Commentary on Some Myths of White Privilege

Faatimah Hendricks recently wrote a column at News24 Voices which provided me with an opportunity to critically engage on some of the myths and tropes within the ‘white privilege’ narrative. There’s nothing particularly original or insightful in Hendricks’ piece but it is a good enough basis for...

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Faatimah Hendricks recently wrote a column at News24 Voices which provided me with an opportunity to critically engage on some of the myths and tropes within the ‘white privilege’ narrative. There’s nothing particularly original or insightful in Hendricks’ piece but it is a good enough basis for me to lay my commentary on. I will quote specific parts of her article and provide my comments thereon.

racist1“It seems that race is an uncomfortable topic for many South Africans, especially many white South Africans. Specifically, the issue of white privilege. White South Africans swear high and low that white privilege does not exist… Part of the problem, I think, is ignorance.”

A rejection of a premise does not amount to ignorance. If a person tells you that 1 plus 1 equals 11, and you correct him, you will eventually start getting ‘uncomfortable’ when he continues to assert the correctness of his answer. At some point you will refuse to engage with him on the topic any further because he is either unwilling to consider your perspective or he is getting hostile. These are both things which the social justice left has, in the last two years especially, become notorious for. As Nic Haussamer and I noted in an earlier article, engaging on the topic of white privilege, or more broadly, race relations, becomes problematic when one side comes to the discussion having already made up their minds about the validity of their argument. There’s no ‘engagement’, then, but simply a condescending lecture. And nobody has got time for that!

“White people don’t experience discrimination at the same level as black people. It makes it much harder to express things like institutionalised racism to white people when they see affirmative action as a personal attack on their race.”

The fact that white individuals experience institutionalized racism is no longer debatable in 2016 South Africa. As a law student who engages with the law outside of my academic textbooks as well, I reserve the right to assert my own insight into the matter as an authoritative source. The law discriminates both directly against whites, by having provisions expressly construed to the exclusion of whites; and indirectly, by creating incentives for civil society organs to discriminate against whites, and by empowering the courts to regard discrimination against whites as unactionable. (With regard to this latter point: the courts will consider an organization such as a blacks-only development association as constitutional, whereas they will certainly consider a whites-only institution of the same nature to be illegal.) Hendricks did not write anything else on the “personal attack on their race” statement. Clearly, it is an attack on whites qua whites. If it were not, then it wouldn’t have anything to do with ‘white’ privilege, but will be based on another aspect such as wealth, regardless of race.

“White people have told me that their privilege is a myth; this is despite their higher level of comfort compared to the majority of the poor. You’re mistaken if you think it’s only about wealth because there is a clear difference in how white and black people are perceived.”

The intellectual dishonesty displayed here is representative of a common tactic among the social justice left: mixing a little bit of truth with a lot of lies to make it seem acceptable.

I have long acknowledged that white individuals do have undeserved social privilege in various circumstances, bearing in mind that ‘privilege’ is circumstantial, and not a blanket truth like the left tries to construe it. When a black person calls a white person “Boss” but doesn’t do the same for another black person in the same position as the white, this is indicative of social privilege. When armed response officers slow down to investigate why a group of black people in the suburbs are packing furniture onto the back of a bakkie, but does not do so when it is a group of white people, this is indicative of social privilege. Both of these things happen.

However, white South Africans no longer have economic privilege. The moment the laws protecting white jobs and interests fell away, so did the privilege, because when it comes to economics, the only color that matters is that of the note of money. Whites are no longer appointed to any position just because they are white, as law previously required. On the whole, employers now only appoint based on merit: skill and work ethic. Of course, a social justice leftist would claim this itself is white privilege, however, I am not, nor should anyone else be interested in questioning the principles of economics which have crystallized over all of human existence. Appointing the person who will create the most value for you is natural conduct. Only force can stop this, and that is why governments enact things like affirmative action and Apartheid – because they fundamentally reject the rules of economics.

With this in mind, combined with the fact that the black middle class is larger than the entire white population, it should be enough to dispel the myth of ‘white economic privilege’. The left loves throwing this phrase around without further ado, so my argument will remain relatively superficial until I have something more substantive to work with.

“How many times have you rolled up your windows or checked to see if your doors were locked when a black man approached your vehicle, and have you done the same when there was a white person begging for money on the streets?”

white beggarsEvery time. On average I deal with 5 beggars per day, of which 3 are white. All of them get the same treatment.

And let’s be clear here, otherwise risk allowing her to once again mix in a bit of truth with a lot of lies. Windows are not rolled up on account of the race of the individual, but on account of how they conduct themselves, and how they are dressed. I do not recall ever having rolled my window up to either a black or white individual who was dressed appropriately (‘appropriately’ being a word I am happy to receive flack for using), but I do roll it up for anyone who looks like they may have nothing to lose in life if they decide to rob me. And this is the case with other white, and black, motorists as well.

“… Missing White Woman Syndrome. Social [“]scientists[“] reckon the media and society pay a disproportionate amount of attention on missing middle class white women while men and women of different ethnicities are given significantly lesser coverage.”

Hendricks is being purposefully deceitful with her language here. Is her article about ‘white privilege’ or ‘middle class white woman privilege’? If you think about it, there’s a substantial difference between these two things. In the former case, it relates to the privilege that attaches to skin color. In the latter case, it is privilege that attaches to wealth, gender, and skin color. What about rich white women or poor white women? If the media also ignores them – which the author implies without realizing it – then it is not white privilege.

Short excursus: the South African media is assuredly leftist. It has embraced all of the government’s ‘Transformation’ initiatives and thoroughly enjoys participating in race-baiting exercises. The Mail & Guardian recently wrote they will stop italicizing words from African languages because they do not want to ‘other’ those languages. This is not a decent, or respectful, thing to do. It’s a leftist thing to do. Italicizing words which are foreign to the English language is a grammatical custom, not a political statement. Those words are ‘othered’ because they are others, i.e. not from the same language. Indeed, whenever a white individual, especially a white male, makes any kind of expression which can perhaps be construed as racist, the South African media spends days covering it. However, when a black individual of whatever class or stature makes a blatantly racist remark against whites, it is more often than not ignored. The disgusting racist conduct by Ntokozo Qwabe and his token transgender friend (‘token’ because of Qwabe’s inappropriate emphasis on having a woke transgender friend) displayed recently only made it into the media because of the beautiful reaction by South Africans of all races in donating thousands of rands to the victim. Otherwise, the media would have ignored it. Let’s not beat around the bush: the media is the social justice left’s greatest ally in their trendy tyranny. There’s no need for Hendricks to act like she and the media are at odds.

Hendricks then tries to make an example, comparing various white murders and black murders. Save Reeva Steenkamp, I have not heard of any of the examples she points to, let alone the white women who were killed. And I can guarantee that most people, white or not, will join me in this ignorance. What I do remember, though, is the tragic case of Anene Booysens, who was brutally tortured and murdered several years ago. She was not a white individual, however, for weeks her name was on the lips of every civilly-conscious individual in this country. It started a completely unprecedented discussion in this country about the prevalence of rape. Then came Reeva Steenkamp, who was killed by her celebrity-athlete boyfriend Oscar Pistorius. I refuse to entertain this as an example of ‘white woman syndrome’. This was a case of ‘celebrity does something terrible’. If Oscar Pistorius were a black athlete with prosthetic legs who represented South Africa at the Olympics, and killed his black model girlfriend as she hid away in their luxury mansion, the outrage and coverage would have been exactly the same. Indeed, there is no actual reason, other than leftist prejudice, to doubt that.

“I’ve lived in an area occupied by white people for many years. The neighbours would get extremely annoyed if a non-white person came begging at the door and was given food. One day a white man who fell on tough times and came looking for money at the different houses in the area told me how all the neighbours gave him R10 each, which is what he had been asking for. Even poor white people get a better deal than black people do. I’ve seen how white motorists pour their wallets out to white beggars, but roll their windows up and completely ignore the coloured and black beggars.”

This entire paragraph can be dismissed as anecdotal nonsense. To illustrate: in my neighborhood, which is also mostly white, neither white nor black beggars are listened to. White beggars, which are common, are just as easily told to go away. In a country ranking in the top five for every serious kind of crime, going outside to speak to a beggar is a sure way to shorten your own life. Your house, your shack, your hut, your villa – whatever it is – is your castle. It is perhaps the only place in the world where you should be guaranteed complete and absolute safety and security (physically and psychologically). Don’t listen to the left on this: lock your doors tight.

black beggarNow, Hendricks is simply lying about the traffic-light beggar situation. Any motorist who has seen her piece would have rolled their eyes while reading this absolute falsity. Nobody – white or black – “pours out their wallet” to any traffic-light beggar of whatever characteristic. All beggars should be – and thankfully, mostly are – ignored. Roads were constructed for the forward-motion of vehicular traffic. Traffic-lights were constructed to regulate the movement of traffic. These aren’t charity centers or open invitations for engagement. The road I travel to university – muh white privilege right? – is rife with smash and grab robberies by “beggars”. Hendricks is attempting to induce a feeling of guilt here for white motorists. But black motorists do exactly what white motorists do, and that is to be conscious of their own safety in an extremely violent society. Hendricks is lying about the racial dimension to this, and it will be immediately obvious to any motorist who pays attention.

“When I was a journalist, I’d sometimes hear of stories where black reporters struggled to get comment from white people in a neighbourhood while their white counterparts had it far easier. I’ve experienced this personally when sources would be rude or abrupt but grant my fairer-skinned colleague an interview instead. It might not be much, but it’s not the sort of thing you expect people who haven’t experienced instances of discrimination to understand.”

Again, this is anecdotal, meaning I can rebut it with my own anecdote. I have seen whites told to sit down and shut up because they are white, and not allowed to engage on a topic. I have personally been told that my contribution would be considered as secondary to that of black individuals (or women) because I am a white male. No objective criteria makes Hendricks’ anecdote any more severe than mine, as both relate to a personal sense of self-worth.

Discrimination in South Africa is stuck in an endless cycle which is continuously reinforced by people like Hendricks on the one side, and neckbearded white male reactionaries on the other. Whenever one side dominates, they feel comfortable in shutting the other down. Hendricks’ kind believes white men should shut up because their mere presence ‘silences’ people of other races, and neckbearded white male reactionaries believe people who aren’t white are social authoritarians when they complain about actual racism. They also believe you’re a socialist if you show just a teeny-tiny bit of compassion. Both are collectivists.

Hendricks likely experienced this situation because it was obvious that she was a social justice leftist with a particular dislike of whites. And believe me, this level of collectivism cannot easily be hidden, no matter how hard one might try. It seeps through in their rhetoric and attitude.

“White people said they, too, found it tough to pay university fees and yet they felt no need to protest about the cost of education. But riddle me this: what exactly do poor folk have to offer as collateral when the university fees go up and they need to take out loans to pay?”

FeesMustFall was the most racially-diverse large-scale protest which South Africa has seen in decades. ‘White people’, in this case, didn’t ‘say’ anything. I know various black and white individuals who not only did not protest, but who reject the premise of the entire protest itself because of its fundamental lack of understanding of economics and life. It’s funny that Hendricks condescendingly talks about this topic under a heading “the world is unfair”. Fairness has nothing to do with it. It’s not unfair to not get a university education just like it’s not unfair for me not to be able to immigrate whenever I want. South Africans lack jobs – not jobs which warrant tertiary education; but just jobs. There is no imperative in putting every South African through university. I’ll skip discussing “free education” here, as Nic Haussamer has already discussed it thoroughly.

“It might be self-defeating in the long run to damage the facility that is providing you a future, but students from poor communities have few outlets for their anger.”

This speaks for itself.

Poor people all around the world who go about their lives in peace, but in South Africa it’s alright to burn down facilities which the culprits didn’t pay for. People who cannot contain themselves should be contained, especially if people elsewhere in their very same position get along fine. Don’t beat around the bush, Faatimah. South Africans are a violent people. It doesn’t help that we have quasi-intellectuals like you who play mental gymnastics to find a proper justification for our barbaric conduct.

“In a recent chat with a son of a farm owner, he mentioned how they would occasionally slap and beat workers who came to work hungover or drunk. Sure, they shouldn’t be nursing a hangover when they’re about to work, but this doesn’t justify physical abuse.”

The idea that white South Africans are the only violent group in the country baffles my mind. Hendricks is pointing to an instance of violence where one party happens to be white and the other happens to be black. I believe statistics will show that black on white, black on black, and white on white violence occurs at roughly the same rate as the implicitly horrendous rate of white on black violence. Don’t fall for Hendricks’ selection and confirmation biases mixed in with her personal anecdotes.

Hendricks concludes with the following:

“It is not a crime to be privileged but there is much that can be accomplished when white people realise the extent to which they have separated themselves from their fellow countrymen and women.”

This is another tactic utilized by the social justice left. To no end do they parade the idea around that if whites ‘recognize’ their privilege, everything will be great! But they have never actually explained what this ‘recognition’ would accomplish. Whether the left admits it to themselves or not, their goal in this regard is clear. As I wrote in an earlier article: “The message underlying the assertion that ‘white work’ cannot negate white privilege is that white privilege is perpetual. No amount of effort, distribution or apologizing can ever make it go away.”

If the ‘act’ for which someone is perpetually guilty cannot be remedied, then that person or group of persons (if they ‘recognize’ their guilt) become perpetual resources for exploitation, mostly by the State. This is a major part of the reason why it would be wrong to think there can be a separation between statism and leftist social justice. The leftist social justice narrative exists as a vehicle for the expansion and strengthening of the State, as it tears down the potential opponents of the State, whether they are active opponents or simply passive competitors, such as the private sector.

In conclusion, white privilege is a topic which the social justice left claims they want to talk about in an open and honest manner. However, most of them approach the topic like Hendricks: condescending, militant, and authoritarian. At the end of the day they want the State to take from some and give to others (‘plunder’, as Frederic Bastiat would put it), and they hope they are those ‘others’, as exemplified nowadays by American college students who are Feeling the Bern. The ball is in their court to get this discussion going, because we free market civil libertarians are ready to engage on just about anything. We even have the solutions to most of these problems, packaged and ready to go. So, as our friends on the left would say, apparently all you need to do is shut up and listen.


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  1. Zaggeta Reply

    Excellent article. Just one correction on your statement that businesses now employ on merit. They do not. Not for lack of wanting, but because labour laws, affirmative action and “Transformation” disallow and discourage them.

    1. Malusi Ndwandwe Reply

      The sad part is, if affirmative action is implemented this way. Competence or the lack of, becomes racially cued. In other words, folks will assume that the black accountant is not as competent as their white counter parts etc. Which leads to more resentment and bitterness.

      1. Bokkeman Reply

        Exactly right – which is why only a tiny minority of blacks support AA.
        www dot biznews dot com/thought-leaders/2016/05/05/anthea-jeffrey-punitive-ee-fines-are-another-oliphant-job-killing-disaster

  2. Shadeburst Reply

    Good article, Martin. I’m bookmarking it for the considered rebuttals of anti-white talking points.

    Purely anectodally, I’m an old white male and when I come to a metro police roadblock, the 100% black police always wave me through (in my disreputable old banger) while pulling over smartly-dressed blacks in smart cars… just sayin’

    1. C2H5OH Reply

      That’s cause smartly dressed dood’s of any colour in beamers are more likely to be coming back from Champaign dinners & cocktail parties; Than the old fart wearing khaki shorts & t-shirt driving a banger.

  3. Harald Sitta Reply

    I like it , especially the courage and the impetus to be definitely non p.c. The details i will work over over the weekend 🙂 Fits also to my article >> “The politics of resentment and the attitude of resentment’. we should connect and coordinate

    1. Malusi Ndwandwe Reply

      The Rational Standard is all about being Politically Incorrect, it’s not intentional. But the times we are living in, forces those who seek truth and honesty to be non-pc. In my opinion, pc has become a therapeutic form of lying to those who can’t bear the truth.

      1. Martin van Staden Reply

        Haha I wouldn’t say I am being deliberately politically incorrect. We basically just reject the idea that feelings need to be taken into account when making an argument. A lot of people on the right go out of their way to offend others. That’s definitely not what I’m going for.

        1. Zaggeta Reply

          I think it’s not so much that we are trying to be offensive, more that we genuinely don’t think that we’re being offensive.

  4. Invader Reply

    Great read mate.

  5. Blobby30 Reply

    Finally. Somebody speaking some sense.

  6. Brett FISH Anderson Reply

    When all the people in the comments section are white people praising you for an article that attacks white privilege then you must know you’re on to something. Just that that something is not truth. This article is written by someone defensively trying to barricade himself in with his white privilege and with enough people patting you on the back for it you may even start to believe that it is actually true… but not acknowledging white privilege in a country that has aimed itself at that for decades is simply your biggest deception. The only thing missing from this article is “I have a black friend so i can’t be racist” – if you do have genuine deep relationships with black people then sit and chat with them over a meal in your house and ask them honestly what their thoughts are about this piece and the country in general and you might come up with some different conclusions…

    1. Zaggeta Reply

      How do you know they’re white? Racist.

      1. Brett FISH Anderson Reply

        You got me. I’m a racist. Although the tiny pictures of white people next to the comments felt like a bit of a giveaway…

        1. Zaggeta Reply

          Then confused is more accurate. The current comment photos do contain some white people, but also a Muslim refugee, a cat and some grey blobs. You are merely assuming that this does not also resonate with blacks (who are equally fed up).

        2. C2H5OH Reply

          I’m a pony. Your argument is invalid.

    2. Liz Rudy Reply


    3. Bokkeman Reply

      Your comment history, and blog, are examples of virtue signalling by means of “I hate on Whites so I can’t be racist”. Have you got anything else to add to a discussion? It seems not.

      1. Brett FISH Anderson Reply

        Well, i actually don’t hate on white so maybe you’re reading it wrong? i am white and i love being white but at the same time that doesn’t abdicate me from the responsibiity of the mess that white people have caused in the past in this country. So i definitely fight for responsibility and also the equality of all people. i don’t think it’s cool that people live in shacks with no access to toilets [except via walking outside in the night in rain and cold] while i am comfortable in my house and i imagine if the tables were turned we would all feel differently. The thing is if it was you and your family and by extension tribe in that same situation i would feel as aggrieved for you all. i feel like those of us who have need to be on the lookout for the marginalised and those who don’t have as much, to do what we can to see them well looked after.

        1. Bokkeman Reply

          Have you ever seen a free society without inequality? If every man had social and economic freedom to make or break is own fortune then it follows like night follows day that some are going to get further than others. The only way to enforce flat-out equality (i.e. misery) would require full-blown Soviet-era Communism – are you proposing that?
          Or are you saying that the inequality in SA is still and entirely the result of Apartheid? For how much longer will Apartheid be blamed? 30 years? 50? 100? Or at what point will you accept that the iniquitous inequality you see is the natural and fair result of unequal distribution of intelligence, industry, morality and work ethics?

          1. Brett FISH Anderson

            i am suggesting that inequality today [in a world with an economic system where money largely makes money] is a consequence of apartheid because when apartheid [the law] was officially abolished [which clearly didn’t magically affect peoples’ hearts – people who grew up hating people of other races on both sides didn’t suddenly start loving them] the circumstances were not changed and so a whole bunch of people who were forced into townships were still in townships and “just work harder” is an easy thing to throw at people who are working so hard just to survive that there is limited capacity for them to move out of their present circumstances and so on… so because there was no wealth distribution or limited or no restitution done when apartheid fell, economically and situationally things didn’t change all that much for the marginalised.

            It’s not social and economic freedom to make or break their own fortune when one person starts with their own bedroom, present parents [who don’t have to leave at 4am to take three modes of transport to go clean some white person’s house for minimum wage], pocket money, access to the internet etc etc compared to someone who grows up in a township with access to much lower standard of education, who is looking after siblings cos their parent is out working from crazy early hours and has no or limited access to the internet etc – you are comparing two different things and the kid who grows up in the suburbs has much better chance and opportunity to keep the cycle going.

          2. Shadeburst

            You seem to have missed the bit about the black middle class being larger than the entire white population. The total black middle class income and wealth is about equal to the total white income and wealth. Money makes money, you say, so your argument suddenly collapses.

            The people who were forced into townships migrated to the cities because even that life was preferable to one of peasant destitution. Many blacks have graduated from township life in the last two decades; many others are stuck there because of unemployment first created by Apartheid and now perpetuated by AA. Anti-growth economic policies followed by our leaders haven’t helped either.

            The great thing about a free market economic system is that your success in life measured by wealth and income does not at all correlate with your socio-economic status at birth. Google it for yourself; how many of the world’s richest, how many Fortune 500 CEOs, came from wealthy families? But we don’t have a free labour market here. Both black and white labour have been priced out of the market thanks to penalties imposed on employers. That’s why we have such crippling unemployment and a lack of opportunity to climb the ladder.

            Substandard black education has little to do with white privilege and much to do with SADTU. “The Toxic Mix” written by liberation stalwart Graeme Bloch would improve your knowledge substantially.

          3. garg

            Most of our inequality is a direct result of employment. You would note that our inequality became worse after apartheid ended. The reason for this is that more black people (and people from racial groups other than white) became skilled, became employed, and participated in the economy.

            This means that they could afford similar living standards than the former privileged white people. Which in turn means worse inequality, because there are still many people living in abject poverty who have given up looking for a job.

            Moral of the story is if we want to help those impoverished people, we need to identify their problems correctly in order to work towards effective solutions.

            Seems to me that ensuring an improvement of skills and improving economic conditions that have helped to increase our inequality are doing that job. That is of course if you view inequality as a symptom and can identify its causes, instead of viewing inequality as a cause for concern regardless of context.

        2. garg Reply

          Are black people of today responsible for Idi Amin’s crimes against humanity? Or for the terrorist acts of the resistance movements that targeted civilians during apartheid?

    4. Martin van Staden Reply

      If you make an argument, I would be happy to engage you. You skipped over the article and went directly for my own circumstances, which is an unfortunate social justice leftist tactic. You’ll excuse me if I refuse to accept the premise of this intellectually dishonest attempt to engage me on the topic.

      As to your point about the ‘black friends’ thing, I already have an article on it.

      Prepare to be even more disappointed by my refusal to accept the premises set by the SJ left.

    5. Malusi Ndwandwe Reply

      The sentiment here is “I’m a white do-gooder” so I can’t be discriminatory.

    6. Warchylde Reply

      do you come with a libtard warning sign?

    7. garg Reply

      This comment is written by someone who apparently does not know people from other racial groups with similar skills sets, similar employment opportunities, and who live in similar suburbs than they do.

  7. Harald Sitta Reply

    Dear Malusi, You are right: It is totalitarian “newsspeak”. It is also about exercising cultural hegemony by commanding upon others certain definitions and terms. The aim is, as George Orwell in “+1984” pointed out , to make it impossible to think and speak outside of the official ideology. If we speak about “sex’ we mean the natural, biological sexes. if we substitute “sex” by “gender” we – even unwillingly – accept the theory that sexes are only social constructs. My position: we can be right or be left but we should be honest. Your point comes in >>>>organized lying , they cannot bear the truth or the facts.

  8. Harald Sitta Reply

    I like it. The cultural Marxists argue with feelings, dirty tricks, resentments and see discussion always as a power play and not as an exchange of ideas by which both sides can learn.

  9. Warchylde Reply

    thank you

  10. Douglas White Reply

    So happy to have found the Rational Standard. In recent times I have felt like a lone-wolf in a wilderness of broken logic. These leftists are clever propagandists and have perfected the art of smearing. They need to be challenged wherever and whenever they spew their garbage. People must know that bad ideas get good people to do bad things. Beliefs have consequences – South Africa has become a playground for sociopaths.

    1. Zaggeta Reply

      Glad you are enjoying the site, Douglas. We aim to empower the reasonable and decent individuals that may feel powerless in the face of the illogic that plagues our society. We hope we’ve accomplished that.

  11. Brencis Reply

    One privilege my black colleagues experience is not being viewed as racist simply because of the colour of their skin.

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