Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baffled by 'White Privilege' in Ferguson

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Baffled by 'White Privilege' in Ferguson

Article excerpt

"White privilege" made an appearance in the presidential race this month when a college student, Thalia Anguiano, asked Hillary Clinton what the term "white privilege" meant to her.

I have to admit I am baffled by the term. As residents of Ferguson, my wife and I have had more than our share of conversations using terms and ideas such as "white privilege," "white supremacy" and "white male power." My personal favorite was when I asked an activist at a social justice meeting, an older white woman, the goals she saw for the organization and she responded, "I won't be forced into your white male hierarchy."

I certainly understand the reality the phrase is trying to capture. I understand that by pretty much every numerical measure, our country values African-American lives less than Caucasian lives. I understand that African-Americans face barriers and challenges that make it harder for them to take control of their lives, everything from housing segregation to poorer schools to sentencing practices to implicit and explicit bias from possible employers.

What I don't understand is why the social justice movement has chosen to label this reality "privilege." In the social sciences, there is something called "unbundling" you can unbundle the meaning of a word to see its deeper meaning. When most people unbundle "privilege" they come up with something that was not earned and can be taken away.

We use the power of language to point to the future we want. What future does the term "white privilege" point to? Does it mean that African-Americans are extended "white privilege" as well? Does the better future mean that whites no longer have "privilege," they no longer get to go to decent schools and now have to start worrying about the police? How does it benefit the cause of social justice to label something that we have traditionally viewed as a right the right to an education, the right to live one's life as one sees fit as a privilege, something that can be taken away? …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.