Ethno-culturalprivilege means enjoying certain benefits (e.g., better paying jobs,higher social status, and more political power) as the result ofbeing a member of a certain culture and ethnicity. This system ofdiscrimination exists in many societies, including African, Asian,Indian, Latin American, and Western cultures. In Africa, Asia, andIndia, social rank and level of social interaction are often based onone’s caste or tribe affiliation (Bros, 2014). In Latin America, ahierarchical system called Casta classifies individuals basedon race, birth, and skin color.
Inmany societies, including the U.S., ethno-cultural privileges areafforded to those of European ancestry. Anglo culture has become theideal by which all ethnic groups are judged (McGoldrick, 2005).Evidence of this exists across societies.
Inthe United States, social and political institutions grant levels ofprivilege to Euro-Americans. In many Latin cultures, white skinrefers to power, whereas dark skin is portrayed as embodyingweakness, vulgarity, and poverty (McGoldrick, 2005). In Asiancolonial history, religious writings propagate White Europeanprejudice by associating rebirth with lightness and evil withdarkness in the universe. Indian society upholds a complexcaste system that favors whitish or fair skin color as well as lighteyes.
However,this paper suggests the possibility of a shift in the privilegesystem as populations are shifting in composition. Caucasian birthrates have shown decreases while birth rates across Hispanic, Asian,and other ethnicities have increased, suggesting that Caucasians willbecome the minority population in many societies. Additionally,attitudes of multiculturalism are increasing, reflecting enhancedappreciation for diversity. These changes indicate that the days ofWhite privilege may end or greatly diminish in the foreseeable futurein ways most of the scholarly literature has not anticipated.
Toachieve the objective, this paper will proceed in three parts. First,a brief background of the concept of ethno-privilege will be outlinedby reference to some major works that outlined the nature of Whiteprivilege. In this section, the works of Hegel and Kant will sufficeas a typical case. Secondly, the paper will present evidence ofethno-privilege across the globe by referring to the relationshipbetween the East and the west, Africa versus the west, and Blacksversus non-blacks to establish the trends in White privilege.Finally, the paper will focus on the shifts in White privilege toestablish the diminishing Anglo-privilege. In this regard, the paperwill look at the trends in white privilege in the face ofmulticulturalism and the growing non-white population.
FrancesKendall (2006) defines white privilege as an institutional set ofrights and benefits that are given to the people of the white race byvirtue of them being white. These benefits imply dominance inpowerful positions in the institutions of the society. In thisregard, the Whites have a greater access to resources and power thatthe people of other colors purely on the grounds of their color. Forinstance, as Kendall illustrates, the white people in the UnitedStates, while financially at par with people of other races, are upto ten times able to access loans for housing than people of othercolor. Moreover, the education system in the United States ensurethat it reflects the history of the white Americans while, at thesame time, neglecting the contributions of the American Indians inthe history. In addition, Kendall argues that white privilege hasnothing to do with the morality of the whites as compared to themorality of people of other color.
Perhaps,the most forceful work done to promote white privilege was the 1837Georg W.F. Hegel (Hegel, 2001). In this work: The philosophy ofhistory, Hegel divides the world into three parts in which worldhistory focuses on. These are Africa, Asia and Europe. He furtherdivides Africa into three parts namely, Africa proper which is at thesouthern Sahara, European Africa lies at the north of Sahara and theother part connected to Asia lies on the river region of the Nile.For him Africa proper is shut down from the rest of the world and hasno contribution to world’s history.
Incontrast to Europe and Asia, Africa proper depicts severe inhumanityand barbarism. For Hegel, the blacks living in this part of Africaare mild and disposed to the Europeans whom they came across. As forthe northern part of Africa, Hegel argues that it portrays some formof civilization and for that reason must not be included as part ofAfrica but as part of the Europe. He describes the blacks living inthe Africa proper as having no concept of God and thus no concept ofmorality. For him, the Negro lives in a natural and untamed state.Magic, tyranny, worship of the dead and cannibalism are acceptablenorms for the Black. Hegel adds that the Negro has no development andno culture. They have been as described since their existence.
ForHegel, the only real connection between the Negros and the Europeansis that of slavery. While kings sell out the enemies they capture,any attempts by the Europeans to stop slavery is viewed as a threat.After the ill representation of the Blacks in Africa, Hegel decidesto leave out the discussion of Africa in the world’s history. As amatter of fact, he does not mention Africa again in the whole of thatwork. He argues that Africa does not contribute to any part ofworld’s history. In the rest of the lectures, Hegel seeks to showthe superiority of the Europeans over the Asians and the rest of thecolors.
EmmanuelKant (2001), like Hegel, establishes the differences between variousraces. For Kant, race is a hereditary aspect of humanity that laysdown the grounds or the justification of different classes. For thisreason, Kant advocates for reproduction of pure-race offspringthrough inbreeding. In favor of the White privilege, Kant expresseshis most resentful remarks of the blacks. Referring to Hume’s viewof the Negro, Kant argues that the blacks of Africa have no conceptof morality and do not express any talents at all. For him, eventhose that have been sold to slavery in other countries, such asAmerica, have not shown any gifts in science or art.
ForKant, it is the superior gifts such as those portrayed by the whitesthat earn them respect throughout the world. He urges that there is afundamental difference between the Blacks and the Whites that cannotbe overlooked. This difference regards the mental capacities of thetwo groups as it is evident in the difference between their colors.The blacks are not only mentally inferior but they also lack selfdiscipline: They have to be caned so as to accomplish the work givento them by the whites. Given their inferiority, Kant argues that theNegroes are better suited for slave labor.
Inthis category, Kant extends the Negro qualities to the Indians. Theblacks, just like the Native Americans are born as slaves for theylack the ability to govern themselves. Kant claims that the blacksare the lowest race of all. This is evident in his reference of theWhites as the good race and the Blacks as the bad race. The Whiterace is good for it possesses all talents and incentives and as suchmake progress in perfection (Berlesconi, 2002).
Thebrief review of Hegel’s and Kant’s ideas on race and superioritygives us a perception on how the idea of white privilege developed inthe age of enlightenment. It seems evident that ethno-culturalprivilege has had a great deal of literary works in an attempt tojustify the superiority in power, resources, and social status of theWhites at the expense of the dominated other races. The trend ofethno-privilege depicted in the two works was applied in the Whitedomination of other colors during the colonial errors in America,Africa and Asia. Particularly, the acts of enslaving the mostinferior race (the Black race) were viewed as morally justified.
Withthe brief background of the justification of ethno-culturalprivilege, this paper turns to focus on the evidence ofethno-cultural privilege in the contemporary world. The firstapparent aspect of ethno-cultural privilege centers on citizenshipbenefits. In this regard, members of certain ethnic groups arefavored for citizenship against members of alien ethnic and culturalbackgrounds. Admissions to citizenship in most, if not all, countriesare ethnocentric. However, some countries extend privileged access tocitizenship membership to non-residents but at the same time allowrestricted access to the permanent residents.
DumbravaCostica (2012) expounds the notion of preferential admission inEuropean Union countries at a greater depth. Dumbrava argues thatthere has been rampant privileged inclusion as well as exclusion ofpersons in the citizenship to European Union countries directed toparticular groups or individuals depending on their race or ethnicityand nationality. However, Dumbrava continues, the trend inethno-cultural based citizenship has been changing over time due tothe emergence of powerful human rights discourse which stress thatnation states must acknowledge crucial rights based on personhood butnot on citizenship status. This implies that some privileges, such aspolitical participation, initially denied to some individuals owingto their ethnic and cultural identities are now being extended tosuch persons and groups. This is a trend that has been termed astrans-nationalism.
However,as Dumbrava contends, trans-nationalism does not override the factthat political membership is still based on national citizenship.This is because important privileges which include the rights to voteare still held in reserve for formal citizens. In this regard, formalcitizens of a state enjoy more privileges than alien citizens.Moreover, citizenship is getting more ethnocentric in that manyelements of nationalism, ethnicity or culturalism are still crucialparts and parcel of the description of membership. This is in turnbacked up by citizenship rules. For instance, in many western nationsthe growing presence of persons from Muslim states has contributed tothe perception of national-self understandings from an ethnocentricperspective. This implies that in Europe, only persons from the right(non-Muslim) backdrop are welcomed.
Anotheraspect of ethno-cultural privilege is evident in the southernCaribbean countries of Guyana, Trinidad and Suriname. Some of theethnic groups existing in the area include Asian Indians, theChinese, Syrians, Jews, Africans, Europeans, Portuguese andAmerindians among others. However, as Walter Rodney (1969) notes,despite the fact that the region has high ethnic heterogeneity, thereis evidence of an apparent dominance of people of Asian and Africandescent. Due to the division in the two ethnic groups, there has beendisunity in the non-white solidarity against outside forces.
AsRalph Premdas (1996) records, in Trinidad the June of 1993 witnessedthe predomination of the Indians where Indian women were raped andterrorized by African men. This seemed to be a type of ethniccleansing in which the government played a minimal role ofintervention. By then, the relationship between the Indians and theAfricans was at crossroads. Moreover, the political parties in Guyanawere divided along ethnic lines where the People’s NationalCongress was dominated by Africans while the Ruling People’sProgressive Party (PPP) was dominated by the Indians. PPP reshuffledworkers in the civil service which was pre-dominated by Africans andreplaced them with Indians. This act was conceived as ethniccleansing. At this juncture, it is evident that people of differentethnic groups were entitled to privileges depending on whether theruling party is dominated by that ethnic group.
Between1986 and 1982, Premdas adds, a civil war between the Bush Negroes andCreoles, both of the Afro-Suriname descent, thrived in Suriname. TheBush Negroes had been subjected to genocidal acts in which many diedand many others forced out of their native homelands. Most of themescaped to live in refugee camps in Guiana and others in Netherlands.The Creoles felt that they were a superior and distinct ethnic groupjust as much as the Bush Negroes felt.
Accordingto Premdas, the Caribbean ethnic groups have failed to assimilateinto an integrated nation and have persisted in pluralism. Thisfailure has led to diverse effects on the rights to inheritance andthe right to rule. The competition for power positions is no longerentirely dependent on the electorates’ decision but on ethnic moralclaims of these positions. In this regard, the right to rule as wellas the claims to homeland has become an ethnic matter. This impliesthat the distribution of privileges has also been ethnicized. TheAfricans living in Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad live in fear thattheir being outnumbered by the Indians, who intensively reproduce,will lead to their losing of power positions and dominance. While theAfricans claim their homeland by appealing to their earlier arrivalthan the Indians, the Indians reiterate by investing heavily inbusinesses and building their claimed homeland. This is meant to be abargaining power over full citizenship.
InAmerica, Kendall explains, the scenario in which the natural factorof race plays a central role in and formalizes the supremacy of thewhite race at the expense of other races is not an accidentalphenomenon. Kendall insists that American history shows that thosewho hold positions of power act for the entire white race and havealways made partial polices in relation to the Whites and otherraces. In addition, history is a basket of typical examples thatplace the White race at a more privileged position than any otherrace. Among them is the documentation of the American constitutionwhich in several of its articles empowered the enslavement of theblack people. Moreover, history records that the American Indianchildren were extracted from their homes and indoctrinating them withAmerican White culture including forbidding them from using theirlanguage. Kendall argues that the affirmative action was incepted soas to create equal opportunities for white women rather than for thecolored people.
TheWhites have held on to this history leading to the discrimination ofpeople from other races. For instance, as Kendall illustrates, it wasillegal, for many years, for the children of the Spanish origin touse their mother tongue in schools. Violation of the guiding lawwould imply the suspension or expulsion of the child from the school.Kendall argues that the aspect of white privilege has beenincorporated in the economic sector. As she illustrates, productsassociated with black such as black hair are hard to come by in localmalls. In this respect, the Blacks are forced to travel long distanceto purchase such items.
Politicalpower or the power to make decisions is bestowed on the Whitesregardless of their ability to do so. Kendall argues that whitepeople make decisions for everyone including the other races inAmerica. Besides, this aspect is not only evident at the individuallevel but also at the international level. According to Delpit(1998), white people have a perception that they know what isappropriate for everyone. They disregard ideas from people of colorand do not care listening.
Toexpound on this point, it is important to focus on the distributionof the top most position in the United States of America. Until year2009 the United States of America has had no African Americanpresident. Given that all the previous presidents of America had beenCaucasians, it would not only have been rational to conclude beforeBarrack Obama took office that the next president of the UnitedStates will be a Caucasian but also that the U.S presidency has beendominated by the White. This observation is a clear indication thatpower has been, for a long time until 2009, dominated by the white.More importantly, the fact that the qualification for leadership wasnot based on individual abilities and competences but on the color ofthe skin has been proved, beyond reasonable doubts, by the leadershipof an African American for the last six years.
TeresaGuess (2006) argues that white-skin privilege in America has beeninstitutionalized since the seventeenth century. Its roots rest onthe power and the differences arising therein between the Whites andthe people of color. Guess argues that the 2005 Hurricane Katrina isan evidence of the power relations between the whites and thenon-whites and the impacts that arise from the relation. As she notesthe poor, socially, economically and politically, Lower 9thregion in New Orleans was completely marginalized leaving theresidents in the mercies of well-wishers. Their inability to evacuatefrom the affected areas due to their poor economic situation leftthem venerable.
Institutionalracism denotes the prevalence of discrimination on the bases of racein institutions and social systems. Political, social, educationaland economic forces converge to spearhead discriminatory results. Asit has been established, this ethnocentric tendency focuses on anAnglo-Saxon white orientation. Kivel (2005) gives typical examplesthat portray institutional racism in the history of the UnitedStates. They include differences in income, test score basedadmissions, differential educational system grounded on preconceivedabilities or potential, and exclusion from union among others. Kiveladds that each of the case illustrated portrays a disadvantage on thepart of the non-whites.
Lastbut not the list in this subsection is the whites versus the Muslimsrelations in as far as Anglo-privilege is concerned. The war onterror has contributed in great depth to the discrimination of theMuslims on the basis of their religion and culture. Although Islamand race are not necessarily interconnected, there has been acorrelation as regards their treatment by the White race. As a recentstudy has indicated the Muslims have been tagged as politicalradicals. The greatest fear of the Muslim community is that there isan apparent domination by the United States that threatens theMuslims. The concern is that the predominantly Christian nation (theUnited States of America) is seeking to dominate Muslim countrieswith an aim of exploiting their resources. This concern had beenbacked by a former leader of Al-Qaida Osama Bin Laden before theAmerica’s invasion of Iraq (Huntington, 2006).
Moreover,as Asmar (1992) notes, the Muslims in Australia experience racialstereotyping where all Muslims are regarded as Arabs and vice versa.This contributed to racial insults and physical attack. After theSeptember eleven terrorist attack in the United States, women on headscarves were assaulted. Moreover, there were rampant abuses on womenand children of Islam religion. These acts are to be classified aswhite privilege against the Muslims. In Australia particularly,Afghans were perceived as dirty, unworthy and as a danger by whitewomen.
Interms of crime and imprisonment, Muslims in some parts of the westernworld have not escaped the impacts of white-privilege. The populationof Muslim convicts is rising tremendously in the prisons. Forexample, in French jails Muslims, particularly from the North ofAfrica, are becoming the dominant group. This points out to thevulnerability to racism experienced by Muslims living in France. Justlike the Blacks in America are subject to discrimination and unequaltreatment by the law, so are the North African Muslims in France.
However,as this paper seeks to further establish, the trends inAnglo-privilege are shifting to the decline of the status quo due tothe changes sweeping across the globe. In the first place, there isan increasing trend in respect multiculturalism and ethnic/culturaldiversity. The politics of multiculturalism sweeping across the globehave led to tensions regarding the perceived on the actual loss ofcultural supremacy especially by the initially overriding Whitecultures which are currently receiving immigrants from othercultures. Such tensions revolve around citizenship, the privileges ofthe dominant society and national identity among others. Of concernin this paper is the issue of loss of dominant society privileges.
Multiculturalismadvocates for promotion and respect of cultural and ethnic diversity.Given what multiculturalism implies and the fact that the dominantAnglo societies are increasingly becoming multicultural, it followsthat the notion of white privilege is at stake. As was elaborated byForrest & Dunn (2006), the previously dominant societies have afeeling that their privileged status is threatened. For Forrest &Dunn the reality of these tensions is highest in the ex- settlercolonies which are currently receiving immigrants such as America,New Zealand, Canada and Australia. Forrest & Dunn contend that inall of these nations, the Whites-only polices of immigration werefaced out in the late 20th century. This implies that withthe dismissal of such policies, there has been an alarming influx ofmulticultural immigrants into these nations.
Moreover,as Forrest & Dunn expound, the reality of the diminishing of thedominant culture has dawned on the United States of America. Thedecline has been characterized by a process of inclusion of thedifferent ethnic groups into a multicultural American society. Inthis process, different cultures are Americanized upon theirencounter with the large American culture. Perhaps, this process canbe better expounded by relating it to the anticipation of the‘melting pot’ metaphor. The ‘melting pot’ is a metaphor thatwas used to anticipate that, with time, people from differentcultures will come together to form into a larger American culture.Hence, it was believed that the new American culture would assimilatethe immigrant cultural groups into an umbrella cultural context(Fuchs, 1990).
Thepolitics of multiculturalism center on the principle that theAmerican dominant culture has, over the years, excluded the minoritygroups and other non-western cultures from full participation. It isargued that to remedy this injustice, the American culture mustinclude other cultures on equal grounds. The rationale behind theinclusion is that the new strategy will lead to a richer culture. Therealization that America has to incorporate social integration forthe benefits of its own greatness is increasingly getting to its peakof fame. This awareness by itself alongside the principles ofmulticulturalism has already weakened the notion of white privilege.
Inmany western societies, forms of multiculturalism have been inceptedto curb any existing inequalities between individuals from differentcultures such as economic inequalities, social stigmatization andpolitical under-inclusion among others. Active groups are on the riseof the struggle for multicultural citizenship. They work on acombination of both positive accommodation and recognition measuresas well as antidiscrimination procedures. As John Rex (1995) notes,multiculturalism movements provide immigrants with a psychologicaland moral home. In addition, they act as a foundation for politicalmobilization in any stable democracy besides enriching the Americanculture.
Canadais perhaps one of the nations that have moved multiculturalism to thegreatest depths over the years. Canada has sought to integrate peoplefrom different geographies, ethnicity, class and history througherecting a place self-conscious national identity (Werlen, 1993). Theaim is to create a bond with individual geographies and histories. Inthis regard, many nations have had to establish a level of nationalcommon purpose. All these attempts are directed towards establishingan awareness and sense of belonging in one nation.
Thesetrends show that western democracies have continued to abandon thenotion that ethno-cultural diversity represents a threat tostability. This recognition has led to abandoning of policies thathinder multiculturalism and replaced them with fairly accommodativepolicies of diversity. It is arguable that with the great hope ofliberation it promises alongside its wide acceptance and recognition,multiculturalism is here to stay. Its rigor has been remarkablyincreasing over the years. This implies that equal recognition ofimmigrants and the minorities will no longer be a chase after anunrealistic dream. With the tensions increasing and the value forcultural diversity appreciated, the future will eventually see an endto white privilege.
Theother notion that may lead to the decline of white privilege in thefuture involves demographic shifts. For example, in the United Statesof America, the ethnic and racial demographics have been recording adrastic change over the last decades. It is evident that the Asianand the Hispanic populations are recording greater increases than thewhole population of Americans in general. By 2000, the Hispanicpopulation recorded a 61 percent increase from the 1990 population ofroughly 21.9 million to 35.2 million. Three years later, thepopulation rose to 39.9 Hispanics. In 2000, the population of theAsians was estimated at 11.9 million recording a 48 percent increasefrom the 1990 population. According to the Census Bureau’sprojections, the Asian and the Hispanic population will grow by threetimes by 2050. Moreover, by 2050, the Whites’ will account for 50percent of the total population recording a drop of 19.4 percent(Barnes & Bennett, 2002).
Thefigures sampled above are alarming. The implication is that thedominant white race will no longer be the majority in the nearfuture. There is a close correlation between population figures anddominance. The group that has the majority tends to dominate theminority groups. Positions of power and distribution of resourcestend to be focused on the dominant group while the minorities remainmarginalized. This notion has been established in the foregoingdiscussion. There seems to be a twist in the order of dominance.While the dominant group (in this case the white race) stands on itsown to dominate the minority groups, the minority groups tend tounite against the domination.
Thisimplies that as the population of the minority groups continue toincrease, their forces against the unwarranted white privilegecontinue to grow stronger. In the long run, there will, as there hasbeen, two groups: the minority groups versus the dominant group.However, in the new scenario, the minority groups, put together, willhave outnumbered the dominant group a situation where white privilegebased on numbers will become a myth.
Inconclusion, ethno-cultural privilege has been a reality for as longas human races have interacted. Throughout history, its main focushas been on the white privilege against other races. It has beenestablished that white privilege entails granting benefits to thepersons of the white race not on the basis of specific abilities buton the basis of color skin. Over the years, there has been a struggleto overcome white privilege. Nationalism movements in colonial erasmarked the climax of the resentment towards white privilege. In thepost-nationalism era, multiculturalism has taken over the fight withan aim of seeking equal inclusion of the minority cultures into thedominant cultures. This paper has suggested that with the trend atwhich multiculturalism is gaining recognition and acceptance, thenotion of white privilege will eventually be buried in the history.Moreover, the changes in demographic figures of the minority groupshave signaled the shift in white privilege. This is a scenario wherethe non-whites will outnumber the whites thus turning the notion ofwhite privilege, based on demographics, untenable.
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