The Instigator
Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

Is White Privilege real?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 1/6/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 1 year ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 434 times Debate No: 98743
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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Is White Privilege real?

Greetings. I welcome the chance to debate the accuracy of the term and concept of “White Privilege”. I will argue the “con” position, meaning that, for the purposes of this debate, I do not see the term as accurately tracking a tangible phenomenon. I welcome a lively debate on this issue though.

My interlocutor is welcome to use whatever format of argument he or she may want. So long as we keep the tone of the conversation within civil boundaries, anything is fair game.

Good luck!
Debate Round No. 1


My main argument is as follows:

What we mean by privilege is “license” to do or be excluded from something so that it conforms with one’s own best interests, as we define them.

The White Privilege argument is meant to apply this definition of license to “white people”, implicitly or explicitly, to the exclusion of or in opposition to, black people.

For this argument to work all of the following factors need to be in play: that “white people” and “black people” are corporate groups—tangible entities in society—and that each is accorded fairly consistent partial standards of treatment.

But I find no compelling reason to view white people in such a manner—and this critically, must exist if the privilege argument is to be maintained.

Empirical research in anthropology, ethology, and sociobiology, has largely settled on the view that larger human groups draw more permeable in-group out-group distinctions than relatively smaller groups, racial or otherwise. In fact, it is because of the perceived asymmetry in power on the part of the smaller group that tighter-knit bonds of solidarity exist within minority groups—drawn around any distinction—than with majorities.

The critique that American society is rife with White Privilege therefore reflects more on the plaintiff than the defendant. The fact that ethnic Caucasians do in fact have higher median income salaries, for example, is hardly an indictment to proving that White People have given themselves license to expropriate more wealth than “they” are owed.

For one thing, there was never a "they" in the first place. Caucasian identity had always been aggresively channeled into national identity, even until as recently as the mid to late 20th century.

While perhaps for some critics, the relevant aspect of the above mentioned example is that these people share in the phenotypic trait of lighter skin, they will have a hard time showing to any reasonable examiner that this trait—and the cultural development incidental in regards to it-- grants license in the sense above.

It's a bit like painting as anti-semitic the existence of a Christmas tree in someone's home; yes, the faith system for which it stands has persecuted the Jewish faith in the past, but this tree standing in the home of a 21st century American (i.e. in this case, the people who display Caucasian traits) can hardly be indicted as an act of hostility against Jews and an associational bond to their detriment. In both cases there is no license suggested.



"Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby white neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the white majority."

You probably doubt that this speaker was a black person trying to reinforce less permeable in-group/out-group distinctions for his people. And you would be right. These are the words of Baltimore's mayor in 1910, explaining America's first segregation law against black people. There were many more such laws passed throughout the nation in the following years -- part of a deliberate process of racial sorting that created the black ghettos.

Segregation laws accomplished two things pertinent to Con's argument: they create a legal distinction between black and white people, and establish legal boundaries designed to curtail the whereabouts, voting rights, education, and property ownership of black people.

I call special attention to the limits on education and home ownership because they are legally and institutionally enforced and have obvious consequences for the prospects of one's progeny. But in reality, segregation touched all aspects of life and had manifold effects. For instance, I doubt a businessman who moved his family to a new neighborhood to escape school integration would have signed an important deal with a black business owner. White privilege is the inheritance from that tradition.

Con's argument that Caucasian identity has been channeled into national identity is, in fact, white privilege in a nutshell. Precisely because what it means to be a 'real' American is connected to white identity. In my view, the fact that white people are given the benefit of the doubt, while people of color are somehow suspect, is the state of racism today.
Debate Round No. 2


I thank my interlocutor for providing a challenging and interesting contestation to the view above.

To summarize, I take him/her to be arguing that “white people” have received their “privilege” through the existence of segregation practices that worked to the detriment of blacks, dating back from at least the early 1900s, and whose existence continued to compound grievances and disenfranchisement of the black community into the 21st century.

The above citation of black disenfranchisement can be true, while allowing, in a reasonable interpretation, for the absence in 2017 of Caucasians possessing (a) a supra-national identity that obtains across the entire U.S. (and possibly beyond) and (b) a “license” as a group to the detriment of blacks.

My interlocutor begins with a quote about Baltimore in 1910, hoping to demonstrate that, despite the mayor being Caucasian—on my account, a majority, non-threatened ethnic group—he still acts in a way that breaks my stipulated rule: he enforces strict segregation practices on a minority group. This, I would imagine, my opponent hopes to extend into the present day, to argue that this type of racial exclusivity in a majority group continues to exist.

Social identity theory sees group formation—and destruction— as a function of individual genetic self-interest. Phenotypic (and ethnic) groupings are “alliances of opportunity” (Dawkins, the selfish-gene) founded onto a robust preconfigured hypothesis: if in want of strength or resources to overcome a perceived challenger, “enroll others who look and speak like me, because, chances are that they too will be invested in defeating this threat.”

Evolutionary theory predicts that the threshold for perceiving a threat is exceedingly low. Genetically speaking, passing over a million false positives is safer and more sustainable than passing over one false negative.

As it pertains to Baltimore in 1910, American blacks had undergone several decades of massive urbanization into cities which formerly had not played host to such a large numbers of them. One can make an argument that Caucasian identity did operate in this context, because of the human tendency to form into groups to avoid being duped by an outsider who is perceived culturally as a threat—whether such group formation is justified or not.

At this point, all this example from 1910 shows is that in those cases in which a substantial percentage of an ethnic distribution over some area shifts in favor of a plurality of less-than-amicable constituent groups, there is a likelihood that higher barriers to permeability will obtain between groups in these areas.

But my opponent is making a more tenuous claim: that these group structures can be exported to areas in which no resource competition has occurred--such as in the Mid-West during the same era. And furthermore, he may also have to add, that such structures persist in absence of a threat so that they redound to the present day.

In other words, for “whites” to exist on their own standards (the only relevant benchmark of group solidarity) they have to be motivated by a compelling threat. No such threat has ever existed to “whites” writ large. Therefore, whites are not sufficiently corporate to exercise a privilege at a national level.

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Debate Round No. 3
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Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by tumeric 1 year ago
Oops! My ran out. Sorry about that.

My argument was going to be:

1) Con's assertion that there are places with no competition would also mean that there's no supply/demand curve in those places -- in other words they don't exist.
2)The period of explicit segregation covered a unique historical moment in which the middle class was built, locking a group out of a project that can't be repeated today.
3) Whites have replaced legal separation with fiscal separation, ie tax cuts, which freeze in place the gains made during that period.
Posted by Plasmawipes 1 year ago
I think so because they are giving at birth a better life compared to minorities they have healthier bodies if you name the top diseases and viruses in the world. White people are less likely to getting disease vs black people. White people rule the world.
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