The other day I ran across a video of Tim Wise trying to define “White privilege.” In response to White Nationalist Jarred Taylor’s critique of the “White privilege” belief, Wise says:
White privilege isn’t going to keep a White person in their job when they say something that’s racist or offensive to the people who employ them. That’s not going to protect you from [sic] every single job. What it is gonna [sic] do however, is mean that if you’re an African American with a college degree your still gonna [sic] be twice as likely as a White person with a degree to be out of work. If you’re a Latino or Asian in this country with a degree your 40 to 50% more likely than Whites with a degree to be out of work. It means that White men 25 to 34 are going to earn one-third more on average than Black men 55 to 64, who have more experience in the workforce. It’s not gonna [sic] mean that every single competition is gonna [sic] be won by a White person. It means that on balance it still pays in the labor force, in the justice system, in the school system, in the housing market, to be White.
Wise starts out by saying that “White privilege” won’t stop a White man from being fired for saying something his employer (or others) think he shouldn’t have. Right here, we already have a problem: Why not? If White people are privileged by society they should be privileged in everything. If that’s not true then what mechanism in society decides to privilege White people for one thing and not another? How can it be that White people can have generalized societal privilege based on race that doesn’t extend to social relations generally? And if that’s true, than isn’t he being disingenuous or at least overgeneralizing when he says that White people are privileged but doesn’t mention that said privilege is only in some things and not others? And further, how do we decide when someone is “privileged” generally when they are only privileged in some things?
Next, Wise mentions two examples of what he terms “White privilege”. His selection is exactly that—a selection. Wise deliberately finds things at which Whites are statistically doing better—but he is cherry picking. For everything in life which White people find easier there are ten things which society makes easier for non-Whites. Jarred Taylor’s example was one of these: speaking your mind without fear of criticism or censor. Thus, Wise could just as easily have made an argument for Black privilege, by pointing out that Black people are allowed to speak about race without worrying about getting fired, or that they can get preferential treatment in college admissions, for example. Non-Whites have many times more societal privileges than Whites.
This brings us to a truth about the “White privilege” argument that Wise inadvertently points out: people like Wise who argue for the existence of “systemic White privilege” either expressly or impliedly argue that “privilege” in society is a monolithic, indivisible bloc. Either you are privileged or you’re not, and there are only two groups of people in society: the privileged and the unprivileged. Melanosupremacists like Wise are forced to argue this way, because if they argued that societal privilege is divisible, and diffused throughout society their argument that the White race is privileged categorically must fall apart. And if that falls apart, so does their argument for attacking only White people. You just can’t claim that one race is privileged in some monolithic way, and attack them because of it, and also admit that every race has its share of privileges.
Yet, as Wise’s own admission about censorship shows, if things like being statistically more likely to have a job are privileges of Whiteness (more on that in a moment), then while White people would have privilege, so would all non-Whites, each in their own ways. Blacks would be privileged with respect to some things, Whites with respect to other things, Asians with respect to still others, and so on. And if this is so, than two other things are true about the “White privilege” argument: (1) its bunk. If all races have their own sets of privileges, then none is categorically privileged, and (2) the only reason to call out “White privileges” and not the privileges of others is a hatred of White people. If Tim Wise really disliked privileges, as he himself has constructed them, he would not argue for the existence of “White privilege” and attack only White people, but would rather concern himself with eliminating all privileges, including those belonging to non-White races. The only answer is that Tim Wise doesn’t really hate privilege, he hates White people.
What is Privilege anyway?
So far in this post, I’ve also assumed for the sake of argument that the examples he gave for instances of “White privilege” actually are privileges that White people have (even if, as I’ve argued, non-Whites have their own sets of privileges). But what if he’s wrong?
Let’s start out by talking about his examples: are these really examples of White privileges? At first glance, you might think Wise’s employment figures are a good case for a White privilege. But let’s back up a little bit. Why do you suppose these figures are the way they are? There are numerous reasons why this statistical likelihood might exist other than it being caused by some “White privilege”:
Claim 1 –Lower percentage of non-Whites with degrees as compared to Whites with degrees have a job: Non-Whites might be more likely to get less employable degrees (think Black studies anyone?—see here), or their statistical likelihood for criminality might make employer’s legitimately less likely to want to risk employing them, or their discrimination against White people via affirmative action may make many employers more skeptical that their degree actually represents their personal skills for the job (see here), etc. Additionally other demographic interplay, such as age and sex, as well as geographic region of residence, could play into this national data as well.
Claim 2 –25-34 yr old White males more earn more on average than 55-65 yr old Black males: Non-Whites might be less likely to get college degrees because they think doing so is “White” (see here), or for some other reason of their own making (i.e. dependency on welfare, blaming White people for all of their problems and thus expecting White people to take care of them, disruptive home environments due to low morals, etc.). If a smaller percentage of non-Whites gets degrees, than it stands to reason that on average, non-Whites will make less. Note that right here Wise never bothers to note any other factors, he merely compares the levels between two groups, and he does so with different age groups! This gives even more reasons why it might be something else: employers may prefer younger men to older ones, etc. (see here).
In short, there are numerous other things which could explain this data (and we haven’t even checked his data itself)—but Wise simply assumes White people are to blame. The entire statement is chock full of White pathology language. Wise simply runs off a list of statistical likelihoods and then assumes on the basis of no evidence that some nebulous “White privilege” is the reason they exist. He offers no evidence for this; he simply assumes it. Thus, what Wise is really doing here is pathologizing Whiteness. He sees a statistical pattern, and assumes White people are to blame, because they are White. According to Equalitarian ideology, that is racist! What Wise is doing here, is that he is noting something about the society, and then:
- Assigning responsibility to White people on the basis of race.
- Assuming the action he assumes White people took is illegitimate and blameworthy.
This is a classic example of anti-White assumptions that privilege non-Whiteness by pathologizing Whiteness. Wise sees a “problem” and his immediate reaction is to blame White people for it. He doesn’t even consider the myriad of ways in which non-White people, or simple neutral processes, may be the cause of the trend. He can’t see a “problem” without thinking “White people done it.” And there is certainly no “White privilege” in that.
Moreover, he is plagued by that ever equalitarian problem of hypocritical enforcement of wrong Equalitarian rules about discrimination: what if the trend were caused by the very legitimate White action of simply preferring their own kind (and there being more White people in the country, they may be a larger share of employers)? Wise would attack this as illegitimate. He would say that White people were creating White privilege. But that wouldn’t really be true. White people in such a scenario would just be doing what they have a Natural right and need to do, and what every other race does and has a Natural right and need to do. They would not be creating “White privilege” in society any more than Black employers who favor Black employees would be creating “Black privilege” by so doing. To be sure equalitarianism at large should theoretically condemn both parties, but in reality people like Wise only condemn it when they see White people doing (or think White people are doing it).
This goes even further to White invalidation since people like Wise don’t even want to allow themselves or anyone else to conceive of the idea that White people are worthy of being looked out for, or considered. Any action that is pro-White must be twisted around and seen as anti-non-White. Thus, someone like myself who simply loves White people, is accused instead of hating non-White people. That is not why I do anything. I am doing this for White people, not against non-White people. But the hatred of Whiteness goes so deep with these types that they are angry at the mere suggestion that White people might be worthy of love. So much so, that they must find some way to turn my love for my own kind into hatred of someone else in their mind. They are so threatened by the ideal that White people are worthy of love, that they don’t even want to acknowledge that anyone loves them.
Thus, Wise does not prove any sort of “White privilege” here or that “on balance” White people have it better at all. All he succeeds in proving is that he hates White people, and is perfectly willing to participate in creating and advancing a very non-White privilege: the ability to blame all your problems on someone else, and then hate them for it to boot. Congrats Tim, I wish you well in finding a way to sleep at night.