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    Categories: ActivismFeminismSkepticism

No One Wants You to Apologize for Your White Male Privilege!

So, TIME magazine (my favorite magazine when I was a teen, because I was really cool and had a lot of friends when I was 13) posted an opinion piece by a Princeton freshman titled “Why I’ll Never Apologize for My White Male Privilege.” And, unfortunately, I read it. And I just sighed a lot. Oh, you sweet summer child, you really know nothing of winter, do you? (Sorry, it’s Game of Thrones night.)

If you didn’t read the article (which was a smart decision), the summary is, “My grandparents escaped Nazis and my parents worked hard so I don’t have any privilege, QED.” There is so much wrong with this piece, I’m not sure where to begin. Let’s start with the title!

First off, one of the biggest misconceptions about privilege is that anyone wants you to apologize for it. Who has ever said that? We want you to be aware of it. No one wants to force you out of college and into a Siberian work camp. Relax.

Second, your story about how your grandparents and other relatives escaping Nazis in Poland…hmm…it sounds like your Jewish relatives had a harder time than non-Jewish people in Poland when the Nazis invaded. I mean, obviously, it was a hard time for everyone in occupied Poland, but Jewish people (and gay people, and disabled people, and Romani, etc.) had a bit of a harder time than non-Jewish people, right? Weird, it sounds like non-Jewish (and non-gay, disabled, Romani, etc.) people had…privilege. Whoa. Weird, right?

Ah, but you accounted for that already, didn’t you? “It was [my grandparents’] privilege to come to a country that grants equal protection under the law to its citizens, that cares not about religion or race, but the content of your character.”

Subtly invoking MLK, I see. Hey, white people? Please stop invoking MLK to justify your weird, shitty, racist arguments. Seriously. If you’re conservative and bring up MLK to support anything you say, you’re doing it wrong. I promise. MLK wasn’t a conservative and wouldn’t support any Republican policies.

Anyway, the real problem with your argument is that you believe we truly live in a “colorblind” society. After John Scalzi wrote “Straight White Male: The Lowest Difficulty Setting There Is,” Jim Hines wrote a post called, “Facts are Cool.” You should check it out. I’ll wait.

Privilege isn’t about what happened in the past. It’s about what happens in the present. In the present, racist things still happen. Shocking, I know! It’s not as if hundreds of people of color write about white privilege and current-day racism, over and over and over and over again. (The linked articles are about various topics under the umbrella of racism and white privilege, just to show the variety of issues.)

Racial discrimination is not a thing of the past. As of 2010, black men earn 74.5 cents to every white man’s dollar, while Hispanic men earn 65.9 cents, black women earn 69.6 cents, and Hispanic women only earn 59.8 cents. And according to a study done in 2008:

Among those with no criminal record, white applicants were more than twice as likely to receive a callback relative to equally qualified black applicants. Even more troubling, whites with a felony conviction fared just as well, if not better, than a black applicant with a clean background.

Whether you acknowledge it or not, people of color have disadvantages that white people do not. This doesn’t mean white people haven’t worked hard or that their lives aren’t tough. It means we don’t have to worry about the things black people have to worry about. A friend of mine was joking recently that he can buy weed, put it in his glove box, and drive home from his dealer’s house in the middle of the night without worrying about being pulled over (or that the cops will search his car) because he’s a clean cut white dude. Whereas a black teenager can be assaulted by the police for holding a puppy.

No one’s asking you to apologize for being white or a dude. We’re asking you to acknowledge that maybe, just maybe, the scales are tilted in your favor, and maybe you could stop being a dick about it for five seconds.

If you already knew all this, then please just enjoy one of my new favorite tweets:

Sarah: Sarah is a feminist, atheist vegan with Crohn’s Disease, and she won’t shut up about any of those things. You really need to follow her on Twitter (and probably Google+, just to be safe).

View Comments

  • Where can I get some of this white male privilege thing!? I am white and male but I am pretty sure I don't have any. Society seems to be utterly determined to hand my arse to my ex wife because she is a woman and a Christian. What - I already have it!? Are you sure because I don't see it anywhere. I do have it? If you say so. Okay yes Ma'am. Sorry I doubted you.

      • Typical "argument" against white privilege, just as Obama being in power is the opposite "argument" against racism still existing. Both as vacuous.

  • "No one wants to force you out of college and into a Siberian work camp. Relax."

    Wrong, I do. But not for being a white male, for being a douche.

    Wrongs done to your grandparents does not give you a lifetime pass on the privilege you inherited from your parents. The 'persecution' or the Boers by the British at the end of the 19th century did not justify apartheid. Nor does the holocaust justify what Israel does every day to Palestinians.

  • You know who gets a cookie every time they do something they're expected to do just because it's good and decent? My dog. And my dog is an entitled little asshole.

  • There's something deliciously ironic about a dude complaining about a lack of meritocracy, then saying he should get a pass from criticism because of how hard his grandparents had it.

    • Exactly, these same people who go on and on about how wrong affirmative action is while completely ignoring legacies, it's rank hypocrisy.

  • "it sounds like your Jewish relatives had a harder time than non-Jewish people in Poland when the Nazis invaded." That's a disgusting understatement. Great job in minimizing The Holocaust by saying "had a harder time." Yes, they did have a "harder time" as in they were hunted, rounded up and gassed en masse. Someone was out to ELIMINATE ALL JEWS, so yes, you can say they had a harder time. I'm sorry... is someone out there trying to eliminate all black or all minorities? No, they aren't, so please understand that "subtly invoking The Holocaust" (see what I did there?) is GROSSLY out of line for this discussion. Anyone who compares them in any way has NO understanding of the Holocaust and NO understanding for the plight of black people. It should be offensive to black people to have this said. Slavery would be a closer comparison to The Holocaust, but even THAT wasn't ships full of Africans being gassed and eliminated. I'm not trying to take away from the horribleness of slavery at all in ANY way... but to compare the current state of affairs in 2014 to The Holocaust in ANY way is horrible.

    And yes, huge anti-semitism exists today. And yes, some of us have experienced it first hand. And no, it shouldn't be minimized. But as far as I know, I've never seen any Jews talking about how everyone else had privilege. We just remember that people to this day hate us for being Jews. People to this day will persecute us. People throughout our existence have done this.

    And yes, people need to stop talking about "white male privilege". White women seem to be preoccupied with it. You want me to admit that I have things easier? Sure. I have things easier than some people. Someone taller than me has it easier than me. Someone better looking has it easier than me. Someone smarter has it easier than me. Someone born into money has it easier than me. We can keep going with this over and over. Some people have it easier, some people have it harder. When can we drop this? I treat everyone as equals until they treat me otherwise, then I reciprocate in kind.

    • What's amazing is that these feminists actually believe that every single white male is priviliged in this country. Tell that to the white boy whose house I went to that didn't have any furniture, and not a single book in the house. Yet, when he manages to learn about the library, studies hard, gets ahead then "Sarah" will be there demanding that he admit his white male privilege. While doing so she'll also claim that NOBODY has ever asked him to apologize for it, like she was following him around all day for his entire life. She probably thinks every white male likes polo shirts and golf too.

      • First, you seem to have not bothered to read comments pointing out that wealth is a form of privilege, so, yes, some poor white boy is going to have way less privilege than whiny "Richie Rich." But that poor white boy is going to still have more privilege than a poor black boy. Or any poor boy of any non-white skin color. With that, I'm curious as to who said privilege is something you have in abundance or else you have none at all? Because that's the impression you're leaving here. It's a spectrum.
        As someone who grew up a poor white boy (sure, not as poor as your example, so I would have had more privilege -- it's a spectrum, remember?), I was able to witness this personally as there was a poor kid of Native American descent in my school who was not treated well by all the other white kids, poor or otherwise. My only offense was being too nerdy for those in the rural community I grew up in. I'd hate to think of the childhood I would have had had I been nerdy and non-white!

        • It's called "White male privilege" and that is exactly how it is used. It's not "rich white male privilege". People using this don't give a shit about actual background. Also your claim that being black is a automatic inferior position is asinine and flies in the face of the fact that poor non-english speaking blacker and poorer than your average African American West Indians come to the US and end up earning more than the average white american.

    • Dude, she didn't do any understating. She was stating the obvious.

      Also, you clearly missed the point. Also, also, you said a lot of crap but didn't actually SAY anything. These are just words with nothing to back them up. You have completely missed the point.

      • " I treat everyone as equals until they treat me otherwise, then I reciprocate in kind.

        Also, this is just so fucking self-absorbed, it's insane. "I DO THIS, so we should ALL do this!"

        And I doubt this very much. You can't see past your nose.

  • What's the point? You tell me? The Holocaust should not be brought into this in ANY small way. You're trying to compare the privilege of maybe having an easier time getting a job or something of that nature to the privilege of not having your whole family gassed? I don't treat people differently, but yes, people get treated differently for different reasons. It sucks. It's life. There are bigger things to focus on. Racist things happen, yes. But they happen against all races, and it sucks. I feel for people that have to go through that. I want to improve the way the world is. But this focus on "white male" ignores the problems of racism. You're singling out a group and a sex instead of working towards unity. And to be so flippant about The Holocaust... that's disgusting.

    • "The Holocaust should not be brought into this in ANY small way."

      The Holocaust was brought up by Tal Fortgang, not by Sarah. Why aren't you angry with him?

  • And MLK was speaking for everyone. If you invoke those words of his, you'd better mean it. But no, I'm not being judged by the content of my character if you see me as a "white male." That's the definition of judging me by the color of my skin. Using his name and then saying "Hey white people..." is offensive to the memory of what MLK was trying to accomplish.

    • You mean having money allows you to get your bullshit ideas published more readily?

      "I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!"

      • "Here's your winnings, sir."

        But yeah, if you look at it, this explains why eugenics just won't friggin die already! And why so much denial of established science because it might not be profitable is a thing.

        In a related story, our local freebie has debate pieces, usually given in the format of two two-column pieces. On New Jersey's laws and the Tesla, the right column actually said changing the law so dealers could sell directly to consumers would negatively impact too many people's business model. So much for laissez-faire capitalism.

        • Yeah because anyone who disagrees with a moron must be for eugenics. I guess it's the rule of the undistributed middle in your case instead of the fallacy.

        • With their "no self-serve" laws in Jersey wouldn't plug-in at home electrics technically be illegal?

  • "First off, one of the biggest misconceptions about privilege is that anyone wants you to apologize for it. "

    Baloney. Leftists are constantly asking for apologies for this and that, and yes in the context of white privilege and male privilege and the combo.

    Here's but one example: http://racismschool.tumblr.com/post/17004629556/white-privilege-now-what-other-such-fallacies

    Examples of what people ACTUALLY mean when they say “Check Your Privilege.”

    •You are inserting yourself into a conversation where you shouldn’t be. Acknowledge what you are doing, apologize and stop it.
    •You are making my pain about you. Acknowledge what you are doing, apologize and stop it.
    •You are belittling my pain. Acknowledge what you are doing, apologize and stop it.
    •You are making my fears concerns and troubles less important than your annoyance about me talking about my experience. Acknowledge what you are doing, apologize and stop it.

    The entire elevator guy incident was all about trying to make other skeptics apologize for not accepting at the incredibly stupid arguments being made by some leftists. It was framed as "You are belittling my pain." and the same bullshit about "Acknowledge what you are doing, apologize and stop it."
    This is not treating males as equals but as inferiors which one has rightful control over merely because you are having an emotional incident.

    The fact that your article uses a picture of little boy not eating his broccoli instead of the actual mans picture shows what an enormous hypocrite your really are.

    How absurd that you imagine your false dogma is like broccoli and good for anyone, let alone men. How absurd that you picture those objecting to your irrationality as children when it is you who has not progressed out of childhood.

    "No one wants to force you out of college "

    No they just want to put someone else who is less qualified ahead of the privileged white male to correct the injustice of white male privilege.

    "Weird, it sounds like non-Jewish (and non-gay, disabled, Romani, etc.) people had…privilege. Whoa. Weird, right?"

    That's called actual privilege not the imagined kind you think white males called. There were actual laws enacted for rounding up Jews and killing them, and actually people doing it. Your sneering comment only emphasizes your ignorance. There is not dejure or defacto privilege that this Jewish guy has, in fact the dejure practice is to discriminate against Jews in admission to college. So you have it completely backwards.

    "Subtly invoking MLK, I see. Hey, white people? Please stop invoking MLK to justify your weird, shitty, racist arguments."

    Race card, so early, boy I wasn't expecting that till the end. Since he never made a racist argument, and in fact, you are the one pushing the racist concept of white privilege, this is quite ironic. His whole point is, and this is something a bigot like you cannot fathom, you can't judge him by the color of his skin.

    "A friend of mine was joking recently that he can buy weed, put it in his glove box, and drive home from his dealer’s house in the middle of the night without worrying about being pulled over (or that the cops will search his car) because he’s a clean cut white dude. Whereas a black teenager can be assaulted by the police for holding a puppy."

    Your friend is as clueless as you are. I've been questioned by police for sitting in my car in a parking lot enjoying sun and the weather. Tell that to Amanda Stephen who got tackled by the cops when she was jogging, or many, many other examples.

    "maybe you could stop being a dick about it for five seconds."

    Maybe you should turn that around and wonder "Maybe I should stop being a cunt for five minutes?"

      • The point of "check your privilege" is to use it as a ad hominem attack when you can't support and argument. It's an irrational belief. It is as stupid as not addressing poor people because they are poor, or blacks because they are blacks. It's funny how supposed skeptics are in fact igorant of basic logic and have accepted some of the central false beliefs of Christianity, that being poor is noble, and that rejecting the rules of reason is the path to enlightenment.

        • Sorry, I somehow missed where you responded to any of Scalzi's points in there, or the points of anyone else who has discussed privilege ever. Your entire point seems to be "I am not as privileged as certain groups in the past, thus I can't have privilege." Do you really not know how much easier life is as a straight white man than even just a gay black man?

          • Scalzi's points are irrelevant. Just because your life is on difficult mode because your mom is a crack ho, and you are a drug addict doesn't make your reasoning powers super effective. If anything that might mean we shouldn't listen to you because your beliefs are the product of the failed culture you come from. I certainly not going to take financial advice from the local homeless person. Why bother listening to their insane ramblings on other important subject matters? Especially ones where they have an axe to grind, like Womens Studies majors on social issues.

        • Holy shit!
          Supposed skeptics, ignorant of facts, based on Christianity.

          Are you trying for full-board coverage?

      • No, I've been here before and it's actually become more idiotic, and bigoted. There is nothing to duck and cover from because their ideology is full on bullshit and nothing more that parroted dogma. Ignorant one-side leftist hypocritical bullshit.

        • hahahaha. You're a real loon.

          I always cringe when the Shoah is used. I hope the author understands that this is a sore spot for Jews. I know the dude brought it up but I wish it could be dropped from the reply. He's already done enough douchebaggery without it.

          The worst is the MRA's. They are the worst of the worst. They complain they can't understand male privilege by falsely comparing it to say not getting a job they want and as if only they exist and the job already belongs to them.

        • I've almost got a BINGO from that sentence alone, if you had only called someone a Marxist I would have got it in one shot.