White privilege has suddenly become a very hot topic — again. MTV is producing a show about being white and of course, there’s this:
I’d really like someone to tell me what these supposed privileges I’ve had are supposed to be. I’m sick of hearing about white privilege. It’s class privilege. The only color that really matters is green. I’m very sorry some nonwhite people missed out on my great life of teen pregnancy, never finishing high school, being unable to afford college, being harassed by the police, coming from a broken home, homelessness, hunger, struggling since I was born and being laughed out of welfare offices with hungry kids but I’ll gladly apologize if they want me to. I have lived in many racially-diverse neighborhoods (translation: poor neighborhoods) and no one was any better off than anybody else. I and the rest of the white people in the neighborhood weren’t somehow magically elevated above our nonwhite neighbors just because we are white. We weren’t somehow not discriminated against because we’re not black or Hispanic. A black friend of mine in an adjacent neighborhood had two college-educated parents, a better home, better possessions than anyone in my neighborhood and there was always food at his house, something the rest of us just thought was amazing. What does that mean? Somehow I still had more opportunities and a better life than him just because I’m white?
You see, this is when white privilege arguments fall apart: when they have to be applied to poor whites. I’ve had many of these discussions, and they always go in one of two ways: either the person I’m speaking with just flat out calls me a liar or they say my experience is not “the norm” but in general, whites are more privileged. If they call me a liar, I tell them they must’ve had a very fortunate life if they are unable to believe that white people struggle just as hard as any other race. If they say my experience is a special case, I ask why it is that I have to endure accusations of white privilege when it’s obviously not a universal phenomenon. Either way, the conversation usually stops right there. The only thing that is ever said after that is, “Yeah, but… you’re white,” as if this is some magical argument that automatically renders opposing arguments void. No doubt some think it does.
Poor people of all races have had the same life I’ve had. Stop letting them divide us.