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Thursday, August 30, 2018

"White Privilege", One Take

For John, BLUFThe author suggests that too much emphasis on our differences and our grievances will lead to bad outcomes.  I suspect he is correct.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

From Quillette, by Mr William Ray, 29 August 2018.

Here is the lede plus one:

[White Privilege is] the unquestioned and unearned set of advantages, entitlements, benefits, and choices bestowed upon people solely because they are white.  Generally white people who experience such privilege do so without being conscious of it.

—Peggy McIntosh, quoted in the Racial Equity Resource Guide

The concept of ‘white privilege’ was popularized by Peggy McIntosh in a 1989 paper written at Harvard University and titled, “White Privilege:  Unpacking The Invisible Knapsack.”  It was written as a personal, experiential essay, and it details 26 ways in which McIntosh’s skin color has been decisive in determining her life outcomes.  This hugely influential paper has been responsible for the subsequent proliferation of a rigidly enforced theory of privilege throughout social movements and university classrooms.  So central has this doctrine become to progressive politics, pedagogy, and activism, that to even question its validity is to invite the inquisitorial wrath of ‘social justice’ radicals.  But it is for this very reason that it is important to subject McIntosh’s ideas to scrutiny. So let us return to the source and to first principles and unpack Peggy McIntosh’s knapsack…

The author then goes on to show us that yes, indeed, Ms McIntosh was the product of "white privilege" but it was unrelated to how most of us grew up.  In fact, Ms McIntosh lived a very privileged life as a young woman.

Then, as the end of the essay Mr Ray tells us about his experience as a UN Peace Keeper and how it showed him that pitting group against group just leads to atrocities.

But then what do I—a person privileged by accidents of race and gender—know about ‘identity politics,’ that Peggy McIntosh does not?  Well, I can share at least one lesson drawn from my own ‘lived experience.’  The year I turned 25, I was serving as a United Nations Peacekeeper in the former Yugoslavia.  My unit engaged the Croatian Army in what would come to be known as the Battle of Medak Pocket. Eventually, we halted the enemy’s advance and pushed them back.

Clearing a house after the fighting, we discovered the contorted and charred bodies of two young women tied to chairs.  One was estimated to be in her early 30s, the other in her late teens.  The Royal Canadian Mounted Police techs who processed the scene for the War Crimes Tribunal at the Hague confirmed what we could tell just by looking at the corpses: the exaggerated arching of the backs, the screams of agony that still seemed ready to burst from what remained of their gaping mouths, the fingernails embedded in the wood of the chair arm—these two young women had still been alive when they were dowsed in gasoline and set alight.  But then the tech added a detail that was not readily apparent.  His tests appeared to confirm that they were almost certainly already dead when the Croatian Army rolled into town.  That meant they had been burned alive by their neighbours.  People they had lived beside and gone to school with.

The area that the Croatian army had briefly overrun had been mixed Croatian and Serbian farming villages.  These people had lived together for half a century.  They had intermarried, lived in the same streets, eaten the same food, and attended the same social events.  But slowly, starting in the 1980s, political leaders and demagogues of various stripes had started using a politics of identity to solidify their social and political power.  Each side’s citizens were repeatedly told by respected academic figures that they were being robbed, and that the ‘other’ was exploiting unearned ‘social privilege’ granted by their ethnic status.  Children were taught this in school as received truth and ostracized if they dared to question it.  Slowly, this curated resentment built into hatred. From there, events developed according to an inescapable logic.  Sometimes, soldiers on one side of the ethnic conflict would ask us for news of a high school sweetheart or friend across the lines.  But identity allegiance remained paramount.  To those who respond with the fatuous claim that this was simply a ‘white-on-white issue,’ I will only note that, as I was fighting for my life in Eastern Europe, the same divisive hatreds were being broadcast across Rwanda by Télévision Libre des Mille Collines.  Tribal hatreds are not a white or a black problem, they are a human problem.

Every time identity politics has been used by any faction in human history for any reason violence eventually follows.  No matter how detailed and intricate the justification, no matter how reasonable it can be made to sound as a way to correct for unequal social conditions and historical injustice, it always ends in the same foul basement of mutual fear, loathing, and depravity.  It is past time to consign this foul epistemology to the trashcan of self serving debasements and return our attention to the real causes of ‘privilege’; the growing disparities of wealth that divide us, whatever the color of our skin.

This is not the future I look forward to.  I would much prefer that we all try to live together, working on what we have in common, and helping each other grow our Republic.  Focusing on our tribal differences is not going to help us.  I don't want the US to end up like the former Yugoslavia  I hope you don't either.

Hat tip to the InstaPundit.

Regards  —  Cliff

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