Just thought I’d link to this, since it’s a good representation of a reasonably lengthy series of discussions and points made over at the illustrious philosoraptor’s digs. I’ll cross-post my comment for a good summary of the point on this blog:
Regarding “white privilege”:
Advantage: a condition or circumstance that puts one in a favorable or superior position
Privilege: a special right, advantage, or immunity granted or available only to a particular person or group of people
The point is: white people have advantages, but not privileges. We do not think it is a privilege not to be discriminated against; it is a right. To say that white people are “privileged” is inaccurate; rather, the problem is that non-white people are discriminated against and therefore their rights are being violated.
One can correct a problem of privilege by removing said privilege, but one cannot correct the current problems being ascribed to “white privilege” by removing said “white privilege.” For example: asking that police harass white people because they are white will not correct the problem of police harassment towards non-white people because they are non-white. When it comes to racism in the current United States of America, the correct course of action is not to revoke a privilege, but to enforce respect for a right.
Historically, of course, white people have been a privileged class in the United States of America, but that is no longer the case. In fact, it is now explicitly forbidden that this be the case. Therefore, what we now have is a problem of infringement of non-white people’s rights, even a systematic one in many cases. We no longer have a problem that might be accurately described as “white privilege.” Now, you can argue that the effect of our current situation is similar enough to allow the terminological inaccuracy to slide, but I think philosoraptor is right on the money when he points out that the term is really a linguistic ploy devised to make white folks feel guilty about being white rather than accurately describe the situation.
And of course, a term devised to make black folks feel bad about being black would never be permitted to slide, nor should it. So we probably shouldn’t let this one slide either.
But that’s just one of the problems identified by the blog post to which I link above. I happen to think the illustrious philosoraptor is correct on all counts, so check out the post; in my experience, the author has a uniquely superior manner by which he makes clear the muddled and confused.