Is White Privilege Real?
Today we are asking two basic questions, “Is White Privilege Real?”
How should I respond if someone says, “All Whites have White Privilege.”
Let’s start with, Is White Privilege real?
If White Privilege is real, why are Asian Americans and Jewish Americans usually MORE successful than White Americans? Do they have White Privilege too?
No, both groups used to experience severe racism. And they still experience some racism, but as ethnic groups, they have achieved the America dream.
So is White Privilege imagined, or is it real? I’m not really sure, but I am definitely skeptical. However, since Asian Americans and Jews have been able to do better than Whites, the PRIMARY ASSUMPTION underlying White Privilege is flawed. And if your assumption is flawed, everything you build on that assumption will be flawed as well.
This is a challenging issue. I have wrestled with it. I can’t cover everything today. In fact, I cut about HALF of the initial content. But you need to understand at least four of the fundamental problems with the term “White Privilege,” and then you need to understand how to respond effectively.
Before I proceed any further, let me be clear: Racism is real. Some whites truly hate blacks. Some blacks truly hate whites. Ditto for every other ethnic group. But you can’t legislate hate away. You can’t shame hate away. The only way to get rid of ETHNIC HATE is by changing peoples’ hearts.
Hate is fundamentally a spiritual issue, because it is a heart problem that denigrates the image of God in all of us. It is a prime example of what the Bible calls sin. And if it is a spiritual issue, then the PRIMARY solution must be spiritual as well. Trying to fix a primarily spiritual problem by applying an external systemic solution, is like trying to heal cancer with a Band-aid and a bottle of hydrogen peroxide.
So, I’ve already mentioned the first problem with White Privilege is that Asian Americans and Jewish Americans have been able to do BETTER than Whites despite not having White Privilege.
The second problem with the term “White Privilege” is that it DEMONIZES ALL White people simply for the UNPARDONABLE SIN of being born White. Something they cannot change.
I know that some folks say it is purely a descriptive or diagnostic tool, but it is almost always weaponized as a “Gotcha” trap to tell White people to “Shut up,” and “Go to the back of the bus.” I’ll explain how that works in a few minutes. When someone accuses a person of White Privilege, they are trying to manipulate them. They are trying to shut them down. It’s a LABEL of shame.
Just like when a Black person is accused of being an “Uncle Tom.” It is used as an emotional sledgehammer, used to try to shame them into silence. White Privilege is almost always USED pejoratively, not descriptively. And that pretty much tells me all I need to know.
The third problem is that the term “White Privilege” assumes the fundamental problem behind racism is SYSTEMIC not personal or spiritual. The problem is external. Therefore, if you change the system, you can change the individual person.
Christianity believes that racism is inherently a spiritual problem. An individual sin problem. Therefore, you must first change the heart in order to change the system.
Let me say it this way, “White Privilege” assumes that you must change the SYSTEM in order to change the individual. Christianity believes you must change the INDIVIDUAL in order to change the system.
Let me give you am EXAMPLE of what I mean:
Ibram X. Kendi wrote the book, “How to be an Anti-Racist.” In the book he states,
“The remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination.
The remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.”
In other words, the REMEDY is to Discriminate against those who discriminated against you. Do unto others as they have done unto you. That’s the SYSTEMIC SOLUTION.
But Jesus taught, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s the spiritual solution.
Kendi proposes a systemic solution.
Jesus offers a spiritual solution.
Jesus and Kendi fundamentally disagree. You can either follow Kendi, or you can follow Jesus. But you can’t follow both.
But here is the question I know many of you struggle with: How should I respond when someone accuses me, or someone I know, of “White Privilege?”
First, recognize that it does not properly diagnose the problem, because it ignores instances that don’t fit the model.
Second, recognize that is often intentionally weaponized to make White folks shut up.
Third, recognize it assumes the problem is systemic, not personal or spiritual.
Finally, recognize the accusation targets the emotional center of your brain, not the logical part of your brain. Frontal lobe. Seat of logic. Brain stem. Seat of emotion.
Understanding this is critical, because there are two basic kinds of arguments. Arguments from logic. Arguments from emotion.
Arguments from emotion do NOT mean you get emotional. It means they target the brain stem not the frontal lobe.
EXAMPLE: Southwestern Books
First, I explained what the product did. How it would benefit their kids. Then I mentioned that Sally next door had bought it for her kids. And that Jill down street had bought one for her kids as well. The goal was to give her emotional permission to purchase the product.
Why do so many companies spend ungodly sums of money to hire celebrities to make commercials for them? Because they are appealing to your brain stem, to your emotions. “If Patrick Mahomes likes it, it must be good.”
That’s not a logical argument. It is an argument that targets your brain stem.
Why do you think politicians spend millions of dollars trying to scare you? They know that if they can scare you, they can control how you vote.
Fear is a powerful motivator. Fear overwhelms logic.
Arguments from emotion are more powerful for the average American than arguments from logic, because most Americans today are FEELERS not THINKERS.
So, unless you are in a philosophy class, never try to counter an argument from emotion with an argument from logic. You’ll lose.
There are a lot of logical analyses of White Privilege. I encourage you to read them. However, my goal here is to help you respond effectively in conversation. I want to give you a TOOL to help you do that.
The term “White Privilege” is primarily an argument from emotion.
Here is how I know:
If you or a friend is accused of White Privilege, and you respond, “I don’t have White Privilege,”
or “They don’t have White Privilege,” here is what your accuser will say next:
“You have White Privilege. You just don’t know it.”
Down South they would probably start with, “Why bless your heart.”
In other words, “You’re stupid.” It’s very demeaning, but that’s the point. It’s a classic rhetorical game of “Gotcha!”
It’s a skillfully designed rhetorical trap designed to put you in a box you can’t get out of, because there is absolutely nothing you can say to prove them wrong.
Each time they will respond, “You do have White Privilege. You just don’t know it.”
That’s how you know it’s an argument from emotion. You cannot logically debate it.
So, the solution is to not step into the trap to begin with. And to COUNTER with your own argument from emotion.
I am not saying you should get emotional. That is probably the worst thing you can do. Don’t react. STAY CALM.
When they say, “You have White Privilege,” respond, “I understand that is your truth, but it’s not mine.”
No matter what they say next, again respond, “I understand that is your truth, but it is not mine.” Two can play the “Gotcha” game.
They now have to explain why YOUR TRUTH is not true. If they try, simply respond again, “I understand that is your truth, but it is not mine.”
If you do that, they cannot get out of the rhetorical trap. You’ve flipped the tables. You’ve gone from defense to offense.
Our culture believes everyone has their own truth. I have MY TRUTH. That belief is not based on logic. It’s based on feelings.
However, in our culture where most people are feelers, not thinkers, it is a powerful and effective argument.
So, use it. Once you say, “This in my Truth,” You win!
Let me say parenthetically that the whole concept of “My Truth” and “Your Truth” is ridiculous. But in order to be an effective communicator, I adopt the language my audience understands. If I don’t, I lose in the minds of my audience.
However, if you want to take the conversation the next step, once your accuser finally shrugs in defeat, ASK: “Would you like to know what I think the real problem and solution is?”
Racism is fundamentally a spiritual problem — a problem of the heart, not a systemic problem. It denies that we are ALL created in God’s image. And if that is true, then the solution has to be primarily a spiritual solution — a remedy that changes the heart.
I believe when Jesus said, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” he gave us the way out of this dilemma.
If Whites would TRY treat blacks the way they would want to be treated, and if blacks would TRY treat Whites the way they want to be treated, we would eventually solve all the ethnic bickering. But as long as we continue to DEMONIZE each other with terms like “White Privilege,” “Uncle Tom,” the problem will only get worse. No one likes being LABELED. No one likes feeling attacked and demeaned. We need to start building more bridges and fewer walls, and the accusation “White Privilege” is a wall — a really big wall. Until we take Jesus seriously, we will never escape out of this dilemma.
Now you have SHIFTED to conversation from the SYSTEMIC solution to the SPIRITUAL solution. That is the conversation all followers of Jesus need to pursue if we want to present real solutions to real societal problems. Now you have tool you can use.
So let me summarize the three problems with the term White Privilege:
First, White Privilege ignores that Asian Americans and Jewish Americans have been able do better than Whites in America, even though they don’t have White Privilege.
Second, the term “White Privilege” DEMONIZES ALL White people simply for the UNPARDONABLE SIN of being born White.
Third, the term “White Privilege” assumes that you must change the system in order to change the individual. But the Bible teaches the opposite: you must change the individual in order to change the system.
And here are the two pivotal statements you need to have in your toolbox when talking about “White Privilege”:
“That’s your truth, not mine.”
“I believe that racism is fundamentally a spiritual problem.”
If you remember those two statements, you can quickly flip from DEFENSE to OFFENSE, and make GOD the issue.
God is the issue, in every issue — especially the issue of White Privilege.
This is Brad Bright. Thanks for joining me today. If you found this podcast helpful, please like, subscribe or share. God Bless you as you seek to be salt and light in a very dark culture.