Some things are self-evident, or should be.
In a world long dominated by men and crafted and molded by men, being born a man gives you a leg up on women. It’s called male privilege. It doesn’t mean women can’t get ahead in such a world or that every man automatically will. It is just an acknowledgment that women have to navigate extra challenges and barriers men don’t even have to think about.
I am a recipient of male privilege, because I’m a man.
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In another way, people who speak without a stutter have a major advantage at birth over those who have to navigate a fast-talking world with a stutter, like I do.
I am on the wrong side of the fluent speaking privilege.
There are all kinds of built-in advantages, things we’ve been gifted by birth.
Awhile back, I even explained how many academics and people of faith believe that’s true, though call it a different name.
Read more about that here: Cultural translation: Academia says white privilege; the faithful say God’s grace
But when it comes to race, suddenly there is alarm and push back, particularly when a black person mentions white privilege.
That’s why I found a series of columns by white New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof so fascinating, particularly the reaction to them by white readers.
Maybe you will, too.
Here is the latest:
When whites just don’t get it, Part 4:
Job and housing discrimination also systematically prevented blacks from accumulating wealth. The Federal Housing Administration and other initiatives greatly expanded home ownership and the middle class but deliberately excluded blacks.
That’s one reason why black families have, on average, only about 6 percent as much wealth as white households, why only 44 percent of black families own a home compared with 73 percent for white households.
The inequality continues, particularly in education. De jure segregated schools have been replaced in some areas by de facto segregation.
Those of us who are white have a remarkable capacity for delusions. A majority of whites have said in opinion polls that blacks earn as much as whites and are as healthy as whites. In fact, black median household income is $34,598, compared with $58,270 for non-Hispanic whites, according to census data . Black life expectancy is four years shorter than that of whites.
His series began with this: After Ferguson, race deserves more attention, not less
One black friend tells me that he freaked out when his white fiancée purchased an item in a store and promptly threw the receipt away. “What are you doing?” he protested to her. He is a highly successful and well-educated professional but would never dream of tossing a receipt for fear of being accused of shoplifting.
Some readers will protest that the stereotype is rooted in reality: Young black men are disproportionately likely to be criminals.
That’s true — and complicated. “There’s nothing more painful to me,” the Rev. Jesse Jackson once said, “than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery — then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved.”
All this should be part of the national conversation on race, as well, and prompt a drive to help young black men end up in jobs and stable families rather than in crime or jail. We have policies with a robust record of creating opportunity: home visitation programs like Nurse-Family Partnership ; early education initiatives like Educare and Head Start ; programs for troubled adolescents like Youth Villages ; anti-gang and anti-crime initiatives like Becoming a Man ; efforts to prevent teen pregnancies like the Carrera curriculum ; job training like Career Academies ; and job incentives like the earned-income tax credit.
The best escalator to opportunity may be education, but that escalator is broken for black boys growing up in neighborhoods with broken schools. We fail those boys before they fail us.
So a starting point is for those of us in white America to wipe away any self-satisfaction about racial progress. Yes, the progress is real, but so are the challenges. The gaps demand a wrenching, soul-searching excavation of our national soul, and the first step is to acknowledge that the central race challenge in America today is not the suffering of whites.