Real Privilege

The nice thing about the Jussie Smollett story is that it clearly illustrates what real privilege looks like. Smollett, a wealthy actor and singer, staged an elaborate hate crime hoax and was then able to use it to leverage all kinds of free, sympathetic media coverage and publicity. The problem came when his story fell apart and the police arrested him and charged him with over a dozen felonies. But, after several weeks, the prosecutors decided to abruptly drop all charges without offering a good explanation. I think it obvious the charges were dropped because of Smollett’s privilege:

Tina Tchen, the attorney and former chief of staff to first lady Michelle Obama, has garnered scrutiny after messages traded with Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx — about the alleged hoax linked to actor Jussie Smollett — emerged shortly before prosecutors dropped all charges against Smollett on Tuesday.

Of course, Smollett is not the only newsworthy example of privilege lately. A few days ago, we learned how wealthy parents were able to cheat the system in order to get their kids admitted into elite colleges and universities. The public face of this scandal is actress Lori Loughlin. Loughlin is a person of wealth and connections. Shocking, eh?

Why did these rich parents go to so much trouble to get their average kids into elite colleges and universities?  Because of the high quality education?  LOL.  Don’t be a fool.  It’s because they want their kids to make lifelong friends with other educated children who have money and connections.  Deepen and broaden the connections.

These stories teach us that real privilege is rooted in wealth and connections, not skin color, ancestry, race, gender, or sexual preference.  

Of course, the people with the real privilege would have us believe privilege is tied to skin color, ancestry, race, gender, or sexual preference. If everyone is focused on supposed privlileges associated with race and/or sex, they won’t have much time/energy to focus on the truly privileged.

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35 Responses to Real Privilege

  1. Bilbo says:

    I’m sure you’re right, Mike, that wealth is a great equalizer of privilege. However, I suspect that other factors play a role. For example, prison sentencing:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2017/11/16/black-men-sentenced-to-more-time-for-committing-the-exact-same-crime-as-a-white-person-study-finds/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.1e86ac048557

  2. Kevin says:

    I don’t find “privilege” a useful topic in pretty much any situation.

  3. Bilbo says:

    “Useful”? Well, no, it’s not useful unless you need it…and have it.

  4. Kevin says:

    I said a useful topic, but what I meant was a talking point.

    Invoking “privilege” solves nothing. It’s often used to disparage the group deemed to possess it, treats people as their demographic checkboxes rather than individuals, often oversimplifies complex issues, and is rarely, if ever, linked to any actual solutions for bias against a given group.

    Basically, I’m saying “Blacks are discriminated against” is much more useful than yelling about white privilege.

  5. Bilbo says:

    I don’t know if it makes a difference either way. I’m white, so I would probably have a 36% better chance of getting a job than an equally qualified black person. Am I priveleged, or is he/she discriminated against? Pick your poison.

  6. Kevin says:

    Even if both are true, only the latter is a problem that should be dealt with.

  7. Bilbo says:

    I think the way that it has been dealt with is through affirmative action. But then there are claims by white people that they are being discriminated against.

  8. Kevin says:

    Affirmative action in practice can certainly be flawed, but it may also be the best thing we can come up with that is enforceable.

  9. pennywit says:

    For reference, here’s the “knapsack essay.”

  10. Bilbo says:

    What’s the point of posting a link to the article, Penny?

  11. Bilbo says:

    Did you mean to link to this article?

    Click to access mcintosh.pdf

  12. TFBW says:

    @Kevin: “Affirmative action in practice can certainly be flawed, but it may also be the best thing we can come up with that is enforceable.”

    Perhaps you can help me with a few questions on this topic.

    1. What is it, precisely, that affirmative action is supposed to achieve, for which it might acquire the title of, “best thing we can come up with?”
    2. What measurements have been made to quantify this benefit relative to, say, doing nothing at all?
    3. Do we have any idea what unintended consequences accompany it, and their impact?

  13. Kevin says:

    I can’t answer those questions because I have no real knowledge-based opinion on it beyond both sides pointing out things that support their talking points.

    Philosophically I am opposed to the use of race or sex as a basis for allocation of anything. I also accept that systemic and individual racism exist (though not to the extent the left in general would claim), so practically affirmative action may alleviate some of that.

    Again, not a subject I have delved into.

  14. TFBW says:

    Sorry, I assumed from your comment that you might have some semblance of knowledge on the subject. If anyone else can offer answers, please consider the questions open.

  15. pennywit says:

    Sorry — wrong link up there. The knapsack essay is indeed the one I meant to post. I wanted to point to one of the seminal, accessible essays on white privilege as fodder for discussion.

  16. Kevin says:

    The first paragraph in that article is why I oppose talking about “privilege” rather than bias against another “group”. (Group in quotes because generalities do not account for all cases.)

    To the extent that a woman is discriminated against, that discrimination needs to be removed. We do not need to figure out ways to stick it to all men, some of whom are having a very difficult time in life, in order to lift up women who often (usually?) don’t need the help. We do not need to lessen men to have a fair society, with the understanding that outcomes don’t have to be equal for it to still be fair.

    Same logic applies to race. I oppose discrimination, but I also oppose the idea that I am somehow morally culpable for others’ discrimination simply because I was born a white guy in the dominant religion.

  17. pennywit says:

    I oppose discrimination, but I also oppose the idea that I am somehow morally culpable for others’ discrimination simply because I was born a white guy in the dominant religion.

    To you, how does this attitude mesh with Rev. King’s frustration with white moderates, expressed in his letter from the Birmingham jail?

  18. TFBW says:

    @Kevin: “To the extent that a woman is discriminated against, that discrimination needs to be removed.”

    Why? There are things that are true of women which are not true of men and vice versa. Is discrimination on the basis of such truths a thing which must be eliminated on some moral basis?

  19. pennywit says:

    Why? There are things that are true of women which are not true of men and vice versa.

    Once upon a time in the United States, it was argued that a woman’s place was in the home, raising children, so she really didn’t need to work. At the time, it was taken as a thing that was true.

  20. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: please state your claim as a claim. I am claiming that there are things that are true of women that are not true of men, and vice versa. Are you contradicting that? To be clear, I’m talking about such truths as, “women can fall pregnant; men can’t.”

  21. pennywit says:

    @TFBW: Please state the nature of the medical emergency.

  22. pennywit says:

    To the more substantive point: You did not limit your statement initially. You offered a rather broad assertion, and I noted that some things once taken as truth about such things are no longer taken as such.

  23. Kevin says:

    To you, how does this attitude mesh with Rev. King’s frustration with white moderates, expressed in his letter from the Birmingham jail?

    His “white moderate” did not describe me.

    …”the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of
    time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season”

    None of those describes me. Any moral culpability I possess is due to my words, beliefs, and actions, not because I’m “white”.

    There are things that are true of women which are not true of men and vice versa.

    In which case I would not call that discrimination, at least not the sort that is morally questionable. No different than not letting someone the size of Hulk Hogan be a fighter pilot or someone the size of Elijah Wood be a bouncer – sometimes the nature of a job simply requires particular traits.

  24. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: “You offered a rather broad assertion …”

    False. I offered the assertion that there are things that are true of men which are not true of women, and vice versa. You have not contradicted or affirmed this, but have offered us a Red Herring: a claim about women which was widely accepted at some point in the past, but is widely regarded as false now. No claim about women, such as the one you offer, falls within the scope of my claim. Logically, a specific claim about women implies nothing about men, and therefore can not be true or false in relation to men. Your observation is thus logically irrelevant to my claim, although you present it as if pertinent. It is a Red Herring.

    Would you care to make a clear statement as to whether you contradict my claim or not? You are under no obligation to do so, but I would appreciate a clear “no comment” if you do not wish to take a stand.

  25. TFBW says:

    @pennywit: note, this is not the only objection I could raise to your Red Herring. I will raise more on demand.

  26. Pennywit says:

    No need for the scare capitals, buddy. Your initial statement contained zero context. After I provided a possible context, you clarified. That’s all that happened.

  27. TFBW says:

    I clarified that your rhetoric was irrelevant. Concede or deny that point as you see fit, rather than trying to distract over a distinction regarding capital letters. Come on, man: demonstrate some intellectual honesty (which I would capitalise as Intellectual Honesty if it weren’t for your proclivity to use capitalisation as a distraction).

  28. pennywit says:

    I told you already; you didn’t supply sufficient context with your original statement. That’s all I said. If that offends the, well, go pluck out an eye or something.

  29. TFBW says:

    I told you already; your statement was never relevant to my claim because it was a claim about women, specifically, which could never be true or false for men, and could therefore never act as a counter-example to my claim (although presented as one). If that fact in and of itself wasn’t “sufficient context”, that’s down to your lack of comprehension, not my lack of explanation.

    I take it that you don’t wish to affirm or deny my claim or even state an explicit lack of position in relation to it: you just want to look like you came out in opposition to it, and posture as though I’m the intellectually sloppy one when I point out that your response is irrelevant. This, in my opinion, is one of the ways in which Political Correctness undermines rational discourse: it leaves us with simple and obvious truths which can not be affirmed because it is politically incorrect to do so.

  30. Michael says:

    The knapsack essay is indeed the one I meant to post. I wanted to point to one of the seminal, accessible essays on white privilege as fodder for discussion.

    For those interested, I’ve previously highlighted a fundamental flaw in the “white privilege” posturing:

    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2017/09/22/is-white-privilege-just-a-category-error/
    https://shadowtolight.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/a-critical-look-at-privilege/

    I also showed that acceptance of “white privilege” entails the acceptance of secular privilege. I’ll repost that essay some time next week.

  31. Bilbo says:

    Okay, Mike, I get that you don’t like the term “privilege.” I cited two studies showing that blacks are treated significantly differently and to their disadvantage than whites. If you think those are bad studies, cite studies you consider good.

    I have not claimed that fixing how we treat black people will solve our social evils. I have not claimed that it is the chief cause of our social evils. But it is certainly a factor.

  32. Michael says:

    I don’t mind the term privilege. I value critical thinking and don’t like being manipulated by propagandists, so I prefer to use the term correctly. Ergo:

    real privilege is rooted in wealth and connections, not skin color, ancestry, race, gender, or sexual preference.

    As for the studies, I don’t think they are bad. I just can’t trust them for the same reason I would not trust studies from tobacco company scientists making claims about tobacco use not being all that bad.

  33. Dhay says:

    > Why did these rich parents go to so much trouble to get their average kids into elite colleges and universities? … These stories teach us that real privilege is rooted in wealth and connections, not skin color, ancestry, race, gender, or sexual preference.

    How does a rich kid get accepted into a Neuroscience faculty for a Neuroscience PhD (and eventually the cachet of having one) despite having no Biology qualification, no other science or STEM qualification, no qualification except an ordinary degree in that totally non-STEM subject, Philosophy.

    I note that Sam Harris’ The Reason Project (which became Project Reason) came into being just in time to fund the first of Harris’ The Neural Correlates… neuroscience papers … and closed down just after funding the second. Money talks?

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