Check It Out: White privilege and the Black shield

by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier

In 2016 Ebony Magazine published an article that mentioned “Black privilege.” “Black privilege” has no official definition, but “White privilege” is defined as: Inherent advantages possessed by a White person on the basis of their race in a society characterized by racial inequality. The article was called: Five bad habits “woke” people need to break.

Number two was: Forgetting to check our privilege.

First the Ebony writer clarified, “We all know there’s no such thing as “Black privilege,” meaning there are no inherent advantages possessed by a Black person on the basis of their race in American society. This notion is similar to the doctrine that Black people can’t be racist because they don’t have the power to be racist.

Holders of this doctrine define racism as prejudice plus power. By transferring this definition to “White privilege,” what’s meant by the term becomes obvious, the adjective “White” means prejudice and privilege means power. Of course, in this framework, there is no such thing as “Black privilege,” because the adjective “Black” automatically means underprivileged or powerlessness.

The problem with this framework is equating privilege with negative aspects of power.

Privilege simply means a special right granted a person or particular group, which the Ebony writer acknowledged “woke” Black people possess, but need to check because these “privileges” are bestowed on them by the White dominant culture. The Ebony writer wrote, “There are types of privileges afforded to Black people who are male, cisgender, not poor, straight, light skin, thin, and able-bodied, among others. Blackness interacts with, but does not cancel out, those privileges.”

Last month, University of Central Florida Professor Charles Negy, author of White Shaming: Bullying Based on Prejudice, Virtue-Signaling, and Ignorance, made a series of tweets that questioned the reality of systemic racism and said “Black privilege” existed.

Negy tweeted: Black privilege is real, besides affirmative action, special scholarships, and other set asides. Being shielded from legitimate criticism is a privilege. But as a group, they’re missing out on much needed feedback.”

Of course, Negy’s entire premise is debatable, but there was no rebuttal.

Instead, students immediately organized a protest on campus and demanded for the university to fire the professor for his controversial comments. Protesters held signs that read: If UCF keeps racist teacher, then UCF=Racist, UCF fire Negy, he is leaving a negative impact on your institution, and don’t let racist teach. One graduate student said, “It’s a matter of systemic racism … You can speak your opinions, but not when it’s hindering us in the classroom. I don’t think our university should tolerate racism at the classroom level, making students uncomfortable.”

So, the professor should be fired for the comfort of the students? Negy said being shielded from criticism is a privilege, but so is being shielded from what makes one uncomfortable. In his own defense, Negy stated he was not a racist, but there was no way he could be brutally honest about each racial/cultural group without offending someone.

The university officials said, “Being actively anti-racist means calling out and confronting racist comments. We are aware of Charles Negy’s recent personal Twitter posts, which are completely counter to UCF’s values. We are reviewing this matter, while mindful of the first amendment.”

If Professor Negy gets fired, he should tweet: UCF’s anti-racist values = The Black shield.


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