The concept of “white privilege” has become a staple of left-wing think, especially on college campuses. But is it a meaningful way to talk about race? Only, I would argue, in a limited sense that those who bandy the term about probably don’t have in mind.
Whites as a class aren’t “privileged” economically. Nearly all white children had better obtain knowledge and skills, and then be prepared to work hard at least five days a week (and, of course, eschew criminal and other self-destructive behavior), if they want to make a good living. Nearly all black children who follow this path will also make a good living.
But white children have a significant advantage when it comes to obtaining knowledge and skills. The most important element of the advantage is documented in a study by Leila Morsy and Richard Rothstein of the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. The Washington Post reports:
Morsy and Rothstein examined new research that details racial and class differences in child-rearing styles among parents, suggesting that parenting styles account for some of the differences in school readiness between black children from low-income families and white children from more affluent homes.
White adults spend 36 percent more time than black adults reading to young children, and three times more time talking with and listening to them, according to research Morsy and Rothstein cite. White parents not only read more to their children, they offer more guidance and are more strategic about helping children build their literacy skills.
By age 6, white children typically have spent 1,300 more hours engaged in conversations with adults than black children have. White parents also tend to offer their children more choices in daily life, helping them to think through decisions and consequences, which are important skills that prepare them for critical thinking, according to the research.
Morsy and Rothstein also identify “single parenthood” as a major cause of learning disadvantage. Parenting “style” is, of course, driven to a significant degree by whether the parenthood is single or double.
If white “privilege” exists, here is its location. Is attentive parenting a privilege, though?
For much of my life, I considered it the norm, not anything special. But maybe I was — or in our contemporary society have become — wrong about that.
Note, however, that attentive parenting is a “privilege” virtually any parent can bestow on his or her child. Ammo Grrrll made this point far more effectively than I can.
Morsy and Rothstein propose that the parenting gap be addressed through “quality preschool.” They probably assume that to propose that parents who aren’t doing so start talking, listening, and reading to their kids would make them look foolish.
Yet these practices, not preschool, are the key to spreading “white privilege” around.
JOHN adds: How about “Asian privilege”? Asian-Americans earn significantly more money than whites, on the average. Is this because they are privileged in some way? Obviously not. On the contrary, the spectacular success of Asian-Americans is due mostly to the same effective parenting that Paul described with respect to whites–only more so. This has everything to do with solid values and hard work, and nothing to do with “privilege.”
UPDATE: An egalitarian alternative to spreading “white privilege” through quality parenting around would be to spread bad parenting. Another would be to abolish parenting altogether.
As Ammo Grrrll observed in the post I referenced above, one moronic professor has admonished parents to who read to their kids that they should be thinking about how they’re “unfairly disadvantaging other people’s children” by doing so. He has even flirted with the idea of abolishing the family so that “privilege” cannot be passed along.
Fortunately, the prof stepped back from that abyss. He will be content if good parents feel sufficiently guilty about their practices.