It is fashionable these days to categorically denounce the concept of privilege. The #checkyourprivilege movement has been gaining traction over the past several years and has become the popular explanation of cultural Marxists and social justice warriors for why straight white men have it so easy in comparison to minorities. As a straight white Christian man, it might make sense to explain the fact that blacks and mestizos are arrested at higher rates than whites in light of the fact that these groups are more prone to committing crime. Likewise, it might seem reasonable to me to witness the unhealthy and antisocial behaviors rampant among homosexuals and transsexuals and infer that there must be something intrinsically wrong with these behaviors. But according to social justice warriors, this is but one example of my privilege blinding me to the harsh realities that are faced by non-Christians, homosexuals, non-whites, and women.
The general premise of opposition to privilege by social justice warriors is that virtually all negative experiences of non-whites, non-Christians, homosexuals, or women can be reduced to their lack of privilege. The Free Dictionary defines “privilege” as “a special advantage, immunity, permission, right, or benefit granted to or enjoyed by an individual, class, or caste.” The argument is that straight white Christians are afforded special advantages that allow us to subsist without having to resort to a life of crime, as well as immunity from arrest and prosecution when we do commit crime. The same argument is used in regards to non-Christians and homosexuals and virtually every other minority group under the sun. Muslim terrorists who target innocent civilians are just acting out of a lack of privilege and opportunity. Likewise, anti-social and unhealthy trends among homosexuals are simply a manifestation of their lack of privilege.
The social justice warrior manages to find the lack of tolerance or acceptance, subconscious discrimination, “glass ceilings,” and “microaggressions” everywhere he looks. In this “check your privilege” paradigm, the answers to society’s problems are simple. We need affirmative action that favors minority groups at the expense of heterosexual able-bodied white men, dispensing with outdated standards of quality and excellence. We need a greater visibility of non-whites, women, homosexuals, disabled persons, and so on in places of prominence. We need to celebrate the real or imagined achievements of the “under-privileged” at every possible opportunity. Finally we need to protect the “under-privileged” from all forms of discrimination against them, and this means that free association must be abolished in favor of integration, just as equality has replaced quality in terms of hiring and promotions.
Most mainstream conservatives try to oppose the leftist narrative by challenging the perception that straight white able-bodied men are as privileged as they are made out to be, although this opposition from movement conservatives to the “check your privilege” movement has certainly lost gusto in recent years. This isn’t necessarily a bad argument, though it fails to get to the heart of the issue. Many correctly point out that white privilege is often exaggerated by the left. The comments made by Bernie Sanders to the effect that white people don’t know what it is like to be poor in a recent Democratic debate serve as a good example.1 The truth is that white privilege is largely a leftist trope with little basis in reality. Leftists frequently cite cases of “white privilege” as though this implies that whites have an unjust advantage, while ignoring similar racial disparities that favor non-white racial or ethnic groups. The Left essentially attributes everything wrong with the non-white world to white privilege and colonialism.
One example is leftists’ fixation on the fact that whites fare better economically than blacks or hispanics. What is conveniently ignored is that many Asians and Jews are typically wealthier than whites, and yet we never see the “check your privilege” crowd excoriating “Asian privilege” or “Jewish privilege.” Likewise, a good deal of what is considered to be white privilege simply correlates with intact families. The very liberal Brookings Institute found that simply graduating high school, having a full-time job, and avoiding children before marrying around age 21 dramatically reduces poverty. Whites are more likely than blacks or hispanics to be raised in traditional two-parent families, and this accounts for much of the differences between the standard of living of whites and non-whites. This is obviously not an unjust privilege, but the natural consequences of healthy family life. Leftists also conveniently ignore that whites are often openly discriminated against in the form of affirmative action for diversities…I mean minorities. White privilege is largely a leftist excuse for non-white underachievement and the natural consequences of bad behavior.
The Left uses the concept of privilege to argue that the underachievement of non-whites and non-Christians is due to their “underprivileged” status which hinders them from achieving their full potential. Underlying this commitment is the belief that equal opportunities will yield equal results. If experience teaches us that all do not perform equally even under similar circumstances, this is interpreted as systemic favoritism benefiting the overachievers. The Left has been in ascendancy for the past several decades, and has succeeded in instituting many social programs aimed at advancing non-whites and non-Christians in Western society. The strategy adopted by the mainstream Right has been to advocate for the idea of equal opportunity without guaranteeing equality of results. Occasionally the mainstream Right will even deconstruct leftist rhetoric about white privilege and reject leftist attempts to manufacture equality by means of affirmative action or government hiring and spending initiatives as “reverse racism,” although even this strategy has diminished in recent years until the Trump campaign brought the issue back into the limelight, much to the chagrin of cuckservatives.
The mainstream establishment Right has been mostly ineffective in resisting the Left, and this is mostly due to the fact that Conservatism, Inc. has accepted the leftist belief in equality as well as the leftist rejection of privilege as a just social concept. Establishment conservatives have generally supported the concept of “equal opportunity” without the government as a guarantor of equal results. The Left is quick to pounce on this inconsistency. If everyone is truly equal, then equal results would naturally result from equal opportunities being made available to all. But it is painfully obvious that equal results are false when we compare the general success of whites to non-whites. The Left can easily explain this as the result of white privilege, but the Right has no good explanation, as those in the mainstream cannot bring themselves to oppose the principle of equality. The Left continues to win major battles because the Left has succeeded in having its foundational plank of equality accepted by all mainstream politicians and thinkers. It is my belief that the only path to victory for the Right is to challenge the Leftist concept of equality, and to defend the traditional concept of social hierarchy.
The principle of equality emerged from the French Revolution in the late eighteenth century, and conservatives such as Edmund Burke were wise and courageous enough to oppose equality and offer a robust defense of privilege. Christendom did not reject privilege or embrace false egalitarian ideas, but instead sought to place men of privilege who had used their gifts well into positions of power and influence in society. Historically, privilege was an important concept within Christendom, and privileges were carefully distinguished from rights. Rights were defined by the responsibilities established by the Second Table of the Ten Commandments, which establish our duties towards our fellow men. Just as we have a responsibility not to kill or steal, we also have a right to life and property which cannot be taken away by any authority without a just cause. These rights are truly universal in that they apply to everyone no matter what differences there might be in a person’s external circumstances. By contrast, privileges vary between the social classes and the sexes, as well as among races and families and by individual circumstances. This is an undeniable fact of nature.
We are all different, and there is no question that someone born into a traditional, two-parent family that is financially secure and lives in a safe neighborhood is better off than someone raised by a single mom in Section 8 housing. Moreover people differ in their talents and abilities, and people with greater aptitudes will naturally be presented with more opportunities as well as the means of taking advantages of the opportunities that they encounter. An example of natural privilege is how physically attractive people tend to be more successful than people of average or below-average attractiveness. People are typically drawn to those who are physically attractive, and this translates to the good-looking enjoying many tangible benefits of their physical beauty. There is simply no avoiding the reality of differences among people and the concrete ways in which this translates into different opportunities and outcomes. In a very real sense privilege is not unearned, but rather the inherited benefits earned for good behavior from a collective group of people.
Jesus assumes that people are not equal in his parable of the talents (Matt. 25:14-30; cf. Luke 19:12-27), in which servants are given different amounts of talents to put to use for the benefit of their master and are judged by how well they did by what they are given. Aquinas also argues that inequality demonstrates the glory of God in nature: “the wisdom of God is the cause of the distinction of things, so the same wisdom is the cause of their inequality.”2 The traditional Christian understanding of hierarchy and privilege is explained well by the brothers Grimm in their story, “Eve’s Unequal Children.” In this story God is said to visit our first parents after they are driven out of the Garden of Eden and after Eve begins to bear children. Eve brings her attractive children before the Lord to be blessed, and God obliges by blessing them with titles of nobility of various ranks. Eve then decides that she will bring her unattractive children to the Lord to receive His blessing. When she does, these children are blessed with various vocations of manual labor.
Eve is disappointed, because she believes that the Lord should treat her children with equality – while failing to note that she had treated them unequally in the first place by hiding the ugly ones. Eve protests, “Lord, how unequally you divide your blessings. All of them are my children, whom I have brought into the world. You should favor them all equally.” The Lord responds, “Eve, you do not understand. It is right and necessary that the entire world should be served by your children. If they were all princes and lords, who would plant grain, thresh it, grind and bake it? Who would forge iron, weave cloth, build houses, plant crops, dig ditches, and cut out and sew clothing? Each shall stay in his own place, so that one shall support the other, and all shall be fed like the parts of a body.” To this Eve replies, “Oh, Lord, forgive me, I spoke too quickly to you. Let your divine will be done with my children as well.”
Christendom accepted the existence and goodness of inequality in this world, and sought to make the best use of people’s talents and abilities as possible. Edmund Burke in his famed protest against the egalitarian thought of the French Revolution wrote,
From hence they thought themselves obliged to dispose their citizens into such classes, and to place them in such situations in the state, as their peculiar habits might qualify them to fill, and to allot to them such appropriated privileges as might secure to them what their specific occasions required, and which might furnish to each description such force as might protect it in the conflict caused by the diversity of interests that must exist and must contend in all complex society; for the legislator would have been ashamed that the coarse husbandman should well know how to assort and to use his sheep, horses, and oxen, and should have enough of common sense not to abstract and equalize them all into animals without providing for each kind an appropriate food, care, and employment, whilst he, the economist, disposer, and shepherd of his own kindred, subliming himself into an airy metaphysician, was resolved to know nothing of his flocks but as men in general.3
To Christian traditionalists who defended Christendom like Edmund Burke, it is paramount that we understand and recognize people’s different talents and abilities and order society accordingly. The lesson that Eve learned in this tale of the Grimm brothers – understood well by luminaries such as Burke – is something that has been forgotten today. Today we seek to make all equal, and in doing so we fail to see the purpose of inequality in the world as it exists today. Jesus taught that all will be judged in light of what they have been given, for “to whom much was given, of him much will be required” (Luke 12:48). The impetus behind the push for equality is the West’s faithlessness. Our Christian ancestors understood that biological and social differences and inequality had a purpose in the divine plan, even if this purpose was not always apparent to us in this world. Our Christian ancestors did not share our modern concern for “social justice” which seeks to level society and eliminate all distinctions and differences, since inequality is not an unjust accident of history, and those who are given advantages by God will be judged according to how they use these gifts. Lacking this foundational belief in divine providence, the modern West has been powerless to resist the rhetoric of the egalitarian Left. The only path to succeed in our existential battle with the liberal cancer that is rotting the soul of Europa is to reject unnatural equality and reaffirm the proper place of privilege in society, and embracing the doctrines of the Christian faith is the only way this is going to happen.
- This argument also contradicts the SJW faux statistic that “whites are on welfare as much as nonwhites.” You can’t have it both ways. ↩
- Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 47: The Distinctions of Things in General. Article 2: “Whether Inequality of Things Is from God?” Aquinas cites Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 33:7-13 to argue that inequality is built into God’s design and not necessarily the result of sin. ↩
- Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 152. ↩