Written by: Jonathan Witt

Over the past week a really silly video purporting to tackle privilege began to be shared online, as if it highlighted some great truth. After watching the clip, and reviewing its fallacious implications, I decided to tackle the content thereof in a stream of tweets which read essentially as follows:

In the video, a large group of people are gathered and offered a $100 reward for winning a race. However, before the race can begin, some of the competitors are allowed head starts in front of the others if they can answer certain questions in the affirmative.

Several of the questions which allow individuals to step forward are directly linked to their parents’ life decisions. Indeed, it turns out that if parents make good decisions about each other and money, their children will likely be better off. This is not only an obvious fact, but a well-researched and proven one.

If you are a parent, or intend to be one, but also see an injustice in this video, then you are asking for your children to be discriminated against because you made good decisions. Fathers who actually raise their children are to be commended, not have their offspring punished. Mothers who break their backs to give their kids everything they can should be lauded, not have their offspring punished.

Now, let’s deal with the kids who are disadvantaged.

It is true that the circumstances of their birth result in a lack of opportunity. However, forcing those with opportunity to feel guilt or relinquish their “privilege” is not the answer. Finding ways to give better access to opportunities to those without, is the answer. This starts with trying to ensure that individuals in society take personal responsibility for their actions and decisions. Individuals who take responsibility become parents who take responsibility for their children, thus avoiding many pitfalls.

Beyond this, we can look at methods to assist those still left behind. Equality of opportunity, however, will never mean equality of outcome; as the video shows, some individuals may get ahead because of athletic ability, i.e. genetics. In reality, this speaks to a broader concept.

There is no such thing as a level playing field for everyone because we are all different. This is a positive attribute of humanity, not a negative one. Equality is, therefore, a myth. Some individuals will be math geniuses and others sporting gods. This is true down to even the most minor differences.

This does, however, not imply that there should be no fairness; only that fairness needs to be specific in each case where it is applied. The notion that those who have excelled need to be brought down to the level of those who have not, is regressive, repulsive, and is by definition unfair.

Finally, we need to stop pretending that simply ‘acknowledging’ some supposedly unearned privilege is equivalent to an action. It is not. Acknowledging your apparent privilege does absolutely jack squat to help the kid left at the back. If you truly believe it will help, then surrender your privilege, give whatever luxury assets you have away, don’t attend quality educational institutions, and stop enjoying life’s pleasures. Apply this to your family, too, and then come lecture the rest of us. Until then, your acknowledgement has no meaning or value whatsoever.

That said, if you do follow through, please remember that the rest of us are free individuals who have no obligation to follow your path. Liberty means nobody has an obligation to buy into your guilt, your worldview, or your belief that achievement, material or otherwise, is innately linked to melanin density.

We used to have a word for people who judged their fellow man based on the colour of their skin instead of the content of their character. It is a real pity that that term has very little meaning today.

Author: Jonathan Witt is an outspoken classical liberal and co-host of the acclaimed podcast, The Renegade Report, on CliffCentral.

  • Harald Sitta

    I checked mine, I like it and i have decided to enjoy it. Champagne please !!

  • Peter Wiles

    When someone has athletic ability we often use terms like “gifted” to describe them. This is not problematic is it? I watched that video and I didn’t get the sense it was trying to tell me to un-privilege myself, but to be aware that I am privileged like the athlete who is aware they are somehow gifted. If people are not aware of their privilege it can easily lead to people looking down on others without considering their circumstances. I agree that we should not eschew the privilege we have (I could never undo my education, for example, and I will do everything I can to use my education to educate my children), but we should be aware of it because it will make us more compassionate and fight harder for equal access and opportunity.

    • katman

      As the author states here, acknowledging your privilege does not alter the situation at all. All it does is offer some kind of superficial absolution, if you do your acknowledging in a public forum. So privileged wokes fall over their feet to unburden themselves by publicly owning up to their advantage, knowing that it won’t affect their advantage in the slightest. But it will buy them endless social credibility. Which is why so many “progressive” South African whites have built their social media personas around this godawful practice of signalling their virtue on a daily basis, most likely from their Macbook Air in some craft coffee shop over a R35 chai latte.

      • Peter Wiles

        I agree that self-promotion about how virtuous one is because one is socially aware is problematic, but that doesn’t make the case of being socially aware in itself a problem – I don’t think we should stop trying to think about these things just because some people use it as a way to build their social credibility.

        I think there can be benefits to the awareness of privileges in society because only a society that is aware of the injustices within it can do anything about those injustices. At one point in Britain it was accepted that slave-owning was fine; it took members of the public becoming fully aware of the relative positions of slaves and masters in the colonies, then campaigning against the privileges the law afforded to slave owners to convince the general public to vote to take those privileges away by emancipating slaves (and paying out the owners). In this case, the free people of Britain, who were privileged in that they were free and able to vote where others were unfree and unable to vote, voted against their own better interests (their goods were cheaper because of slave labour and they, as taxpayers, were the ones who ultimately paid money to free the slaves). In a similar vein, Dickens and other 19th century writers made the novel-reading electorate more aware of the conditions in factories and of child-labour, among others, which led to movements that improved conditions for the working class.

        I think that discussion of privilege is useful to the
        extent that it is about the issue and not about self-aggrandizement, and
        to the extent that is about positive public discourse rather than
        attacking people.