White Privilege: Myth or Reality?

Posted by Christine Kim & filed under Current Affairs, Life, Politics.


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Most people living in a minority in North America would take one glance at the question of whether or not white privilege is a myth or reality and scoff, “Well, of course it’s a reality.” Okay, maybe not in that exact way but most would express how there is absolutely no way white privilege could be anything but a cold, undeniable truth.

When the notorious political commentator, Bill O’Reilly, tried to debunk the myth that he sees as white privilege on The Factor TV show, one Asian American by the name of Scot Nakagawa wrote one very pointed political retort.

So in response to what Bill O’ Reilly said, here are just two of Nakagawa’s rebuttal highlights summarized by yours truly.

—-Education is not what is barring African-American people most in “succeeding” in American society. A study by the Centre for Economic and Policy Research shows that the rate of unemployment of black college graduates between the ages of 22 and 27 in 2013 was 12.4%, which is more than twice that of their non-black peers. Furthermore, a Young Invincibles study found that black college graduates have the same likelihood of finding a job as that of a white high school drop out.

—-Just because Asian American households earn a higher household income than white or black Americans, one cannot assume it is solely because of statistics regarding Asian American education and family stability. One should really consider other things like the fact that there are more people on average in an Asian household and that Asian Americans tend to be clustered in cities where the average household income is higher overall.

Alright, so basically, Nakagawa kicked butt in explaining that white privilege in not a misguided myth. In fact, Nakagawa was not the only one to respond pointedly to Bill O’Reilly’s statements. The following is John Stewart, host of The Daily Show, debating with Bill O’Reilly regarding the topic of white privilege.

However, another interesting article by Andrew O’Hehir, describes white privilege in the following way: “White privilege is the solvent used, throughout American history, to dissolve multiracial coalitions of working people, and the drug used to brainwash whites into making common cause with the class of CEOs, financiers and landlords.”

That is a pretty hefty claim, is it not?

The question I pose from reading both articles, is not whether or not white privilege exists, but rather whether or not we can blame multiracial division to white privilege alone.

Spoiler alert: I think not.

O’Hehir writes, “But the most insidious power of white privilege, the albatross effect that makes it so oppressive to white people themselves, is the way it renders itself invisible and clouds the collective mind.”

Okay, so one of the most detrimental things about white privilege is not the fact that it is being blatantly used to abuse racial minority groups all across North America, but rather that some white people choose to ignore it exists? That doesn’t sound Eurocentric at all.

However, yes, starting to be aware of this very prevalent reality is important. But is acknowledging the prevalence of white privilege going to set America “free from the past”? Will the division between races rooted in decades worth of violent history and cultural differences be amended with all hands on deck to shine a light, in a sense, on this concept that is white privilege?

To me, white privilege is not the ultimate problem and thus, not the way towards addressing multiracial divisions in society. To be frank, I think we all know white privilege exists and it is not overtly hard to see it manifested in our everyday lives. What is hard to see and maybe even harder to come to terms with are questions like why racial profiling towards Middle Eastern men by airport security is considered a vastly different topic to racial profiling towards African American men by the police or why certain mixed-race relationships in our society are far more rare than others or why a successful American like Arthur Chu would write an article confessing America was never and will never be a country he could consider home? The answer is not white privilege and if you still think it is, then the world must be an awfully easy place for you to fix.

All in all, Andrew O’Hehir is right in calling white Americans to “be honest with ourselves about white privilege”. I mean, the struggle between races and the domination of one over the others is real and especially important to address if one race doesn’t realize it is doing it. But the discussion does not end there. It cannot end there because doing so would cut out chunks of the picture regarding human nature, nationalism, cultural identity, national politics, and so on.

At the same time, I’m not asking for anyone to give me a perfectly holistic viewpoint because I realize that is quite impossible. What I am asking for is that we start to realize that the issues prevalent in our society today cannot be condensed into two words and three syllables.



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