Some of my friends — I mean real friends, not the Facebook variety — are rolling out the old ‘white privilege’ trope, after the most recent round of police murders.
(That’s the subjective genitive, not objective; I mean murders by police. I’m not losing any sleep over the fact that somebody occasionally shoots back. There are, after all, laws of Nature.)
Now I think this is a bogus concept — white privilege, I mean.
[Voice from offstage] : That’s because you’re white!
Well, maybe. But I also have better reasons than that.
Let’s start from facts that we can all agree on.
1) Nearly everybody in the world — except for that notorious 1% — has a pretty shitty time of it.
2) In particular, and speaking of home matters, cops shoot somewhere between 500 and 600 people a year in the US. In absolute terms, most of these dead people are former white people — though in the grave these distinctions vanish quickly. Importantly, however, in proportionate terms, a young black guy is on average a lot more likely to be shot than a young white guy. This is not an insignificant fact.
3) Therefore: Though most people have a pretty shitty time of it, some — and they are not difficult to identify — have an even shittier time of it than others.
This, in a nutshell, is the case for ‘privilege’ as a concept: most everybody has a shitty time, but some people’s times are shittier than others. For no good reason: they’re not lazier, they’re not less intelligent, they’re not less moral or conscientious.
Now my own inclination is to focus on the overall shittiness, and ask why we have to put up with it.
But the discourse of privilege focuses on the disparity — as if that were the problem, and the overall shittiness were unavoidable; it’s only a question of how we spread it around.
Well, in theory, the disparity could be fixed. We could encourage the cops, for example, to shoot more white people, so as reduce the disparity.
Or we could hold the number of shot white people constant, and try to bring the rate of shot black people down to the same level. That would also reduce the disparity, and would certainly be preferable to Plan A. Particularly from my white point of view. But it’s still a lot of dead people. Rather too many, I should say.
But really, who wants either of these outcomes?
This is why I think the discourse of privilege leads us down a rabbit hole. It presupposes that the quantum of misery is constant, and like a kind of perverse reverse Communism, seeks to ensure that everybody is equally miserable.
I have developed a tactic for responding to my friends who bring up the matter of white privilege. Since it’s usually in the context of police murders — again I mean, murders by cops, not of cops — I ask them, well, if you want to put an end to police shootings, why not disarm the police? Then they couldn’t shoot anybody, black or white.
So far I have not had a single response to this question, and I have asked it many times. It seems clear that my anti-privilege friends are still strongly in favor of state-sanctioned violence — as long as it’s levied with an even hand.