Mazzuca: Don’t conflate white privilege with white supremacy (column)
Much has been written and said about “white privilege” in recent weeks. So what exactly is white privilege, how do we know it when we see it, and how does it affect our daily lives?
Good questions all, so let’s begin with a definition. In simple terms, white privilege is a reaction to a racial construct, which is an idea or a theory about a race of people that is used by others to define or understand that group.
Now before continuing, let me be clear, I do not for a moment believe the majority of Americans are racists. Nonetheless, we’re all human and it’s not uncommon for an individual to hold unconscious prejudices or racial biases that influences our daily behavior. Sociologists refer to this phenomenon as institutional racism, a term that describes the less obvious acts of racism and racial bias within a society.
White privilege is a unique societal phenomenon inasmuch as the social and cultural benefits accompanying whiteness go largely unnoticed by those who actually benefit from them. At the same time, the term “white privilege” has been given a very negative connotation. Consequently, even open-minded people bristle when they hear the term. I recall the first time I heard someone refer to white privilege, the body language, attitude and unspoken implication was unmistakable: “You’re white so you must be capitalizing on racism or engaging in some form of racist behavior.”
Exacerbating the matter, the left has insidiously conflated the concept of white privilege with racism and white supremacy, which are very different notions. If you doubt that, the next time you listen to a panel discussion on MSNBC take note at how frequently their panelists use these terms interchangeably.
It’s important to understand that white privilege is neither tantamount to racism nor something most Americans actively cultivate. In fact, I believe it’s well below the radar of most white Americans. Having said that, however, this lack of awareness is in and of itself a part of the issue.
Recently I had the “whiteness” issue thrown at me by an individual who I gently reminded that in the 17th century the first settlers to arrive in the New World were white. And during the first two centuries of the American experience, 95 percent of the population was white, so it’s hardly surprising our culture is an outgrowth of that demographic.
Bias and racial inequality have existed since time immemorial. But a part of American greatness stems from our willingness to redress our sins. We are among the few societies ever to exist that consistently evaluates whether or not we are living up to our basic principles and values.
And there is probably no greater testimonial to our ability to evaluate and self-correct than the American Civil War, a war that claimed the lives of more than six hundred thousand soldiers while freeing nearly four million black people from slavery.
No one questions the fact that racial bias exists in the United States, but the far left has turned the issue into a cudgel. Meanwhile, I keep waiting for one of the talking heads on CNN to demand I apologize for being white.
White privilege is a legitimate societal phenomenon, but the far left has turned the matter into a racial issue. It’s no secret the United States has a history of racial minorities being defined as unintelligent or dangerous or inferior to whites. But as sociology professor David White commented, “Most people have evolved well beyond those narrow ideas while our social system has been slower to respond.”
I get it — white people may not actively practice racism or bigotry, however, we have advantages that most minorities simply do not have. But what does the left expect from people who’ve had nothing to do with slavery or lynchings or segregation? Should we be taxed in some fashion? Yes, white privilege does exist in America, but instead of having an honest discussion in the public square about how to redress the existing inequities, the left has chosen to play the race card at every turn and exploit the matter for political purposes.
Quote of the day: “We have to…realize the biggest terror threat in this country is white men… and we have to start doing something about them.” — Don Lemon, CNN
Butch Mazzuca, of Edwards, writes regularly for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.