Saturday, July 31, 2010

Is White Privilege a Myth?

Terence Samuel, on Senator Jim Webb's call to abolish affirmative action, at The Root:

In last Friday's Wall Street Journal, Webb asserted that affirmative action programs, which he and most everyone else now refer to as ''diversity'' programs, have strayed from their original intent and today do more to hurt white Americans and harm the country than they do to redress past racial injustice.

''I have dedicated my political career to bringing fairness to America's economic system and to our work force, regardless of what people look like or where they may worship,'' Webb writes. ''Unfortunately, present-day diversity programs work against that notion, having expanded so far beyond their original purpose that they now favor anyone who does not happen to be white.''

The piece is headlined, ''Diversity and the Myth of White Privilege.'' The notion that white privilege is a myth will surely ignite a backlash among many black Americans, who will say that there is nothing mythical about the advantages that being white bestows in America. Alternately, Webb will be hailed as a hero and a truth-teller among those who see the racial landscape in America so vastly altered in the last 50 years that the idea that whites continue to have any inherent advantage based on race is at least outdated and, more likely, a perverse, intentional corruption of the truth. People will argue that white privilege is a social conceit intended to gain political and economic advantage -- the race card, in common parlance.

So here we are, almost 150 years after monumental disagreements about race led to the outbreak on the Civil War, confronting monumental disagreements about how to deal with the consequences of the last 150 years. Racial injustice has been at the core of the national debate for the entire life of the republic; it has been a blunt-force instrument used to destroy the lives and aspirations of a whole race of people over many generations and with lasting consequences. The remedies, when they've been sought, have never been elegant, largely because the blunt force of racial injustice and discrimination has never allowed for elegant solutions. From the Dred Scott decision to the present-day diversity programs, we have argued consistently about the role of race in the American life. Black people have almost always come out on the losing end of that debate. The length of the debate alone is evidence of how difficult progress has been.


I could write a long rebuttal, but nah. Folks already know pretty much where I stand (or, Jim Webb's right).