Why the Rhetoric of “White Privilege” is Anti-White Prejudice and Racism

White privilege refers to the set of cultural, economic, political, and social advantages that are granted to people who are perceived as white, simply because of their skin color. White privilege is often described as an invisible set of advantages that white people enjoy, which are not available to people of color.

Examples of white privilege include access to better education, job opportunities, and healthcare, as well as better treatment by law enforcement and the criminal justice system. White privilege can also manifest in more subtle ways, such as not having to worry about being discriminated against or stereotyped because of one’s race, or not having to constantly navigate and combat the effects of systemic racism.

A protester holds a sign at a rally against policy brutality in New York on September 2020.

Why do I say on my blog that the white privilege rhetoric is anti-white prejudice and racism? (Not “reverse racism” but racism.)

Consider the fact that black males as a group are overrepresented in serious crime, especially homicide and robbery, in which more than half of these crime types are committed by black males, a statistic disturbing in light of the fact that black males comprise only around six percent of the United States population.

Suppose I argue that, because of this overrepresentation of black males in serious crime, that every black male you encounter is a criminal who represents a danger to you and your family. Wouldn’t we all agree that I am misusing abstraction and statistics to make every black male appear to be problematic and that this move represents a type of ani-black prejudice? Isn’t it racist to say all blacks are criminals?

The problem is a confusion over things. Aggregate statistics concerning demography and criminality are abstractions. These are averages and rates. Not every black male has committed murder or robbery (in fact, most haven’t). It is an error to assign to each man the average characteristic of the demographic group to which he is assigned.

One always commits this error when he portrays or treats a concrete individual as the personification of or some aspect of the abstract group to which he has been assigned. To treat an individual as representative of a statistical average or rate commits the the fallacy of misplaced concreteness.

This is not to say that we don’t need to worry about the statistics concerning the overrepresentation of blacks in serious crime. This is of vital importance. But we are told not to talk about them because the statistics are themselves racist in that they cast a bad light on black males.

They’re not racist, of course. Those who cite the statistics are falsely smeared with the accusation or suggestion of racism because the elite who mismanage the cities in which homicide and robbery are rampant want to silence critics of their politics and policies.

Now consider the fact that whites as a group are more likely than blacks to have jobs, jobs with higher pay, homes that possess more value, better education and health outcomes, etc. These are the facts that are provided in specifying white privilege.

Suppose I argue that, because of this overrepresentation of whites in these statistics, every white person one encounters enjoys a racial privilege and is thus in some way implicated in the inferior position of blacks, that is the means for this demographic.

This is an assumption that must be made if reparations are to be in order. This assumption must also be at work in justifying the practice of selecting a black person over a white person in employment and other opportunities on the grounds that the black person comes from a historically disadvantaged group, disadvantaged because of the legacy of racism.

How could a white man be responsible for the historic debt owed black people on the basis of his skin color? Shouldn’t he be held responsible for his actions as an individual? How can his skin color be used to disadvantage him on the grounds that there other whites who have higher incomes, etc., than him?

There is no difference between the cases. They both commit the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. But, unlike in the case of black crime, I don’t think that we would all agree that it is wrong to use abstraction and statistics to make every white male appear to be problematic, that this indeed represents a type of anti-white prejudice.

Both cases are wrong because they involve treating abstract statistical trends as if they were a concrete reality that applies to every individual within a particular demographic category. Both involve reducing an individual’s unique characteristics, experiences, and perspectives to a simplistic and generalized stereotype based on demographic identity. Both of these examples highlight the importance of recognizing the complexity and diversity of individuals and the groups to which they are assigned.

We are told that white privilege is not about individual guilt or blame, but rather about recognizing the historical and ongoing inequalities that exist in society based on race, and working to dismantle these systems of oppression. This is a disingenuous claim.

White privilege is about individual guilt and blame because all whites are included in the group that is blamed for historical and ongoing inequalities that exist in society allegedly based on systemic racism. All whites are presumed responsible for dismantling this system of oppression. Either one is an anti-racist or a racist. The term therefore represents anti-white prejudice. It is racist.

Published by

Andrew Austin

Andrew Austin is on the faculty of Democracy and Justice Studies and Sociology at the University of Wisconsin—Green Bay. He has published numerous articles, essays, and reviews in books, encyclopedia, journals, and newspapers.

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