A Lesson in White Privilege


A couple of years ago, I wrote a parody song to the tune of Randy Newman’s “Short People,” titled “Pale People.”  No matter what the challenges of your actual experience might be, one verse suggested, “All a’ that ain’t nothin’ to the color of your skin.”

Well this is an interesting finding, from the left-leaning Brookings Institution:

… Poor minorities (defined here as blacks and Hispanics) face similar—and often worse—poverty-related challenges than do non-Hispanic poor whites. Yet they are more resilient in the face of negative shocks, less likely to report depression or commit suicide, and significantly more optimistic about the future. Part of the explanation is their higher levels of community and family support. Aspirations also matter. Poor blacks and Hispanics tend to report they are better off than their parents were, while many blue-collar whites are facing a reality of downward mobility. Many of their primary occupations are close to extinction, and family structures have weakened significantly (a trend that is associated with the drop in labor force participation).

That’s not surprising.  In the popular culture, which has been taken over by progressive ideology, minorities are to be celebrated.  They’re the future.  They can accomplish anything, and society should give them special advantages to make it so.  Meanwhile, white people, especially white men, are everywhere the villains.  They have to “check their privilege.”  Anything they accomplish is tainted because they are the beneficiaries of oppression.  Government-funded reports insist that the future has darker skin, and we should start changing the communities that government serves now, in preparation.

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Based on the interactive graphic on the Brookings page, “poor non-Hispanic whites” in Rhode Island have low optimism relative to the country, high worry, and high pain.  Unfortunately, the statistics for minorities are too small for Brookings to rank them in Rhode Island, but Massachusetts is telling.  Poor minorities in our northern neighbor have among the lowest rates of worry in the country, while their white peers have among the highest rates of worry.

This shouldn’t be a contest; we should be concerned about all of our neighbors.  Unfortunately, progressive identity politics rely on dividing us so we’ll keep handing over power to the truly privileged and powerful.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I think we should become a sanctuary state for White South Africans. White farmers are being removed by homicide. I had some experience with this in Rhodesia, it can be quite unpleasant.

  • Mario

    I think everybody is probably getting the causation backwards. I don’t think minorities are more resilient to the effects of poverty than white people, I think it’s more likely that white people are less likely to find themselves poor without some underlying problem.

    • Justin Katz

      That’s an interesting suggestion. I think it would be difficult to tease out a the “underlying problem” from the markers of despair. Is drug use, for example, an underlying problem or a consequence of lacking hope? I also think there are some challenges over time. If underlying problems are producing the worries of poor whites, then why do the symptoms seem to be increasing?

      In any event, fostering a cultural narrative with white people as bad and non-white people as the inevitable and joyous future doesn’t seem like a positive way to move forward.

  • Merle The Monster

    Your blaming the progressive ideology for the lack of optimism among poor whites completely ignores the last Presidential election in which the candidate you voted for promised white voters a return to an older social order, exploited the very feelings you write of among poor whites , used language that caused racial divisions and promised a brighter future for precisely those who now continue to have higher levels of worry . So you blame progressives and elites and insiders just as decades ago when poor minorities sought opportunities they were said to have been put up to it by outside agitators, Communists, pinkos, and n——-lovers. How times do not change. Some people just can’t stand it when black and brown people are feeling good about their future

    • Mario

      I’m sorry, it should be obvious that I disagree with the premise here (since I did so just above you), but all you are offering is evidence that undermines your own position. I agree that Trump did all that you say, but one could easily argue that it would not have had such an impact if people weren’t desperate to hear that kind of message. If people are depressed and fearful about the future, that’s exactly when they’d seek out the message of a demagogue.

      • Merle The Monster

        My comment was directed towards Katz ‘s blame for poor whites and their mood on an ideology he abhors with no proof. It’s true that there have been poor white people in this country from the beginning. Indentured workers were present in the early colonies and many remained in poverty for generations. The book, “The Free State of Jones” a white family make their way from the Carolinas to eventually settle in eastern Mississippi lays out the hostility poor people felt from the rich planters and powerful throughout the confederate states. The only thing that changed for many poor whites were the names given them by the wealthy landowners. Many states in the country had voting restrictions in regards to property ownership. Exploitation of these folks have gone on from the beginning. From servitude to soldiering the wealthy have kept the underclass in their place. Today there are those on the left that would add to the scorn directed at those who are white and poor just as there are conservatives who use this class for votes and deliver them nothing of any meaning. I agree with you about the fact that there was fertile ground for a demagogue in the last election. One of Obama’s biggest mistakes was to let the bankers off the hook when the country needed some accountability from those that help cause the economic disaster of 2008 and I think that helped poor whites to be even more distrustful of the government and its new black President

        • Rhett Hardwick

          “White trash” was still a common epithet in the South when I was a kid.

  • Rhett Hardwick

    I recall reading the work of a black author from the 50’s, or 60’s. I believe, but I am not certain, James Baldwin. He noted some distinctions, to which he attached great weight. An illiterate white person feels a kinship with Shakespeare. A white person viewing the Cathedral of Notre Dame might not know where to place the first stone, but “knows” he shares an innate ability to construct such. Blacks do not share this. I am not a sufficient philosopher to probe the depths of this, although I can see the problem. But I know that the reaction of vilifying “dead white males”, or re-inventing history by claiming Cleopatra was black (I believe I am correct in saying she was genetically Greek) does not advance a cause. Perhaps “integration” will take longer than was ever imagined.