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What is ‘white privilege’?

By ALEXANDER DOLITSKY

This is the second part of the series by Alexander Dolitsky of Juneau.

This is a response to recent comments on my column, “White Privilege in America” (see below) by those whom I consider friends and good neighbors.

I understand and appreciate the authors’ emotional and factual narrative. In this, I want to clarify my position on “white privilege” vs. those addressed in prior articles.

In regard to “disparities” in criminal justice, specifically in incarceration rates relative to proportional representation in the general population, proportional representation in the general population is not the relevant metric. Proportional representation in the population of people conducting criminal behavior is the important metric for comparison. I don’t know those data, but I sure know that this comparison to the general population is nonsense, yet we see it all the time for all sorts of “racial discrimination” statistics.

The rest of the narrative in both articles is just about injustices done to other people than whites. And then the conclusion is that, therefore, in comparison white people have been “privileged.” 

So, what really is the point? That life is unfair; that injustices have occurred; and that by extension, white people must now fess up to their privilege and be ashamed of themselves (like most of these authors) or even be made to pay for their supposed sins of the past? 

The whole premise is that race, especially by skin color alone (“white”), is of paramount importance in categorizing and understanding people, and that by recognizing somebody as “white,” tells much about the relative advantages they have had in their lives.  But that is such an over-simplistic, purely racial view of human society. 

The truth is that the relative advantages and disadvantages that have been experienced by individual white people vary across an enormous spectrum within human culture, and assuming that the color of one’s skin alone is enough to indicate anything about where any one person might fall on such as spectrum is pure nonsense. 

Categorizing people by race and prejudging them by race is racial prejudice. Why don’t we make a concerted effort to stop racial prejudice rather than redirecting it?  

In my opinion, discrimination may take different shapes, forms, conditions, behavior, race, religion, ethnicity, etc. For example, Jews, (another invisible minority) are judged as “privileged “ only by white skin color.

In fact, antisemitism is racism as much as assumptions about “white privilege.“ Frequent discrimination of immigrants, disabled people, LGBT community, etc. is based on either their sexual preferences, physical limitations or social status, and, yet, they are in a category of “privileged” because of their skin color—white. 

Historically, Jews have been discriminated for over 2000 years, and often times based on their physical characteristics, appearance, religion, behavior, and funny talk. The dilemma I have is this: How long we should keep referencing our past?

For example, my grandfather Roman Umansky, was killed by German Nazis in 1941 in Kiev, Ukraine. He was captured and brutally killed. I never met my grandfather Roman. But I don’t expect young generation in today’s Germany to apologize to me for the atrocities committed to my former country, Soviet Union, and for killing my grandfather. I will not forget, but I forgive them.

In short, in my prior article entitled “White Privilege in Today’s America,” I shared my experience as an immigrant in our country, and I refuse to be categorized under umbrella of “white privilege.” I am just American.

My point is simply that any categorization and prejudging anyone on the basis of their skin color alone is by definition racial prejudice. Isn’t it?  Prejudging someone on the basis of their race. What part of that is so complicated to understand?

Certainly, racial prejudice and discrimination is wrong in any case and shape. Labeling all “whites” as a racial category that has been “privileged” is prejudging all individuals in that category on the basis of their race alone. To call that a “fact” rather than “racial prejudice” is either extremely hypocritical (that racial prejudice is OK if targeted against your chosen target group) or is ignoring the concept as defined by the English language. 

I think my immigrant story, probably similar to many other immigrants in the United States, is important because it illustrates the ideals expressed in the U.S. Constitution, especially in relation to equality for all without regard to race, ethnicity or origin; that I have fully accepted those ideals; but that now I find a significant segment of American society overtly acting directly against them by blatantly espousing racism (so-called “white privilege”). Even politicians seem to feel free to do that in public forums.

To me, this seems inappropriate. There should be no tolerance for racism at all. We should celebrate hard work and the American ideals versus racist concepts and accusations masquerading as kindness and understanding of supposed injustices that are also often used to advance a political agenda. Period.

Alexander Dolitsky is an author, anthropologist and historian who lives in Juneau. Born and raised in Kiev in the former Soviet Union, he received an M.A. in history from Kiev Pedagogical Institute, Ukraine, in 1977; an M.A. in anthropology and archaeology from Brown University in 1983; and attended the Ph.D. program in Anthropology at Bryn Mawr College from 1983 to 1985, where he was also a lecturer in the Russian Center. In the U.S.S.R., he was a social studies teacher for three years, and an archaeologist for five years for the Ukranian Academy of Sciences. In 1978, he settled in the United States. Dolitsky visited Alaska for the first time in 1981, while conducting field research for graduate school at Brown. He lived first in Sitka in 1985 and then settled in Juneau in 1986. From 1985 to 1987, he was a U.S. Forest Service archaeologist and social scientist. He was an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Russian Studies at the University of Alaska Southeast from 1985 to 1999; Social Studies Instructor at the Alyeska Central School, Alaska Department of Education from 1988 to 2006; and has been the Director of the Alaska-Siberia Research Center (see www.aksrc.homestead.com) from 1990 to present. 

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  • Mr. Dolitsky, so well said and so true!

  • “Why don’t we make a concerted effort to stop racial prejudice rather than redirecting it?” Because it serves a greater cause (The Revolution) and it beats work if you can get it.

    • You lost me here. What revolution? Revolution is a forcible overthrow of a government or social order, in favor of a new system. The doctrine of “white privilege” is a racial slur used by so-called progressive activists before election in November, in order to advance their political agenda.

      • The “so-called progressive activists” REFER TO THEMSELVES as “Marxist”. That kinda gives you a hint of their “political agenda”, don’t ya think? Being from Ukraine you probably know a little bit about Marxist-Stalinist tactics.

        • Exactly, I do know a great deal about Marxist-Leninist ideology.

  • Bummer about your gramps.

    If you’d like statistical data to contrast your opinions against know that the US Government has kept this and more. A synopsis is available by googling “the color of crime”.

    • Thank you for your convoluted advice. If you object my opinion on this matter, then write your own.

      • My response is not convoluted and it is not advice. I read your piece, found it interesting that an immigrant might feel defensive over an artificial concept and I understood what you meant.

        I also believe that such concepts exist in some people’s heads but far less so in practice. You can be polka dotted and rewarded for your efforts if you apply yourself in American culture. In every distribution there are statistical derivatives and it would appear to some that white people are rewarded to a greater degree than some others. It’s statistically likely that they work harder for that reward as well. An example of that is your CV indicates you’ve invested in yourself and may not be averse to hard work. Had you invested in yourself to a lesser degree you would have been rewarded to a lesser degree. Would that have been based on your skin color as well?

        Certainly not.

        I don’t find your opinion objectionable and I appreciate having had the opportunity to consider it. The ability to ponder another’s perspective without either accepting or rejecting it is a sign of an intelligent mind. You’ll find several amongst this readership.

        • Exactly, I do know a great deal about Marxist-Leninist ideology.

        • Sorry, I misunderstood your comment.

  • You’ve had Kulak privilege Comrade.

    .

    You will pay reparations by surrendering all of your ill-gotten food.

    • For those who do not speak Russian language, ‘kulak’ means a ‘fist’ in English. This comment does not make any sense; just a pure rubbish.

  • Well said Mr. Dolitsky. Thank you for bringing a voice of reason and common sense to this topic.

  • White privilege is a racial slur, just as powerful and ugly as all the other racial slurs in common use these days. The only reason it is acceptable is because it is aimed at (mainly) whites. Cheers –

  • A well written treatise on the absolute counter productive activity of pitting one color person against all the rest. The first thing created is division, then you have a host of other emotions that lead to tension and distrust in the population. It is less a social justice movement than an opportunity to incite violence and social unrest in an attempt to usurp control from the majority.

  • To this author: THANK YOU! Absolutely clear and to the point. I am with this thinking!!

    • Thank you. We all matter!!

  • One is reminded of Ben Shapiro’s words: “(White privilege) is a b******t term that means ‘shut up’ because you’re not a member of a privileged minority group. It’s reverse racism of the highest order.”
    .
    Maybe certain Alaskans should be accused of Indian privilege because they get free medical service from the $624,220,968 Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.
    .
    If statistical disparities are proof of “privilege”, maybe Asians should be accused of Asian privilege because, according to the Census Bureau, they have the highest household income in America.
    .
    What sort of affirmative-action “privilege” qualifies president and Mrs. Obama’s children as a minority for preferential university admission because of their race while white children are denied the same consideration because they’re white?
    .
    In “White Privilege – Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh (1988), white privilege is defined as “societal privileges that benefit white people in western countries beyond what is commonly experienced by the non-white people under the same social, political, or economic circumstances.”, a lofty idea with which white people in Appalachia, for example, might disagree.
    .
    In the real world, the vast majority of white people in America, seem to struggle for economic and social success just as much as people of color, so much so that one begins to wonder whether “white privilege” is simply a social construct meant to divert attention from the real “privilege” in academia, public sector labor unions and politics.

  • I think it’s dumb. I noticed you get respect with being a decent Person and doesn’t matter what your color is. And I’m a half breed indigenous/ Anglo Saxon English. With common good sense. And I am respectful to anyone who is respectful to me. Even if they are not I don’t let it bother me because I know who I am and I’m
    Proud to be me. So this B.S. of “white peoples have it better off” is peanuts to me. Everyone had worth. Only you can take that away from yourself no one else can. And I’ve lived in the south and north and everyone I meet is nice because I’m nice back.

    • As a light skinned native, I was attempted to be discriminated against by a lady in Koliganek. She wanted only natives to work at the school subbing. I told her I was an American native, but that went right over her 65 IQ head since she only saw color.

      • But you’re not native. You are mixed race. A genetically 100% native would not be “light-skinned.” You are obviously mixed-race; which is perfectly fine just like all racial identities are perfectly fine.

        However, you choose to identify as “American native” rather the white portion of your race. Similarly, Barack Obama identifies as black even though he is 50% white. Why does he choose the black rather than white identity?

        As long as it pays to be a victim in the USA we will have people claiming to be victims. Identity politics is the order of the day because it pays. MLK wanted each of us to be measured by the content of our character rather than our appearance or skin color. His was an honorable aspiration.

        • There are no 100 percent native blood folks anymore. Even Bryce Edgmon with his 1/64 decree claims native blood. At least I am 1/4.

  • Mr. Dolitsky, You are my new hero; I am so impressed by your opinions. Thank you , sir, you have my deepest respect. We have many people who operate only with an emotional reaction and not with logic and reason. To me, all I have to do is look around. I’m old enough to remember some real racism and the civil rights movement. It saddens my heart that all of our progress as a society has had such a serious setback. The BLM cannot point to anything that is better because of their group–only destruction and division. White privilege is definitely a myth.

    • Thank you for your kind words! Be safe, healthy and happy!

  • As long as it pays to be a victim in America we will have more and more people claiming victim status. Claiming to be a victim of discrimination or prejudice, regardless of whatever type, is the easiest route to victim status. Once victim status is achieved, the so-called victim is then entitled to special privilege. This the game of identity politics that has now pervaded America. It has no end.

    • Yes, I absolutely agree with your point.

      In my opinion, the privilege many hard-working people have enjoyed in our country is because they applied themselves diligently. Today in America, opportunity is available to nearly everyone. Maybe not so true decades ago but certainly true in the U.S. today. But not according to some people who either want hand-outs for free or to provide hand-outs for free. None of them capable of understanding that personal success and accomplishments are much more rewarding than charity.

    • Not true. You’re only a victim of you let yourself become one. I moved on to a better life. The bullies are still living their miserable existence the way they always did. The 13 years we lived in the bush were memorable, but I’m glad we moved on. When those in power strive to take away your first amendment rights, it’s time to leave.

  • “White Privilege” Is a coined phrase. It means NOTHING. It’s just something that got blurted out and picked up. These things happen. 😊 I remember when the press started all their conversations with the work “Look “. They are still doing it.

  • Mr. Dolitsky, Outstanding article and concisely spoken. Re fairness: God had his choice, He could either make the world round or make it fair. He chose round.

  • White privilege doesn’t mean your life isn’t hard, and it doesn’t mean that you can’t be unprivileged in other ways (Jewish, poor, disabled, etc.). ALL is means is that being white is not one of the things making your life harder as an American. People do not need to apologize or feel guilty for being white, but they need to acknowledge the advantages they have and recognize in what ways it has made their life easier, and how it is more difficult for POC. That’s really all it is. It’s not something to be afraid of.

    • Advantages? I was born as a white Jewish boy in the socialist country. And this will never change. What are my advantages–white color of my skin?

      The privilege many hard-working people have enjoyed in our country is because they applied themselves diligently regardless of their color, ethnicity or race. Today in America, opportunity is available to nearly everyone. Maybe not so true decades ago but certainly true in the U.S. today. But not according to some people who either want hand-outs for free or to provide hand-outs for free. None of them capable of understanding that personal success and accomplishments are much more rewarding than charity.

      There is no advantages of one color of skin over another in today’s America. It is a myth of the past that is used today by radical activists in order to advance their political agenda.

    • In a society where significant effort is rewarded in kind color is neither a limiting nor a determining factor in whether someone is inclined to invest in themself.

      Were that the case you should have Asians apologize for something too, eh Ma?

      Here’s a better plan: Read Aesop’s story of the ants and the grasshopper and then ask yourself if grasshopper’s problems really stem from being green.

      The answer is ‘of course not’. The grasshopper’s problems stem from being a low self investment individual. His modern variant gets up with a wake and bake, listens to tunes, wastes time with friends that are also wasting time, and then rests up so he can do it again. Any reasonable person wouldn’t stoop to apologizing for having gone to greater effort than had the grasshopper.

      There is virtue in hard work and planning. Instead of blaming others for being better, consider doing something important with your life.

  • 1. Categorizing people by race is racism, and prejudging them by race is prejudice.
    2. Disparities in the criminal justice system are only a subset of advantages white people experience when looking at national statistics.
    3. The fact that more people of color are committing crimes, so the percentage is higher is correct, yet sad – it highlights the fact that people of color are in situations where it is easier to make money breaking the law than following it.
    4. Just like BLM, white privilege doesn’t mean that other races don’t experience poverty, injustice, or even racism…..what it means is that if you have white skin, you don’t have to experience a whole list of injustices that people of color DO.

  • The advantages you experience as a white, jewish man include but are not limited to:

    1. Not being pulled over for no reason.
    2. Not being followed in a store – assumed to be a thief for no reason.
    3. Not getting job interviews because your name sounds black.
    4. Not getting approved for a loan because the banker is racist.
    5. Not having people change sides of the street when they are walking toward you.

    • Facts about “white privilege” doctrine

      When it comes to income, whites are also lagging behind some other ethnic groups. In 2016, white Americans had a median household income of $67,865, lower than Indonesian Americans ($71,616), Pakistani Americans ($72,389), Malaysian Americans ($72,443), Sri Lankan Americans ($73,856), Filipino Americans ($84,620), Taiwanese Americans ($90,1221) and Indian Americans ($110,026).

      Black Lives Matter activists point to the recent spate of shootings of unarmed black men as evidence of “white privilege”, such as the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (although the shooter was a dual heritage Hispanic man). But according to the African-American Harvard Economist Roland Fryer, blacks and Hispanics are no more likely to be shot by police officers than whites (although they are more likely to experience the non-lethal use of force, even taking contextual factors into account). In fact, the odds of an unarmed black man being shot dead by a police officer are about the same as being struck by lightning.

      The idea that whites as a race participated in the slave trade or benefitted from slavery is ridiculous. In 1860, less than five per cent of whites in the American South owned slaves and, according to the black historian John Hope Franklin, three-quarters of white Southerners had no economic interest in the maintenance of slavery.

      Between the 16th Century and the middle of the 18th Century, over a million Europeans were bought and sold in the slave markets of the Barbary Coast of North Africa, encompassing Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. According to the African-American economist Thomas Sowell: “More whites were brought as slaves to North Africa than blacks brought as slaves to the United States or the 13 colonies from which it was formed.”

      According to a Pew survey in 2017, 79.2 per cent of white liberals agree that “racial discrimination is the main reason why black people can’t get ahead these days,” with only 18.8 per cent agreeing that “blacks who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition.” Among black Democrats, by contrast, 59.9 per cent agree with the first statement, compared to 32 per cent who agreed with the second.

      • These facts are excerpts from Toby Young’s article entitled “The doctrine of ‘white privilege’ is undermined by facts” published in the journal The Critic in 2019.

  • Thank you Mr. Dolitsky, for your valuable opinion piece on “white privilege.” For years I’ve considered this democrat obsession of separating people by skin color a form of racism, under the pretext of “caring.”

    Years ago I had the privilege of sitting under your tutelage in an Archeology class in Juneau at the University SE! You took Wally’s place for half a semester.

    • Yes, I remember you, Rose. You were a good student. “Separating people by skin color a form of racism, under the pretext of ‘caring'” Exactly right!!!

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