Editor’s Note: This is part one of a three-part series examining racism among liberal social justice warriors who claim to be against racism.
The relationship between whites and minorities seems marked by distrust, resentment, and in some cases hatred. So how did we go from the successes of the civil rights movement to the highest racial tension in decades? The social justice movement happened.
You may have heard that white bigotry is the primary contributor to the current state of race relations in the U.S. If you’ve been listening to the media’s narrative, the real answer might surprise you. But before we can understand the state of our current predicament, we must first understand one of the leading causes of racism in the United States.
If you’re like most Americans, you probably learned that American slavery was the result of racism. I’m not convinced. In his book, Race and Economics, author and professor Thomas Sowell argues that racism in the United States began with the institution of slavery. Sowell proposes that since American whites existed in a democratic society that supposedly valued freedom, they had to justify their reasons for keeping slaves. This meant that they had to propagate the theory that blacks were subhuman and unable to exist in society as anything but a slave. By labeling Africans as inferior, American whites rationalized the horrible treatment they meted out to their slaves.
Regrettably, elements of this type of racism still exist today – real white supremacy groups who believe that the white race is superior to minorities are still present in the United States. However, this type of slavery-spawned racism is not as widespread as the left would like us to believe. If we are to understand one of the primary factors of racism in the United States today, we must take a larger view.
The anti-capitalist social justice movement infested American society primarily through universities and leftist organizations like Black Lives Matter and Antifa. They claim to fight all forms of bigotry – especially racism. However, the social justice left’s approach to race relations has contributed more to racism in the United States today than any other factor. One of the ways they add to the problem is their obsession with “privilege.”
The concept of privilege is primarily directed at white Americans. White privilege is the idea that whites have inherent societal advantages over minorities. According to the social justice left, these benefits make it easier for white Americans to obtain high-paying jobs, get into better colleges, and avoid being harassed by the police because of their skin color.
There could be some situations in which white Americans have an advantage over others. However, social justice warriors would have us believe privilege permeates every facet of American society. Simply put, they have taken the notion of white privilege far beyond reality. Not only is this false, but the left often weaponizes privilege to silence those with whom they disagree. If a white person wishes to give an opinion that contradicts the social justice movement in a conversation about race, they might be told to “check their privilege.” Originally, this phrase was not used to shut down dialogue. According to Glenn Galles of the Mises Institute:
In a sense, “check your privilege” largely amounts to “check your premises” behind your views, and many are willing to recognize that such a reminder can be useful in advancing conversations about social issues.
However, Galles also acknowledges that the phrase is no longer used to promote “conversations about social issues.” He continues:
“Check your privilege” is about shutting down discussion when the user is making the assertion that you are hopelessly confused in your understanding, and that your opinions amount to aggression (whether “micro-” or “macro-”)
Using the notion of privilege to shut down a debate might make social justice warriors feel better, but it does nothing to further the discussion. The use of the privilege tactic is just a way to inflame racial tension, as many whites do not lead privileged lives. The National Review notes:
In building a dialogue around “checking privilege,” the modern progressive elite is implicitly asking white America — especially the segregated white poor — for a level of social awareness unmatched in the history of the country.
Poor whites see very little benefit from their “white privilege” — many experience the same financial hardships as minorities.
Telling a poor white man that he has white privilege is not going to be convincing if he is worried about paying rent next month. Not only does the privilege tactic make it almost impossible to gain a sense of mutual understanding during interactions between whites and minorities, but it also breeds resentment.
Whites who are shamed into silence by being told to “check their privilege” will be less willing to show understanding of the minority’s point of view. After all, if someone continuously prevents you from voicing your perspective, what’s the point in trying to understand theirs? Additionally, the notion of privilege causes minorities to look down on whites because of their supposed “advantages.”
Of course, this is not the only way the social justice left contributes to the problem of racism. The social justice movement uses many different methods to foment hostility between whites and minorities. In the next part of the series, we will discuss how the social justice movement’s focus on intersectionality and microaggressions promotes a culture that causes minorities to view themselves through the lens of victimhood.