PRIVILEGE AND PREJUDICE

I’m a little late to the discussion but I’ve been thinking about it and I think I may have some comments to contribute.

Back in late August, Bill O’Reilly on Fox News took the position that there was not “white privilege” in America.  Charles Blow, a columnist for the N.Y. Times, took exception to that premise.  He buttressed his disagreement with some snarky personal comments about O’Reilly.  Unfortunately, that is often the leaning of liberals.

So, let’s begin by understanding what is meant by “privilege.”  Privilege means a special advantage or immunity or benefit not enjoyed by an individual or class.

The corollary to privilege I think is “bias” and “prejudice,” both of which, I believe, make the thesis easier to understand and discuss.

Is there “privilege” bias and “prejudice” in America?  ABSOLUTELY!  We’ll use the words inter-changeably because they speak to essentially the same subject.  I don’t agree with O’Reilly although he goes on to present some excellent points we’ll get to later.  I don’t wholly agree with Blow either because he wants to hide behind the victim screen, instead of concentrating on the opportunity.

I do believe there is bias in education; “Ivy League schools are better.”  Stanford and Harvard are better law schools.  Does that mean their students are smarter?  Maybe, but not guaranteed!  And you went to what school?  There’s bias against gays and transgenders; prejudice against the handicapped.

I believe there is bias against and toward Asians.  I believe there is prejudice against non-legacy applicants for schools, jobs, clubs, etc.  There is bias and prejudice in almost every facet of our society.

Don’t misunderstand.  There are varying degrees of prejudice and certainly at the top of the list is what the black community has endured.

There is no other country anywhere on this planet, however, that has worked to counter these prejudices and offers the opportunity to face your handicaps, your obstacles or the manifestations of the prejudice directed against you and still achieve success.

In a very small way, I have encountered small bits of prejudice in my life.  I am Jewish, not in a very religious way but as the progeny of an ethnic background—lost out on two jobs that I know of because of anti Semitism.  Probably just as well, I have very poor eyesight—couldn’t read anything written on a blackboard in school and couldn’t see my neighbor’s paper to cheat if I wanted to.

When I took stock, I didn’t dwell on the negatives.  I knew I couldn’t be an airplane pilot or a sports announcer or president of the U.S.  I looked at what I could do and tried to capitalize on that.

It may seem easier to sink into the “victim trap” than motivate yourself to work a little harder to move up.

O’Reilly went on in his discussion to opine more extensively.  He said, “Just 13% of Asian children live in single-parent homes compared to a whopping 55% for blacks and 21% for whites.”  That’s why Asian-Americans, who often have to overcome a language barrier, are succeeding more than African-Americans and white Americans.  Their families are intact and education is paramount.

All American children must learn, not only academics, but also civil behavior—right from wrong—as well as how to speak and how to act respectfully in public.  If African-American children do not know those things, they will likely fail as adults.  They will be poor, they will be angry, and often they will be looking for someone to blame.

One caveat:  the Asian-American experience has historically not been nearly as tough as the African-American experience.  Slavery is unique and it has harmed black Americans to a degree that is still being felt today.

In order to succeed in a competitive society, every American has to overcome the obstacles they face.  Here is where the African-American leadership in America is failing.  Instead of preaching a cultural revolution, they provide excuses for failure.  The racial hustlers blame white privilege and an unfair society—a terrible country.

So the message is, it’s not the individual’s fault if they abandon their children, if they become substance abusers…if they are criminals.  No, it’s not their fault; it’s society’s fault.  That’s the big lie that’s keeping many African-Americans from reaching their full potential.

The truth is that Asian-American households make far more money than anyone else.  The median income for Asians is close to $69,000 a year; it’s $57,000 for whites and $33,000 for blacks.

Eighty-nine percent of Asian-Americans graduate from high school, compared to 86% for whites and just 69% for blacks.  That means 31% of African-Americans have little chance to succeed in the free marketplace because they are high-school dropouts.

Until personal responsibility and a cultural change takes place, millions of African-Americans will struggle and their anger, some of it justified, will seethe and grow.

The federal government cannot fix the problem, only a powerful message of personal responsibility can turns things around.

Blow, on the other hand, dismisses the Asian record of achievement as due more to immigration policies as compared to the dehumanization and savagery of slavery encountered by immigrant blacks.  He then goes on to accuse O’Reilly of pitting one race against another.

My occasional blog partner, Gary Wechter, added an interesting perspective, when he said:

“With regard to privilege, I think there will always be those with an advantage over others.  Rich folks (white or black) are privileged over poor folks.  Attractive folks (white or black) are privileged over plan folks.  Tall folks (white or black) have an advantage over short folks.  And, yes, sometimes white folks will see some privilege over black or Asian folks, and that will never change, but it’s no longer a serious impediment to achieving success.

“Discrimination is part of life and continues to be part of business.  In my business, I always wanted my receptionist to be pretty and upbeat.  That discriminated against homely girls (and against any male applicants), but I thought it was important that the first person someone encountered when arriving at my office was attractive and upbeat.

“In the culture of my youth, we never saw a black police or fireman.  On television, I never saw a black person in a commercial.  In the movies, there was never a black leading man.  I never heard of any rich black business person.  I never saw or heard of a black doctor or dentist.  I could go on, but haven’t things changed?”

We as a society should continue to work at eliminating as much privilege, bias and prejudice.  We have made much progress, but there’s still more work to be done.

ArtSchwartzSig

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