That title is in quotation marks because it’s the title of an actual piece, which recently appeared in the Atlantic Magazine.
This piece is an interview with a sociologist named Margaret Hagerman, who sought to “recruit white affluent families as subjects for the research she was doing on race” — and this is for a book she’s written called White Kids: Growing Up With Privilege in a Racially Divided America.
I want to quickly inject here that an actual privilege is a benefit bestowed by one in a position of authority – as in, thank you for the privilege, father, of not having to do my chores today. It is not success that comes through hard work or even inherited wealth, no matter at what place or position you start the race of life, and there are millions of affluent minorities (all races, all colors, all sexes) in America: women and men who through hard work and persistence have lifted themselves out of all manner of hardship and poverty to make better lives for themselves and their families — and in fact this is what America is largely about: coming up from the gutters, rags-to-riches, overcoming hardship, fleeing from authoritarian regimes, where freedom and the right to keep what you earn does not exist, and into place where you do have total freedom to make something of yourself, in a country which allows everyone, no matter their race, color, class, sex, gender, or creed, the freedom to do just that. And this interminable dividing and subdividing by race and other non-essential characteristics only, in the end, perpetuates racism and greater division among human beings — and also, not coincidentally, greater poverty in the end. Many, many minorities agree, and that’s why I think that the people who understand and appreciate freedom the most are those who come to America — usually with nothing — from other countries, where no such freedoms existed.
Also, just for the record, in terms of percentages, white Americans are some of the greatest recipients of food stamps and other welfare programs, and it is no coincidence either that some of the greatest inequalities and wealth disparities are found in places with the biggest government programs.
And yet isn’t it remarkable how certain people who claim they’ve done “exhaustive research” can only come up with the same-old-same-old rebranding of egalitarianism that’s become so fashionable today: “white privilege”?
How, then, according to Margaret Hagerman, do “well-intentioned white families” putatively perpetuate racism?
The answer may (or may not) surprise you: by wanting their children to do well in life.
Here’s what Margaret Hagerman says constitutes white privilege:
One of the things I talk about in the book is what I call this ‘conundrum of privilege,’ which is that these parents have a lot of resources economically as well as status as white people. [So do plenty of affluent minorities.] They can then use those resources to set up their own child’s life in ways that give them the best education, the best health care, all the best things. And we have this collectively agreed-upon idea in our society that being a ‘good parent’ means exactly that—providing the best opportunities you can for your own child.
But then some of these parents are also people who believe strongly in the importance of diversity and multiculturalism and who want to resist racial inequality. And these two things are sort of at odds with one another. These affluent white parents are in a position where they can set up their kids’ lives so that they’re better than other kids’ lives. So the dark side is that, ultimately, people are thinking about their own kids, and that can come at the expense of other people’s kids.
This notion that the good of your own children must perforce come at the expense of other people’s is, to put it mildly, preposterously and flatly false.
I believe the sole purpose of such ridiculous notions is the attempt to make people feel guilty about their station in life, their upbringing, their education — the ultimate goal of which is, as previously mentioned: egalitarianism.
It is an attempt to take down — via bromides like “leveling the playing field” and “creating a fairer and more equal starting line” — the freedom of all to pursue their own lives, no matter what their race or sex or sexual orientation or gender or skin color, no matter in what circumstances they grew up: all humans free to make better lives for themselves.
Egalitarianism, even if it were a good thing — and it is NOT, primarily because humans possess wildly varying degrees of ambition, motivation, desire, drive, persistence, and so on — remains, as it always has and always will, an impossibility, though, as pointed out before, you may look to Pol Pot’s Cambodia as one of the nearest successes.
People are not all born into identical circumstances, and it is not the role of government or anyone to attempt the impossible task of equalizing everyone, which would require continual and massive applications of force and expropriation, and which even then could never be fully achieved.
Quoting Margaret Hagerman again:
Some of the parents in my book, they rejected the idea that their child needed to be in all the AP classes. They valued other elements of their children’s personalities, such as their concerns about ethics or fairness or social justice. There were a handful of parents in my study who resisted having a separate track for AP students, for example, which can sometimes be a segregating force within schools.
There were also affluent parents who were very much opposed to having police officers in schools, and they were using their position of influence in the community to try to get the police officers out of there. Maybe others would be aware of their own presence at PTA meetings, making sure they’re not dominating them and making sure they’re not putting their own agenda ahead of their peers’ agendas. I’m not sure that I saw tons of behavior like that, but I certainly saw moments where some of the families were concerned more about the collective than their own kid.
Please give special heed to those last few words.
Please remember also that collectives don’t actually exist: only the individuals who compose them actually exist.
Let me here note as well (not quite parenthetically) that “justice” is an absolute: it needs no qualifier; it can take no qualifier. And more: any word used to qualify “justice” — social, latino, Asian, white, or anything else — is by definition an injustice.
Justice is the legal recognition of every individual’s inalienable right to her own life and property (money is property), and only her own life and property.
Egalitarianism, in any of its multifarious guises, necessarily requires massive violation and expropriation of property.
I’ll close by quoting at length Robert Tracinski’s review of Margaret Hagerman’s book:
So to be a good “progressive,” you should place “social justice” indoctrination over actual education, and maybe send your kid to a school with increased crime and violence. I could understand, if you grew up poor, if you got knocked around a lot, if you felt like an outsider, it might be natural to resent the upper-middle-class kids, to think they’re too privileged and need to be knocked down a peg. It’s not exactly a healthy way to go through life, but I could understand it. What I can’t understand is thinking that way as a parent about your own kids. But there, at the end of the quote, we find the real agenda: you must subordinate your own interests to “the collective.” Who, aside from unreconstructed Marxists, still uses the phrase “the collective”? Maybe Star Trek fans, because Hagerman seems to be offering advice on how to assimilate into the Borg.
This goes to the real heart of the issue, and it also indicates that this isn’t really about race. After all, which of these arguments has anything specifically to do with kids being white or black, versus being rich or poor? The difference between phrasing this as an issue of race versus an issue of economics is not logical or substantive. It’s merely a matter of intellectual fashion. It’s harder to get people to listen to you if you publish an old-fashioned lefty screed about “class,” but racial politics is all the rage right now and will get you a book deal and coverage in The Atlantic.
That’s why that phrase “the collective” is such a giveaway. This is just the old-fashioned Marxist class-warfare agenda repackaged in the language of racial politics….
Take, for example, the arguments that came up recently in the Sarah Jeong case about how non-white people cannot be racist—even when they are definitely, flagrantly racist—because racism is really about the “dominant power structure.” The “dominant power structure” ends up meaning pretty much the entire system [of freedom], including the fact that you are able to make money, own property, and buy things—such as buying a house in a good neighborhood in a town with a good school system, or sending your kids to private school.
These are the actual examples used in that interview about people perpetuating racism merely by providing as well as they can for their kids….
Collectivism was the next logical step, taken by the next generation of German intellectuals. You can see that if you have to eliminate any personal value, that would necessarily mean purging one of the most precious of personal values: your attachment to your own children.
In the collectivist theory, this purging of personal values is supposed to produce a corresponding increase in concern for “the collective.” New Soviet Man was going to care for state property as assiduously as economic man had cared for his own property. Caring less about your own kids is supposed to lead, Hagerman imagines, to caring more about other people’s kids.
To say that this runs counter to human nature is an understatement. It’s not just that people will psychologically resist caring more for other people’s children than their own, a resistance that might be overcome with indoctrination and willpower. The problem is that the whole idea is a logical impossibility. It asks us to care the least about those things that have the most intimate connection to us and are therefore most capable of earning our affection.
We can only feel love, compassion, or respect for others to the extent that we see our own humanity in them—to the extent that we imagine what it would be like if we were in their place. A man who cares nothing for his own life will actually find it harder to empathize with others. Self-loathing is not a basis for love of humanity.
Similarly, to reach the point where you do not wish the best for your own children, how much would you have to hollow out your personal values and capacity for affection? Hagerman asks us to “think in bigger ways about…what it means to actually have a society that cares about kids.” But how is “society” going to care about kids if you’re asking everyone not to care about their own? How can they be motivated by love after they have crushed their capacity for love at its most intimate source?
Reader, do you know what this is?
It’s political correctness running amok.