White privilege has become a very divisive issue in America.
Essentially, it’s the notion that white people are in a privileged position in this country, based on nothing else than the skin color they were born with. This concept is commonplace on college campuses, and unfortunately, it is not challenged as much as an idea of such importance should be.
White privilege can mean many different things. It can refer to educational advantages, housing advantages, and advantages in the legal system, all the way down to simpler offenses, routinely referred to as “micro-aggressions.” Rather than examine the data for every single socioeconomic disparity in American life, in order to prevent this article from becoming a multi-volume anthology, I will instead focus on what many consider to be the most important indicator: income. Income, after all, can potentially change where your children go to school, if they can go to college, where you live, the quality of lawyer you can hire to defend yourself in court, and so forth.
When it comes to ‘income privilege,’ whites are not on top in America. In 2010, the median household income in America was $49,800, according to Pew Research Center, and at $49,445 according to Census reporting. That may sound low, and it is, mostly because underemployment was higher back then. However, even in the midst of a recovering economy, Pew found that Indian-Americans had a median household income of $88,000. Filipino-Americans were at $75,000, Japanese $65,390, and Chinese $65,050. Non-Hispanic whites had a median household income of $54,620 according to the 2010 Census reporting linked above. The Census also found similar high levels of income among Asian-American households, backing up the finding of the Pew Research Center.
Moreover, according to a study done on the 2000 Census by the Iranian Studies Group at MIT, Iranian, or Persian-Americans had a per-capita average income that was 50% higher than the national average. Add to this, the fact that Arab-Americans had a 2008 median household income of $56,331, higher than the national average for that year. This according to the Arab American Institute Foundation. Finally, if you wish to consider Jewish-Americans their own minority, as many do, 46% of Jewish-American households have incomes over $100,000! In fact, in 2013, 69% of Jewish-American households had incomes exceeding $50,000, compared to 44% of the US population at large.
So what does this all mean? Well, for starters, whites, or European-Americans specifically speaking, are not the only ones with privilege. In fact, on average, they don’t even have the most income privilege. Similar data is available for things like test scores and arrest rates for the groups mentioned above. I encourage you to look it up. If American society really did treat non-whites poorly, based on nothing else than their race, how could these groups have found their success? I’ve presented this question to proponents of white privilege before. One response was ‘Asians are lighter skinned minorities generally speaking, so the institutional racism does not affect them.’ Although, as noted above, Indian Americans, who are dark skinned themselves, do better than any sub-category of Asian-Americans. Clearly something more than skin-tone profiling is at play here. But then again, facing reality isn’t something that race-hustlers like doing.
If people want to argue that contemporary institutional racism, or the residual effects of past wrongs committed against ethnic groups with lower incomes (namely blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans) is still a real and pressing issue preventing their advancement, they are cleared to make that point. But simplifying the issue down to skin color, and singling out white students on college campuses as being uniquely privileged, is not something they should do. It makes things out to be simpler than they are, and ultimately, will probably lead to higher levels of racial resentment between groups.