Skip to comments.White privilege: Should it be noted?
Posted on 08/08/2011 8:43:13 PM PDT by Altura Ct.
As director of intercultural life at a small Iowa college 12 years ago, Eddie Moore Jr. decided to hold a conference on the advantages white Americans enjoy simply because of their skin color.
He called it the White Privilege Conference.
Every year since, people have suggested changing the name to something less provocative, Moore said.
He stood firm and now points to growing attendance up from 150 that first year at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, to 3,000 this year in Minneapolis-St. Paul as a sign the concept is catching on.
Authors of a book purchased by the Omaha Public Schools for cultural sensitivity training say teachers must acknowledge the existence of white privilege to better relate to minority students.
But critics view it as an unhealthy, hurtful fixation on race with dubious academic merit and potentially negative consequences for students.
Adherents to the white privilege concept define it generally as the tangible, but sometimes invisible, benefits whites enjoy as the dominant racial group in America.
Wellesley College professor Peggy McIntosh defined it plainly in 1988 in one of the early writings on the topic. McIntosh wrote of "an invisible package of unearned assets which I can count on cashing in each day."
She compared white privilege to "an invisible weightless knapsack" full of tools that benefit whites like her.
Critics, however, say that focusing on white privilege distracts from the real challenges facing minority communities and from back-to-basics academic approaches that have been proven to lift poor and minority students' performance.
Carol Iannone, a critic who received a doctor of education degree in English literature from State University of New York Stony Brook and edits a national academic journal, said she's not aware of any evidence such training will improve achievement.
"Because overt racism and overt prejudice is very rare nowadays, now they have to find some kind of unconscious residue that is working without even any intention behind it to explain why their inequality persists," Iannone said.
Focusing attention on white privilege distracts from bigger issues that disadvantage many minority children in the classroom, she said, offering as an example a lack of fathers in the home.
Outside of academia, meanwhile, many people have never heard of white privilege.
OPS's book purchase stirred a firestorm of controversy. A recent World-Herald article about the book, purchased with federal stimulus money, raced across the blogosphere and national news media and prompted a surge of letters to the newspaper.
The authors of the book, "The Cultural Proficiency Journey," assert that only teachers who admit to white privilege can reach the highest level of cultural awareness.
The Omaha school board in April approved buying 8,000 copies of the book one for every employee, including members of the custodial staff.
Advocates of the white privilege viewpoint see a disconnect between white teachers and minority students. Teachers who acknowledge white privilege stand a better chance of forging a productive relationship with students of color, they say.
Advocates see white privilege as a possible factor in persistent academic achievement gaps between white and minority students, which Omaha has suffered.
Recent census data also showed that wealth gaps between whites and minorities have grown to their widest levels in a quarter-century. The recession and uneven recovery have erased decades of minority gains, leaving whites on average with 20 times the net worth of blacks and 18 times that of Hispanics, according to an analysis of the data.
Omowale Akintunde, chairman of the Black Studies Department at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, told educators at a recent education summit in Omaha that white people have a hard time seeing their privilege because they are the dominant class.
"If you're all the way in it, you don't see it," he said during one session at the summit co-sponsored by OPS.
Akintunde said he's not out to blame or shame whites, rather just to expose the concept.
As a child growing up in Mobile, Ala., Akintunde said he noticed that pictures on the wall of the Lutheran school he attended portrayed Jesus as white. Biblical figures on the chapel's stained-glass windows were white. The TV cartoon families Flintstones and Jetsons were white, too.
He said he discovered "a world of whiteness." He realized he had adopted the white race as normal, that the "default race" in America is white.
In his view, schools need to review what they're teaching to make sure lessons don't reflect only the white point of view.
The omission of the word "white" from textbooks or worksheets for instance, assuming that great American heroes or political leaders were white but identifying minority figures by race affirms white as the dominant class, he said.
Tim Wise, author of several books including "White Like Me: Reflections on Race from a Privileged Son," said privilege isn't just about wealth.
He said white privilege actually is "any advantage, head start that a person who's white has that a person of color does not."
White privilege, for instance, means the white student doesn't have to worry that the teacher is making negative presumptions based on his race. White kids often are perceived by teachers as more capable, and therefore more likely to be tracked into advanced classes, while at the same time not disciplined as severely as students of color, he said.
Wise rejects the notion that the 2008 election of President Barack Obama ushered in a post-racial era free of discrimination.
"The reality is there are 85 million, approximately, black people in this country whose names are not Barack Obama or Oprah Winfrey, and for the vast majority of black folks, and people of color generally, the opportunity structure is far different than that," Wise said.
Warren Blumenfeld, assistant professor of multicultural education at Iowa State University, teaches in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Ninety-five percent of his students are going into the teaching profession.
He said privilege exists not just for whites but also for men, heterosexuals, Christians, English speakers, U.S.-born residents and able-bodied people.
Blumenfeld said he teaches his students that their multiple identities impact their perceptions of the world, their teaching and their students' responses to their teaching.
Training teachers in cultural proficiency will help them function in an increasingly diverse democracy, he said.
"If I don't see a person's color, their race, I'm disregarding their background, their history, the legacy of oppression in this country and their culture," Blumenfeld said. "That's not a way to treat someone."
Critics find the concept of white privilege problematic on many fronts.
Mark Bauerlein received a doctorate in English from the University of California, Los Angeles. He has taught at Emory University in Atlanta and wrote a book about a 1906 race riot in Atlanta.
He said the concept of white privilege as something teachers must acknowledge fuels racial tension and "bleeds over into indoctrination, not education."
Discussing white privilege as a kind of mental condition that one must acknowledge borders on thought control, he said.
He warns of a potential negative effect on minority students.
"If that kid buys that, then every dissatisfying encounter that that kid has in later life, that kid will be inclined to ascribe it to skin color," Bauerlein said.
Iannone, who has criticized the teaching of white privilege in her writings for the National Association of Scholars, argues that a better approach would be to treat students as individuals.
Recognizing a certain amount of group identity is OK, but public schools should be a unifying force for students, she said.
"Heck, we're all Americans. And part of what public school education used to be about was giving a sense of unity to young people," Iannone said.
Hello, its not privilege.
It is a European heritage that dictates a certain set of behaviors that others have come to expect from those with light skin. Folks expect that those with light skin are raised Christian and will reflect Christian values. And the majority do. Folks expect those with light skin are raised with a Western Civ viewpoint. And most of them are.
This does not constitute privilege. Most people with white skin have have generations of Christians and Western Civ critical thoughts behind them. Intact families. (Prior to the 60s when the generational curse of divorce took hold.) There is just no way that those with light skin are going to reflect Oriental values, or any other values you could name. They are going to reflect Christian, western values. Nothing wrong with that. No reason it should be otherwise.
This is “The Onion” or something like it, right? Right?
If I went to China, there'd probably be some disadvantages for me because of "Chinese privelege". And I'd be at an extra disadvantage if I moved there, refused to work, expected them to pay my medical care, provide my housing, refused to learn anything about their language or culture, or disrespected it. Not to mention if I had a brood of kids who grew up to commit crimes and terrorized the citizens.
White Privilege !!!!! Well learn about, White Accomplishments then!
Seems to me they are teaching them Plantation politics...
You cannot please the psychopaths of the Left, they are the Nazis of our time, onlyu genocide would please them.
Whites get the privilege of being called racist if they came up with an idea similar to this about blacks.
Whites get the privilege of having to serve time for not paying tax's while blacks like Charlie Rangel get a pass.
Whites get the privilege of having to put up with a-wipes who come up with this kind of crap.
Whites get the privilege of watching white politicians with their noses up black butts for their votes. Whites are getting damned tried of having the race card thrown in their face 24/7.
These annual conferences are also known as the “I Hate White People Conference”.
If you want to see how sincere the white professors are about giving up “white privilege”, ask them to give up their chairmenships, their tenure and large chunks of their pay to non-white teachers. And pigs will fly over Alabama.
White people enjoy advantages in the USA because their ancestors actually created, founded and built the USA. Other groups enjoy whatever advantages are to be enjoyed in nations (if any) their ancestors actually created, founded and built.
Ya think? Many of these kids are street smart: "Hey! We can get paid for spending an entire career intoning 'White Male Christians bad, Jews evil, Asians sell-outs.'" They are specifically told that the Race Card is the ticket to never having to work a day in your life!
Bill Bradley tried to make "white skin privilege" an issue in his Presidential campaign in 2000 but didn't get very far with it--among Democrat primary voters.
If they wanted to be truthful (they don’t) they’d call it Acting White Privilege. If you act a certain way in society you get ahead and if act contrary to what is accepted you don’t. Its that simple. If a black kid studies hard, speaks proper English, and has decent manners, all things that will get you ahead in America, he is socially scorned by his fellow blacks as “acting white” and often times physically punished for it. The so-called privileges white people have nothing to do with skin color and everything to do with how we act.
it’s race hate by democrats.
my father was a tenant farmer; we had no running water or indoor toilets until i was 10. we worked 15 hour days, except when my brother and i went to a one room school, also without plumbing.
i went into the military to get the g.i. bill, and i worked in college.
meanwhile, black friends who grew up in cities complained about their lack of “advantages”; but when i questioned them they had indoor plumbing and they didn’t work.
now at the university, they had grants and loans and were constantly being indoctrinated by the university about their “discrimination”. they said all of us whites were “privileged”.
If white privilege exists then both black and brown privilege exist. I have seen the latter, if they exist. I have suffered discrimination, that is, if I am capable of feeling. I haven’t been able to enjoy my white privilege as much as perhaps I should have. No it just wasn’t there for me. Life is hard.
This is Marxist race baiting—to create racists. All racial groups for the last thousands of years prefered their own and gave advantage to their own ethnic group...it was for survival....ethnocentrism is natural—it was NECESSARY if you were going to survive. Marxist want to destroy America from within—so they are destroying the unity. Through Feminism, Black Power, La Rasa, Homosexual Rights—all groups to destroy the traditional values and Christian values which say every single person has dignity and worth.
It was Christianity which freed the slaves and condemned the practice—as well as pederasty and polygamy which was widely practiced. This gave equality to women and gave added value to children.
White European’s cultures promoted freedom and debate of ideas like no other societies in the history of the world...the freest and most creative societies on earth—music, art, architecture, literature, everything.
..They adopted the best ideas of every culture—Foods from many lands, spices and porcelain from China—spices from India—horns from Africa—the Roman legal ideas of a Republic and Just Law (Cicero) and Ethics of Aristotle. The Common Law from England, the Scott’s Thomas Reid school of Common Sense. It goes on and on.
America is the most accepting of all peoples....the only nation which gives minorities any power whatsoever.....it is the Rule of Law—Just Law which (when it works) gives equal justice to all.
So—this whole things is wrongheaded....it needs to be a council on how to be successful—the qualities of Honor, Duty, Wisdom, and Virtues and how Machiavelli, although the MO of the current administration, should never be the MO of a moral people. Morality is the necessary element in a free society.
All men are created equal under the law....each person should reach their full potential—our country is the only one that allows that to happen to any extent. All people need to bow to God and thank him for being in this—the most perfect of all countries to ever exist in the history of man.
These Marxists who organize these hate groups need to be called by their evil name—Marxists. And they are truly racists.
It could be more than 95%—why would any student not hoping to get into the teaching profession take a course from a “Department of Curriculum and Instruction”?
And I defy anyone -- black, white, yellow, or red -- who sees either a lawyer Of Color or a surgeon Of Color who doesn't ask "am I getting an Affirmative Action person who passed without knowing the material?"
AA burdens its recipients and People Of Color for life with a stain and a stigma.