Consider two Americans. One is named Mike. Mike is a straight white Christian male from a decaying industrial city in Ohio or Michigan. He never knew his father. His mother is hooked on painkillers. His home life isn’t great. Mom’s various boyfriends enjoy smacking him in the face. He gets passed around to a variety of family members. He gets into drugs early. Crime too. He drifts around high school and doesn’t graduate. He has no skills and no prospects.
The other American is Malia Obama.
Who has the privilege here? Which one of these citizens is going to have an easier time getting a potential employer on the phone? Who is more likely to find a suitable spouse? Which one of these people is going to have problems getting a mortgage? Who is going to have a better life?
The answer is obviously Mike. All Mike needs to do is present his “white privilege” card to Goldman Sachs, or the Walt Disney Company, or the United States Senate, and all doors will open, because white people like Mike are royalty. Mike will immediately be ushered to a velvet-upholstered throne and be instructed in how to fulfill his duties as a natural-born member of the country’s elite class.
Ah, the Left will protest, but Malia Obama is unique. There is only one of her. Well, two of her. Sort of. But anyway, blacks on average face more challenges than whites in the United States. Yes, but averages don’t tell us much about the lot of any individual. Happiness and success have much to do with personal circumstances — growing up in a stable, loving family; a good education; a strong work ethic. Having two parents who are able to get literally anyone in the world on the phone could help. Having no reliable parents could hurt. Race isn’t the ultimate or anywhere near the leading determinant of how your life turns out, and it’s sloppy to imply otherwise. Yet race determinism is everywhere, and if anything it seems to be growing in popularity.
Race determinism long ago became beloved by the far left but these days even moderates such as Clinton-administration official–turned–CNN pundit Kirsten Powers embrace it. Powers decreed that dislike for Hillary Clinton was no excuse for voting for Donald Trump. “They’ll say, ‘Well, I’m not racist. I just voted for him because I didn’t like Hillary Clinton.’ And I just want to say that’s not — that doesn’t make you not racist. It actually makes you racist.” Powers is hardly alone in this kind of thinking — the New York Times’ new editorial-board member, Sarah Jeong, tweeted, less than three months before she was hired, “‘I am not a racist’ is now a surefire confirmation of racism.” Jeong is a graduate of Harvard Law School. “The heartbeat of racism is denial,” ran the title of a Times column by Ibram X. Kendi, who claimed that President Trump’s assertions that he was not a racist constituted “ugly denials.” Kendi didn’t say these were ugly lies; the mere denying is ugly.
Like alcoholism or homosexuality back in the day, and witchcraft or Communist-party loyalty before that, racism is an unfalsifiable accusation. By denying it you merely make your accusers giggle. Your only hope is to confess and ingratiate yourself with the court by identifying other wrongdoers. Identifying lots of other wrongdoers is your best bet.
When Powers’s CNN remark ran into disbelief and mockery on Twitter, she redoubled her efforts to demonstrate that her thinking had degenerated to the confused-undergraduate level:
For those upset abt my comments about racism+Trump supporters, I also said that ALL white ppl (not just Trump supporters) need to examine their own racist assumptions/white privilege that are the result of living in a society that privileges white people. That includes me.
— Kirsten Powers (@KirstenPowers) November 18, 2018
If “ALL” white people are beset by “racist assumptions,” then all white people are racist. All white people are therefore horrible. There’s a word for casting aspersions on people for the sole reason that they belong to a particular race; it’ll come to me in a moment . . .
That Powers cites “white privilege” as a built-in benefit of being white in America bolsters the suspicion many Americans have that collegiate identity-politics extremism, far from being safely quarantined on lefty quadrangles and late-night weed-fueled political arguments, is spreading rapidly through the national media. Hence “white privilege” has become one of the Left’s favorite catchphrase-cudgels in the last couple of years. It is going to become even more popular.
It would be absurd to argue that racism against minorities has been eradicated from the United States, and it seems comparably ridiculous that many white people think they are the primary victims of racism in a country that remains nearly three-quarters white (and nearly two-thirds non-Hispanic white). But being white isn’t a country-club membership card. It doesn’t guarantee you high income, a job, personal safety, or anything else. It doesn’t vault you above black Americans or anyone else in the social hierarchy. It doesn’t get you anything. Whites face challenges similar to anyone else’s. White privilege is a canard.