White Privilege

A colleague asked me a question on “white privilege”. This is my response.

Let me start from the beginning. The term “white privilege” comes from critical race theory that white people hold special privileges implicitly. It implies Black people would never receive such privilege. I am not any expert in race theory or sociology. I only heard about this idea though my own readings. My only encounter with sociology was the only course I took close to thirty years ago called “Sociology in Education”.

Let me first define the term “theory”. The term “theory” is defined very differently in natural sciences such as in physics, chemistry, and biology than in social sciences as in sociology, arts, education, anthropology, and political science.

“Theory” in science is NOT an opinion. For natural sciences, a set of observations has to be documented. Then a hypothesis or a group of hypothesis is formed based on the results of the observations. The hypothesis is repeatedly tested in controlled experiments to verify whether the results could be reproduced. Data from those repeated experiments are then analyzed using mathematical or statistical methods. The hypothesis then has to be modified, accepted or rejected. The experiments have to be performed to justify and make further predictions until there are no discrepancies between observation results. Even after these strenuous exercises, the hypothesis must be continuous testable and falsifiable. Deductive reasoning is used, not inductive reasoning. All data must have both independent and dependent variables. The results must include an experimental group and control group so the conclusion is based on identifiable comparison.

It is very difficult or even impossible to “prove” a theory in natural science. Sometimes we call some natural phenomena “laws” such as “law of gravity”, “Newton’s law of motion”, “law of thermodynamics”, etc. because they are so predictable. Even some of these “laws of physics” have been modified.

In this definition, how we commonly  use the term “theory” describes an opinion or observation is not correct. That is why I do not consider “Creation Science” is a scientific theory. “Creation Science” is not repeatable, testable, falsifiable, or predictable, therefore, it is not science.

In the area of sociology, “critical race theory” cannot be classified as a scientific theory. There may be observations that race plays an important role in how a society treats its own citizens. We can use statistics to show that blacks are twice as likely to be convicted in the courts. Blacks as a group has a lower median income compare with whites, etc… We cannot, however, (and should not) set up any experiments to test our hypothesis. No one can even suggest we can test this observation by setting up an experimental group whom we should deliberately discriminate the members of that group and another control group that we treat all the members with respect. Then we measure their income level and crime rate after a number of years. Such experiment would be unethical and immoral. We can, however, look at statistics from established societies and their cultural characteristics to form an informed opinion to our observation. Then we can investigate our own underlining of attitudes and modify our behaviour and practice.

Back to the question of “white privilege”, we have to ask a few questions. First, does it exist? Second, if it does exist, does it exist in all cultures? Third, in what form does it exist? Fourth, what are the historical and cultural aspects do “white privilege” be manifested? Finally, how can we make sure that we would not abuse this privilege if we do indeed process such privilege?

We do not have the “privilege” to choose our parents, race, and place of birth. We are born the way we are. Out of all cosmic possibilities, we are here! It is not our choice. If you believe in the God in the Bible, you may claim that God put you here on this earth at this time for a reason. It is up to you to find out His will for you on this earth. If you are a Buddhist, being a white male is the result of all your past lives now living in this reincarnated form.

If you consider being born white, Catholic, male… as a privilege, then you just won the lottery of the uterus. Better still, you do not even have to pay for the lottery ticket. Yes, you are privileged just because you are living in a country where we are free to think and form you own opinion. You, as a white male, have a better chance of getting a mortgage or credit card in this society. This is the “privilege” that you cannot even give up if you wanted to. The important thing is not to abuse this “privilege”. Use this “privilege” so the whole society can benefit.

Since you are a person of the Catholic faith, I give you a quote from the Bible. in Philippians 2: 3 – 4,

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.”

If you take time to read the whole chapter 2 of Philippians, I do not think Apostle Paul, a Jewish male with Roman citizenship, a privilege class in its days, is not talking about charity. He is talking about how to live out the life of Christ throughout our lives. He regards all his audience, Jews or Gentiles, as equals, brothers and sisters. Like it or not, we are here and we are going to stay. It is more important that we use what we have to serve one another than to argue about who deserves more privileges.


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