The PJ Tatler

Dealing Honestly with 'White Privilege'

Recently, Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly clashed over the notion of “white privilege,” debating the root cause of statistical disparities between white and black Americans. The Blaze summarizes:

Among the facts Kelly shared is that black unemployment in Ferguson is three times what it is for whites and that a black child in the U.S. is four times more likely to live in a poor neighborhood than a white child.

While O’Reilly didn’t dismiss these figures, he said that “families, culture and personal responsibility” are the real issues at hand.

But Kelly didn’t agree that O’Reilly’s assessment addressed the full picture.

“It’s not just families or culture,” she said. ”Look at that stat about the black children four times as likely to live in poor neighborhoods as white children, and in the St. Louis area there is documented white flight … the whites take off, these become black neighborhoods. The schools they get forgotten and the black population feels forgotten, Bill.”

Whether Kelly intended it or not, she echoed a disturbing premise which carries demeaning paternalistic overtones. Consider, why should an exodus of white people leave blacks destitute? Are we not speaking of adults? Are we blacks not endowed with the same human capacity to conceive of values and pursue happiness? To speak of blacks as “forgotten” is to speak of us like children lost at the mall, wholly incapable of assuming responsibility for ourselves. In this way, “white privilege” seems to mean productive capacity, and those wielding the phrase seem to argue that blacks have none.

The other disturbing aspect of the “white privilege” conversation is an implicit attack upon the freedom of association. Whites moving out of a neighborhood commit an “injustice,” it’s said. How? What has been taken from me when you move from the house next door? What right of mine does a neighbor’s change of residence violate? Again, the argument seems to be that white people – by virtue of an implied superior natural endowment – hold a paternal responsibility to care for black people.

That’s racist.

Indeed, the notion of “white privilege,” as propagated in the modern academy and throughout the media, stands as a vile remnant of past institutional racism. It implies black inferiority, while donning the guise of paternal concern.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 15:28 minutes long; 14.91 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)