Individuals who are black, and indeed individuals of any minority status, possess a tremendous amount of agency to engage in the world around them and ultimately make a good life. Of course, across racial lines, not every person will succeed and not every person will fail; most people will fall somewhere in between. Individual choices any one person will make over the course of their life will have much to do with the outcome of their situation. In 2019, the United States is freer and more open than it has ever been, and any other country has ever been.
There is, however, among certain elements of progressive activists and politicians, a notion that runs regressive to the reality we all enjoy in our time. This notion is privilege hierarchy and more specifically the notion of “white privilege.” The concept of white privilege is a socio-political tool that is wielded in conversation or action to silence dissenting opinion and bestow undeserved moral authority upon non-Caucasian peoples. Beyond the tool-like use, the use of white privilege has its own racist elements as an ideology.
Last weekend, a story concerning early-bird and regular ticket prices for the Aug. 3 AFROFUTURE Youth Fest in Detroit demonstrates a zero sum game “solution” to white privilege. For both early-bird and regular tickets, prices priced at double the cost for a white attendee compared to minority attendee. An article from Fox News relays the comments of the co-director of the event, who claimed the reasoning for the ticket price difference was because, “events often designed for marginalized black and brown communities can easily be co-opted by those with cultural, monetary and class privileges.”
Clearly, the notion of white privilege and having to “overcome” that privilege is in play here, as is the explicit racism of the ticket pricing policy. Eventbrite, an event promotion and ticket purchasing site, agrees, and threatened to remove the event, asserting that, “charging different prices based on race or ethnicity clearly violates our Terms of Service.” Under threat of removal from Eventbrite, along with the self-imposed cancelled performance of the biracial performer Tiny Jag (Jillian Graham) due to the racial pricing, AFROFUTURE backtracked on its policy, claiming safety concerns due to threats and harassment. The form of racism that was engaged in by AFROFUTURE is classical racism at its worst: creating different standards based on race and assuming entire peoples are either a version of an oppressor or the oppressed based on nothing more than skin color.
The second form of racism is more discreet in manifestation but equally patronizing and annoying. “Benevolent” or “paternalistic” racism lives within the ideology of white privilege, if one assumes white privilege to be a forgone truth. A plethora of writing and lectures by progressive whites buy into the idea that whites must accept their “complicity” in a white society and acknowledge or “check” their privilege.
Beyond simply “checking” privilege, often white progressives claim that the solution to the problem must entail the use of their privilege, ultimately meaning power, to uplift the minority’s place in society. This assumes that a minority is that of a lesser person by nature. Moreover, the irony is that the assumption creates a dependency on the part of minorities to whites for agency. As a person who happens to be a bi-racial male, I cannot and will not accept the white privilege narrative because it would require me submitting to a notion based solely on race and nothing more. I have as much agency in my life, as much of a voice and as much of a spark as anyone else. The only good that comes from the white privilege narrative is a sense of a temporarily gratifying catharsis on the part of a progressive white, and the perpetual cycle of victimhood to the minority.
To close, the more concerning aspect I have personally come across is the notion that when I disagree over this topic with various white progressives, I am told that I myself experience racism and negative effects of white privilege that I cannot or have not been able to see or comprehend in my own life. People’s experiences will always be different and unique regardless of race, and indeed there will be times where racists individuals of all stripes make race a factor in that experience, but to tell someone that they essentially know more about you than you do, based strictly on your race is simply a form of paternalistic racism. I am not going to be a victim, I am not going to surrender agency and acknowledge whites are more powerful than I am, and nobody else should feel as if they are a perpetual victim in this cycle. Minorities have agency — let us wield it as individuals.