Is “White Privilege” Just a Category Error?

I have shown how the “White Privilege Checklist” that was handed out by a science professor in a science classroom is fundamentally flawed:

you’ll notice a common theme among many – living among the majority is considered as “privilege.” Take item # 1 and #20, for example. If we want to insist that examples like these (and #3, and #4, and #5, and #6, etc.) illustrate “White Privilege,” why be so parochial about it? Instead, think globally. Using the same logic of such items, we would say that just as there is white privilege in America, there is Asian privilege in China, Hispanic privilege in Ecuador, and Muslim privilege in Kuwait. In other words, this is really just “majority privilege” and it is kind of nonsensical to think that it is a “privilege” to be among the majority. Instead, it would just be a brute, demographic fact. And such types of facts are universal around the globe as long as any nation is made up of some ethnic majority.

Yet notice how the “White Privilege Checklist” sells itself – “The following are examples of ways white individuals have privilege because they are white.”

Privilege?  Because they are white?  In science, there should be room for healthy skepticism and both claims are declared without the slightest scent of skepticism.  Shameful behavior in a science class.

So let’s rectify the situation and offer up some valuable and needed skepticism .

This is not “white privilege.”  This is “majority privilege,” a universal feature of any culture that contains any ethnic majority.  And as such, it’s nonsensical to refer to this as a “privilege” for it is not a “privilege” to be among the majority; it is a brute, demographic, fact.   If you live in China, you will find that when you turn on the TV or open the newspaper, you will find Asian people widely represented.  This is not because there is some type of Asian Privilege that is being denied to non-Asian minorities.  It’s simply because most people who live in China are Asian.

So these examples of “white privilege” are premised on a category error.  Features that naturally emerge as a function of  a majority existing need not be categorized as subtle racism.  This is not to say racism does not exist among the majority, but that the items listed on that checklist fail to indicate such racism due to the fact that there is an alternative, more plausible, category to assign them to.

But it’s worse than this.  The handout defines “white privilege” as an “invisible package of unearned assets, which I can count on cashing in each day, but about which I was ‘meant’ to remain oblivious.

This is conspiratorial, crackpot thinking.  Can anyone truly defend that notion that most of those items on that checklist are supposed to be “assets” that I can “cash in” on while explaining just who it is that “meant” me to remain oblivious to this all?  So it would seem that not only is the science professor using her authority to indoctrinate students with category errors, she is indoctrinating them with conspiracy theories.

One final thing.  Although it is trivial, it speaks to the level of academic excellence in this science course: Item 16 and the first sentence of the last paragraph contain errors that should have been easily corrected.

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This entry was posted in academia, activism, Science, Social Justice, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Is “White Privilege” Just a Category Error?

  1. TFBW says:

    Although it is trivial, it speaks to the level of academic excellence in this science course: Item 16 and the first sentence of the last paragraph contain errors that should have been easily corrected.

    Not to mention the use of Comic Sans.

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