I guess it’s the opposite of Trumpist illiberal inhumanism? It sounds like the official Democratic Party line. Am I reading you right? Of course you don’t have to explain yourself, it’s completely up to you, I just assume that you want your message to be understood. Perhaps I’m wrong about that…

MisterMr 197 if I understand you correctly, you argue that some white voters vote for Trump because it has been pointed out to them by anti racist campaigners that they benefit from White Privilege, and now they conclude that they should support a candidate who will help preserve that privilege even if he screws them in every other way. Is that a fair paraphrase? If yes: do you really think it would never have occurred to these white people if antiracists hadn’t talked about WP??

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J-D 09.12.20 at 1:33 am

Well, since my understanding of the word “privilege” is culpable, I will just not use the word. If you use a word, you don’t have the faculty to force other people to interpret it the way you mean, so if there is a common use where “privilege” implies culpability …

If your position is ‘It’s a bad idea to talk about “white privilege” in contexts where people have incompatible understandings of “privilege”, because it hinders communication’, then I think I’m inclined to agree with you; but I note that, nevertheless, people have reported that they have found the term useful, so I suppose that they were using it in contexts where there were not incompatible understandings of ‘privilege’, and I have no good reason to doubt their word about the use they have found in the term.

“Racism existed long before there was a system where good jobs were disappearing.”
No, unless by “racism” you mean “any situation where one ingroup hates an outgroup” (which is an extreme extension of the concept) it didn’t really exist (for example antisemitism in the Middle Ages should be regarded as religious persecution and not as racism).
I think you are reifying a modern cultural thing too much and projecting it into the past.
But anyway, even before capitalism existed economic problem existed and economic classes also did, so for example slavery certainly is an economic thingie and it is the main cause of anti-black racism, and antisemitism is rooted in cultural prejudices that were religious, but still placed Jews in a very specific socio economic position.
So while “before there was a system where good jobs were disappearing” is more or less true, it still is the case that in these two pretty iportant instances the root of racism is economics, not some sort of mystical instinct to racism. If you have an example of a form of racism that patently didn’t have economic causes please tell me.

‘A system where good jobs are disappearing’ is a much narrower concept than ‘economic problems’. Economic problems of one kind or another date back to a time before there were written records. I wouldn’t assert that racism existed long before there were economic problems. If your assertion is not ‘racism is the product of a system where good jobs are disappearing’ but rather ‘racism is the product of economic problems’, then my response would not be ‘No, that’s wrong’; my response would be ‘That’s an interesting possibility which merits further investigation although I’m not yet 100% convinced that it’s accurate’.

“I haven’t pointed to white privilege as the root cause, and as far as I can tell neither has anybody else.”
You asked in 191: “What is your justification for favouring the conclusion ‘racism against immigrants is largely rooted in a “they are stealing our jobs” narrative’ over the conclusion ‘the “they are stealing our jobs” narrative is largely rooted in racism against immigrants’?”
So you pitted an hipothesis where economics is the root cause against one where racism is the root cause. I was answering to this.

In that earlier comment I mentioned only two of multiple possibilities. Among the other possibilities there is this one: maybe neither of these phenomena has a single root cause. In my earlier comment I only asked about your justification for favouring your stated conclusion over just one of the possible alternatives, but I could have asked about your justification for favouring your stated conclusion over all the possible alternatives. If I gave the impression that I was favouring just one of those alternatives, then I could have expressed myself more clearly, and I’ll try to do better in future.

So if you distinguish between “class privilege” and “capital”, presumably you have a reason to distinguish between the two (maxim of relevance).

True: but that reason doesn’t have to involve thinking that one of them is okay and the other is not okay. When you referred to a Marxist distinction between different relations to capital and the superstructural projections of those different relations, did you think that meant one of them was okay and the other not okay?

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engels 09.12.20 at 2:16 am

So “white privilege” = Aryan now? Good to know.

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MisterMr 09.12.20 at 7:43 am

@Tm 208

I think that some white people, often racist, vote for right populist parties because they feel leftish politics as an aggression against themselves, even if from an objective point of view rightwing populist policies are really bad for them.
It is a case of “false consciousness” in Marx-speak.
But if even the left frames the situation as “white privilege” this is giving to the rightwing parties a free assist to frame the situation in a way that suits them, they will say: “see, they are just a bunch of elite guys who want to take away stuff from you and give it to them, they are not really on your side”.
So if we put it in strategy terms, framing racism in terms of white privilege might be an own goal.
Then it might not be if it fires up people who are already leftish, it depends whether the best strategy is to lure the undecided or to fire up your own side (who might later lure in the undecided through personal conversations).

While tactically it could go both ways, it seems to me that this way the left is reinforcing a framing that is more appropriate to the right, so on the long term I think tis is bad; in addition, I see this as wrong because, if you frame racism in terms of white privilege, you are looking at reality with the wrong set of concepts, thus leading to false consciousness.

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