Post by Dylan C.
Image by Sam Howzit on Flickr
More often than not, the United States of America is described as a melting pot. Not just of cultures, but one of languages, ethnicities, and races. If we look through American history, however, we can see that the majority of the population–white people–hasn’t always been the kindest to those they view as “different.” From slavery, to the Trail of Tears, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the majority has used any means necessary to oppress the minorities of our seemingly “great” country.
Recent events like the protests in Ferguson, however, show that racism is rooted in deeper in our country than we are led to believe. In a recent post on this blog, Ben J. details how white privilege doesn’t exist at all in our present day society.
Having some issues with the arguments presented within the post, I felt it was necessary that I point out the facts about white privilege in modern society so that both sides of the argument are seen by readers of the blog.
It starts off by saying saying everyone “in America has a chance to achieve their goals, no matter what the skin color they have.”
To a degree, this is true. Everyone has the opportunity and potential to succeed. However, what’s not mentioned is that people of color (POC) have many more hurdles than their white colleagues that can prevent them from reaching maximum success.
There are “lots” of rich black people…so what?
The first first point is that white privilege doesn’t exist because there are lots of rich black people. That’s like saying sickness doesn’t exist because there are a lot of healthy people. He cites rich African-Americans like Oprah and Michael Jordan, as if black people make up the majority of millionaires and billionaires in America. In the USA, 77.7% of citizens are solely white and only 6.25% of households have net assets of at least $1 million. However, according statistics provided by Statista, we see that caucasians make up 76% of millionaires in the US.
Graph from Statista
The graph also shows how minorities aren’t nearly as advantaged as whites. African-Americans and Asian-Americans each only make up 8% of the USA’s millionaires. To bring it down to scale, for every 1 black millionaire, there are 9.5 white millionaires.
In an article published in The Atlantic, Margaret Barthel explains that “white male college graduates have a 97.6% employment rate [yet] black male college graduates have a 92.8% employment rate.” Even if two potential employees–one black, one white–have the same amount of education, the white candidate has a 4.8% greater chance of being hired–the same hiring rate as a white male with some education with no degree.
Along with this, studies have shown that blacks have the lowest completion rates for their first year of college. This automatically puts them at a disadvantage in the job market. The LA Times reports that throughout the US, only 24% of black adults have bachelor’s degrees compared to 41% of whites. That’s a 17% disparity. Perhaps this explains why the unemployment rate for African-Americans is almost 7% higher than that of white Americans.
Through this we see the systematic oppression of minorities through the authoritative majority.
Poverty in Perspective
The next contention is that because many black people live in poverty alongside white people, white privilege does not exist. Cited in the article are statistics from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, saying that 10% of white people live in poverty compared to 27% of blacks and 24% of Hispanics.
He goes on to say “19,027,400 whites live in poverty compared to the 10,312,400 blacks and 12,853,100 Hispanics” in America, under the belief that white privilege doesn’t exist or affect us simply because more white people live in poverty.
However, the article fails to account for the statistics that had been cited, so let’s do some simple math. If we account for 10% of whites equalling 19 million people and compare that to 27% of blacks at 10.3 million people, we can put those numbers to scale.
If the poverty rate of the black community was applied to the number of whites in America, 51.4 million white people would be living in poverty.
By putting these numbers in perspective, the article’s point that white privilege doesn’t exist simply because there are “more” white people in poverty is automatically disproven.
Privilege or prejudice?
The final point is that he’s actually seen black privilege firsthand. He mentions that people assume all African-Americans are good at sports, or that they can easily get away with violent crimes.
However, both of these assumptions in and of themselves are racist. Black privilege doesn’t exist, but black prejudice does.
For centuries, Africans and African-Americans have been oppressed by the majority. From European colonialism to modern day police brutality and racial bias, the notion of “black privilege” has never existed.
So why is this relevant?
America promotes itself as the land of the free and the home of the brave. In the Pledge of Allegiance we even say that there’s “Liberty and justice for all,” but is there really?
In a land where people are still denied jobs or entrance into businesses because of something as simple as race or religion, is there really liberty?
In a country where gay couples aren’t allowed to adopt children because they’re seen as “unfit parents,” is there really justice?
White privilege is all around us, and it only serves to drive us apart.
Avoiding the problem and saying that there’s equality for all is ignorant. The only way to fix it, to provide an even playing field for everyone, is to tackle the problem head-on. We must treat each other with the respect and kindness that every human being is entitled to. We must acknowledge our mistakes and move on, as that is the only way to bring liberty and justice to all.