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White Male Privilege

Before I start I have to say the following: Many people will read this blog post and label me as a sexist, or a racist, or just an old fart out of touch with modern trends (most likely all 3). But before you do that can I just ask that you look at the points I make and consider whether they are actually true or not. What I’m going to say is not politically correct but instead of reacting by jumping on the old political correctness bandwagon why not just think about it a little bit first. And if you still find my points too challenging, go ahead and jump on the bandwagon then!

I’m starting to feel a bit annoyed with the “white male privilege” meme which seems to have become popular on the internet recently. I’m not saying that the phenomenon doesn’t exist, but I do reject using it as a reason to criticise anything without any real consideration of the reality of the situation. And I also reject the idea that all groups don’t get some privileges to varying degrees.

I don’t really care if people think I’m privileged and in no way am I expecting a sympathetic response to my position. The reason I’m writing this is more because I dislike political correctness – which is what this is about more than anything else – and I would like people to maybe think a little bit differently instead of just accepting the latest trendy catchphrase.

There is research indicating that genuine bias exists against some “disadvantaged” groups in society. For example, there is a social science study showing people are less likely to hire women than men, even if they have identical CVs (apart from the name). Interestingly, women are just as likely as men to demonstrate this bias.

But most of the material I see on this subject consists of anecdotes and opinions rather than facts, and those are far less reliable as indicators of real phenomena, of course.

So here are some of the ways that white males are seen as privileged: often hired for jobs ahead of other groups, taken more seriously in formal settings, not sexually harassed much, treated with greater leniency in criminal situations. Those are all true to varying degrees so clearly the phenomenon does exist.

Now let’s look at some examples of female privilege: often avoid criticism because that would be seen as misogynistic, sometimes given a job ahead of males to make up a quota, participation in negative behaviour (violence, crime) often ignored because there is a greater problem with males. These are also all true to varying degrees.

Now let’s look at some privileges of minority ethnic groups: given special political positions instead of having to compete for them, given a lower threshold of entry into courses, damaging activities ignored because they are seen as having a special status. These all happen and demonstrate genuine examples of privilege.

So everyone has privileges to some extent. Some people will say “well I don’t feel privileged” and sure, I agree. But guess what: I, as a white male, don’t feel privileged either. I can’t think of a single case where I have gained anything simply because of my race or gender.

The PC brigade usually say at this point “well you’re one of the privileged class, you can’t even comment on this”. Well isn’t that convenient? That sort of closes down any possible critique of their position, doesn’t it? if a controversial social position cannot be criticised then I don’t think it can be taken too seriously.

So after listing the general points above let me give a few specific examples…

Here’s some examples of how the indigenous people of Australia and New Zealand have been given a “free pass” regarding the massive environmental devastation they caused…

1. About 45,000 years ago, when humans colonised Australia within a few thousand years 95% of all large animals were extinct.

2. The Pacific rat, introduced by Maori, caused more extinctions in New Zealand than any other mammal species. And on the Pacific islands, two-thirds of the animal populations went extinct in the period between first human arrival and European contact.

3. Historians have calculated that the Maori settlers destroyed about half of the native forest that had existed before they arrived (mainly by burning it down to facilitate the hunting of the moa, now extinct), and that the European settlers destroyed about half of the remaining half.

How many people know this? Almost no one, because it isn’t politically correct to criticise indigenous people. After all they have a “greater connection with the land”. Well I call BS on that, and I would like to remind everyone that it is mainly privileged white males who have set up the modern conservation measures which have stopped this trend.

And similarly for women…

1. In New Zealand children are killed by their mothers more often than their fathers, but if you follow anti-violence campaigns you might think it is a male-only problem.

2. When girls were underachieving in our schools it was seen as a major problem which required positive action to fix. Now that the opposite is happening, although it is occasionally mentioned, it seems to be just accepted as OK.

3. Various campaigns to give equal pay for equal work for men and women have been prominent recently but New Zealand has had equal pay for years. If the real issue is whether certain jobs should be paid more then let’s have a campaign based on that instead.

I could go on listing these sorts of issues for any group in society you want to name. Again, I have to emphasise that I’m not denying there are some privileges in being a white male but I’m saying there are a lot of disadvantages as well, and that every group has some privileges.

What’s the answer? Well let’s look at issues of unfairness and ignore these false categorisations of disadvantage and privilege. If a person is treating women badly then let’s do something about it, whether that person is a white male or a black female. If an indigenous group is doing badly let’s find out why instead of saying they are the victims of white male oppression.

In summary, forget the simplistic PC nonsense I so often hear from my theoretical allies on the left. Of course, we equally shouldn’t swing to the opposite extreme and espouse the equally nonsensical rhetoric of the right. What we need to do is look at each situation and evaluate it on it’s merits instead of approaching it with a pre-existing bias based on some silly buzz-phrase like “white male privilege”.

  1. June 23, 2016 at 12:24 pm

    More people need to see this. Great piece :)

  2. OJB
    June 23, 2016 at 10:38 pm


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