White Privilege?

January 2021

Forums General discussion White Privilege?

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    I see. Having escaped from academia the term “white privilege” has become toxic and applied to all “white” people. If applied in the sense developed in academia it would only apply to those “whites” who felt they were entitled to be treated better than “non-whites” and in fact acted this out. But they already was a perfectly clear  term for this — racism. That’s what we are opposed to.

    L.B. Neill

    And so we need to find a term that defines it.

    If looking at a binary division: say white over black causes further division- and it gets used to create a never ending slide into who is entitled or who is more oppressed- then we compete and the term that defined it will get lost… yes, racism. That is the key signifier, the one that divides us.

    Calling someone privileged due to their race is not a proper examination of power- it needs to be measured. You will be surprised about the results. I was trained to look at the naturally occurring data that can’t be falsified. As they ae public statements.

    So we need to look at the distributions of wealth, who controls it, and who benefits. It is the same thing as power- who uses it and who experiences its effects.

    So we oppose racism, we oppose gender violence and we oppose apex power structures.

    I really wish we could conduct a meta-study on all forms of abuse and call it out.

    It is not that the term it self is toxic- it is that it should be used to define toxic privilege,

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.

    I didn’t mean to say that the term “privilege” was toxic. After all, it appears a couple of times in our declaration of principles. It’s the term “white privilege” even in its narrow academic sense of “white racism” that is.

    L.B. Neill


    White privilege is used by those who seek advantage over another, based on race.

    The white hood brigade, and so on, is the most basic definition of power over.

    It is those who exercise power over another based on skin tone. That is the simplest definition.

    There are evaluations at this moment that are being discussed and assessed about all forms of privilege, and it needs to include in-group violence based on lgtbi communities too. but the science is developing…

    Toxic privilege is being assessed, and constantly reviewed in my circles.

    White racism only applies to ‘whites’ who use their skin tone to seek power-over those who are ‘non-white’.

    The examination of power is not, do I say it again, an essentialism, but based on those who wish to benefit from it over the welfare of another.

    A lot of jurisdictions created laws to try and eliminate racism- but it continues, and it continues in societies that are ‘not white’ too (being white does not come with a genetic marker of being racist). It is political and it is constructed.

    That is why we use x/y frames to assess violence- to evaluate to uses of violence/ and who experiences it.

    It is not helpful to focus on white privilege as the single causal factor of oppression- and in fact it does a dis -justice… we need to focus on who oppresses and who is oppressed. Identity single issue politics create divisions and camps between the science- but the focus is on observing what divides us, and what brings us together.

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.
    Young Master Smeet

    To borrow BD’s scenario, a little, let’s imagine an Orgreave style situation, but where it’s clear that police are targeting (or at least are more violent towards) black strikers.  Structurally, non-black strikers benefit from being less beaten.  Absolutely, it’s not their fault, but pointing out it’s not their fault isn’t the solution: solidarity and steps to protect black colleagues is.


    Of course.

    L.B. Neill




    Thought I’d post this material. It is part of Peggy McIntosh work with SEED- it gives some insight into privilege studies. It sits more on the left, but it has influenced many disciplines from Social Work, Education, race studies, to… too many to count!

    Some ideas are useful, and some require self reflection- She noted in footnotes that it is self reflexive analysis in some ways, and is not meant to be used as a ‘one size’ fits all (being white has differing experience effects).

    I stopped watching Trump Vs Biden- annoyed at the idea that socialised care was being treated like a game of hot potato…

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.

    Sorry, LBN, she is not using the word “privilege” in the sense you said it is used in “privilege studies” — to criticise only those who think they are entitled to be privileged.

    She is using it to criticise all “whites”  (and of course all males too) simply for being privileged.

    Listen to what she says:

    My schooling gave me no training in seeing myself as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person,”
    “I see the desire to keep our image of ourselves  ”clean“ as part of white privilege.”  [as if all groups didn’t share this desire ?]
    The denial of men’s overprivileged state takes many forms.”

    So, now all “whites” and all males  are overprivileged oppressors !
    Supposing that this were true, what would it mean? If you are being oppressed, what is your response? Obviously, you struggle against your oppressor and to overthrow their privileges. It’s a recipe for race war and/or sex war.
    Socialists are opposed to all racism and all sexism but we don’t employ the language of “white privilege” and “male overprivilege”. We want to unite the working class not split it.
    I don’t suppose anybody in the field of “privilege studies” studies the privileges of those who own and control the means of life and the privileged lifestyle without having to work that this allows them?
    L.B. Neill


    Yes you are right.

    She is using it in regard to her class position. She is being self reflexive, some what apologetic to her own position in the hierarchy.

    Later on it it takes a moment to consider unearned privilege and its opposite: unearned non- privilege Funny language.

    She wants people to know that she is basing her position on her own class, experience.

    If we look at her writing, she gives a clear insight in to her social position- seems privileged… and you are right- it is a study based on those who are privileged trying to make sense of it, and atone for it.

    And it shows that in America, the generalisation of race is deep. It does fail to account for class divisions too, and poverty.

    I posted the articles not to support it hook line and sinker – but demonstrate that the ‘middling people’ are evaluating their position. Deep in the foot notes she says she is basing it on her experience, and to take it out of context, diminishes the experiences of those it was not meant to…

    ALB, I starved as a kid (and I do not mean poor and limited resources- I mean starved). I went without food too often. It did not make me privileged- but it made me more aware of those who had abundance- Peggy in some way, can’t see those experiencing real poverty but at least privilege studies is trying to locate an answer. It is a start- next time I will email SPGB website to her organisation.

    And so privilege studies (not that it is a whole field of study- but a part whole of social studies) is being used to evaluate violence and its use. It is divided. It can be used depending on who is speaking. Using semiotic theory can counter the binaries of oppression, and by people who know real lived experiencing of oppression.

    The Peggy article shows how the notion of privilege is being talked about, but it also requires those who experience non- privilege to find voice in that debate… to be given a centred position to say what it is.

    We all know violence happens in groups and between groups. But, we should be mindful of the essentialism that goes with its study.

    The thing is, The privilege studies I was introduced to in anti-oppressive practice where we focus on our own unique experience focussed  what power we have, or not have. It makes us aware of the power relations in our day to day work.


    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.

    Thanks. When you use the term “essentialism” as an error to be avoided how exactly is it defined? Does it mean that it’s the essence of, for instance, “white” people to be privileged or racist or whatever? Anyway, it sounds as if it is something bad !

    L.B. Neill

    Essentialism is a flawed logic.

    For example- I am Irish and wear a green hat. Adam wears a green hat- so he must be Irish.

    Essentialism is profiling, and racial profiling too. Imagine if you went to court and had been charged with a crime- because your name is Adam, and people called Adam are always guilty. So Adam is guilty too.

    That is why measuring power relations and its use is crucial and according to its use- otherwise, those who do not use toxic forms of privilege get tarred with the same brush.

    If we use essentialist ideas, we make a fatal error-it assumes an entity has similar characteristics according to its classification- and then is true for all organisms who have the same characteristics- such as as an idea held by a Britain, will be the same as another Britain, according to their appearance.

    Imagine this: I go on a cruise ship, and have a holiday. The ship hits trouble and we all bail overboard. In the water, cold and freezing, a life boat appears. The life boat is filled with white hooded men who are using an inverted burning cross to guide them. They see me amid the waves, and amid people of differing cultures. They say to me, based on my skin tone: “come aboard” and do not want others who are not the same to be on their life boat. “No thanks” I would say and take my chances on the waves, with my fellow people of all kinds. I would rock their boat, spit water on their inverted and burning cross, and join the struggling waves with everyone else.

    Essentialism struggles with such an idea: because it divides people into groups, labels them according to their characteristics and treats it as a truism. If I related to essentialist truism, I would have got on the pkk life boat according to likeness. But we are not essentialist in nature, so I take to the waves with my kindred- and even that does not say we are all the same.

    So avoid using: you are white, so you oppress. But we need to be mindful too- some whites use their supremacy ideology  to oppress, such as those who actively support supremacy and apartheid. Last year in New Zealand, the Mosque shootings demonstrated such toxic action.

    Privilege as a term has broad usage and application- and  any discourse community should unpack it, and be mindful of how it is used.



    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.
    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.

    For example- I am Irish and wear a green hat. Adam wears a green hat- so he must be Irish.“

    So, the flawed argument would be:

    A is white and thinks he (or she) is entitled to be treated better than non-whites and oppresses them.

    B is white.

    Therefore, B thinks he is entitled to be treated better than non-whites and oppresses them.

    I see what you mean.

    Sounds as if some in the privilege studies department should follow a course in the philosophy department as they seem to be privileged in it not having to follow the rules of logic .😊

    L.B. Neill

    🙂 ALB, I love your remarks, My drink almost came out of my nose!



    Universities must act to eradicate discrimination against working-class students, including the mockery of regional accents,

    This reflects the experience of Fiona Hill who was a witness in the Trump impeachment.

    “I can say with confidence that this country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England. I grew up poor with a very distinctive working-class accent. In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional development.


    L.B. Neill

    Alan, thanks. This topic is often neglected in studies on power relations.

    And in light of this topic, a glass of fresh water- class snobbery is often lost in power studies of late.

    Odd thing is- I was mocked for having a non identifiable accent at Uni- I sounded Irish and foreign at the same time. A Yorkshire mother and a Dublin father.

    I posted earlier that Peggy Mc may not understand class poverty- but now I think she does… or I would assume or dare think she does not know (sorry peggy).

    I related so much to the post on working class discrimination in tertiary studies. I will hold that- and use it.

    • This reply was modified 3 months ago by L.B. Neill.
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