The Perils of Addressing Privilege

Gavin McInnes at Taki’s Magazine has received quite a bit of flak for his article, “Tackling Asian Privilege.” Unsurprisingly, many of the article’s detractors pegged McInnes as a racist, lambasting him for mentioning a non-white racial group using politically-incorrect terms—concerns that could be assuaged simply by, oh… reading the article, perhaps? Other critics simply failed to sense the satire of piece, with which, in writing an almost-painful (but prudent) follow-up article, McInnes proceeded to beat over their heads.

Most of us are familiar with privilege, not because we have seen or experienced it firsthand, but because the Left endlessly assures us of its existence. The term “white privilege,” per its use in the modern leftist’s lexicon, has been rendered redundant: It is generally assumed by the Left that only white people can impose or benefit from institutional racial privileges.

Of course, using the term “privilege” in this way precludes any sort of intellectually sound discussion. McInnes’ article chips away at this assumption, but more importantly, it ponders the very notion of privilege itself. As the article explains, there are a number of fronts on which the Asian-American demographic has better social standing than other American racial minority groups:

Nobody clutches their purse to their side when an Asian walks into the elevator. If an Asian applies for a job at a bank or on the police force, he or she is welcomed with open arms. When an Asian commits a crime, people are shocked. When an Asian is appointed to the head of the Department of Energy, everyone knowingly nods their head. Asian privilege pervades every part of our day-to-day life and it’s time they joined the conversation about race.

Though they comprise less than 4.8% of the American population, they make up 8.3% of all doctors. Only 2.3% of doctors are African American, yet they’re 13% of the population. Thirty percent of African American men will go to jail, but only 1.6% of prisoners are Asian. Nobody sees the problem with that?

McGill University is one of the most elite schools in North America, and to walk through their campus is to be transported into a pastoral Chinatown. This is true of all Ivy League schools. Asian Americans have the highest education level of any racial demographic and they’re also the wealthiest. While African American households earned an average of $30,939 in 2005, Asian Americans walked away with twice that.

The narrative which the left has been perpetuating for the last fifty years—that whites are invariably the beneficiaries of institutional privilege, and that racial minorities are incapable of the same—fit well enough to a society where white people really were the dominant socioeconomic group. As certain racial minorities begin to prosper, however, and even prosper at faster rates than whites, that narrative begins to break down. Asian-American households now make, on average, $10,000 more than white households. Relative to their percentage of the total population, Asian-Americans are over-represented among doctors, while whites are under-represented. A greater proportion of whites are in prison than Asian-Americans. Incidentally, Asian-Americans have done quite well for themselves.

Incidental success has traditionally been the sole piece of evidence to support the existence of racial privileges, and when only whites were successful, this thinking fit the leftist paradigm well. However, the success of a racial minority presents the Left with a dilemma: Either they must concede that other factors besides privilege contribute to the success of certain groups, or they must admit to having employed a double standard in whom they designate as privileged.

This is not to say that privilege does not exist—on the contrary, society is rife with it. However, McInnes is right to question the common notions of privilege which permeate our political discourse, and which frame the discussion as one solely based on racial antipathy.

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