Challenging the Concept of White Privilege
July 28, 2006

Yet again, we have an instance of a privileged white person reveling in his privilege to excoriate other white people as privileged. Robert Jensen is "an associate professor of journalism at the University of Texas in Austin." I'll just presume, for the sake of argument, that he has tenure or a good chance of getting it. In other words, it is his privilege to talk garbage about other white people with total impunity.

Jensen has written a book called The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege. This blog entry is based on a review of the book. (A trek into the heart of whiteness, Richard Gonzales, Star-Telegram, 07/23/2006.) According to Gonzales, the book "courageously exposes the minds and hearts of whites benefiting from what [Jensen] calls a 'white-supremacist society.'"

Let us begin with the obvious point: It requires absolutely no "courage" for a white professor of journalism to talk about "white privilege" or "white supremacy." Try writing a book about racial statistical differences in IQ or in criminal behavior. That would take real courage!

His book addresses white middle-class citizens who deny or ignore the existence of white privilege and disparities in economic, social and educational levels between whites and ethnic minorities.
I guess that means me, sort of. I do not deny those "disparities." They are real. I think about them. I write about them. I even admit that they might be lessened by some public policies and exacerbated by others.

I do deny the "existence of white privilege." "Privilege" means more than the reaping of a just reward for one's hard work and talent. It means more than the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time with the right idea. Privilege is when the government makes a "private law" for your specific benefit, or for the benefit of some group you might belong to such as war veterans or (in other times and places) aristocrats. Thus, it is non-white people who are "privileged" in this society.

Jensen asks that whites look into their hearts. Like Marlow in Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, whites should brave a journey of self-discovery to confront their fears of blacks and Latinos and overcome the evils of racist attitudes and institutions. Otherwise, how can the United States take the high moral ground with dictators and terrorists?
Dang, if someone asks me to "look into my heart" once more, I think I'll have to barf! Really, what kind of person writes crap like that? "...confront their fears of blacks and Latinos..." Hey, up yours, Gonzales!!! Now, as far as "high moral ground" is concerned . . . I need to digress.

We are sort of wedged between two fictitious worlds which somehow constitute what we might call "public realities." In one world we hear about terrorists, dictators, democracy, the State of Israel, the Islamic world, etc., etc. In the other, we hear about race, class, gender, democracy, disparity, diversity and so on. Speaking very crudely, one reality belongs to the establishment "right" -- the Bush administration, etc., and the other reality belongs to the establishment "left" -- university professors such as Robert Jensen, journalists like Richard Gonzales and so on. The agents and architects of these realities need to have large masses of people internalize various beliefs or belief systems that support the realities.

Just for example, the current attack by the State of Israel on the State of Lebanon requires that large numbers of people believe that Israel is an innocent victim of terrorism and is merely taking just steps to defend itself. I've given serious thought to that viewpoint and I reject it. See my recent blog entry: Propaganda Analysis: Suggestions to Students Concerning Israel's Attack on Lebanon.

In the "left" reality, we find such concepts as the one promoted by Jensen's book and Gonzales' review of it: that the "disparities" are caused by "white privilege" and have nothing to do with genetic or cultural differences.

A few points about these two realities:

Here is another quote from the review:

Jensen acknowledges that dismantling racism would mean a loss of power, material wealth and status for whites. An underlying white fear is that with a growing Latino population and political strength, Latinos will gain governmental and social control. Then a white minority might find that it might receive the same treatment it has doled out over the years.
Actually, White people are afraid of getting much, much more of the treatment to which we are already subjected. And, oh, by the way, why should we give away our country in the first place? Because Young Master Jensen says we are privileged? Does he think we are all a bunch of idiots? Maybe he should go help George W. Bush re-engineer the Middle East.

Here is the concluding paragraph of Gonzales' review:

To eliminate the disease of racism and restore a healthy society, whites should steel their hearts and minds for political change and accept their darker brothers and sisters.
This reminds me of the old European folk tale about the goose that laid golden eggs. Only, in this case, Gonzales and Jensen and their ilk are trying to talk the goose into committing suicide.

Our society is, indeed, sick. The transformations of the '60s which were supposed to cure us of a few social shortcomings are major factors in our present disease. American White people cannot maintain "anti-racist" attitudes when we face the prospect of being a minority ourselves some time in the next 50 years. We absolutely must develop a healthy sense of racial self-interest. And we cannot continue to give advantages designed to help uplift Black Americans to a huge minority group that was utterly insignificant 50 years ago.

Yes, we must "steel" our "hearts and minds." We must steel our hearts and minds for a long struggle to keep our own country.

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Here is a discussion thread on the Gonzales article: American Renaissance News: A Trek Into The Heart Of Whiteness.

I discuss "white privilege" in some detail in several blog entries:

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Addendum, August 12, 2006:

I read an interesting posting on this morning: The Culture War, The Most Important Immigration Reform Argument Of All Says One Democrat by Donald A. Collins. It got me thinking, again, about one of my favorite topics.

The essence of White Privilege is simply this: The good fortune to have been born into a well-functioning part of a generally well-functioning advanced culture. Not all White people experience this good fortune; some non-White people do experience it.

The large movement that attacks on "White Privilege" are part of is one of the key factors in transforming White Culture into a dysfunctional culture. It's the Goose that Laid the Golden Egg problem. Another factor is the fact that change in general, in technology, popular entertainment, popular attitudes, etc., is happening so fast we can't really adjust to it. Another factor: we were never really as smart, collectively, as we like to think we are.

Those last two factors would be problems even if American society were one hundred percent White. So this, I believe, is our dilemma: we cannot meaningfully address our faults while we are continually being attacked for our virtues.


Addendum, April 4, 2007:

Robert Jensen is in the news again. See American Renaissance News: Prof To Discuss 'White Problem', which has excerpts from a Chapel Hill News article by Lisa Hoppenjans. Here is a key paragraph from that article:

White supremacy, Jensen said, is the "unearned privilege that comes simply from being white in a white society."
The fallacy here is Jensen's confusion of "privilege" with "advantage." Being 6.5 feet tall might give you an "advantage" on a basketball court. It does not give you any "privilege." If you can't shoot the baskets, you don't make the team.

If you are playing any game, it is an "advantage" to have been born of the people who defined the game in the first place. "Privilege" comes into play only when "advantages" are enforced by law or the policies of major institutions. Thus, in this year 2007, American White People have no reason to feel guilty. On the contrary, we must organize and put an end to all the genuine privileges that are now systematically granted to members of "minority" groups.

Copyright © 2006

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