by J. Pharoah Doss, For New Pittsburgh Courier
In 1988, Peggy McIntosh, a White feminist scholar, wrote a paper called “White Privilege and Male Privilege.” Here the term “White Privilege” was coined and described as “an invisible weightless knapsack of special provisions.” McIntosh listed 46 ways she had “White privilege.” Her list ranged from serious to trivial. Having little fear of the police during a traffic stop was an example of her White Privilege, but so was talking with her mouth full and not having people think it was a habit of her race. McIntosh would eventually tell her readers not to generalize her paper, it was about her experience, not the experiences of all White people.
Unfortunately, McIntosh’s plea to keep her ideas in their proper autobiographical context was ignored. Today the mainstream usage of “White Privilege” implies White people have social advantages over other racial groups simply because they are White.
But does the mainstream usage of the term “White Privilege” correspond with reality in the 21st century?
In 2016, there was a proposal to add a new racial category for people who descend from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) on the 2020 census. The 2010 census defined White as a person having origins with any of the original people from Europe, the Middle East, or North Africa.
Why are Middle Easterners and North Africans classified as White?
According to Julian Do’s, article: MENA Leaders Say Without Census Data We’re Invisible and Disenfranchised, “Up until the mid-20th century, only Whites could own property, and only ‘free White immigrants’ could become American citizens. To survive and advance, Middle Eastern immigrants successfully petitioned the federal courts to be allowed to identify as White in 1920. North African immigrants, as members of the MENA population, got pulled along and found themselves legally classified as White as well. The discriminatory policy for citizenship and property ownership favoring Whites only ended with the passage of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952.”
During the 21st century, MENA leaders demanded their own race box on the census form, because the census form is used for policy purposes such as: Enforcing the voting rights act, drawing political districts, establishing federal affirmative action plans, evaluating claims of employment discrimination, monitoring discrimination in housing, enforcing school desegregation policies, and helping minority-owned small businesses get grants and federal loans.
MENA leaders complained their request for a new racial category was turned down by the Census Bureau because the MENA population artificially increased the White population, which has been in decline.
It’s not hard to read between these lines.
In the past, the MENA population went along with being classified as White because it was in their best interest, but, now, the privileges of the White majority are substandard compared to the benefits of being classified as a minority.
What does that say about the reality of “White Privilege?”
Last month, a survey by the website Intelligent.com revealed more than a third of White students lied about their race on college applications. The number one reason why these White students faked “minority status” was to improve their chances of getting accepted. The second reason why these students denied being White was to benefit from minority-focused financial aid.
Half of the respondents who faked “minority status” claimed to be Native American. 13 percent claimed to be Latino, 10 percent claimed to be Black, and 9 percent claimed to be Asian or Pacific Islander.
Seventy-seven percent of students who faked “minority status” or denied being White were accepted to their desired college. Intelligent.com explained, “While other factors may have played a role in their acceptance, the majority of applicants who lied and were accepted believed that falsifying their racial status helped them secure admission to college.”
Now, White denial to benefit from minority status is a part of these students’ lived experience.
What does that lived experience say about the reality of “White Privilege” in the 21st century?