The New Racism

Some time in or about 2040, Caucasians will become a minority in North America, according to projections from the U.S. Census Bureau. This change in demographics will alter the political landscape; indeed, things are already changing. Consider the concept of "white male privilege."

What is it?

As near as I can tell, it is a claim that a white male enjoys certain privileges simply as an accident of birth. White males, the argument seems to go, cannot possibly understand the world of others, typically women or African-Americans, because they have not experienced the world in the same way. Because white males cannot understand, they must defer—equality requires it.


Welcome to the newest form of racism and sexism.

I was recently accused of white male privilege by several African-American women. They contacted me to defend attorney Josephine Miller. One wrote that I had a lot of nerve criticizing Miller for filing a request for injunctive relief against grievance authorities, basically asking to opt out of the grievance process. I wrote that Miller, who is herself a person of color, was playing the race card in a particularly silly way.

There is no doubt that race and gender matter in American politics. And I don't doubt for a moment that, in general terms, being Caucasian has its advantages. But it doesn't follow that a white male cannot call out a black woman for doing something stupid.

To suggest as much is a form of racism, and, candidly, I won't tolerate it for a moment. There is no black, or feminine, privilege against criticism.

I was radicalized on the topic of race this year while speaking at a forum on race and policing. After I made remarks, a black state senator, Gary Winfield, told the audience about legislative debates on policing. "Sometimes white folk need to just shut up and listen," he said. In other words, white folk just can't understand the black experience. Race separates and divides; black experience trumps the human experience. Race trumps in the eyes of the new racists.

I lost all respect for Winfield after hearing that, and I will never appear at a forum with him again. Indeed, I doubt I'll ever appear at another forum to discuss matters of race relations. I don't intend to shut up and listen to others tell me what they want from me. Life in common is compromise and shared perspective. Lingering in the background of so many of these discussions about race and gender are discussions of distributive justice. Talk of reparations for slavery and the legacy of Jim Crow is in the air. Ta-Nehisi Coates, a recent MacArthur fellow, wrote a piece in The Atlantic earlier this year claiming reparations to people of color are just.

Am I to pay a tax for the acts and omissions of people I never met? I am a second-generation American. The notion of a race-based tax is repugnant.

This Thanksgiving, I'll be at a family gathering, and I'll share a meal with a man who accused me of "white male privilege" when I wrote something less than supportive of Bruce/Caitlin Jenner. I've not spoken to him since. Identity politics are a cancer I refuse to regard as healthy.

I'd like to replace identity politics with integrity politics, and I think there is a view of the federal Constitution that supports such a vision. Neither my views nor yours should be discounted on account of accidents of birth. If all persons are truly equal before the law, we are free to reach beyond our sorrows.

But I suspect, in the decades to come, a new racism, a new feminism will seek to emasculate possessors of white male privilege. On the question of race, changing demographics could well change the texture of debate about justice. I get the sense that being Caucasian might just become a disability, at least in the eyes of those prepared to adopt any means to get what they want.

White male privilege is a long-winded way of saying "gimme." Forgive me if I say no, and call out the new racists and sexists in our midst.•


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