White Privilege is a term that I’m continually hearing these days and has risen to a level that peaks my attention span. It sounds as though the phrase originated of more liberal agendas to explain the inequalities that have arisen and persisted among non-whites as American History has unfolded. On other hand, a tag applied to the perception certainly serves as a rallying point for conservatives to forward the distorted beliefs of their base. Either way, the utterance of the phrase doesn’t sit right with me so I’m angling to find something that properly clarifies this reality, while not actingto alienate.
Privilege is the word I don’t like. The moniker conjures up the walls most of us our left looking in on from outside the haughty country club that is clearly off limits. And those on the inside look down on us because their grandfather made enough money to situate themselves away from the less well birthed.
Privilege also implies that the insiders are perfectly inclined to reap the benefits that this undeserved status affords them – keeping the Caddyshackers at a safe distance. That said, it’s certainly no stretch to argue that being white can have the effect of safely erecting such walls in many aspects of American life.
The examples are numerous. The most profound is found in our criminal justice system. On the mean streets, the examples are abundant, and the video tape simply confirms what Black communities have long known.
Inside the court room, if you’re not familiar with Michelle Alexander’s, The New Jim Crow, I implore you the privilege of giving her dissertation a read. In short - without getting as political as the author – the war ondrugs has created a systematic mass incarceration based on color – despite similar drug usage across the landscape of race and class.
Or in simpler terms, white people go to rehab, non-whites go to jail and then are relegated in a state of underclass due to the felony label they most carry the rest of their lives. Still, I don’t like the word privilege because it implies consent, and I hope my argument will signify my lack of.
As such, I propose White Advantage instead, but this isn’t just an exercise in semantics. Advantage states a fact, while privilege reserves judgement that doesn’t always apply. I easily can acknowledge advantage because I have absolutely no role historically for long held injustices.
In the present, I may have some responsibility for go reaping the rewards of my advantage, but I’m as powerless to change the situation as those disadvantaged by the reality.
On the other hand, those arguing that advantages don’t exist anymore deserve judgment and should go on using the word privilege. That enables the grounded among us to have an appropriate target for our discontent and go on writing, speaking, and helping to organize for change.
Otherwise, you run the risk of off-putting those that see the problem and emboldening the opposition by default.
So take advantage if you please.