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That Mysterious Property, White Privilege

In Molière’s play Le Malade Imaginaire (1673), the president of the faculty of medicine poses the question “Quare opium facit dormire?” (“Why does opium induce sleep?”). The character Thomas Diafoirus replies, “Quia est in eo virtus dormativa quae facit sopire” (“Because it has a dormitive property that induces sleepiness”). Today’s institutions of higher education and public intellectuals often play out a similar scene in discussions of contemporary inequalities across demographic groups. Why do whites occupy better situations than people of other categories? Because they have white privilege, which produces advantage.

Whether whites really do enjoy a universal advantage as individuals is highly debatable. Let’s assume for the moment, though, that there is something about being white that results in better job opportunities, higher incomes and net household worth, greater access to education, better treatment by police and other public officials, and the simple luxury of not feeling like an outsider in public places. Labeling that something privilege gives us no real information and explains nothing.

Examining Explanations

There are multiple causal explanations for categorical advantage. One of them is the prejudice/discrimination explanation, which in its simplest form holds that members of the racial majority hold negative views of the minority group and therefore discriminate against them. Racial prejudice and discrimination are historical facts: slavery, the Jim Crow system and discriminatory practices in employment, housing and education have been common in the US. We can also find extensive examples of historical prejudice and discrimination against Asians and people of Mexican and Central American heritage. Although overt discrimination is undoubtedly less prevalent today than it was fifty years ago, it still occurs. The extent to which it still occurs and contributes to contemporary racial and ethnic stratification, though, are questions that vague invocations of privilege simply obscure.

The prejudice/discrimination explanation has more subtle variants. Among these is the view that overt prejudice may have declined in recent years, but stereotypes, often unconscious, inherited from the past remain with us. Many of the claims about racial profiling involve the idea that racial or ethnic stereotypes have been ingrained in our culture by our history. Claude Steele’s stereotype threat theory—which holds that the academic performance of black students is inhibited by their own internalized stereotypes—represents another form of the hypothesis that the legacy of discrimination continues to shape our unconscious ideas.

The legacy of discrimination approach also appears in arguments about enduring structures of opportunity. For example, access to mortgages and housing locations shaped where minority group members could live and how much household wealth they could build up in the past. This has arguably affected their ability to invest in younger generations, creating disadvantages that outlast overt discrimination.

Social capital and network accounts of racial and ethnic stratification are consistent with legacy of discrimination views. Social capital refers to the idea that connections to other people constitute an asset. This capital is generated by networks. Having contacts with others who have resources or information creates possibilities, and these contacts can most commonly be found among people who share a common group membership. There is also a cultural dimension to this. A substantial body of literature supports the idea that family structure is connected to the development of cultural orientations associated with academic performance and competence in the world of work.

I offer an argument about how immigrants from different ethnic groups fit into different positions in society in my 2014 book, Immigrant Networks and Social Capitaland the book’s argument can be extended to all racial and ethnic categories. But my purpose here is simply to point out that these explanations involve a range of hypotheses to be tested. To pretend that we offer an explanation when we call the inequality privilege is to substitute a label for careful analysis.

There is an additional problem. The inequality people think they describe when they refer to privilege may not be what they think. Even if whites enjoy some property that gives them an advantage in every situation, giving this property a name would say nothing about it. But should we take that property for granted? Does being white really always pay off?

The Problem of Outcomes

The evidence clearly indicates that being white does not always result in better outcomes.

The proselytizers of the white privilege claim tend to rely heavily on unfalsifiable perceptions and personal anecdotes. At the end of the 1980s, the feminist and anti-racist activist Peggy McIntosh published a series of highly influential articles on how everyday experiences should be seen as manifestations of an omnipresent and invisible system of unfair racial and gender privileges. In his 2004 book, White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son, Tim White generalises from his own experiences as a scion of the upper middle class to make vague, expansive pronouncements about the universal benefits of whiteness. Sociologist Robin DiAngelo coined the term white fragility in 2011, as a sweeping ad hominem dismissal of those who were sceptical of this tendentious way of thinking about race. These and similar advocates tend to state their positions as revelations, rather than arguments. Disagreements are not treated as counterarguments, but as the ignorance of the unenlightened and the stubborn denial of revealed truth.

The American Community Survey of the US Census contains a common measure of relative social status, known as the Duncan socioeconomic index: a composite measure of occupational income, occupational prestige and educational attainment. Computing group averages for this measure from 2013–17 reveals interesting results. Non-Hispanic whites placed not at the top of the American socioeconomic status hierarchy, but in about the middle. These results have been stable for at least a couple of decades.

Those at the top of the American socioeconomic pyramid were not white, but Indian, with an average of 59.37. People classified as Chinese, in what the census calls detailed race categories, scored 52.66 and those classified as Pakistani averaged 52.10. Non-Hispanic whites showed an average of 46.59. Black non-Hispanics came in at 37.92, clearer lower than whites, but substantially higher than Mexicans, Hondurans and Guatemalans (32.50, 26.52 and 26.00, respectively).

Of course, one might argue that whites enjoy their positions because of their privilege, while Indians and Chinese enjoy theirs despite their lack of privilege. But that would mean that privilege is not the only determinant of socioeconomic outcomes, that social positions are actually the consequence of factors that affect all groups, including whites, and that, whatever white privilege may be, other assets are more valuable.

If we look at poverty rates (especially child poverty rates), the relative position of blacks is much lower than it is when we look at socioeconomic status. This is largely because only people who are in the labor force have socioeconomic index scores and blacks have much lower labor force participation rates than other groups. Here again, though, it is not privilege, but being in the labor force that causes the differences.

One of the topics that prompts assertions of white privilege most often is that of police treatment. The police, it is often claimed, treat white people better than they treat non-white people, so whites have the putative privilege of not being harassed or shot by officers while going about their business. One might respond that, if this is so, it is not a privilege but something every citizen should expect.

Racially prejudiced police officers exist. It may also be the case that there are implicit biases among the police and that the stereotypes produced by these implicit biases account for at least some of the differences in how the police interact with people of different races. It is also entirely possible that stereotypes may be the consequence of over-generalization from realities.

According to the Uniform Crime Report published by the FBI, between 2009 and 2018, 97% of the murderers of police officers were men and 57% were black, even though black men made up only 6% of the US population. That officers might bring different levels of apprehension and readiness to engage in force when confronting young black men and when dealing with elderly white women can be seen as understandable, if lamentable and unjustifiable. This is totally unrelated to special privilege. How common differential treatment of minority group members by the police may be and whether at least some of the differential treatment may be associated with race are genuine questions. Although overt prejudice, implicit bias or over-reactions to statistical realities may cause the police to deal more harshly with some racial groups than others, evidence indicates that we cannot take it for granted that being white ensures people better experiences.

For example, a research group from the University of Michigan published a study in July 2019, which found that, despite the national publicity given to shootings of black men by white police officers, white officers were no more likely to shoot blacks than black or Hispanic officers. Even more importantly, the fatal police shootings of blacks were not related to race per se, but to high crime rates in the places where those shootings occurred. Officers were just as ready to fire their guns on whites in white neighborhoods with high crime rates. One can question the results of this study, but we cannot simply assume that police behavior reflects a reaction to a social advantage that whites have and others do not.

Why Do We Hear So Much About It?

If assertions of privilege tell us nothing about the true nature of racial and ethnic inequality, why are these assertions so ubiquitous? Why do universities often host conferences on white privilege and teach this amorphous property to students as a self-evident truth? I am not suggesting that the privilege idea can be discredited by claiming that its adherents are misguided. But it makes sense to consider why so many people are so steadfast in their belief in this mysterious property.

The answer, I think, is that, while the language of privilege is a shoddy way to investigate facts and causes, it provides an inspiring slogan. Identity politics, with its overriding concern with real and perceived unfairness based on group identification, produces simple, appealing catch phrases. The presentation of privilege as a revelation to be achieved, rather than as a concept to be critically examined, helps to integrate people into the ranks of those united by moral commitment.

While the assertion that all individual whites are the beneficiaries of undeserved advantages intensifies the commitment and solidarity of some, it also provokes reactions on the part of others. This is the aspect of the white fragility allegation that has some substance: people who feel that they have been unjustly accused do tend to react with resentment and refuse to engage in dialogue with their accusers. The proponents of privilege see this as the stubborn denial of self-evident truth, resulting from deeply entrenched systemic racism. The privilege claim contributes to a growing political polarization.

Nowhere is political tribalization so evident as in contemporary academic institutions. Significant parts of our educational institutions have turned toward advocacy and activism and away from trying to understand the world through careful investigation. Marching together does not encourage reflection and analysis. The key question on many of today’s campuses is no longer how do we strive to understand our complicated world? It is which side are you on: the side of privilege or the side of social justice?

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42 comments

  1. there appears to be an error in reporting the statistics regarding black killers of police, the FBI table linked states 201 of 532 cop-killers to be black, which works out to be 37.8%, not 57%. good article, otherwise.

  2. In addition to WP being not explanatory (in fact allowing people to ignore the need for explanation), it stigmatizes an entire race as guilty because of their white skin. This guilt and badness cannot be avoided or atoned for. This is a very dangerous outcome.
    Everyone always has agency. My black friend from the South Side decided 40 yrs ago to become educated and while a night-watchman went to school during the day and got a good job and finally retired at age 57. He made choices. I would estimate that staying out of jail and out of gangs and away from drugs and getting married would double or triple the mean income in the worst black neighborhoods in spite of whatever racism remains out there.

  3. White privilege is an old concept that has been known under a different name for many years the term is called in-group preference. To deny white privilege is to be ahistorical and deny that race confers any advantage or disadvantage which may be true in a hypothetical utopia people discuss in theory. But does not exist in actual reality.

    There are many documented practices and incidences of race based discrimination in the history of the United States and greater western world since its inception. Even if one is to disagree with white privilege conceptually freedom from being targeted by discriminatory practices and the legacy of behaviors that made them possible is undeniably an advantage.

    For privilege to not exist every generation would have to be stripped of the advantages and disadvantages of their predecessors. At the height of Rome did Romans not enjoy privilege over the Gauls?

    White privilege is an interesting term due to the incendiary reactions it triggers. The zeal with which it is denied adds more weight its veracity.

    White privilege is powerful because it challenges ideas of success and achievement the narrative that ones life was carved out due to self determination free from the influence of others. A childish narrative like that of a comic book super hero but still a powerful and enduring one for many who are invested in ideologically myopic individualism.

    To acknowledge white privilege would be to deny the narrative.

    The only way for privilege to not exist is to be born into a vacuum free from interaction with others and to live in a world where no form of bias exist in-group or otherwise.

    I believe it is the incendiary nature of the term and the thoughts that it triggers that makes it difficult to face for those who are challenged by it.

    Maybe “circumstance” or “happenstance” would be a better stand in for privilege and lead to more fruitful and less defensive discussion on the topic.

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    1. Excellent post. As you describe it, sure there’s WP. Perhaps we shouldn’t try to deny it, rather we should take the time to explain that WP is natural and unavoidable, that in-group favoritism is universal and that, far from being particularly guilty of it, whitey is the only ethnic/racial group that feels bad about it and takes legal steps to fight it. Only whitey offers affirmative action to his Victims. Only in the West is it the official agenda to dissolve our culture and hand our countries over to the 3d world. Only whitey hates himself.

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    2. No, in-group preference would be one way in which group membership can pay off (see the section on explanations). One problem with equating that with “white privilege” is that it works for all groups, not just whites. For example, group-preferences, along with opportunity structures, help to explain why the North American motel industry is largely run not just by Asian Indians, but specifically by people with family backgrounds in Gujarat. Sure, “circumstance” or “happenstance” might provoke less defensiveness but that still leaves us with a non-explanation of the “virtus dormativa” sort.

    3. This is the attitude born out of looking at statistics in a vacuum, noticing racial disparities, and assigning great, invisible forces of evil as the cause. This is the exact same impulse that drove ancient people to think a drought or a flood was a sign of some God’s wrath, as opposed to collecting and critically examining all relevant data. Religion lives on, stronger than ever, in the woke left. “White privilege” is just a cheap rip off of “original sin,” except instead of calling on everyone to contemplate the flaws in human nature, it scapegoats one ethnic group for all the evil in the world. Wonder where we’ve see that before?

      Discrepancies do not imply discrimination. The author laid out the example of police shootings to demonstrate that when you examine confounding factors, discrepancy is explicable by issues irrelevant to race. He could have done this for any number of issues usually religiously attributed to “systemic racism.” Sentencing disparities, school discipline disparities, income disparities, wealth disparities… All have been studied by proper scientists who despite their political inclinations are not ruled by superstitious thinking, and the causes for each are increasingly being determined to have vanishingly little to do with a person’s race, and much to do with a person’s choices. Single motherhood is the root cause of a myriad of negative social outcomes, and only became significant recently, so cannot be attributed to “the legacy of slavery,” either.

      Let’s drop the racism. Black and brown people are fully capable of making the right decisions for their own life success and that of their kids. Having a lower standard for them helps no one, except for helping you convince yourself you’re not racist. But here’s the thing: if you deny a whole race agency and have low expectations of people because of their race, you are a racist. It doesn’t matter what patronizing language you couch it in.

    4. @Delita Hyral

      Except statistical evidence (when properly analyzed, accounting for relevant variables) generally indicates that race in and of itself has very little to do with a person’s success or lack thereof in contemporary western society. The influence of white privilege on success appears to be negligible in the face of many other “privileges” (intelligence, attractiveness, good parenting, etc.), and especially compared to the influence of one’s own decisions in life. Your post makes it sound like race is the primary determining factor in success and achievement. To me, this sounds like the childish and simplistic narrative, and one which is unsupported by facts.

  4. The most significant “privilege” that I see in being white is, when I fail at something, I don’t have an army of “supporters” who tell me that it’s not my fault, that I’m a victim, and that it’s hopeless to try to change it. Instead, I have to look in the mirror, ask myself what went wrong, and do something about it.

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      1. Yes, but more precisely, the privilege of not having the option of being treated like a child. Because if the option is there, it’s hard to resist. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be for a person to get past this, after being told for his/her entire life – by both whites and blacks – that just about everything bad in his/her life and community is a result of racism.

        I think it’s no accident that the biggest and fastest gains in black achievement (see, for example, https://www.brookings.edu/articles/black-progress-how-far-weve-come-and-how-far-we-have-to-go/) came in the era of “We shall overcome” rather than “RACISM!!!”.

  5. Playing he said she said over whether whites really do have privilege really is a losing game. There’s never going to be any kind of consensus reached as there’s so many factors anyone can bring up to defend their side of the argument.
    The real problem is the entire notion of privilege theory itself. McIntosh’s thesis just isn’t coherent.
    It conflates privileges and rights, relies on incredibly reductionist views of how we construct our identities, ignores class, and also relies on ideas that ultimately reject any concept of individual human agency (amongst many other critiques one could raise).
    The whole thing needs to be challenged and rejected instead of pointless unwinable arguments over whether there’s evidence to ‘prove’ the conclusions. Sadly at the moment the coherence of the idea is just accepted on faith by its proponents.

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  6. “we cannot take it for granted that being white ensures people better experiences” Ay, there’s the rub; it’s a fallacy to portray the concept of privilege in this context as a reliable shield. Many will say “there is no white privilege, because I’m white, and life is hard for me.” That’s a non sequitur (and it’s also extremely relative and susceptible to perspective bias); privilege in this context is not an assurance of better outcomes, but a *better chance* of good outcomes to poor outcomes versus other groups. White privilege, for example, does not prevent white people from ever being shot and killed by police. But it does affect the chances of that happening.

    The recurring arguments all seem to boil down to “correlation is not causation.” That’s a handy cudgel for denialists to reach for. Despite its fundamental truth, most scholars would agree that *lots* of correlation tends to be a pretty strong indictment. The author here lists multiple examples of correlation, and then treats each one in a vacuum to dismantle it with the correlation argument; but never all of the examples together. To use the correlation argument to say “there is no white privilege” is just as subject to fallacy as saying “there is absolutely white privilege.” You could equally argue, for example, that the strong correlation of smokers to lung cancer does not *prove* that smoking causes lung cancer, or that the strong correlation of vaccines to not getting deadly diseases does not *prove* that vaccines stop disease. But none of those would be sensible positions.

    I commend this article for attempting to be even handed and even generous to its opposing argument, but the crux it rests on does not hold up under the total weight.

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    1. “White privilege, for example, does not prevent white people from ever being shot and killed by police. But it does affect the chances of that happening.”

      It’s my understanding that black people are equally or even slightly less likely to be killed by police than white people during attempted arrests, on a per instance basis. So in fact it seems that white privilege doesn’t actually affect the chances of that happening.

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        1. Thanks for adding the reference to the Fryer article. As I state in the article, any research findings are open to criticism. But, again, if we take “white privilege” as a given, then we simply ignore these kinds of research findings without any further consideration. Thanks, also, for your comment below, which points out the many things that could be more important than race or ethnicity in influencing outcomes. Of course, it is theoretically possible that racial discrimination or a history of racial inequality may make group membership the most important of all determinants. But we would have to look at that theoretical possibility as a hypothesis for investigation and debate, not a self-evident fact that would lead us to reject everyone who questions it as a “denialist,” as Keith apparently wants to do.

        1. Yes, and an increased rate of commission of violent crimes would be expected to be associated with an increased arrest rate for said crimes. Read the article I linked.

        2. … which they are, because they break the law somewhere between 6X and 200X the rate of whites (depending on where you get your statistics).

          1. So privilege is a bad answer, but “black people are more likely to be criminals” is good enough to wipe your hands and be done with it?

            Of course, arrests are not indications of who commits crimes, but of who gets *caught* committing crimes.

            1. “but “black people are more likely to be criminals” is good enough to wipe your hands and be done with it?”

              On the contrary it gives us all a real problem to work on as opposed to an imaginary one.

            2. “black people are more likely to be criminals”

              Unless there are an absolutely massive number of unsolved and unreported murders out there that are all committed by white and Asian people, that unfortunately does seem to be the case. The reasons why can be debated.

    2. No, the comment is patently wrong throughout. I do not argue that privilege is a poor way to account for racial & ethnic inequality because of individual cases, so the objection to the “I’m white & I have it hard” claim is directed at an assertion I make nowhere here. I also nowhere say anything about the ancient chestnut of correlation not being correlation. I don’t know whether a “denialist” would use this as “a handy cudgel” or not, but that in itself is poor reasoning because it is directed at what you see as the possible use of the argument, rather than the argument itself.

      In fact, this article makes three basic points, none of which you address: (1) “Privilege” is not an explanation but a word. You would not attempt to explain an association between smoking and cancer by stating “smoking causes cancer because it is carcinogenic.” (2) By taking “privilege” as some kind of explanation, we obscure the real hypotheses about how and why racial variations exist. To apply your analogy, it would be as if one would say “cancer exists because of the carcinogenic properties of smoking,” without looking at how smoking and other factors can lead to cancer. (3) At the statistical level (not merely the individual level), being white does not appear to be the only determinant of advantageous outcomes, and there are good reasons for questioning whether something about being white (see point 2) is even the most important determinant.

      If you would like to argue that there is a non-sequitur, you should look at the argument that I actually make in order to state what does not follow from the reasoning.

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    3. “My Bigfoot trap didn’t work, therefore there is no Bigfoot” is just as much a non sequitor to a believer. It sidesteps the fundamental issue that if you’re going to propose the existence of a nebulous force controlling everyone’s lives, you better have some good evidence.

      You seem to be aware on some level that you don’t. Discrepancies in raw statistics are all you have, and you dismiss any attempt at understanding them by disparaging the trope “correlation is not causation.” However, not only is the trope true, but proper studies have found that these correlations you require for your ghost in the machine are explicable by factors unrelated to race. When properly done, your racial correlations don’t even exist.

  7. “White privilege” barely exists in contemporary western society, with race being dwarfed by a multitude of other factors (family wealth, attractiveness, intelligence, etc.) as providing advantage or disadvantage in life. In and of itself (all other factors being equal), if anything being a member of a racial minority probably carries a net benefit in contemporary western society due to affirmative action, etc. In cases where “white privilege” might be said to exist it is almost always actually “majority privilege”, being the direct and inevitable result of most people in western countries being white, leading to white people being the majority of politicians, actors, etc. There’s nothing that can be done about that short of genocide, nor do I see why it should be considered a problem. The goal should be for society to move beyond caring about people’s race. But all the talk about “white privilege” makes it seem like race is the most important factor in determining one’s lot in life, and the term itself sounds hateful and resentful towards white people. This philosophy does harm to society at large by increasing racial division and fostering a sense of guilt among white people and resentment and a victim mentality among racial minorities that disincentivizes them from working to improve their station, thus helping to perpetuate existing inequalities. Instead of focusing on race, let’s look instead at the actually significant causes of inequality in society and try to address those directly.

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    1. “nor do I see why it should be considered a problem”

      The term had not been invented then, but I learned about Privilege when I lived in the West Indies as a kid. I was a minority, I was a guest in someone else’s country. In the West Indies they have West Indian Privilege, and why on earth wouldn’t they? It’s their country, they take it for granted that in the WI they do things the WI way, and that in the WI, WI will naturally favor WI over Martians or whites or strangers from anywhere else at all. Was I Oppressed? Not really. I made every effort to fit in and cause no trouble and everything was fine. I’d not have dreamed of making trouble, but if I had decided that things must be done my way and that I must be favored by all sorts of quotas and affirmative action, I’d not have been surprised if the WI came to resent me.

      The professional Victimologists are wise to hitch their agenda to a narrative that can never be refuted — white privilege will exist in the imaginations of the Victimologists for as long as it serves to promote Victimhood and thus keep them in business. It reminds me of the professional witch hunters of centuries past — if one is paid commission for every witch found, why it is amazing how many witches there are.

      1. I’m not even talking about anyone being favored over anyone else, which I don’t support. I’m mainly just referring to the basic unavoidable fact that most of the people in any given space within a western country are usually going to be white. This was the basis for many of the “privileges” that Peggy McIntosh unpacked from her knapsack, which would only even be considered a privilege if one had a distaste for being around people belonging to races other than their own. If I moved to Tokyo I wouldn’t consider it oppressive or racist that most of the people in my workplace, on the street, and on the news were of Asian descent.

        1. The things grade into each other imperceptibly. At some point rank favoritism becomes unacceptable of course, but on the other extreme, as you say, we have whites being expected to apologize simply for being white. My favorite example of Privilege is right privilege: our entire physical world is designed around the presumption of right handedness is it not? As a leftie I can tell you that this can be inconvenient and sometimes downright dangerous. But right privilege is to be expected. I am not Oppressed by right privilege, it’s just the facts of the matter that I was born a leftie and I get by as best I can in the right man’s world.

          1. I share your lived experience. It is high time we lefties received reparations for the marginalization we have suffered throughout history: The scissors, the school desks, the smudged notebook paper, the horrific literal violence we experience every time someone uses the word “dexterity” or, heaven forbid, “sinister.” #timesup righties!

            1. Ha! Priceless. One can have quite a bit of fun with this. Yes, so implicit is rightness that we speak of doing the right thing and being left behind. Violence. Everyday. And let’s save a few tears for the Victims of Boreo-centrism:

              http://www.landerandmay.com/uploads/1/2/8/6/12864569/8632351_orig.jpg

              How long until Ozies have globes that don’t make them crick their necks? How long will the North-supremasists presume that it’s just natural for them to be on top of the world? Oppressing. Do you realize that there are not proportionally enough Nobel laureates from the Southern Hemisphere? Systemic discrimination!

              1. Hmm, I’m not sure I can follow you there. I don’t think I can really trust anyone whose water spirals the wrong way down the drain. Probably for the best that they stay down there out of sight of respectable boreal types.

                  1. You fail to mention the greatest imposition of the rightists on the leftists – the complete rejection of the leftist wannabe violinist. Not only do left violins not exist: they could not be played in any ensemble because of the danger of colliding bows. Fortunately for me, it is of little consequence since I have more or less determined that I would be an incompetent player even with a left instrument.

                    1. “the complete rejection of the leftist wannabe violinist”

                      Yes! Thanks for mentioning it. Fact is I play the cello and so internalized is my oppression that I hadn’t even thought to mention it myself. To be accepted you have to act right. Yes, I’m invisible. I’ve been extinguished — I play my cello right handed because I couldn’t even find a left-strung cello. No wonder I’m a criminal. If you’d been forced to give up who you *are* you’d be selling drugs too. I’ve not calculated my reparations cheque, but it will be seven figures at least.

      2. “but if I had decided that things must be done my way and that I must be favored by all sorts of quotas and affirmative action, I’d not have been surprised if the WI came to resent me”

        What does ‘done my way’ mean in this context. I’m not arguing in favour of AA but the correct analogy would be if you or your descendents had been denied equal opportunity, if there was a history of WI denying your ancestors and people from your community basic civil and political rights, and hadn’t treated you as an equal citizen and that such treatment impacted on your ability to flourish and access certain institutions, then you demand AA.

        I don’t actually buy most of the arguments for AA but you need to at least address the actual arguments made in its defence.

        1. @Andrew Miller

          “if you or your descendents had been denied equal opportunity”

          There are basically two reasons I oppose this kind of thing. The first is that it is impossible, the second is that it is counter productive.

          Slavery ended five generations ago. How far back in someone’s family tree do we have to go? Almost every AA has some white blood, so how does one calculate for that? And what if a negro has no slave ancestors? Take Obama: exactly half white and half black, but his dad did not descend from anyone enslaved in America, does he get reparations? Is he a Victim? Five generations ago almost everyone was a ‘slave’ in practice if not in theory. Is a white coal miner in Kentucky Privileged over a black share cropper in Alabama? What about blacks who have done very well? Do we claw back reparations for those blacks who have lived on welfare for three generations and/or who got into Harvard via affirmative action? You know who lacks equal opportunity getting into Harvard? Asians and whites. Who owes these reparations? What if none of my ancestors ever owned a slave? If recent white immigrants owe reparations, what about recent black immigrants? Nope, trying to figure out which blacks are owed how much by whom is simply impossible.

          Second, it fosters self-pity, helplessness and Victimhood. Any number of groups who have previously been picked on have since shaken off their historical grievances and joined the mainstream. The Chinese for example now do better than whites. Rather than demanding that history be repaired, they move forward.

          1. Yes, but that has nothing to do with your analogy in the WI of wanting things ‘done my way’.
            You’re pushing at an open door as to whether AA is in most cases just or good policy, but to suggest it’s the same as living in the WIs and wanting things ‘done my way’ makes no sense.

            1. “wanting things ‘done my way’”

              You have a point. I was extending the zeitgeist of Victimhood beyond wanting affirmative action and compensation to demanding that society change to suit them, which of course they also do, but you are correct in that it is strictly speaking not the subject. But you know, part of the reason folks like myself tend to oppose reparations and affirmative actions and so on is just that it never stops. If we could actually throw ten trillion dollars at the negroes and then the noise would stop, I’d say it was money well spent. But it won’t stop, it will grow even louder. The more is given, the more will be demanded ad infinitum.

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