White Privilege: Myth, or a Reason for Self-flagellation?
“White Privilege” is a myth. Unlike the monarchies and pseudo-constitutional governments of pre-revolutionary times, economic mobility in America as fluid as the opportunities that swirl around us. Not for some two hundred and thirty years have success and failure been predetermined by caste or pedigree. Whites born into poverty are no more “privileged” than minorities born into poverty. With a playing field made level by government by the people, persistent impoverishment among certain communities in the United States begs the question, “why do some rise above the circumstances of their birth while others stay trapped in generational poverty?”
The book, A Framework for Understanding Poverty (What Teachers Should Know) by Ruby K. Payne, asserts that “Love and acceptance for the middle class are based on achievement.” For the poverty class it’s personal popularity that merits love and acceptance, while, for the wealthiest classes, status and connections are the most vaunted qualities. It’s nice to be liked, and social status and prestige are certainly desirable, but among the things that bring love and admiration among differing classes of people, achievement is the only one quantifiable by any meaningful measure. Achievement is a middle class value, and the American middle class has always been the largest and most mobile of all socioeconomic classes.
Payne’s book also explains why generational poverty in the United States is not measured by income but by lifestyle choices. It’s now possible in America to have a greater income, much of it non-taxable, while living in “poverty” as a government dependent, than it is while working a full-time job. You will find many families with incomes lower than those on government welfare living middle class lifestyles because of their chosen value system. American “poverty” is not the poverty of Bangladesh or Mexico City. In America the you can own a car, two televisions, all kinds of appliances, and, in some states, have an income of nearly $40,000 per year for a family of four and be classified as “poor.” The words “poverty” and “poor” are too arbitrary to have economic meaning. The values practiced by families in individual homes are the only meaningful way to differentiate between who stays stuck in poverty and who is upwardly mobile.
So, what of this “White Privilege” thing? “White Privilege” denotes an endowment; having opportunity or wealth handed to you as a function of skin color. It’s an absurd concept given that not all whites are exempt from poverty and not all people of color are barred from upward mobility. The American middle class encompasses a higher percentage of people from all demographic groups than the poverty class. Despite the fact that during President Obama’s terms welfare dependence has exploded and joblessness among minorities has persisted at high rates, people are not limited by inherent traits such as skin color. Those who succeed, despite economically tough times, do so because they employ values such as dependability, hard work, creativity, and the desire to achieve no matter what their field of employment. Values–I like to call them ‘virtues’–that comprise a hard-driving work ethic and bring personal success are not exclusive to any particular race. They’re universal and accessible to all who choose to employ the habits that bring about achievement.
In a recent op-ed, a young white man, following his own mugging, wrote that “Privileged people deserve to get robbed at gunpoint.” He’s the poster child for the liberal, self-loathing Flagellate Monks in the church of Political Correctness, who forever castigate themselves for being born as something other than an “oppressed minority.” It’s pretty pathetic when the very middle class values that are the foundation of achievement in America, are rejected by guilt-ridden folks who believe that success and failure are fixed traits determined by genetics. When you think about it, this is authentic racism. Is there anyone more more racist than an ‘ivory tower’ Liberal who believes he should suffer at the hands of criminals because he was born privileged, i.e. “superior,” in comparison to people of other races, and that to be less superior he must be taken down a notch or two by thugs of a less “privileged” race? Breathtaking.
The American middle class exists–and may go extinct–based on the values practiced by individuals. Achievement is measurable in many ways; income, family stability, thrift, health, educational success, devotion to charitable service, faith, marital resilience, etc. These middle class values are found in people of all income levels, and so are the backbone of American identity and liberty. Countless great figures became influential by working their way , bottom to top, in both achievement and wealth. God may bless the lives of virtuous people, but privilege is not a genetic condition. White Privilege is a myth, but what is not mythological is that achievement comes from living the values of self-restraint, hard work, and personal morality. In America, choices, not fate or genetics, determine who lives a successful life and who immerses themselves in frustration and envy, always blaming their woes on external forces or people who are different than them. Put simply, American success is not dependent on the color of one’s skin, but upon the content of one’s character.
by Marjorie Haun 6/21/15