Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Doing the Privileges Rag

with 6 comments

Part of me wants to start this blog by saying–what Cheryl said!  And then letting it go at that.

But let me try to piece out Mike F’s objections one by one.

First, he said

>>>“Privilege” is an UNUSUAL and UNEARNED advantage.
No.  “Unusual” is no part of any definition of the word in any available source.
It is NOT the way the word is used, so any attempt to add “unusual” to it is

Sorry, but no.

Call it unusual, call it “special,” call it anything you want, the simple fact is that if something is the default mode, it is NOT a privilege.

And by default mode I mean what is assumed to be standard–therefore, having the police read your Miranda rights is standard procedure, NOT a “privilege,” not even if they don’t read some other person HIS Miranda rights. 

In the case where somebody does not have his Miranda rights right to him, he has been done an injustice, but that does NOT make every instance where someone IS read his Miranda rights an example of “privilege.”

The definintions quoted do nothing to make the point Mike wants to make.  In fact, they go to make mine.  It’s a “special” thing granted only to a particular group.  But most of the examples of “privilege” provided are not of special things granted only to a specific group, but standard things granted to ALL groups, actually all persons as individuals.  The fact that those things are sometimes violoated does not–see above

So I’ll go to

<<<<—That’s THE POINT.
THAT &gt;IS&lt;  an example of white privilege. A distinct benefit of being born
to a middle class family, or above, in a good school district,  with two intact
parents, one of whom is available for ferrying children to extra curricular
activities, making sure they have a good breakfast and lunch or lunch money 
etc., etc, in action. Not to mention family or school trips to museums,
exhibits, performances, vacations (for some) to Europe or other world

No, really, that’s not an example of any kind of privilege.  It’s an example of luck. 

Luck is endemic to the human condition.  Some people are born better looking, more musical, more academically or athletically talented, and such people will achieve much more much faster than those of their peers who work just as hard.

Unlike the luck of the genetic draw, however, THIS kind of luck can be replicated by any parent willing to put in the time and effort.

And yes, I mean ANY parent.  I give you the thousands of Asian families, newly immigrated, living in dire poverty and working like beasts of burden who do it every year. 

That’s not “privilege,” white or otherwise.  It’s achievement.

Which explains what’s wrong with this:

>>>>The child did nothing to earn that situation – but that is the situation that
allows them the opportunity to earn an “An “A” in senior year English from a
school that requires a 20-page research paper and the reading of four books and
3 Shakespeare plays.”

But that is nevertheless “white privilege”


Children don’t earn anything–they have, BY RIGHT, what their parents have earned for them and choose to give them.

Part of the motivation for delaying gratification and all that sort of thing is exactly that you can make your children’s lives better and easier than your own was, or than other people’s are.

>>>>The barriers to success are simply immeasurably lower for those white kids in
the middle class and above suburbs than they are for anyone else. THAT is white

No.  All of that is the reward for parental ACHIEVEMENT.  And it has nothing to do with “white.” 

The “white” thing is an attempt to foreclose discussion.  Liberals think conservatives and liberatarians and just plain not politicals will be intimidated by the fear of being called “racist” if they protest this kind of thing. 

They’re not.

The REAL strong man argument is this one:

>>>It has to be carefully and completely explained to them, and still it seems most
never actually understand, that there achievements are NOT wholly of their own

Why is that a straw man?  Because nobody has ever claimed that ANYONE has ever achieved “entirely on their own.”  The idea is absurd. 

But it still remains a fact that no matter what advantages your parents do or do not give you, YOU must go out and achieve for yourself, and your achievements are rightfully yours–because lots of people with the same backgrounds DON’T. 

MOST of the kids that go to those high-end prep schools DON’T end up in the Ivy League.  MOST of the kids in those well-heeled suburbs DON’T end up Supreme Court Justices or even doctors or lawyers.

What such people DO achieve, however, is theirs by right of having earned it.  It is not a “privilege,” and that is especially true when the parents were dirt-poor Vietnamese refuges who lived in two rooms without hot runnign water for 30 years so they could make sure the kids got to college.

As for this:

>>>Well, that’s the problem. Very, very few seem to give the matter even a moments
thought. Failure to achieve is described in terms making it a moral lapse,
rather than an almost certain outcome of starting from an extremely (relatively)
disadvantaged position.

No, failure to achieve is NOT “an almost certain outcome” of anything except perhaps of a congenital handicap. 

And I don’t really know what Republicans are saying about this, but my end position is:  inequality is  the GOOD news.  People SHOULD be rewarded differently based on their contributions to their fellow citizens–and yes, IF  their fellow citizens prefer to reward hip hop singers than medical researches, that is what SHOULD happen.

But I’ll admit.

I’d have a lot more patience about this kind of thing if anybody who came waving “white privilege” in my face was in the least bit interested in solving it.

You could, for instance, set up and fully fund inner city schools where the standards are just the same as the ones in Wilton or Scarsdale–and hold to them.

Make the standards at PS 265 just what they are at Andover.  Insist on four years of lab science, four years of foreign language, four years of history and English, four years of math through first year calc.  Then do whatever you have to do to bring people up to speed, INCLUDING insisting on standards of dress and behavior on school grounds and in class.

And provide all the extra help you want, as much as we can pay for.


Also accept the fact that the first generation to take part in this experiment will almost certainly see high school graduation rates even lower than the ones we’ve got now.

Unfair as it is, one generation is never enough to bring an entire group up to speed.

But we’ve stopped trying to bring groups up to speed.  Instead, we yell “white privilege” to let them know they don’t even have to try.

I’ve always thought that the basic impetus behind things like “white privilege”–the charges, I mean–was a deep and underlying racism that thinks (but would never say) that “people of color” really aren’t very bright or talented or virtuous, and we shouldn’t make them feel bad by making them try what we think they can’t do anyway.





Written by janeh

March 9th, 2014 at 3:50 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses to 'Doing the Privileges Rag'

Subscribe to comments with RSS or TrackBack to 'Doing the Privileges Rag'.

  1. When I was a junior in high school, I decided I wanted to attend the Air Force Academy. Unfortunately, I was about 10 years ahead of the time when women would be admitted. THAT is privilege, based on what I was not, and what the others who were admitted were. Nothing my parents could have done, no achievement of my own would have changed that outcome.

    While much of what is called white privilege is in fact economic advantage, there are still areas where advantage falls to people based on what they ARE, rather than what they or their parents have accomplished. My son will never be stopped for driving while black. Asians will not likely be admitted to higher education in the true proportions their academic achievements would warrant.

    I don’t see the white privilege argument so much as a denigration of people of color, I see it as another way to flagellate ourselves with self-hate. I prefer to discuss it as an intro to how to make the things we can *control* fairer for everyone. Not their birth, not their parent’s economic standards and certainly not their own effort. But in situations where choices are made, how do we make those more fair.

    As an example, just last week I was waiting at a hotel front desk to check in. There was no clear line, and each of the two clerks was waiting on someone, one a very loud-mouthed asshole who filled the lobby with his belligerent yammering. A young black man was waiting before I got there, and I pulled up my wheelchair approximately even with him and about six feet to the left, as that was the best place to be to be out of the traffic and still obviously waiting for service. So we were sorta-kinda evenly distributed in regard to the clerks, each the same distance from the desk, he possibly even a little closer. And he was there first, remember.

    I’m a big fat old woman in a power wheelchair, and this gets me noticed wherever I go. I said to myself, “I bet the next clerk open will ignore that young man and call me up.” And sure enough, that’s what happened. So I gestured to the clerk and said “He was first.” That’s what I mean by being fair. By noticing that other people exist, and that one’s actions should be, as far as possible, evenhanded. I don’t know WHY the clerks chose me over him. But I didn’t assume the privilege was mine to be first, just because I’m (insert your own guess here).


    9 Mar 14 at 5:31 pm

  2. Actually, I’d say that the present state of affairs at the Air Force Academy is female privilege–women are admitted even though they cannot (practically by definition)meet the physical training standards of males. Fair would be to let everybody take their shot on a single standard, and reward who does best on an individual basis. But if they did that, there would still be no women in the service academies.

    THIS is the kind of thing I would call privilege–my group wants to join, so we’ll change all the rules everybody else has been playing by for generations (and will still play by, because they’re not us) so that we can say we achieved something that we didn’t actually achieve.


    9 Mar 14 at 5:37 pm

  3. On the other hand, the goal of the AF academy is not to produce graduates who can do 100 pullups, it’s to produce officers and jet pilots. Women are eminently capable of fulfilling THOSE roles. So perhaps the more rigorous physical training standards are less useful than they are intentionally exclusionary. Why not have fitness standards that realistically establish what is necessary for a pilot and an officer, not a Navy Seal?

    And then, yes, equal footing for all. In fact, I’d even go for blind admissions, just like blind musical auditions. Which have, by the way, proven to produce FAR more acceptance for female musicians than auditions where the musician is viewed by the judging panel. But I guess male musicians are generally more gifted than women and that’s why there are more at high levels…oh wait.

    I would bet that a small but significant number of women would still make the grade. And successfully complete the course, as well.


    9 Mar 14 at 8:09 pm

  4. “I’ve always thought that the basic impetus behind things like “white privilege”–the charges, I mean–was a deep and underlying racism that thinks (but would never say) that “people of color” really aren’t very bright or talented or virtuous, and we shouldn’t make them feel bad by making them try what we think they can’t do anyway.”

    I just came across this video this morning. Apparently Pat Condell is something in the UKIP which gets very little press down here. I don’t know where he sits on the political spectrum, but obviously somewhat to the right, but he makes the same point as you did above, ie basically that “progressives” are racists who patronise people of colour because of they don’t believe they are capable of matching white standards. I couldn’t agree more.



    9 Mar 14 at 8:21 pm

  5. A white child born in Australia or New Zealand will probably be better off than a white child born in Russia or the Ukraine. Should we go around beating our breasts and saying “Western privilege” is evil?


    9 Mar 14 at 8:28 pm

  6. I’ll stand by what I wrote two or three blog posts back: “white privilege” is not an analysis, but a justification: people are behaving in an inequitable way, and we therefor get to have careers re-educating or micro-managing them, being the priesthood of the new theocracy.

    Refuting the facts and dynamiting the reasoning may be fun, but true believers in white privilege are not people you’re going to persuade with evidence.


    10 Mar 14 at 6:36 pm

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Bad Behavior has blocked 590 access attempts in the last 7 days.